MAIN CHARACTERS: Buck, OFCs
DISCLAIMER: Buck, the rest of the boys and Gloria belong to Trilogy, CBS and associated parties. Lila belongs to the Immortal. The ATF scenario belongs to Mog. No profit is made from this (apart from a bit of a chuckle).
NOTES: This is a little addendum scene for my last fic "The Darkest Betrayal". It wont make sense if you havent read that story.
DEDICATION: This is for Wnnepooh, Buckbabe that she is, because it was really all her idea! Agent Derry isnt one to forget a favour...
Ruth had packed one small suitcase for herself and another for Lexi and was actually carrying them out into the hall when the doorbell rang.
"Lex! Theyre here!" she called out to her daughter, as she dropped the suitcases and went to open the door.
The man standing in the doorway was not the one she had expected. He was taller, darker and, in her opinion, slightly more handsome.
She did recognise the young girl who stood beside him, his left hand resting protectively on her shoulder. But before Ruth could ask what was going on, the unknown visitor spoke.
"Sorry, maam. I know you were expecting Ezra - along with Angie here - but he got unexpectedly called in to work, so he asked me to pick you up. Names Buck Wilmington. Me and Ez work together." He extended his right hand to shake hers.
"Er...nice to meet you," Ruth replied, uncharacteristically tongue-tied. "Um...I thought Mr Standish was on leave."
Buck Wilmington smiled and Ruth found her remaining capacity for speech rapidly dissipating. "Yeah, he is. But the Powers That Be have got some bee in their bonnets about something and he and Chris were called in urgently to answer some questions. Im sure itll be okay. Those two together make most review boards turn to jelly with just mentioning their names."
"Yeah," Angie piped up for the first time. "Ezra talks until they dont know whats going on and Mr Larabee does that really mean stare he does. He doesnt say much but what he says really scares them. At least, thats what JD says."
Buck laughed. "Something like that." Then as the sound of small running footsteps were heard, he glanced behind Ruth. "Hi. You must be Lexi."
Lexi came to halt just behind her mother and nodded uncertainly in answer to the strangers question. Then her face lit up at the sight of who was with him.
The other girl smiled in return. "Hi Lexi. You ready to come and stay with us?"
"Yeah. Moms packed everything. The suitcases are back there."
Buck grinned again and took a step towards them. "Well, Ill be getting those...with your permission maam."
Ruth finally found her voice. "Oh, thank you. And please, you must call me Ruth."
"Sure, and you havta call me Buck then."
She nodded, as she turned and drew Lexi aside to let him enter, and he moved forward to collect the luggage.
"Ready to go?" he asked as he walked back to them.
"Nearly. Ill just finish locking up and meet you at the car."
He nodded. "Come on, Angie. Lets show your friend my beautiful Chevy."
"Ezras got a nicer car," the child opined.
"Ezras might be prettier but mines got more soul."
Ruth listened to the friendly argument as she headed into her house. Buck Wilmington had more than two decades on his opponent, but she knew from experience that Angie was a very tough debater for her age. So Ruth wasnt prepared to make a call on the outcome.
Still, she was quite impressed with Bucks easy manner with the child. It was obvious that Angie trusted him completely and, in view of the childs recent traumas, that was no mean feat.
They were still arguing when Ruth reached the car, and Lexi had joined in.
"Cars think and feel on TV," Ruth heard her daughter say.
"Only in cartoons!" was Angies reply.
"You mean cartoons arent real?" Buck gave a good impression of shocked disbelief.
Ruth felt her heart melt just that little bit more. No wonder he got on so well with kids. He was just a big kid himself.
She forced herself to suppress a smile and said in her best stern maternal voice, "What are you teaching these children, Mr Wilmington?"
He pouted, just like a six-year-old boy. "I thought you were gonna call me Buck?"
Both Angie and Lexi giggled at his expression and he grinned and winked at them.
Then he said, "Speaking of teaching, we really appreciate you coming up to the ranch to tutor Angie while she stays with us. Wouldnt do for her to miss that much school."
"Its the least I can do." Ruth dropped her gaze for a moment. "Ive got my tutoring certification and...well, I feel I should have done more before it came to this."
"Hey, there was nothing you coulda done." He reached out to take hold of her right hand and spoke quietly, so the children wouldnt hear. "None of us coulda known what was happening. Even Gloria didnt know."
It was only then that he noticed the band-aids over her knuckles. "What did you do there?"
She drew back her hand, slightly flustered. "Oh, nothing. That woman just finally pushed my patience too far. Never mind, its over. I deeply regret my actions - especially in front of the kids. I should have shown more restraint."
"Thats what the lawyer told her to say after she punched Mrs Lane," Lexi explained.
"You punched Glorias sister?" Buck asked.
"Good!" said Angie, and the degree of satisfaction on the six-year-olds face was slightly disconcerting.
Ruth turned back to Buck. "Im sorry, but I just lost control for a moment. I know violence isnt the solution, but that woman had been going on about your friend, Ezra, for hours, saying really nasty vicious things. I spent a whole evening trying to support Gloria through that turmoil and Charlotte was just making it worse. And then when the police and Mr Larabee arrived later and told us what they had found out and who had been doing those things...well, Charlotte just kept insisting that Ezra was to blame despite everything. It was like she was condemning him on the basis of her own past, not his. I just couldnt stand listening to it anymore...and, well...it was just one punch."
Bucks lips twitched slightly. "Well, me and the guys wanted to do a lot more to that son of hers. Hmmn...Chris never mentioned how she got that split lip. But no wonder he seemed so pleased that you offered to come up and tutor Angie. Chris appreciates a woman who can hold her own in a fight." He leaned forward and lowered his voice. "And so do I."
Ruth almost felt like her head was spinning but she still heard Angie say, "Youd better tell your mom to watch out, Lex. Buck is a devil with the ladies."
Buck chuckled and turned towards the child, still not letting go of Ruths hand. "Did Ezra tell you that?"
"Nope, that was Mr Larabee."
"Well, Shortcake, you dont wanna believe everything Chris says about me."
"He says, You can always rely on Buck."
"Well, you can believe that one."
"So how do I know what to believe and what not to believe?"
Buck sighed. "Lets not worry about that now. How about you and Lexi hop into the back seat. I think Ruth might like to ride up front with me. Then we can take a nice leisurely drive up to the ranch."
Angie pouted. "Are we gonna take a REALLY long time? I thought we were gonna get home before Lila and JD."
Ruth raised her eyebrows. "Where are Lila and JD?"
Buck shrugged. "They went to see a movie - some Generation-X thing. JD tried to explain what it was about but it sounded right weird to me. Didnt understand it at all."
Ruth smiled. "So what sort of movies DO you understand?"
"Me? Im an old romantic." Again, that devilish twinkle in his eye.
Angie piped up again. "Are we gonna GO any time soon?"
"Yeah," said Lexi. "Maybe we could go horse-riding."
"Vinll be there he can teach you."
"Thats okay. My mom can ride a horse."
"We aint ever gonna get there, if you two dont get in the car," Buck pointed out. He opened the back door and both girls crawled inside. Then he gallantly escorted Ruth around to the front passenger seat.
He took one more look at her right hand as he helped her into her seat. "I think that will need re-dressing before we go riding. I know a little first aid."
Angie leaned forward from the back seat. "I thought that was Mr Jacksons job."
Buck shook his head. "Not when it comes to looking after the ladies. Thats MY area of expertise."
"Does that include me?"
He laughed. "Shortcake, we ALL fight over the right to look after you, but Ez tends to win hands down, doesnt he?"
"I suppose so," Angie agreed, suddenly a little jealous of Lexis mom, although she didnt know why. "But...I was wondering...if you wouldnt mind reading a story to me and Lexi later."
"Its possible. Ruth, would you like to give me a hand? I sometimes stumble over the big words."
"You do not!" Angie asserted forcefully.
"I dunno. I sometimes have trouble with heffa...heneffa...heffagalump."
"You can say heffalump when you want to. Youre just not trying!"
"Buck," said Ruth, trying to keep her voice suitably reproachful. "Stop teasing the child. Hell read to you later, Angie, but right now hed better get into the car and start driving."
Ruth smiled slightly as he moved off, in compliance with her command. She rubbed the knuckles of her right hand. A little first aid from Buck Wilmington was one reward which she hadnt expected from her one little punch.
And Buck had a grin a mile wide as he walked around to the drivers side.
A leisurely drive, a little TLC for the lovely Ruth, maybe a short horse ride, reading to Angie and her friend in the evening, and then maybe even a little more TLC for the fair lady... It sounded like the makings of a fine old evening - a very fine old evening indeed!