Part 1 - 3 | Part 4 - 6 | Part 7 - 9 | Part 10 - Epilogue
Helen Levey was everything a therapist was meant to be, and everything Professor Smith hadn't been. She had an open mind, she made no assumptions, she made no judgements. She trusted, she encouraged, but did not bully, she was even Jewish. As Nettie had said, she was a little old lady, little being the operative word, since she stood no more than 4'10".
"I know I know! I look like Doctor Ruth," she said by way of a greeting, as he walked up to her small suburban home. "Everyone says so, you must be Buck. Come on in young man."
Nettie had called the moment he had said yes, not giving him any time to change his mind. Helen Levey had in turn agreed instantly, and made her available all weekend, and for as many days after that as was needed. Her one stipulation was that he came unarmed, and that if he still had Mow, he was to come to. When he finally emerged from his room to face Chris and JD he had an old shoe box under his arm. From the label JD could see it had once contained a pair of cheap sneakers several sizes too small for Buck. He didn't explain the box but he did apologise for scaring them and thanked them for all their help. He insisted he could drive himself and Nettie had gone along with this. While he was on the road, she called Levey back and told her as much as she could of the background to the case, this was done with Buck's consent, it would speed things up when he reached the retired therapist.
The house was decorated in a clean crisp style, cool gray/blue walls in the hall, soft pale green in the living room, which looked out over a long immaculate garden, where two German Shepherds were playing. Buck wandered over to the big French windows and watched the dogs. The doctor came and stood beside him, she handed him one of two generously filled shot glasses she was carrying.
"Scotch, twelve year old malt, drink! It's medicinal." He sipped the smooth amber liquor as he continued to watch the dogs play. "Thats Heidi - with the one floppy ear," she explained. "And the big black one is Greta, they are my insurance."
They talked all afternoon, and into the evening, not about Texas, or Ross but about dogs and cooking. Her original plan had been to spend the day having a baking session to stock the freezer, so that was what they did, Buck actually learnt a few things about cooking along the way. He was as ever, his usual charming, polite flattering self. And Helen had to admit he was wonderful company, very likeable and very handsome. But from the start he had been wary, guarded, weighing his answers, looking for the leading question. Little by little he relaxed. Helen knew Casey and had heard her speak of JD, she hadn't realised Buck was JD's friend and colleague, so they spoke about the youngsters for a bit. All day she fed him, gave him whisky and soft drinks, but no coffee or coke, she wanted him relaxed not jumpy. As the evening continued on she drew the conversation onto work, friends and family and finally Texas.
She did this by going out into the hall while he was playing with the dogs on the hearthrug. When she returned she put the shoebox he had carried in with him down on the coffee table.
He couldn't bring himself to tell it again but Nettie had done a fair job of telling it.
"Buck, I want you to get Mow out of the box and show him to me," she instructed.
By now he was sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of the coffee table, she was perched on the edge of the sofa opposite. He looked at the box for some time before he reached out and lifted the lid. It and been years since he had looked inside, so long he had forgotten how small the toy cat was. In his memory his hand wrapped around the cat's stomach now he could encircle it with just two fingers. Once the lid was off, he sat back.
"Pick him up."
With a hand he was shocked to find was trembling, he reached in and picked up the toy. He had forgotten how prickly the coarse nylon fur was. Looking down, he noted that one felt ear was in need of repair, he could still see where his mom had stitched up a hole in his chest and sewn his tail back on. Once he would stand proud on all four feet, but ever since the repair to the chest he fell forward onto his nose at the slightest provocation.
"Mow is going to do for you now, what he did back then, be your anchor."
She watched him look away.
"Don't do that, don't look ashamed, why are you ashamed? Tell me."
"Because because I'm a man, not a child. I don't need toys anymore, I should be able to deal with this on my own, I can! I just need time." With that, he started to get up.
"Buck Wilmington you sit down right now!" she commanded.
Dumbstruck, he sat down again.
"Tell me again why you are ashamed of the way you are handling this?"
There was a long silence as he studied the toy in his hands. "I have seen things - bad things, bodies, mutilations, torture victims. I have lost people, killed people, been hurt, been betrayed, abandoned, rejected and I coped - I always cope, no matter what happens, and I don't understand why I can't do it now. Why am I failing so badly?"
He didn't look up once.
"You left one out."
He knew it, and he had done it deliberately, so he wouldn't have to say it.
"Say it, say it out loud."
He shook his head, both hands now clutching the toy cat in his lap.
"You have to say it, face it, acknowledge that it did happen, acknowledge that loss of control."
He looked up, not at her but up at the ceiling, tears ran freely down his cheeks, finally he looked at her and then away to his left out into the dark garden.
"I I was raped." His voice was choked and hesitant, harsh and lacking in the honeyed sweet tones of the afternoon.
"Yes you were, and that man took away your control. While he had you, while he controlled you, you were powerless. Rape isn't about sex - it's about control. You fear loss of control above all other things, to a degree we all do, but you more then most. Because this wasn't the first time it had happened to you."
"Texas," he said as the realisation hit him
"Yes Texas, that man Ross, he did what Smith did, he took over your life without your permission. We all give away some, even all control of our lives at some time, but even if it's emergency surgery we have by our acceptance that this is what doctors do given our consent. Rape is never by consent; sex has to be by mutual permission, then and there. What the doctor did was the same, you were in effect imprisoned and since you were drugged and even restrained, you had no control. In fact the more you tried to gain control by fighting, protesting even running, the less control you achieved, is that not true?"
"And yet both times you did regain control. You got away, took back what had been taken."
+ + + + + + +
Helen came back into the living room with two mugs and stopped as she took in the sight that greeted her. After that first breakthrough, they had talked about what had happened fourteen years ago until the small hours. At around three, she had gone to get coffee for herself and hot chocolate for him. What she found upon her return was a very tall man stretched out on her sheepskin rug fast asleep. One hand clutching an old toy cat, the other draped around one of her dogs as she slept beside him. The other dog had lain down on the far side of the man back to back. It was as if her dogs, always protective in their different ways, had decided Buck was in need of their care that they instinctively knew he was vulnerable and needed to feel safe as he slept.
Helen settled down on the sofa with her coffee, a good book, and a small reading light to wait for as long as it took. He slept for a good two hours before the nightmare came. Greta, who had been lying against his back, jumped up as soon as he began to move and mutter. Greta was fiercely protective of both Helen and her litter sister Heidi. The big dog stood over Buck growling as he began to call out and thrash.
"Greta corner," Helen ordered, pointing at the corner of the room.
The well-trained dog instantly ran to the corner and sat, but she never took her eyes off of Buck. Heidi was also protective, but she was protective of almost everyone. Disturbed by Buck she stood, her nose close to his face, head cocked to one side as she tried to understand what was happening. As Buck cried out she whimpered in sympathy. Helen put down her book and come around to him, despite the protest of her knees and, using the coffee table for support, she knelt down on the carpet next to him.
"I know girl, I know you don't like it when people hurt do you?" She gave the dog a reassuring hug.
Helen was torn between waking him to end his torment and letting the dream run on so she could listen and maybe gain an insight into his problems.
"No not JD you can't have him no no no I'll kill you first I'll kill you you can't have him!" Buck cried out. His forehead was drenched in perspiration. From lying out straight on the rug he was now curled up; Mow clutched to his chest. "Please, please don't don't not again please "
Helen Levey couldn't take it any longer. "Buck wake up, come on wake up." She shook his shoulder; Heidi took her mistress's lead and licked his ear. She shook harder. "Wake up - come on, it's over."
Suddenly, he shot up so fast that Greta barked and ran forward ready to defend the pack. Helen put her hand up to stop the dog, Heidi just stood watching, tail wagging to show him she wasn't aggressive. Helen just knelt there waiting for him to re-orient himself. Wild blue eyes swept the room. Eventually he took in his surroundings and worked out where he was.
"'M sorry I must have fallen asleep sorry," he stammered out, drawing a hand over his face, and looking down at the object still clutched in his hand.
"Now Buck, what did we discuss about shame and apologising?"
He frowned at her for a while until he remembered the conversations of earlier that night.
"I have nothing to be ashamed about or to apologise for," he recalled eventually. It was something she had been drilling in to him all evening.
"Good, remember that, now I think it's time you slept on a real bed."
+ + + + + + +
Buck awoke the next day in the middle of a big double bed with a rather shaggy dog with slightly comical ears, one up, one down, looking at him.
"Mornin' darlin'," he said as he gave Heidi a tummy rub. "Thanks for keeping me company last night. Now where is yer mom, kitchen?" Heidi just cocked her head and wagged her tail. "Yup, I reckon kitchen."
They had talked through Texas and the events of fourteen years ago almost all night; now all that remained was what had happened three nights ago. He wasn't looking forward to it, he didn't want to do it, but he didn't want to live the way he had been. The quicker they got on with it, the quicker he got it over with.
It was as difficult and painful as he had feared it would be, but, by late afternoon, one thing had become clear, one fact, one truth. It was not what he wanted to find out, not what he was expecting but it was inescapable. Helen Levey watched as the truth came to light, she watched him change. The vulnerability was lost behind anger, gentleness masked by distress and confusion. She didn't understand fully his reaction; there was clearly more going on than she was privy to.
Buck had been standing at the French windows looking out at the frost-covered garden for some time. The revelation of the truth had taken some getting used to, as he stood, all the ramifications of what he had just discovered came to him. Each one was less appealing than then next, and hit him with pain as harsh as any bullet. The implications were terrifying.
"Buck?" she asked softly.
His head came down and turned, the movement acknowledged that he had heard her but he did not make eye contact, then he looked back out to the garden.
"What am I not getting?" she asked.
"It's complicated stuff, it would be better for you if you didn't know," he explained.
She crossed the room to stand beside him.
"If you need to talk, I will take the risk - we are still in a patient / therapist relationship, no one can make me reveal anything."
"I know, but it's "
"Complicated," she supplied.
He turned to face her. Somehow, he had to find the way to tell her how much she had done for him, how much he owed her. That in less than twenty four hours she had managed to achieve more healing than a lifetime of 'coping'; only Sarah had come close to what this little old lady had managed in just one short day. It hadn't been easy, it hadn't come without pain, but it had lifted a weight that had first started to descend nearly thirty years ago, a weight that had been added to, and added to, until three nights ago he could no longer carry it. The weight would never fully leave him but it no longer threatened to push him under.
"Helen, I don't have the words. I can't tell you how much you have done, what it has meant to me, there is nothing that I can do that can ever repay you adequately." His hands, which, despite the calluses, were remarkably gentle, held her cheeks as he bent down to kiss her forehead. "But I will try to find a way to thank you, Nettie too, both of you have done so much."
"Youre going now, arent you?"
"I have to, there are some things I have to sort out." He looked away again.
"Buck we have only really just begun, I know you still don't like the idea, but therapy is not really meant to be emergency medicine. Whenever you want you can come back and talk, if not to me come and talk to Heidi, she's a good listener."
Buck looked down at the soppy dog lying against the cool glass door.
"Yeah she is, so are you maybe I will, if you don't mind I don't want to put you to any trouble."
"You could never be trouble son, and remember you have nothing to apologie for, nothing to be ashamed of. And when you don't have Heidi, or me you still have Mow. You're never to big, or to old, to seek comfort where ever you can find it."
Suddenly, he flashed her a real, twenty-four carat Wilmington smile. "Now that is a philosophy I have lived by all my life!"
One quick call to JD located Chris at his ranch. Helen's house was only twenty minutes from the ranch, and the way he was driving he would be there in fifteen. A rage was building inside him, a rage like no other he had known. Once at the ranch he was out of the truck instantly, he ran inside shouting for Chris. When he got no response he tried the barn, still no response. Just as he was going to go up into the loft so he could look out over the property from a height, he heard someone coming. Chris had been repairing a fence and was now lugging his tool kit home across the corral.
"Larabee you bastard!" Buck bellowed as he practically vaulted the fence and bore down on Chris.
He didn't stop as he got closer, stepping up to Chris he swung at his old friend sending Larabee to the dirt, semi-conscious. Buck didn't wait to check on Chris he just turned and walked away to sit on the porch. Chris was unconscious for no more than a few moments but it took him a while to get to his feet, he walked, or rather staggered, to the fence, lent on it to get his breath, rubbed his jaw then ducked under the fence to walk unsteadily toward Buck. For his part, Wilmington stood, waited for Chris to reach him and swung again, even though Chris was ready for it his reflexes were still too sluggish. Buck's huge fist impacted with his face snapping his head around and once more sending him down into the cold mud. This time it took him longer to get up, he was halfway up as he began to speak.
"Buck, just listen to me I "
He got no further as he was double fist punched in the back of the neck sending him face down in the dirt.
Oh shit! He thought. I always knew Buck could hit hard if he's really pissed, guess he's really pissed!
Wisely he stayed down, blood ran freely from a split lip, he could feel at least one loose tooth, and was fairly sure one eye was closing already.
Well I can just lie here until I freeze or he decides to kick me or I can try and get up and get beaten down again Chris mused while trying to get his breath and waiting for the ringing in his head to stop.
Chris wasn't sure how long he lay there but he was brought back to full awareness by Buck's voice.
"Ya gonna git up an' face me Larabee or jist lie there like a rat." Buck growled.
His accent just got a whole lot stronger, yup he is really really angry, God he could easily do real damage when he's this angry.
"You gonna hit me if I get up?" he asked his oldest friend.
"Hell yes I'm gonna hit ya! I'm gonna hit ya, an' hit ya, an' hit ya, until I decide I can't be bothered to hit yer sorry ass no more!"
Great! He's got three inches on me, several pounds and the skill and passion to use it. Good going Larabee, you got one of the most dangerous street fighters you know mad at you, just great!
"Up boss man, come on Larabee, yer spposed ta be hard as nails, git up an' show me yer stuff, tough man. Gonna give me yer glare tough guy, gonna intimidate me with yer all black outfit, gonna take a swing at me, go ahead give it yer best shot!"
"So I guess Nettie's friend helped you remember what happened that night "
He didn't finish as Buck's boot connected with his hip.
"Ya don't git to talk about her!"
Could be worse - could have been my guts or my ribs, he's playing with me. Okay he remembers and he's pissed, can't blame him. Play possum Chris, maybe he'll get bored and move away long enough for you to get the drop on him.
"You must really like mud Larabee, b'n lying in it a long time. Maybe ya feel right at home down there with the worms, get up now!"
Suddenly, Chris shirt was grabbed from behind and he was pulled up, using the confusion of movement, he sent his elbow back into Buck's ribs. There was a grunt from behind him but the grip didn't loosen. Instead he was spun around. One punch after another rained into Chris. It wasn't as if Chris didn't fight or defend himself, but Buck was beyond pain, he simply didn't react to the odd blow that Chris did land.
"Ya fucking bastard - ya don't git to control my life!"
"No one gits to do that!"
"Ya don't! An' Ross don't!"
"And no fucking doctor don't git t' do it, not ever again!"
"Buck! Stop!" JD yelled as he dropped his bike and ran to Wilmington.
JD had to literally wrap his arms around Buck's to pull him off the now very blooded form of Chris Larabee. As soon as Buck let go of him Chris dropped into a boneless heap in the dirt.
+ + + + + + +
"Chris? Come on Chris come back to me," JD tried to rouse Larabee enough to get him inside the house and cleaned up.
Eventually JD managed to get Chris up onto his feet, and with Chris leaning heavily on JD staggered inside to collapse on the sofa while JD grabbed a bowl of water, a towel and a first aid kit. It was unusual for him to be the one giving aid but he had been on the receiving end often enough to know what was needed.
"Chris this looks bad, I'm gonna call Nate"
"No JD, we need to keep this in the 'family'. You understand?" His speech was slightly slurred and distorted by the split lip, but the eyes were burning with intensity.
JD studied Chris for an agonisingly long few seconds, then nodded.
"Yeah Chris, I understand," he answered quietly.
"Where's he now?" Chris asked wincing as JD did his best to staunch the blood flow from a cut just under his eye.
"Barn I think, his truck's still here at least."
Chris pulled the ice pack off his all but closed left eye, and somewhat gingerly pushed himself to his feet.
"Best go talk to him then I guess."
"Are you sure that's a good idea? I mean I ain't never seen Buck like that I God, Chris he actually scared me! I always knew he had a temper but I never though he could be so so I don't know ?"
JD nodded, avoiding Chris gaze. He was scared, scared of Buck. Something he had never conceived he could be. He knew Buck had the capacity for violence, knew he could hit, knew that in the defence of his 'family' he was a tiger, but the naked, raw destructive power he had unleashed at Chris was something he had never considered his best friend capable of. In all honesty he wasn't even sure he believed Chris capable of it.
"I don't fully understand it but I think what we what I did, was...was," he groped to explain what he was only just beginning to get an inkling of understanding of. "I can't explain it JD - it was something he said about controlling his life. I took a decision away from him, one that was his to make and his alone. I don't know if he'll forgive me for that but I have to try. Stay here JD and," he looked at the younger man and smiled despite the split lip, "keep the first aid handy."
+ + + + + + +
Buck was indeed in the barn. He was talking to his horse, a big grey named Max. Max loved attention, and treats and being groomed, all of which Buck lavished upon him whenever he got the opportunity. Right now he was just standing in the loose box facing the horse, gently stroking his neck on both sides. For his part Max was dozing in peaceful bliss, his head resting on Buck's shoulder.
Chris approached quietly, but not quietly enough it seemed. Without looking up Buck spoke.
"Ain't you had enough Larabee, ya back fer more?" Buck didnt move as he spoke, his voice soft with implied menace.
"No, no I just want the chance to talk. I know you got a right to be mad at me, I know how Id feel "
"Dont try and say you know what it feels like coz ya dont!" Buck lifted his head away from Max and stepped out of the box closing the door.
The two men now stood in the centre of the barn facing each other.
"You dont have the first idea what I feel like, what Ive been feeling fer a lot of years," Buck continued.
In response Chris tossed him a flask. Instinctively Buck caught it, then opened it and sniffed the contents.
"Whisky! The Chris Larabee all purpose cure for all ills, trouble is it dont work fer me, dont even work fer you cept ya dont realise it." With that, he upended the flask and let the amber liquid drain away on to the floor, and then tossed the empty flask back to Chris.
"I did what I though was best, what needed to be done, but I should have asked you first, or been more vague, or I dont know! Christ, Buck you were practically catatonic - what was I supposed to do?"
"I killed a man, not in self defence, not in the line of duty, in cold blood, he was unarmed, he was my prisoner, he couldnt hurt me and I killed him." Chris noted that his voice had almost returned to normal.
"Youre wrong. It wasnt in cold blood, he was goading you, baiting you to do something. He almost succeeded in finishing what he started, just like he said he would and then he was gonna do it to JD. You werent responsible right then for what you did."
Dark blue eyes regarded him, they were so full of hurt and pain it almost made Chris cringe just looking in to them, but he would not turn away.
"You tampered with evidence?"
"You made a false statement?"
"Those are serious offences."
"I can handle that Chris, youre a big boy. But not JD. Do you know what would happen to him in jail? Oh God I cant even think on it! You made him part of this - you took away his choice."
"Im a big boy too." JD was standing in the doorway of the barn, how long for, neither man knew. "I can make my own choices," he stated calmly.
"Right, so Chris asked you before he moved the gun right? He asked you about what he was gonna do first?" When he got no response from JD he knew he was right. "Or he just did it and told you what to say when it was too late to turn back?" Still JD did not respond, but he did move forward to stand half way between the two older men, where he could see both.
"You dont have the right Chris, you dont get to play God with peoples lives. I could have faced what I did, like you say - extreme provocation. Hell, maybe I could have even pleaded temporary insanity! But that was my choice to make, not yours. And now its too late. We are all in this, if I confess to what I now remember, you two go to jail, or at least you lose your jobs. Me too, most likely. You left me no choices. No control Chris. Thats what HE did. He took away my control."
A black, dead feeling descended over Chris that made him sick to his stomach. He should have realised? How could he have done that?
"Oh Jesus - I never thought! God what can I say. Im so sorry." Chris had visibly paled as he stood there. "If Id have realised, if Id had known, I wouldnt have done what I did. Youre right - I didnt give you or JD a choice. I deserve this."
"No Chris, no one does. My Ma would be ashamed of me for letting my temper get away from me like that, I promised her I wouldnt ever do that."
"Buck considering what you have been through in just the time weve known each other Im amazed it hasnt happened more often, you are allowed to let go occasionally, you know?"
"No, no Im not. Chris, if JD hadnt come along, I could have killed you."
As Chris regarded his oldest friend, the implications of what Buck had just said to him sunk in. In all the years he had known Buck he realised he had never seen him really lose it, until today. What he had seen before was but a pale imitation of what his real temper was like, a temper so dangerous he lived his whole life keeping it in check. It was a degree of self-control few people possessed, certainly not him.
"Buck?" JD said quietly.
"You beat Chris up, and I had to pull you of "
Both older men looked at JD with puzzled expressions, as if to say yeah, so?
"Dont you see?" JD continued. "You hit him, grabbed him, I grabbed you " Still the other men looked at him with no understanding. "And you werent afraid of us! You let us get close, you got close to Chris of your own choosing!"
"Hes right," Chris breathed, looking at Buck.
JD took a step closer to Buck, he searched his face for fear but there was none, so he moved even closer.
"Oh for the love of Mike!" Buck reached out and grabbed JD around the neck and pulled him into a full on Wilmington bear hug.
"Im sorry kid, sorry I scared you, sorry you had to see a side of me I hoped youd never see, sorry that because of me that bastard got close to you, oh Jesus he was so close !"
JD pulled away a little; with his hands still firmly clamped around Bucks forearms, he looked his friend in the eye.
"Stop apologising, you have nothing to apologise for, or be ashamed of, nothing!"
To his great surprise Buck laughed. He looked down at JD, smiling despite the tears now flowing freely. "Yeah, thats what everyone keeps telling me." Then he looked over JDs head at Chris, seeing just how much damage he really had done. "Aw hell! Look what I did, God Im sorr "
"Stop!" Chris commanded. "What did JD just get through telling you? You are to stop apologising all the time. Whats done is done, it cant be undone, lets just move on."
"Now there is some good advice we could all follow," JD commented, looking pointedly at Chris.
"Hes got ya there, old man," Buck said, releasing JD and extending his hand to Chris.
"Yup maybe, maybe Buck are we still...?"
In response Buck grabbed Chris hand and pulled him in close for his own hug. "Yeah pal, we still are."
The death of Aden Ross was deemed to be justifiable homicide by a federal agent.
And it came to pass that two German Shepard dogs received a hug juicy bone each. And that two elderly, single ladies, dressed in brand new evening dresses, were chauffeured in a stretch limo to the best restaurant in the city, then to the best seats in the house at the most popular show in town and all in the company of a tall, dark, devastatingly handsome younger man in a tux. If anyone had looked they might have noticed that the picture was only spoiled by an unusually large bulge in the tuxs jacket pocket. Where a rather old toy cat was enjoying a much-deserved night out as well.
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