Disclaimer: Just playing. I know I can't keep 'em…damnit!
Thanks to Katy for RNLI. This is for her
Thanks to Sherry for looking this over
Summary: Sometimes storms on dry land can be equally treacherous as those at sea.
While driving along through an evening of increasing bad weather, Buck's grin never waned, as JD waxed lyrical over the rugby game they had been to. It was no secret that JD's first love in sports was football, but Buck was determined to introduce the young man, who he looked on as a kid brother, to the noble and decidedly hard-hitting, physical game of rugby; and grass roots rugby at that. No fancy stadiums here, just small sports grounds that housed little more than a few thousand spectators, and rarely saw more than a few hundred, if that, to turn up and cheer their team on. But small didn't mean lacking in rivalry. These games were strongly contested, often bloody, and comprised of players as diverse as doctors and solicitors to teachers and shop workers.
And RNLI volunteers.
After the match, Buck took JD to the clubhouse, where they spent several happy hours talking and reminiscing with men who had played the game since they were seven years old. There were no earnings at this level, just men who played for the love of the sport, and sometimes the honor of a local trophy. By the time two crewmen left, JD was hooked.
And the weather was getting rougher by the minute.
"So, you really think I could play, Buck?"
"Oh, yeah…and if you're good, at your age any amateur club would bite your hand off for you to join them."
"But not your club?"
Buck glanced sideways and smiled kindly, as he drove JD's Fiat Bravo. His own Volvo was having its yearly service, and so, despite using JD's car, Buck offered to drive them to and from the match due to his familiarity with the locale they were visiting, and the narrow twisting roads that led to it.
"The Fourths would probably give you a run out, to start you off. You've got years on Ezra and me to get to our level…or even further. Would you like me to arrange for you to train with them?"
JD paused, then nodded. "Yeah, I wouldn't mind giving it a go. What position do you reckon I'd be…a `forward'?"
Buck grinned. "Boy, while I know you have the heart for anything, you'd be a `back'."
JD frowned. "A `back'? Sounds boring."
"They're fast as whips and cover a lot of ground."
"Oh." JD nodded. "Okay." He glanced out at the rain pounding the windscreen as the increasing winds buffeted the car. "Crap night."
Buck agreed as the narrow road they were traveling along came to an intersection. "Yeah, it's gonna be like this all weekend. Looks like Pete's got a rough rotation on the boat."
Pulling out his mobile phone, JD announced he was going to let Inez know they were about a half hour away. Seconds before he could dial, a tree uprooted in the high winds, and crashed down onto the road. The pair never knew what hit them.
Vin looked up from his magazine, and reached for the ringing phone. He glanced at the caller ID and smiled as he answered. "Everything okay, Chris?" He grinned wider, his body swaying with the movement of the bobbing yacht he lived on. "Nice of you to think of me, but I'm used to it, thanks. She's well secured; I won't be floating off anywhere. `Night."
Replacing the phone on the table Vin shook his head. That was Chris's third call, scattered amongst other calls from his friends, who were also offering him a safe haven for the night. Tanner didn't mind the weather, though. He liked when the wind blew and the sea rolled, it was wild, untamed…natural. The only ones who hadn't called were Buck and JD. He checked his watch. They'd be home soon. He looked forward to a hearty breakfast at the pub in the morning to hear if JD enjoyed the match.
Inez thanked Tom and Sally for their help during the evening, though, the bad weather kept many customers at home. Due to the meals ceasing being served at 9pm, Gloria had left an hour earlier. Slipping the bolts on the front door; she dropped down the latch on the back door to enable Buck and JD to get in but still have it secured, and then she headed on up to bed.
She had expected not to drift off to sleep until her boys were home safely, but was surprised she was still awake at 2am. Curious to know whether she had indeed fallen asleep, and missed their arrival, Inez padded to first Buck's, then JD's room, curiosity turning to alarm when the late hour and their absence, formed a knot of unease in her stomach. Switching on the lights, she headed downstairs to see if they were there, her anxiety increasing the moment she realized they were not. Inez paced for a good ten minutes, wondering what to do while she dialed each of their phones. Receiving voicemail, she was just about to dial Chris when there was a knock at the front door. She smiled.
"Madre de Dios!" She yelled out. "Remember your keys next time, or so help me I will
leave you to stand in the rain!" She halted mid-movement of unbolting the door when an unexpected voice greeted her.
"Inez…it's Nathan. Is everything okay?"
Trembling a little now, she finished unlocking the door and let the doctor in from the wild weather. "Why are you here at this late hour?"
"I had a call-out…saw your light was on. Is everything okay?"
Inez shook her head. "NO! No, Buck and JD should have been home from Hayle by now, don't you think?"
Nathan nodded and pulled out his phone. "Yeah, it's a two hour or so run on a good day, but tonight it's rough. Have you called them?" When she nodded, he pressed a button. "Chris…Nathan. Sorry to wake you, but…did Buck call you this evening, or mention a change of plans? Only they're not home yet." The answer he received caused him to glance at Inez. "Cheers." He popped his phone into his pocket. "Chris is on his way."
"NO! There was no need to concern him…"
Nathan squeezed her arm. "Come on, hun, you know that's not how it works with us. How about some tea or coffee?" Grateful to see her agree, and knowing it would keep her busy; Nathan also tried Buck and JD's phones. "Where the hell are you, boys?"
Unable to move without pain exploding in his head, JD swallowed the rising bile that burned his throat, and tried to figure out where the hell his ringing alarm clock was. He shivered. Damn, it was cold in bed tonight. Before he could dwell on it, he was out again.
There was that damned alarm again. This time he opened his eyes, blinking hard as something wet hit his face. "What…?" Just as he was realizing the alarm actually sounded more like a phone, JD was also aware he could feel cold air on his face. He tried to move, but something above him had pinned him between his seat and the dash. His right arm was free so he lifted it and touched his face and head, alarmed at how wet and sticky it felt. While panic slowly built up, he wondered where the hell he was, and if he had been alone.
It was pitch black save for some light just beyond the engine, and he awkwardly reached out, relief flooding his mind as he felt a warm shoulder. "Buck…hey…Buck! "
JD gulped as his yelling caused the pounding in his head to increase. Just managing to unclasp the glove box in front of him, he fumbled around until his hand curled around the object he had hoped to find. Shivering, he directed the torch's beam toward Buck. The gasp it produced almost sent him back to oblivion.
Crawling out of bed to answer the banging on the yacht cabin's roof, Vin pushed open the door and watched Chris climb down inside. "Where's the fire …" he checked his watch. "…at 3:00am? Fuck, this better be good, Larabee."
"We can't raise Buck and JD."
"From where?" As he spoke, Vin was already threading his legs into his jeans.
"Somewhere between here and Hayle. It has to be bad, they would have called."
Tanner was nodding as he slammed his foot into his boot. "Done, let's go."
Exiting the swaying cabin, Chris yelled over the noise of the storm while they headed for his Landrover. "Ezra and Nathan are taking the `A' roads; we're hitting the `B's'. I've alerted the emergency services. They said they're swamped, but on it. I asked Josiah to stay with Inez, in case they call or turn up, plus it'll be good company for her."
Both buckled in, Chris fired up the big 4x4 and roared off.
Inside the Lifeboat Inn, Josiah held Inez's hand. "Would it help if we prayed?"
"Si, gracias, padre."
Joining hands, the pair bowed their heads, and Josiah chanted a soft prayer for their missing friends. A tap came on the front door and Josiah got up to answer. He smiled at their local postman.
"Off to work, Jack?"
He nodded. "Saw the lights on. Everything okay?"
Josiah paused for a moment then ushered him inside and out of the rain. "We're a bit concerned for Buck and JD. They should have been home from a rugby match hours ago."
Jack nodded. "So, Buck took the lad, then? Good, show him what a real sport looks like. Maybe they stayed over, the weather's crap."
Josiah nodded. "Maybe, but I'd like to think they'd have called."
"Good point, Father. Anything I can do to help?"
"No Jack, thanks…maybe a little prayer?"
The postman turned to leave. "You got it. I'll check in later."
As Josiah closed the door, he couldn't help smiling. He loved living in a tight community. He wasn't surprised Jack had called in. Buck was well loved in the village, and JD was becoming a fast favorite too, despite only living here for a while. For that matter, the whole of the RNLI volunteers were always taken good care of. Glancing at Inez, he offered a comforting smile. "Tea?"
Chris was fighting the wind as his vehicle took bends at unsafe speeds in the torrential conditions. He wasn't being reckless, Chris was an experienced driver and this weather was not uncommon for the coast, so he pushed it as hard as he dared. Vin clung to the dashboard while he dialed and re-dialed their friends, but still just got voicemail. He glanced out at the bleak landscape, trees swaying in the high winds and rain bouncing off the windscreen, making visibility poor. On the narrow roads, several swerves were made around downed tree limbs. Vin felt sure Chris was thinking the same as him now…and Vin didn't like where it was leading.
While on more open and well maintained roads, Ezra and Nathan were slowly coming to the conclusion that they were on a false trail. Debris was light and easily avoided, while there seemed to be no signs of regular traffic at this hour.
Ezra glanced at Nathan. "I fear this may be a wild goose chase."
Nathan agreed. "I'll call Vin, see if they're having more luck." It was a moot point. Tanner would have called if that had been the case, but it gave him something to do to ease his anxiety.
Through the gloom, JD scanned the image of a man he loved like a brother, unable to stop the trembling overwhelming him. Buck looked dead. The roof had been crushed down, pinning him between the partially deflated airbag hanging down from the steering wheel and what was once the top of JD's beloved Bravo. Reaching out, JD chanted his first aid training as he searched for the carotid pulse. Buck's neck felt cold and for a moment, JD's heart almost stopped when at first he found nothing.
Then…there it was!
He cried out in relief and tried to decide what to do next. At least Buck was facing him, so if Buck woke, he'd be able to comfort him. JD decided that's what he'd focus on. With the roof above him also buckled and preventing much movement, it was all he could do for now. "Buck?" JD was surprised at how raspy he sounded.
"Buck…could you wake up, please? I could really use hearing your voice right now." He swallowed. "If you can hear me, don't try moving, you're pretty wedged in there." He glanced out at the tree that hit them, the car headlights illuminating the slanted rain and sodden branches. "Gonna run my battery down at this rate," he mumbled, already knowing his car was likely beyond repair.
The main body of the tree lay in the road ahead of them. JD figured one of its large limbs was what was resting on top of the car. He shuddered. A few feet more and they would have been sliced in two…or flat. Wondering if he could find Buck's phone, JD again reached out and patted Buck's jeans' hip pockets.
"Usually get…dinner…first… "
JD caught a breath and squinted at the face he knew so well, and loved dearly. "Buck? Buck! Oh, thank God." He panicked momentarily when the torchlight flickered, but a good shake corrected it. "Buck?"
JD shivered. "I know me too. It's still raining…and we got no roof."
JD so wanted to touch him and reassure him, but his left shoulder was trapped and he dare not let go of the torch that his right hand was holding. "Well, it's there; it's just got a big hole in it. We got hit by a tree."
Buck finally opened his eyes, pain clearly reflected in them. "Feels…like it." He frowned when he got no answer. "Kid?"
JD took a few breaths. Once the initial euphoria of knowing Buck was alive had dissipated, his headache had come back with a vengeance. He raised the torch. "Here…just…tired. "
"Mmmm…" Buck stared at JD's bloody face and tried to move, howling in pain.
"No…no, stay still. You're between the steering wheel and the buckled roof."
The hurt was too much for the big man and he passed out.
"Buck? Nooo…Buck, I need you, don't leave me."JD felt ashamed at begging, but if he was honest, he was scared help wouldn't arrive and not knowing how badly Buck was injured, that thought terrified him.
Buck tried to hold on but couldn't. A swirl of images filled his mind and he realized he was somehow looking down on himself and JD. He grimaced at the scene. "Damn, that's bad. I think this car's a right-off, Kid." He glanced around. Funny, he thought, judging by the way he was pinned in there, he would hurt more. He could see the intersection they had been approaching, and the coast just beyond the sloping hill off it. The sea was wild and foaming. He shivered, wishing they could get in out of this rain.
Buck frowned. JD was talking up his own storm, but sounded agitated. "Stay calm, Kid, someone should be here soon." When JD didn't respond, Buck wondered why. What was JD going on about? Leaving him?"
Hey…listen to me…I'm right here." All at once, the agony from earlier returned and he was no longer above the scene but back in his seat. JD's words penetrated the pain and Buck fought his way back.
"Buck? Nooo…Buck, I need you, don't leave me."
The big man moaned. "I'm here Kid…like you, I'm just tired."
Now JD was closing his eyes, relief flooding him. Why had no one come, yet? His eyes popped open. "Where's your phone?"
Even before he ran the beam there, JD knew it was inaccessible. Both phones had rung intermittently, but he couldn't get at them. He heaved a deep sigh. They were screwed. Again directing the light at Buck, he could see the man had once more succumbed to the pain. Less than a minute later, JD had, too, just missing the distant lights heading their way.
Climbing a hill to a more open road, Chris's heart leapt to his throat on seeing the flashing lights of fire engines, ambulances, and a police car parked up just in front of a large fallen tree. He and Vin glanced at each other, somehow knowing it was their friends, even before they had stopped and jumped out of the vehicle to check. The officer in attendance, Nick Palfrey, raised a hand to halt them as they hurried toward him, relaxing when he saw Chris. Before the loss of the Saint Anthony, Nick had been an RNLI volunteer and knew Buck and Chris well. He gave up just weeks before that fateful day, to become a policeman. Josiah had declared it divine intervention, just like for Buck and Chris that day. It simply was not their time. The three stood huddled together in the heavy rain.
"I assume there's a good reason you're out in this crazy weather at four in the morning?"
Larabee nodded. "Buck's out here, somewhere. Got our new navigator with him…kid called JD."
He thumbed toward the wreckage. "It's not the Volvo," Nick assured. "Just a small car. Looks like they're trapped, but alive, but I haven't been allowed close enough to see to be absolutely sure."
Vin was squinting at the wreckage. He swallowed. "They took the Bravo."
Chris's head snapped around.
Vin continued. "That car…" They both looked at Nick, who nodded.
"That much I do know…it's a Bravo."
Arc lights buzzed to life, illuminating the accident site. JD's silver hatchback was barely recognizable and Chris and Vin's hearts sank. The sound of cutting, and metal snapping, pierced the pre-dawn gloom, while those not involved in the rescue just stood back to wait.
Soon, Ezra and Nathan had arrived, the doctor instantly joining the paramedics. JD's gurney was the first to emerge, the bloodied youth in a neck brace and secured to a spinal board. Nathan was with him.
"Bruised shoulder, head lac and multiple cuts and contusions…maybe a concussion." Nathan paused as they watched JD being loaded into the ambulance. He gazed at his friends. "Buck's not so good…the steering column had bent in and was pressed into his stomach. I reckon at least internal bleeding." He glanced between them. "I'm going in with Buck. JD…"
"On it." Vin brushed past the doctor, and was soon inside the ambulance with his young friend and tearing away.
It was a long and agonizing hour before the car had been cut enough to get Buck treated and safely out. Chris approached the gurney heading toward him, his heart aching for his friend as he took in the secured, bloodied, battered, ashen features, and the pain-filled deep blue eyes squinting back at him.
Shakily, Buck lifted his oxygen mask. "The…kid…"
Chris leaned in. "…Is fine. Concentrate on yourself."
"Not…possible. " Buck tried to smile but was fast losing consciousness.
Chris closed in. "Then let me worry for both of you." He wasn't sure if Buck heard him, but started doing just that, worrying for them both, as he watched Buck and Nathan disappear into the ambulance and race away. He approached Ezra, who was talking on his phone and excused himself as Chris drew near.
"I'm speaking with Josiah. How are they?"
With mutual nods, both men jumped into their vehicles, grateful to get out of the rain, as they followed the ambulance to the hospital.
Chris stood when Inez and Josiah entered the surgical waiting room. He embraced her. "There's some internal bleeding, but x-rays confirmed the injuries to his chest and back are mostly bruising, and his head needed several stitches. The doc was optimistic. He's been in surgery for an hour." Seeing her nod, he guided her to a chair.
"JD?" Her frightened gaze met Chris's.
The blond smiled. "X-rays show he's doing good. Vin, Nathan, and Ezra are with him. Nathan tells me they'll keep him here for today and overnight, for observation and the concussion, but reckon he can go home by tomorrow morning…earlier if he does okay through the day."
They all looked up as Nathan entered.
"JD's resting. He's been stitched and cleaned up. His left shoulder's badly bruised but no breaks or serious injuries."
Inez stood. "I must go to him."
"He's asleep," Nathan informed her. "Vin said he'll let us know how he's doing. Ezra's coming up here shortly, and Vin likewise when someone takes over for him." He glanced around when the doors opened, and smiled as Doctor Frank Beavis joined them. The two doctors shook hands.
"Nathan. Buck did great in surgery. He has a small incision in his stomach, but we stopped the internal bleeding and there appears to be no organ damage. He's in recovery now. You can see him soon, we'll be moving him to a ward within the hour."
"Can we look in on him now?" Chris asked.
Doctor Beavis glanced at Nathan. "Okay, just for a minute."
Buck was already fighting to wake up when a hand took hold of his, and helped him complete the task. A pair of sultry dark brown eyes gazed into his, and he smiled. Glancing beyond Inez, he saw Chris, Nathan and Josiah.
"Bienvenido de nuevo, mi amado." Kissing his cheek, Inez moved back for Chris to step in.
"Hey, stud," Buck rasped.
Chris leaned in, grinning. "Hey yourself. You did good, pal. No SICU for you this time, just a nice, boring, regular ward."
Buck swallowed, his gaze earnest. "JD…?"
Chris nodded. "Snoring his little head off. He might be able to come home later."
Buck closed his eyes in relief, quickly opening them. "I…trashed his car."
Frowning, Chris shook his head. "No, the big tree that jumped out on you did that."
"Kid's gonna be…gutted. It's his…baby…"
"No doubt," the blond nodded. "But at least you'll both be alive to come to terms with it."
Nodding weakly and flipping Josiah and Nathan a weary wave, Buck drifted back to sleep. Straightening, Chris walked out of the room with the other three. "I'm gonna go check on JD." Josiah and Nathan elected to stay, while Chris and Inez headed for two floors down.
Vin and Ezra glanced up when Chris and Inez entered the four-bed ward JD was in. He was its only occupant. Inez leaned in and kissed the slumbering form, while Chris brought them up to speed about Buck.
Ezra stood. "Marvelous news. If you will excuse me, I will join Nathan and Josiah."
Tanner pointed to JD. "He's doing great. Been telling me Buck's going to arrange for him to train with your old club, soon."
Chris glanced at JD. The kid was pale and battered, and his left arm was strapped. "He wants to play rugby?" He grinned at the mild curse from Inez as she fussed over her charge. "That should be interesting. " Noting JD's restlessness, Chris leaned in. "Hey, you with us?"
Forcing open his eyelids, JD frowned, then stared in alarm. "Buck?"
"Out of surgery and going onto a ward soon," Chris informed him.
"Not too bad…then?"
"Bad enough, but he'll mend…you're both doing great."
JD reached out and held Chris's arm. "Can I see him…please?"
Larabee nodded. "Maybe later. Right now, you both need to rest."
Realizing that was as good as it was going to get, for now, JD sighed and went back to sleep.
Josiah joined them. "Buck's going up to the ward as we speak." He moved toward JD and touched his arm, repeating the silent prayer he had just said for Buck. He settled into a chair. "Go…I'll sit with the lad for a while."
Thanking him, Vin, Inez, and Chris headed back to see Buck settled, all the friends relieved and grateful that the two men had been lucky this night.
JD stretched as he lay on the sofa in their living room, glancing back at the man wrapped in blankets on the recliner. "I think, big brother, you'll find that was you."
"I don't snore."
JD laughed. "Yeah, right, and Inez don't swear in Spanish."
Four days on, and the pair were practically under house arrest as Inez insisted they rest up, while she fussed over them. Their sitting room was festooned with flowers, fruit, and cards, and several villagers had visited, including, as Vin called them, Jack the post, and Jim the milk, during their morning rounds. As an advert for the new Fiat 500c Convertible came on the TV, the pair looked at each other, and both absently touched the bald spots on their heads where their stitches were.
"Sorry about your car, Kid."
JD shrugged, trying not to show his despair at the loss of his first car, the car Buck had given him. "Shit happens."
"I'll make it up to you, I promise."
JD shook his head. "It's not down to you, Bro. Not this time."
Buck smiled, recalling when he gave JD the car for his birthday…and to heal a painful rift between them. "Yeah, it is," he said softly. "We both know that car meant more than just a means to get from A to B…to both of us."
Staring at him, JD finally nodded, but said nothing, not really surprised that Buck knew the car had meant the world to him.
Buck sat up, wincing at the effort. "Once the insurance pays up, what say we break out of here and go check out what's out there?"
About to argue, JD saw the look of determination on Buck's face and decided it could wait for another day. He paused a good while.
"Spit it out, kid."
JD smiled. Buck knew him so well. "That night…" He took a breath. "That night…God Buck, you scared me. You looked like…" he hesitated. Did he really want Buck to know he'd thought he was dead? "…Shit."
Buck grinned. "Now, while you well know that's damned near impossible…I have to admit, I felt a bit shit at the time, too." He pushed back the image of the torch beam flashing across JD's face revealing the blood running down it from a cut somewhere on the top of his head. And tried not to dwell on the fact he had, at one point, somehow seen everything from a higher perspective. Buck decided to ask Josiah about that another day.
Noise from the hallway revealed their five friends and crewmates up for a visit. Soon, all seven were sitting around the sitting room, drinking coffee and talking.
"I hear you're going to try your hand at Rugby, John Daniel," Josiah said.
JD nodded. "Yeah, I thought I'd have a go."
"You're gonna get squished," Vin teased, balking at the reference after their accident, and relieved when JD seemed unaffected.
"Hey, I'm fast." He shrugged his good shoulder and then grinned at Vin. "Yeah, probably."
Buck tossed a box of tissues at JD and the kid caught them. He beamed at the others. "Kid's a natural."
They all laughed.
"I would be happy to impart any tactical strategies with you, JD," Ezra offered.
"I'll pray," Josiah winked.
"Better stock up the first aid kit," Nathan added, quietly.
"We still have a spare set of crutches at the club, yeah?" Chris asked Buck.
JD glanced at a chuckling Tanner, exasperated with the conversation. "Hey!"
Buck sat back and grinned at the exchanges, absently rubbing at the itchy stitches in his belly. Right here, right now, all was right in his world. And that was all he could wish for.