Moon and Rain
by Sammy Girl
Alternate Universe - Two Blood/ATF
Disclaimer: Not mine, never were, never will be.
Note: This is a gen version of an adult fic. Thanks to Joe Lawson and Firefox for all the beta work, ideas, editing - oh hell all of it! This AU is open within the established guidelines.
Warnings: Violence, bad language.
Part 1 - 3 | Part 4 - 7 | Part 8 - 10 | Part 11 - 13
The sun finally dipped below the mountains, the rich fire sky it had illuminated began to fade into soft rose hues as darkness finally claimed the day.
"Reckon there'll be a storm before morning," Vin commented lazily.
"Reckon so," Chris confirmed from the doorway as he came out and sat beside Tanner on the step in front of the house. "Damn but it's hot," he breathed.
As darkness fell the heat haze coloured the low full moon a soft peach colour, it didn't shed much light but that only made it stand out in the sky all the more beautiful. The heavy, sticky, oppressive heat had been building for days, so unpleasant was it - even in an air-conditioned office, that many offices, including the ATF had sent workers home early on Friday. Chris had invited Vin out to the ranch for the weekend, his house didn't have air-conditioning anymore than Vin's apartment in Purgatory but at least there was shade and out of the city Vin would feel more relaxed. Everyone's tempers had been frayed and they were all in need of some space.
The two agents sat in silence, drinking cold beer and just watching more importantly listening to the sounds of the land around them. They were just about the go inside when the night was brought alive with the howl of a wolf, not plaintive, this cry was deep and rich and full of feeling. Chris turned to his friend, seeing the look of rapture on his face.
"Wondered when he'd be back," Chris commented softly.
"You've heard him before?"
"On occasion, some how I always assumed it was a he."
Vin nodded in agreement as the listened to the hunting, almost tuneful notes rise and fall on the heavy still night air.
"He seems to like the full moon," Chris explained.
The wolf howled to the moon for nearly an hour before he fell silent. Inside the house Vin asked Chris if he had ever seen the wolf. "No, never, not even any tracks, he's never come close to any of the buildings, that I can tell. Old man Flintoff has it in for him mind you."
Kurt Flintoff lived on the property immediately to the north of Chris. His was a working cattle ranch, though not a particularly large one. He was of the old school, to him a wolf was a threat to his stock and as such had to be eliminated.
"He's tried to hunt it a few times, never got so much as a glimpse, mind you he told me he did once find some prints, reckons this is one big wolf."
"Well he must be a loner, if there was a pack around here you'd know it," Vin speculated.
"Yeah I know, sometimes I feel sorry for him, reckon he's a might lonely."
The rain came as predicted just before dawn, great torrents, accompanied by thunder and lightning. The rain filled the gulches and gullies, instantly turning dry creek beds into fast flowing rivers and small streams into rushing torrents. The open yard of Chris ranch became a lake in minutes, the rain so heavy you couldn't see the barn from the house. Woken by the storm Chris wandered out onto the porch, coffee in hand watching Mother Nature's fury and power; he was not surprised to find his house guest already out there, also with a coffee. Vin suddenly groaned as he watched the deepening pool of water on the soft top roof of his old jeep, it wasn't getting any bigger which meant the water had to be draining into the vehicle, soaking the interior. The thunder passed over but not the rain. The local Channel Seven news reported flooding all over the city and outlying areas, power was also out in various places, sub-stations flooded and shorted. Several rural communities were cut off, including they discovered, themselves. The road that ran passed the ranch crossed two creeks, both of which had burst their banks.
Several phone calls later, some on landlines and some on cell phones, established that Ezra was fine but had no intention of leaving his second floor apartment. Josiah had water in the basement but was coping. Nathan and Rain were fine but keeping an eye on the large puddle in the garden that was threatening to come in through the sliding glass doors in the living room. JD was also fine, he had managed to get hold of Nettie Wells and she and Casey were also alright, much to Vin's relief. JD told them Buck was out on a date the night before; he wasn't back so must be holed up with his date some place.
"Reckon ol' Bucklin's in the best place t' wait this thing out," Vin commented. "Not that I don't reckon being stuck here, is exactly roughing it," he added with a lopsided grin.
Eventually the two men had to venture beyond the porch and see to the horses, getting drenched in the process, not to mention covered in mud, despite their protective clothing and boots.
"Reckon I need a shower," Vin commented, heading for the guest room.
"Me too." Chris disappeared into his own room.
Buy lunchtime they were dressed in clean clothes, feeling nicely relaxed as they enjoyed a sandwich and a beer for lunch. That was when the phone rang.
"Hello, Larabee," Chris answered.
"Oh, hello Mr Larabee, it's Mrs Winston, up at Circle W, on the White Creek road?"
"Yes maam, I know the place, what can I do for you, are you alright up there?"
Florence Winston lived alone most of the time, a widow, her children were all grown up and only visited occasionally, she no longer ranched her land, preferring to lease it out, the money from the leases, her husbands life insurance and her teachers pension kept her comfortable.
"Yes I'm fine, it's just, well I went to check on the back paddock, where Kurt Flintoff has his new heifers, I wanted to be sure none of them were down in the mud, and, well there's this truck."
"A truck?" Chris repeated.
"Yes, on the far side of the paddock is an old trail, it runs up that far and then stops, you need a horse after that, it wasn't there yesterday evening. I was worried someone's lost in the hills, in this rain, I called the sheriff's office but they're over run and besides it seems we're cut off at the moment. So I thought of you, I know you are a lawman yourself."
"We'll come out and take a look maam he assured.
"Oh could you? I hate to drag you out in all this but it's been preying on my mind all morning."
"It's no trouble I assure you. We'll see you in about two hours."
Vin wasn't too keen to go out in the rain but wasn't one to disappoint a lady. They rode up to the Circle W on Pony and Peso, wearing long cattleman's coats against the rain, but it was so wet the rain got in under their collars anyway. Florence gave them hot coffee and pointed the way to the old trail and the truck. It took only fifteen minutes to reach it, as it became visible through the torrent both men stopped dead. There couldn't be that many 1950, red Chevy short bed trucks in Denver. Spurring the horses on they got close enough to see that indeed the licence plate was Buck's.
"Shit!" Chris swore. "The idiot must have taken some girl up there to view the sunset and indulge in a little alfresco sex, man's brains are in his dick I swear it!" he fumed.
Vin dismounted, peering into the trucks windows, then he opened it - which in itself was odd, Buck was almost obsessive about locking his prized possession if he ever left it, he even locked it at gas stations when he went to pay. 'She's irreplaceable boys, you don't take risks when it's a one of a kind,' he would say. Inside, Vin spotted something on the back seat.
"Well wherever he is, he's naked," he looked up at Chris through the rain.
"You find her clothes as well?"
"Nope, just Bucklins, shorts, boots an' all."
Chris shook his head, unable to work out what the hell his old friend was playing at. "Come on mount up, lets go see if we can see him at all, there's a few caves and overhangs up there he might be sheltering in."
It was no easy task, the trail had turned into a stream, water flowing down it like so many small cataracts and miniature waterfalls. Once they reached the top, where the ground flattened out into a high meadow. Chris led them to the north, toward the high bluff and rocky outcrops, the only place you could find shelter and the best vantage point to view the sun setting behind the mountains behind them. The rain was just beginning to ease up and the light beginning to fade, as they struck out along a slight ridge that would lead them to the summit of the bluff, when Pony pulled up suddenly, throwing his head up. It was true the land dropped away to their right very steeply and Chris was keeping an eye on it for slippage but it looked okay to him, at least as far as the turn up ahead. However Pony was not to be moved. So Larabee dismounted and ventured up the trail on foot, leading Pony behind him.
As he turned the corner he stopped dead. The ridge had indeed been washed away, but that wasn't what held him still. There below him was a wolf, a huge dark wolf, soaked to the bone, held fast by his left forepaw in an evil looking trap. Worse, the collapsing ridge had swept the poor creature away, down the steep, near vertical slope, but not the trap's anchor chain. The trapped wolf was all but hanging from his imprisoned leg, even with the rain constantly washing the slope he could see the marks were the poor animal had tried to scrabble his way back up, tried to reach the trap. The other three paws, splayed out for maximum purchase, were dug into the soft crumbling slope, trembling with the effort of supporting his weight.
"Oh God!" Vin breathed in horror behind him.
At the sound of his voice, the wolf lifted his huge shaggy but bedraggled head and looked at the two men, he even managed to flick his tail once, yellow eyes pleading with them for help, for release.
"Flintoff," Chris muttered. "Sick bastard." He turned to Vin. "How do we help him?"
"We can't," Vin admitted. "Only one thing we can do." Tanner walked back to Peso and pulled out his rifle, checking it was loaded.
Chris nodded sadly, it was the only practical and humane thing to do, he stepped back to let Vin get into the best position. That was when it happened, as Vin raised his gun both men felt the air around them change, it was as if it became charged, as if the electric storm had suddenly returned, and the wolf was gone, in it's place, trapped by his arm, bloody, dirty, naked, Buck Wilmington clung to the slope below them, his dark matted head lifted enough to look them in the eye.
"Please," he gasped out. His fingers were loosing their purchase and with a gasp of pain he slipped, the evil trap, which had surely broken his arm, dug deeper. And as fast as he had appeared, he was gone and the wolf was back.
Chris just stared, then he turned, ashen faced to Vin. "I saw it too Cowboy, lets get him out of there and worry about it later," he advised, trying to keep his voice calm.
Chris' ranch wasn't a working one; it wasn't even a hobby ranch, just some land and the horses, so they didn't routinely carry lassos. Nevertheless, Chris made it a rule that when ever they rode out of sight of the ranch buildings they carry a cell phone, a gun, a small first aid kit and a rope - just in case. He had never been more grateful for that little precaution as he and Vin each pulled a rope from their saddlebags. There was no verbal communication as Chris secured his rope to a sturdy looking tree and began to lower himself down the slope parallel to the wolf, who was trying to wag his tail and look unthreatening.
It's Buck its just Buck, Chris silently repeated to himself. He won't hurt me, trust your gut Larabee. Once beside and below the creature he moved over so he was directly behind it and - with hands trembling in fear, fear he was for once not ashamed to admit to - he wrapped his arms around the wolf's rain and mud sodden body.
"Vin's gonna toss another rope down and I'm gonna tie you to it - okay?" he asked the wolf. In response the huge animal whimpered, which he took for a yes.
It took some doing, the ground was increasingly unstable and it took huge effort on both men's part to accomplish the task. But eventually the wolf - Buck - lay on what was left of the ridge on his side panting, his left paw stretched out in front of him still held captive. Chris approached cautiously.
"Buck is that really you?" he asked in a small, hesitant voice that was very un-Chris like. The wolf wagged its long shaggy tail a few times. "Fuck!"
"Yeah," Vin agreed, "but we still have to get down from here. "Buck we can't take the trap off here, you'll bleed too much - you know that don't you?" Pleading yellow eyes just stared at him.
Vin turned away and pulled out his big clasp knife, then he picked up a handy rock. The anchor chain was attached to a heavy spike that was itself driven into a thick tree root, there was no way anyone was just going to 'pull' it out. Using the knife and rock as a hammer and chisel Vin worked the spike loose. Each pound of the rock sent vibrations down the chain to the trap and ignited new waves of pain. Chris could see it all too clearly. If it had been Buck lying there he would have sat beside him in the mud, held him, told him to hang on, be strong, help was here - but it wasn't Buck it was a wolf and he just couldn't seem to move. His eyes told him one thing but his brain told him what he saw, what he knew, wasn't so, couldn't be so, it just couldn't be.
Finally the spike came out, and Vin carefully carried it back to Buck and Chris, all too aware of Chris inertia. Then he found two small stone chips, he wedged these into the jaws of the trap, relieving just a fraction of the pressure, and preventing more damage.
"Buck?" Vin squatted down, "We need to get you down off the mountain. I already tried t' call fer help but I ain't gettin' a signal, must be the mountains or the storm, most likely both. We're gonna have t' ride down. Reckon you'll find that easier on two legs."
Buck didn't want to change, the teeth of the trap bit more fiercely into his thicker human arm, but he knew Vin was right, so he steeled himself and made the change. As soon as it was Buck before him Vin was pulling off his long waterproof coat and wrapped it around the naked man.
"Chris," Vin called over his shoulder, there was no response, Chris just stood there. "Chris I need help here, Buck needs help t' get up on Peso with me.
Finally Chris seemed to come alive, to realise it was a man in Vin's arms, in Vin's coat.
It took some doing, there was no way to do it with out causing the injured man more pain, but he never complained, he never made a sound other than the occasional hiss of pain. He rode in front of Vin in Vin's coat, his trapped and mutilated arm supported inside the coat, the capacious pockets accommodating the chain and spike. Peso might be an evil and ill-tempered horse but he was sturdy and reliable. Pony on the other hand could be skittish and unpredictable if he was even slightly spooked, which was what happened when the rain picked up again and the thunder once more rolled around the valley. By the time they reached the trail that would lead back to Buck's truck, Pony was playing up.
"Go ahead," Vin advised, " get things organised."
Chris looked over at him, unsure what to do, just then Pony skipped sideways and almost slipped as lightning lit the unnaturally dark sky. Finally he nodded and pushed the black on down the trail ahead of the steady Peso. Vin had been talking constantly, soft soothing words to both man and horse, keeping them concentrated on him and not the storm or the pain. When they finally reached the truck, Chris was standing there with no horse and a huge pair of bolt cutters. They removed the chain and spike and got Buck settled in the truck, where Mrs Winston had provided some blankets, candy bars for Chris and Vin and a canteen of water - slightly warm.
"The phone is out and the power, we have to get him back to my place." Chris explained, "Put Peso in the barn with Pony, Florence will board 'um 'till we can come and get them.
There was no way they were going to struggle to get Buck's tight jeans on, so they just settled him in the cab as he was, in Vin's coat. The drive down the rough track in the elderly truck was bone shaking at the best of times. For Buck it was pure torture, but he said nothing, sat between the two men as Chris drove, grateful for Vin's steadying arm around his shoulders, giving him what support he could.
Once they reached the ranch Vin helped the taller man inside and settled him on the sofa while Chris tried to see if he could contact anyone, but his phone and power were as dead as Florence's had been. He watched almost detached as Vin pulled an old pair of his sweats on to Buck and a pair of sneakers. Vin looked up from his position kneeling in front of Buck.
"Think the Ram can make it through the creek?" he asked.
Chris shrugged. "We won't know 'till we get there. Better start out I guess."
"No." Both men turned to face Buck, other than the one word plea for help when they found him, this was the first thing he had said.
"Bucklin, we have to get you to a hospital, please, we'll just say you fell and got caught in the trap, you've been to the hospital before, you " Vin pleaded.
"No, I know I have t' go, but need t' talk t' Chris first - please." His words were just a little slurred and they came out in a slow halting fashion. He lifted his eyes, deep blue and imploring to Larabee. "Please, Chris."
Vin stood. "I'm gonna go get the Ram warmed up, okay?" He crossed to the door and picked up the keys from the hook by the door.
They were alone, and yet Chris still didn't move toward his friend. "It's still me you know?" Buck said softly.
Chris shook his head. "No, no it isn't, what do you need?" He didn't miss the look of hurt that crossed the other mans face.
"Get the power of attorney please."
Chris nodded, it was in his home office safe and only took a minute or too to retrieve. This time he came closer, sitting on the coffee table opposite the sofa, in his hand a plain manila envelope with the words 'Buck W Med Att' on it.
"What do you need it for, we're going to Mercy, they know us there youre not gonna die." Then a thought struck Chris, what if Buck was going to die! After all, everything he thought he knew about his oldest friend had just flown out of the window! "Are you?"
Buck shook his head. "Please Chris, I don't know how long I can keep it together. Look at the 'Special Clauses', at the end." Chris obediently opened the document, read it and looked up, puzzled and concerned. "Please, promise me, don't let them cripple me. Please Chris, I'm begging you."
Luck, just for once, was with them. They had to go the long way, because the creek was shallower that way but the Ram made it through. The rain was now torrential again but the roads were almost deserted so they made good time. Not unexpectedly, by the time they got to the ER Buck had lost his battle to say conscious. By the time he was on an exam table on a room in the ER, nurse Kelly, an old hand with Team Seven, had been summoned to handle the non-wounded members.
"What did Vin do to himself this time?" she asked a little amused.
"Not Vin, Buck, and it's bad," he explained tersely. Instantly she saw the tension in him and an undercurrent of something approaching panic. "They're X-raying," he stated, to explain why he wasn't beside his friend.
It didn't take long, there was no option but to take Buck to surgery to remove the trap and set the shattered bones.
"I have to speak to the surgeon," Chris announced.
"Mr Larabee, there is no need, we have one of the finest orthopaedic departments in the country," the young ER doctor explained.
Vin had come back from parking the Ram now stood at Chris side, hoping his boss could keep a lid on his temper.
"I have Buck's medical power of attorney and there are special provisions for this kind of surgery. Now, who do I speak to?
Had it been anyone else they would have tried to talk him out of it, but the staff of Mercy Hospital were well used to Team Seven and their ways, it was easier to let them have the rather 'hands on' contact with their comrades carers, than to try and stop them.
Lucy Shore had been putting broken bones back together for nearly twenty years; yet the x-rays she was looking at made her feel sick. Traps were evil, that she knew, in theory, but now the evidence was right before her. She still hadn't seen the patient. Turning to her college, a vascular specialist, she gave him a rueful look.
"You ever do anything like this Tom?" she asked, Tom Heighway.
He shook his head. "Looks like we're gonna need the big tool kit, if you ask me," he added.
She turned from the illuminated pictures of horror to face the real thing, as her patient was wheeled out of the elevator. He was unconscious, the cumulative effects of shock, blood loss and exhaustion. Too dangerous looking men accompanied him. One was young looking, his shoulder length hair had mostly escaped the band holding it in a ponytail. He walked beside the patient, holding his undamaged right hand. The other man also walked beside the patient, on the other side, but he was making no attempt to maintain any physical contact with the unconscious man. The second man was older, taller, short cropped blond hair shown up by the all but totally black outfit. The younger man looked concerned and distressed, while the older one had a hard set to his jaw and a look of grim determination. Lucy may have been a surgeon for twenty years but most of those years were spent in Washington, so she hadn't had the dubious pleasure of dealing with Team Seven.
"Oh great, them," Tom exclaimed in a voice that was just a little too loud because Chris looked up and glared at him.
"Them? What does that mean?" she asked, but it was too late.
"You the doc in charge here?" the taller of the two men asked. His forest green eyes all but bore a hole right through her. Not that she was intimidated, the first eight years of her medical carrier had been in the marines.
"I am Lucy Shore, the orthopaedic surgeon. Can I help you?" Always stay calm and polite, no matter what. That was her tactic, in fact the more aggressive the other person, the more polite she became - but she didn't back down.
"I need to speak to you." He broke away from the patient and the other man and headed past her up the corridor. Lucy turned and followed. Always listen to them, don't dismiss them out of hand. That was something else she had learned.
Chris pulled out the legal document and showed her the relevant clause. She read it, re-read it and then read it again. Trying to make sense of it. This was not something she had ever expected to read.
"There is no way we can adhere to this," she finally stated. "Have you seen the x-rays? The only viable way to stabilise those fractures is to insert pins and plates."
"Can you give me a 100% guarantee that every single one will be removed within a few months?"
Lucy hesitated. "No, no I can't, it depends on the healing process."
"Then the answer is still no. I gave him my word." Chris had thought about it during the drive. The last thing Buck had said as they settled him in the car, just before he passed out was. 'I'd rather have three legs than two.' Chris didn't flinch. "You ignore this and we'll slam you with a malpractice suit you'll never get out from under, you understand me?"
"Why in God's name, it can't be an allergy, no one is allergic to Titanium - no one. Religious? Not one I ever heard of and he's go not objection to blood transfusions. If he's just scared or worried, I can explain it to him," she pleaded.
"How? He's unconscious, I have medical power of attorney," Chris reminded.
Lucy studied him, yes he was deadly serious. "Damn it! You're not gonna give way are you? Dont answer, I know, I know, written instructions. Don't suppose you have any suggestions as to an alternative approach?" she asked.
"Youre the doctor, you figure it out. They told me you're good - prove it."
Once Buck disappeared through the swing doors, Chris turned on Vin. Glancing around he zeroed in on the family waiting room, a small room where families could wait together or relatives were taken aside to hear bad news. Larabee just pointed at the glass door and started to walk. Vin, somewhat at a loss to know what was going on, just followed his clearly furious friend. Once they were there, and the door was closed, Chris spun around and with lethal speed, took hold of Vin's throat and propelled him back against the door.
"Now tell me what the hell is going on?" he demanded.
"Get the fuck off me!" Vin shouted, attempting to extricate himself.
"Not 'till you tell me what you know."
"Nothing! I don't know jack shit - like you!" Vin decided to change tactics, he made himself relax. "Look I'm as freaked as you, okay? Believe me." He waited, willing the man to believe him. Finally his calm patience was rewarded, as Chris dropped his hand and turned away.
"If you're as freaked as me, how come you're so calm, Mr 'lets get him out of there and deal with it later'?" Vin stayed where he was, back pressed up against the door, not moving into Larabee's space, keeping out intruders. "Come on Tanner tell me what you know. Did you know?" Chris looked back at him.
"No, no I didn't know."
"No way, but when I saw I "
Chris spun around and was almost instantly in his face. "What?"
"I remembered something, from when I was a kid." Vin didn't speak about his childhood that often and something in Chris told him to back off now, something that finally got past the abject fear that was driving his rage.
"Tell me," Chris finally asked, softening his voice.
"My grandfather used to tell stories " Vin's grandfather had been a full blood Comanche, and Vin had been raised by him after is mother died when Vin was five. Vin's mother was only half Comanche and his father, about whom he knew very little, had apparently been white, but the old man raised him as if he was a full blood Comanche. "I didn't really think about it, at the time I just thought it was another story."
Finally Chris moved back and gave Vin some space, it was never good to crowd Tanner. The younger man gave a slight half smile as he continued.
"The People, they believe in shapeshifters, but see that ain't what people think it is, it ain't what we saw what Buck what we saw ." He took a deep breath, and tried to get what he instinctively understood into some kind of order so he could explain it to Larabee. "See, shapeshifters don't actually change shape."
"Yeah? Well Buck he did, don't say we imagined it or it was some hallucination, he changed!"
"I know, believe me I know, just listen fer once will ya?"
Larabee held his hands up and back off a pace. "Okay, okay I'm listening."
"See a young warrior would pick an animal, most times a wolf 'cause they're fast, cunning, and they work as a team. Everyday he goes out an' just sits and watches the animal. Wolves are no threat to an adult human, well so long as they ain't starvin' 'n ya don't try t' mess with the cubs, some will even come over and make friends - eventually. Every day the warrior learns a bit more about the wolf, how he moves, how he hunts, how he thinks. Then when he needs to, he can 'become' the wolf, just as silent and swift and deadly. But Grandfather said there were others, he called them um Sunkmanitu Tanka Wanagi, I think."
"Wolf Spirit, or something like that. He said there were tribes, or maybe he called them packs - can't really remember - anyway they had wolf spirit within them, and they could call the spirit out whenever they wanted. He said they lived apart from the white man's world, but they could be of his tribe. You gotta understand to my grandfather everyone had a tribe no matter how big or small, he just couldn't understand anyone not having a tribe. He said you should never kill a wolf unless you were in danger, because you never knew whose soul the wolf carried. I always thought it was just a story - guess not."
"Well, what else did he say?" Chris demanded.
Vin shook his head. "Don't remember."
"Damn it Vin! We need to know what's going on, he must have said more!"
"I just a little kid, the man's been dead near twenty years. I don't remember - okay?"
The two men stood and stared at each other, sky blue eyes locked on to forest green, unflinching and unwavering.
"Okay?" Vin finally prompted. He was already making an effort to speak softly, now he dropped his voice another degree. "I wish I knew more, believe me, but I dont."
For what seemed like an age Chris just stared at him, then he let go a long breath, nodded. "Yeah I know, this whole business has me freaked, sorry."
"Ain't no need t' apologise cowboy, right about know I'm as freaked as I ever wanna be, but nothing we c'n do about it, 'cept wait until we c'n talk t' Buck."
Chris stood there for a few seconds more before nodding and turning away. He sank, suddenly drained of all energy, into one of the low bench like chairs. Giving a silent sigh of relief Vin joined him.
"More things in heaven and earth, right?" Vin whispered.
"I guess. Oh shit, you never know do you? You just never know when something is going to come up and turn your world on its head."
Chris rested his head on the low seat back, gazing at the ceiling. After a few minutes Vin turned to more practical matters. "Ya gonna call the others? JD 'll be going nuts by now, you know Bucklin don't like to worry him, he's gonna know something's wrong."
Even before Larabee could think about how to handle the rest of the team, his cell phone rang.
"Larabee," he answered, trying to keep his voice neutral sounding.
Vin sat back, mentally filling in the side of the conversation he couldn't hear. >Chris have you heard from Buck, he didn't come home and he didn't call <
"JD listen to me, he's with Vin and me at Mercy Hospital.""
>What! Is Vin hurt?<
"No it's Buck, he broke his arm."
Why do they always think it's me?
>Is he gonna be okay?<
"Yeah JD he'll be fine. He's in surgery now, they have to set it."
>I'm on my way.<
"No JD wait JD? JD!"
Too late cowboy line's dead, he's on his way. How - in this rain, on that bike - I don't know, but he's coming.
"Damn!" Larabee closed his phone.
Real slick there Larabee, now you gotta call 'um all don't ya?
"Shut up, you you Texan you!"
"What did I say?" Vin feigned innocence.
"You know damn well."
It was actually Josiah who got there first, they told him the story they had agreed with Buck, he had been out hiking, got caught by the rain, slipped and his arm got caught in a trap. This story was repeated to the other three, in turn, as they arrived. Nathan wanted details of the injury, JD just wanted assurance that Buck would be okay, Ezra seemed not overly concerned, his poker face firmly in place. Sanchez watched Larabee and Tanner and his profilers brain told him there was something else going on, some undercurrent of tension that had nothing to do with waiting for Buck to come back from surgery. Not long after he arrived, and thankfully before JD turned up, an orderly had brought the trap out, encased in a yellow biohazard bag. Neither man made any effort to take it from him. It seemed to Josiah that they were trying to distance themselves from the whole incident.
"What the hell is taking them so long?" Nathan suddenly asked, breaking the uneasy silence that had descended on the six men.
Normal Nathan was the patient one, the one who knew that medical procedures couldn't be rushed. That very knowledge told him this procedure was taking far longer than it should. After all they only needed to put few plates and screws in -didn't they?
"Brother to quote someone, 'it takes as long as it takes' right?" Josiah reminded Nathan of his oft-used advice.
Four hours after he was taken in to the operating theatre Buck was on his way to recovery and Lucy Shore was about to enter the lion's den. During the operation Tom Heighway, not to mention the anaesthetist and two of the nurses gave her the full Team Seven low-down, a mixture of fact, wishful thinking, urban legend and horror story.
"He's on his way to recovery, once he's out of there and settled in his room, someone will come and get you," she announced.
Six sets of intense eyes were fixed on her.
"Was there a problem?" Nathan asked, "I was surprised it took so long?"
"Well, considering the " she was about to say 'restrictions' but stopped when she saw Larabee give the slightest of shakes of the head. " difficulties, everything went well, he may need some treatment in the future to improve the look of the scars, but the bone should heal well - given time." There was a collective look of relief. "Now I suggest you gentlemen go and get a meal or something and come back in a couple of hours.
Chris stepped forward and turned back to look at the others. "Good advice boys, I'll stay with him."
"Mr Larabee, we really don't encourage visitors in recovery, patients are disorientated and often ill, it is best if --"
"I'll be there." There was finality about Chris' statement that brooked no argument, and she conceded gracefully. She always knew she would have to, the others had told her what the team were like and that they were no strangers to the recovery process, indeed in the case of Tanner it was almost essential to have one of them there.
Chris could see JD about to protest but Vin was right there beside him, placing a firm but brotherly hand on the younger man's shoulder.
"Chris is right, come on JD I'll buy you a Big Mac while we wait." JD looked undecided, to accept the offer or protest and say with his 'brother'.
"Can we not find some where else to dine," Ezra complained. "I have never seen the appeal of eating homogenous, grease encrusted, 'plastic' food, with my fingers without benefit of flat ware."
"'Cept when it's fried chicken - right Ez?" Josiah came up to stand at Ezra's shoulder. "Don't think I didn't see you in KFC last week."
"Fried chicken is part of this country's cultural heritage, there is no comparison to the food - though I think calling it food is a gross over statement - that is produced under the sign of the so called, 'golden arches'."
"Fine, then we'll go to KFC," Vin announced. "Don't bother us - right JD?"
JD was still hesitating, but one look at Chris assured him Wilmington was in safe hands, so giving a slight bob of the head, he allowed himself to be led to the door, Josiah and Ezra following. Nathan was also torn. He wasn't an orthopaedic surgeon, he wasn't even a doctor, but he knew enough to know a simple 'plate and screw' operation shouldn't take four hours. He felt very deeply that it was his duty to protect the team, to care for them and ensure they had the best care - weather they wanted it or not!
"Nate," Chris said softy, "- he'll be fine, I have faith in Doctor Shore."
Lucy, who was still in the room, watching the interplay between the men with fascination, found herself touched by his affirmation of faith in her professional skills. Jackson looked back from his leader to the middle-aged woman standing unobtrusively by the door.
"Thank you ma'am, I'm sure Chris is right to trust you, I just "
Lucy stepped forward. "Perhaps when you have seen Mr Wilmington you and I can have a professional chat," she offered.
"Yes ma'am, I'd like that, thank you. Chris you say hi to Buck for me, tell him I'll be keeping my eye on him," he added, letting a smile crease his often sombre features.
"Oh I'm sure he looks forward to that!" Chris returned.
Buck struggled back to the conscious world slowly, and more than a little disorientated. With such a large wound, open for so long in filthy conditions, with a huge, dirty trap embedded in it, and broken bones exposed to all that contamination as well, infection was inevitable. To minimalise this threat he was on a powerful cocktail of antibionics, and on top of the anaesthetic and morphine, he was sick to his stomach. Not that he had anything to retch on, which was a Godsend at least. Nevertheless the dry heaves were tortuous and tiring. It took him some time to work out that the hand rubbing his back and the voice coaching him softly to ride it out, wasn't a nurse but Chris. Eventually when he was able to lie back and take a deep breath, Chris held a cup and straw out for him and he took some water.
"Better?" Larabee asked.
"Mmm, yeah, thanks." The normally velvet soft voice was raspy and dry. Finally he looked down at his left hand, resting on a pillow across his lap. He studied it and the evil looking contraption that protruded from the soft white bandages that surrounded it. Just below his wrist two shiny silver prongs protruded, and from the bandage; these ran up to a kind of hub, from this one pin rose to be connected, much like a scaffolding pole, to a dark steel rod that ran back parallel to his arm to a point midway between wrist and elbow, where another two pins emerged from the white mummy like wrappings.
"It's called an external fixation, and it's temporary," Chris assured. "The doc 'll explain it but basically it has to stay in for six weeks, then you have a small op. to remove the pins, after which you'll be in a regular cast for another two weeks - is that alright?"
Buck nodded. "Thanks Chris, I know I know it's a shock, and you've got questions, an' I'm gonna answer them, but not yet, I need to heal first, I " Just then a huge yawn overcame him.
"I know you will," Chris assured, reaching out he let his hand fall on to the back of his old friend's neck, gently massaging it. "Sleep now, don't worry about it yet."
Needing no second bidding, Buck's eyelids fluttered closed and in less than a minute he was sleeping peacefully.
Chris had been struggling with the concept that Buck was still Buck, that essentially he hadn't changed. To a degree that hadn't changed, he still wasn't sure who the man in the bed was anymore. But he had stood there and looked at his oldest friend and he just couldn't hold back any longer. It wasn't the ugly contraption attached to his friend's arm that drew him in. It was the stark white dressings on each finger and thumb, the clear scrapes and grazes on is forearm and elbow. These told him the true story of that night. Just how long had he hung there, desperately scrabbling at the decaying slope, praying for what? For help to come? Could he really have expected anyone to find him? The man who set the trap maybe? No one else, so was he really hoping to die? What was it like to hang there like that, in agony, totally unable to help himself? He couldn't even begin to imagine the pain and fear, the desperation.
"I'd rather have three legs than two." That was the last thing Buck had said, and those words had stayed with Larabee. He settled down to wait, whatever Buck was, he - Chris - would protect him, and he would give him time to explain it.
How the hell do you explain something like that? Mind you this is Buck, anything is possible, Chris mused to himself, a small smile escaping at the thought. Anything is possible!