A Shared Past

by Bunny

Note: This takes place in my Sevens Investigations AU.

Maude Standish rushed into the detective office in great dismay. She sighed as she rode up the elevator; she never thought she'd be glad Ezra took a job that was, in her opinion, a waste of his God-given talents. As she descended the elevator, and stepped into the office, Josiah looked up and smiled almost goofily.

Ezra: (quirking an eyebrow at him) What in blazes is wrong with. . . Mother?

Maude: Why, hello, Ezra darlin'.

Ezra: (weakly) What are you doing here?

Maude: Well. . . (looks down) I got a call from your uncle last night. . .

Ezra: (tightly) Uncle Claude?

Maude nods.

Chris: (curiously) Claude who?

Maude: My brother; Claude Devaroux.

Buck: (voice raspy and weak) Ya got a picture?

Ezra looks at him as if he'd grown two heads.

Maude: (fishing through her wallet) Well, yes, but. . . it was taken over 10 years ago. . .

Buck: Perfect.

Maude: (looks at him oddly and hands him the photograph) Is he who you thought he was?

Buck: (hands her back the picture) Y-yeah. . .

Josiah: You know him?

Buck: You might say that. . . What'd he want, Ms. Standish?

Maude: I'm not sure. He said he was in town and wanted to see Ezra and myself, so I came to warn him.

Chris: You'd have to warn him against his uncle?

Ezra: Mr. Larabee, you do not understand. . . my uncle is somewhat---

Buck: (darkly) Evil.

Chris: (looks at Buck in shock) How exactly you know him?

Buck: (stubbornly) Don't matter. (looks at Maude) He's in town now?

Maude: Yes---

Buck: Where's JD?

Chris: With Vin, doing a follow-up on the Barkley case. Why?

Buck: I'm gonna go get him.

Chris: Buck---

But, before he can utter another word, Buck has gotten on the elevator.

Buck practically leaped from the elevator as it opened at the parking garage, his feet barely touching the ground in his rush to get to his little blue pickup. Relief washed over his features as JD and Vin came riding up on their bikes.

JD: (pulling off his helmet & shaking out his hair) Somethin' wrong?

Buck: (breathing a bit shallowly) Nah, nah. S'ok, kid.

Vin: (concerned) Ya sure?

Buck: (snappishly) I said I'm fine, Vin.

JD & Vin exchanged glances.

JD: Buck?

Buck: What?

JD: Come on, let's go back to the office?

Buck: (nodding) Okay. . .

The 3 of them went back up, to be received by a very concerned crew.

Maude: Buck Wilmington, what was that display about? Had us worried to death!

Buck: Sorry, M'am. . .

Chris: How exactly do you know Claude Deveraux?

At the mention of the name, JD went absolutely pale, which did not go unnoticed.

Buck: (through gritted teeth) Chris, I said---

Chris: (in a tone that left no room for argument) I heard what you said, and I don't care. Tell me!

Buck: All right, you're so intent on knowin', I'll tell ya everything!

Before Buck would answer, though, he leveled a good gaze at Ezra.

Buck: What's your opinion of him?

Ezra: A more loathsome curmudgeon you'll never want to meet.

Maude: (affirmingly) Brother or not, I wouldn't trust him if he swore on a stack of Bibles. (curiously) How is it, though, that you made his acquaintance?

Buck: (sighs heavily) He dated my Aunt Tessa, JD's mama, for a time. . . By then, it was just the three of us; my ma had already died a few years before. . .

JD: (softly) That's around the time she got sick. . . Cancer. . .

Buck: (bitterly) Took everything we had. . . Could barely afford decent medical care, and she died a short time later. . . JD was only 8. . . I was about 18, so they let me be his legal guardian. . .

Maude put a hand up to her mouth and gasped.

Josiah: So, he killed her, then?

Buck: No; she was terminal when she found out. But, she deserved a better place than that rat-trap clinic to die in. . . That's what he done to her. Don't even account for me an' JD. . .

Ezra suddenly got a knowing look in his eye, which did not go unnoticed by Vin. . .

Ezra: What did he---

Buck & JD: Don't matter.

Vin: (quietly) Workin' awful hard to keep it hid, for somethin' that "don't matter".

JD: Ain't that, Vin. . . It. . . (looks helplessly at Buck)

Buck: Was a long time ago; memories we don't 'specially care to dredge up, that's all.

Ezra: (musingly) Perhaps we should delve into his current affairs, considering the fact that he is in town. . .

JD: (grabbing the laptop) On it.

JD: (furrowing his brow) Hm.

Chris: What?

JD: (looks up at them all) Says here he's partners in an "import-export business" with some guy calls himself "Eli Joe".

Vin: What? !

Chris: Friend of yours, Vin?

Vin: (shocked) N-no. . . I. . . we used to be bounty hunters together a long time ago. . . Then he joined up with the mob. . . Heard he'd made it kinda big in the underworld. . . (shakes his head ruefully) We weren't ever exactly friends, or even partners, really. . . Just. . . just kinda thrown together 'cause we were rookies. . . Uh, what else it say there, JD?

JD: Um, not too much. . . says he and this Eli Joe're partners in a lot of businesses scattered all over. . . Most legit, actually. . . Some rumored not to be, but there's not any proof. . .

Vin: (shaking his head) No, there wouldn't be.

Chris: I don't like it; it's all too weird. . .

Josiah: Definitely one too many coincidences, brother.

Nathan: Yeah, somethin' about this don't gel.

Maude: I don't see where that matters; the fact is that these horrible men could very well be on their way at this very moment!

Ezra: (soothingly) Calm down, Mother. . . I am quite certain that they would hardly be successful even in an attempt to locate us. . .

Maude: (eyes decidedly red) You'd better pray so, son. You'd better pray so.

+ + + + + + +

It was just too much. So many coincidences. What if it just all fit together somehow? Chris rubbed his temples and decided not to dwell on it any more tonight. The day was over, and all he wanted now was a hot shower and bed. But, the thoughts and doubts kept nagging at the back of his mind, and sleep refused to come. . .

JD: (rubbing his eyes sleepily) You up, too?

Buck: Yup. . . What's the matter? Couldn't sleep?

JD: (shrugs) I did for a coupla hours, but then I got hungry, I guess. Is there any leftover Japanese?

Buck: Yeah, top shelf.

JD makes his way over to the fridge, and pops the styrofoam container into the microwave.

JD: Doesn't it seem weird to you, Buck?

Buck: Yeah, reckon it seems weird to all of us. Um, Kid?

JD: (grabbing the container and starting to the couch) Hmmm?

Buck: How much to you remember?

JD: I remember you decked him, when ya saw him hit me. And, then he beat you up.

Buck: Well, I'm a heap bigger than I was then. . . Here, share.

JD grinned and went to get another fork & plate.

Vin sat in quiet contemplation. Eli Joe. . . now that's a name he thought he'd never hear again. . . Vin's name was dragged through the mud because of something he'd done. . . Well, he wasn't about to let him slip away. Not again. Not this time. . .

Ezra lay awake in bed, trying to force rest. But, his mind was too flooded. Flooded with memories of himself at 10, just home from boarding school, and meeting his uncle for the first time. . . Claude always seemed to have an "important lesson" for him; well, this time he was the one going to teach the lesson. . .

Unbeknownst to the other 4 members of "Sevens Investigations," Nathan and Josiah were up late doing research. Trying to find the common link, hoping they were wrong. Suddenly, Josiah looked up from the microfilm ominously.

Nathan: What is it?

Josiah: There's more to this than we originally thought. . .

+ + + + + + +

They were all tired, resembling something out of "Night of the Living Dead" that next morning as they trudged into the office. Buck stumbled to the coffee machine, muttering something about caffeine. Most of the rest followed suit. JD, however, grabbed a soda from the machine, never really acquiring a taste for coffee. . . Well, maybe the occasional cappuccino. . .

Chris: (taking a long draught from the steaming mug) Nathan, Josiah? What'd ya find on the assignment I put y'all on last night?

JD: What assignment?

Chris: Research.

Josiah: Um, you guys ain't gonna believe this. . .

Nathan: (shakes his head) Shoot, I don't see how I can believe this!

Josiah: It appears Obediah Jackson, Nathan's father, manages one of the factories co-owned by Claude and Eli Joe. . . That's not all, Chris.

Chris: (feeling his mouth go dry) Oh?

Josiah: Hank Connley manages another one.

Chris, Buck& JD: WHAT? !

Vin: Who's Hank Connley?

Chris: (his voice sounding strange, even to his ears) My father-in-law. . .

Josiah: (sighing heavily) Okay, this makes it even stranger. . .

Buck: That's possible?

Josiah: My brother, Caleb, is their accountant.

Vin: (scratching his chin thoughtfully) How you get along with your father-in-law, Chris?

Chris: (clears his throat) Not well. . . Let's just leave it at that.

Nathan: (at the unspoken question in Vin's gaze) I haven't even seen my father since I was 17.

Josiah: (frowning thoughtfully) Caleb and I had a falling-out over 20 years ago.

Ezra: So, what you are ascertaining, Mr. Tanner, is that someone has. . . gathered our presumed adversaries for some sort of. . . retribution?

Chris: You can come up with a better explanation?

Ezra: (admittingly) Well, at the moment, a more pertinent answer eludes me. . .

JD: (biting his lip thoughtfully) They linked us. . .

Buck: (squinting at him) Yes, we know that, JD.

JD: (doggedly) We thought it was Claude. . .

Buck: You sayin' it ain't?

JD: (pensively) Maybe it is, but. . . maybe not. . . I mean, someone went to a whole lot of trouble to tie our pasts together.

Chris: You thinkin' maybe Claude and Eli Joe answer to a higher boss? Maybe an old collar?

Buck: Ya know, that could be. . .

Chris: Well, then, I guess we gotta take some inventory. . .

They all look around the office to the filing cabinet with an air of resignation. . .

After hours of searching and comparing, they found yet another link. . . Joseph McKinley.

Ezra: And, the pieces fall into place.

Vin: Yup.

Josiah: Even crazy as he was, seems an awful lot of mess to go through. . .

Chris: Don't matter none. Point is, he did.

Nathan: Don't even have to look too far for a motive. . .

Buck: (shakes his head ruefully) We didn't even realize he was parolled 3 months ago. . . shoulda paid more attention. . .

JD: It was early, Buck. 'Sides, we can't be expected to keep up with every case on that close a basis. I mean, once we mark the file "Closed," that's our part.

Buck: I know, Kid, and you're absolutely right, but. . . still. . . He swore revenge. . .

Ezra starts laughing, and the others look at him as if he's lost his mind.

Vin: Ah, you been drinkin'?

Ezra: (chuckling) No, I have yet to imbibe a drop today, sir. . . It just struck me what he said. . . as if he were the first to ever say such a thing to us. . .

Suddenly, the humor, odd though it may have been, struck the rest, and they started laughing too. . . But, they were soon sobered by the abrupt change in their leader's face. . .

Chris: Buck was right, Ezra. . . This time it was different. . . He swore revenge on Mary, too.

JD: Maybe not, Chris. . . I mean, of all the trouble he went to link us, we can't see where he linked someone in there to Mary. . .

Chris: What if it's like with Claude? He goes for you, Buck, and Ezra. We have to get her here. Fast.

Vin: He's right; we need her to go over the list see if she recognizes anyone.

Ezra went to call her, but Chris held up a hand to stop him and said he'd rather just go pick her up at her office. "Quicker," he said. Of course, though no one would dispute him, they all knew it was because he wanted to see for himself that she was safe, and would likely not let her out of his sight afterwards. . .

+ + + + + + +

Chris: (leading Mary in) I filled her in on the way.

Mary: Where's the list?

JD: Here ya are. (hands it to her)

Mary: (ashen) Oh, my. . .

Chris: (concerned) What is it, Mary? Do you recognize someone?

Mary: (nodding) Y-yes, I do. . . My ex-boyfriend, Caleb Sanchez.

JD: (shocked) You dated Josiah's brother?

This earned him a sharp nudge in the side from Buck.

Mary: (blue eyes filled with confusion) Josiah's brother?

Josiah: Yes'm. He and I haven't spoken for over 20 years, though.

Mary: Oh. . . Well, we dated about 10 years ago, before I met Stephen. He was a nice enough guy, but when I met Stephen. . . that was just it. Love at first sight.

Chris: You heard from him since?

Mary: No, not since the day I told him I'd met someone else. . . he seemed to take it well, and we said we'd part as friends, but. . . I never saw him again.

Chris: Well, he's done it. Taken our pasts and decided to use it against us somehow. . .

Mary: But, the question is, how?

Chris: That's the scary part, Mary. We just don't know. . .

Mary: These are all. . . enemies of yours?

Ezra: It would appear so.

Mary: (logically) Well, then. . . why don't we all go over motives, reasons. . . what they did to become your enemies.

Vin: (hedging) No 'fense, Ms. Travis, but. . . some of that's a mite personal.

Chris: Mary's right; we need to learn all we can. . . Now, let's start with Caleb, since we know he's your ex. . . He has motive for you, because you left him for Stephen.

Mary nods.

Chris: What about you, Josiah?

Josiah: (shrugs) We fought, years ago, as I mentioned; it was 'bout our father. I wanted to leave, go on my own, Caleb thought I was bein' a bad son and older brother. We came to blows over it. . .

Chris: Buck, JD?

Buck: We told ya; he robbed us blind!

Chris: You said then there was something else?

Buck sighs heavily. Flashback to a rundown apartment, where a small boy is cowering, waiting for the giant of a man standing over him to administer another blow. He smacks him so hard this time, he falls to the ground. Before he can get up, a teenage boy grabs the man and punches him with all his strength. Unfortunately, it's not enough, as the larger, older, man grabs him and punches him in the gut a few times, leaving him to fall upon his knees and wheeze. . . Flashback to the present, where Mary has a hand over her mouth and looks stricken.

Buck: (shakes his head) Only time it ever happened. . . he left that afternoon. . .

Ezra: He left?

JD: (quietly) Mama come home and saw; she grabbed the gun & made 'im.

Chris: (quietly) Ezra?

Ezra: (sighs heavily) I regret to inform that my mother and I had a somewhat similar experience with that. . . creature. . . (voice taking on a hard edge) He came along, only for money. . . but, we soon realized he had a temper; especially when he'd been drinkin'. . . Like Buck and JD, we only had to learn that lesson once; we left that very night, while he slept. . .

Vin: (quietly) I nearly lost my license as a bounty-hunter 'cause of Eli Joe. . . Killed a man, and framed me up for it but good. . . Never could prove it, but they hadda let it go for lack of evidence. . . He joined the mob after that. . .

Nathan: (perplexed) I don't get where my father falls in. . . I mean, we fought when I left, but. . . I don't see him bein' in with these guys. . .

Josiah: People surprise ya, Nate.

Nathan: Reckon so. . . What about you, Chris?

Chris: Huh? Oh. . . Um, Hank was my father-in-law. . . he didn't really approve of me marryin' Sarah; said I weren't good enough. . . He was right. . .

Mary: (confused) But. . . doesn't it seem like you all have more reason to take revenge on them? (adding quickly) Not that you would. . .

Buck: Some people're just crazy, Mary.

Chris: He's got a point. . . Maybe they're just after us for escaping what they set out for us before. . . or maybe they've got some vendetta against us for another reason. . .

Buck: I ain't worried about that; I just want to get 'em out of our hair.

Josiah: Amen to that.

JD: What's the plan?

Chris: Let's figure out what they want first. . .

Ezra: Unless we are fortunate enough that this really is all a conglomeration of coincidences. . . and shall not have to burden ourselves with the vultures. . .

Buck: Ya really think that, Ezra?

Ezra: Wishful thinking never hurt anyone. . .

To this, they silently agreed. But, suddenly, their fears were answered, as Maude came in the door, looking grave.

Ezra: Mother?

Maude: I received a call from your uncle. . . he says that he and some of his business associates wish to meet with y'all. Tomorrow. . .

+ + + + + + +

It was a big disappointment. They had assigned bodyguards for Maude and Mary, and set up for a couple of hours to get to the meeting spot, and no one showed. They waited until dusk, and met back at the office.

Maude: Well?

Chris: (grimly) Set-up. Nobody showed. . .

Ezra: Perhaps we should just retire to our homes, so that we will be refreshed for tomorrow, and perhaps catch them when they are not expecting us?

Chris: All right. . .

As they were on their separate ways home, Buck and JD started noticing a car following them. . .

JD: Buck, can ya loose 'em?

Buck: (swerving) I'm tryin', kid. . . they ain't so easy to shake. . .

Suddenly, the car pulled out in front of them, running them off the road into a ditch! After the dust cleared, Buck shook himself and started looking around towards JD.

Buck: Kid? !

JD: (painfully) I'm fine, Buck. . . just a bit sore. . . You?

Buck: Same here. . . Can't say the same for those jack-asses once I get my hands on them. . .

Claude: (pulling a gun & pointing it in Buck's window) Well, now. . . I wouldn't say that. . .

Seconds later, Claude's goons are pulling them out of the truck and towards a van.

Claude: (authoritatively) Tie 'em up. . . we've got unfinished business. . .

+ + + + + + +

Vin sank slowly into his couch cushions, sipping his coffee in deep appreciation. This whole week had been frustrating as hell, and he still couldn't make sense of it! What was the point? What did it all mean? Reluctantly, he got up to answer the knock at his door. . .

Vin: Inez? That you?

Unfortunately, he opened the door to have a colt . 45 stuck right in his face. . .

Eli-Joe: (grinning leeringly) Who's Inez?

+ + + + + + +

Ezra surveyed the room they were in in disdain. They had managed to get him, Vin, Chris, Josiah, and Nathan. Buck and JD had yet to make an appearance, but he felt certain they were on their way. He was grateful that Chris had thought to hide Maude and Mary at Nettie's ranch. He looked at the bonds on his wrist as if they were the most intriguing thing he'd ever set eyes on.

Vin: (softly) Figure a way outta them, Ez?

Ezra: Not at this particular moment, no. (trying to cover his concern with curiosity) I wonder why Mr. Dunne and Mr. Wilmington are absent? Perhaps they eluded these. . . vermin?

Chris: Hopefully.

Hank: (coming in) Wouldn't get my hopes up too high, Chris Larabee.

Chris: (bitingly) What do you know, Hank? Tell me!

Hank: (shrugs) All Deveraux said was he had unfinished business with the two of 'em. . .

Ezra: Such as?

Hank: (smirks) You know your uncle, boy. Oughta be able to figure that out on your own.

With that, he tipped his hat and left them.

Buck struggled against the heavy grip of the giant men, but it was to no avail. 4 each held down him and JD. Claude was pacing back and forth before them, driving him to distraction. He refused to give in to this sicko. He would not show fear; he knew that's what he wanted. He was just that type of man. But, the truth was, he was sweating something fierce, petrified out of his mind. Not so much for himself, but there was JD. . .

Claude: Bring the boy forward.

Buck: (bellowing, trying to pitch himself forward) NO!

Claude smirked and approached Buck, reaching out to stroke his cheek. Buck flinched away from the touch, causing the smirk to grow.

Claude: (mockingly, patronizingly) Now, Buck. . . you interrupted business I had with your little cousin all those years ago. . . (changing his tone to a menacing one) business I intend to finnish.

Buck: You son of a---

Claude silences him with a firm backhand.

Claude: Watch. . .

He approached JD, with the men still holding him. Buck's heart nearly stopped as he swung back and punched him as heard as he could in the gut. JD grit his teeth, but would not give him the satisfaction of making a sound. This only stood to make him angry.

Claude: Won't play huh? Want something that will hurt?

Buck: (struggling) No! Let him alone!

Claude: (sighs) You don't exactly have bargaining power here, Buck. . .

Buck: (pleadingly) T-take me instead. . .

JD: Buck. . . don't. . .

Buck: Hush up, kid. Take me instead.

Claude: (grinning evily) With pleasure. . .

As the men pulled a struggling JD out of the way, Claude moved towards Buck menacingly. Blow after blow, Buck stood his ground. He couldn't fight back, and was slowly getting weaker from the steady tempo of punches. It was practically a rhythm.

JD: Stop it! You're killing him!

Buck vaguely thought he heard JD's frantic plea, but it sounded as if he were underwater. . . was that right? Things had stopped making sense. . . he began to wonder where all the bees were coming from. . .

JD didn't even know what happened, but he pulled away from the thugs grasp with a strength he didn't know he possessed, and went to Claude and knocked unconscious with one blow. Suddenly, all the thugs turned on him as he scrambled for the gun. But, then there was a shot in the air, and a slightly weakened, but deadly cold voice. . .

Buck: Let him go, or I'll have to find out exactly how many bullets are left in this sucker. . .

+ + + + + + +

I will remember you.
Will you remember me?
Don't let your life pass you by.
Weep not for the memories.

Chris and Ezra rode over to Nettie's ranch in relative silence. The rest had opted to go home; it had been an excruciatingly long day. Tomorrow Sevens Investigations could stamp "case-closed" on this one file. But, somehow. . . though neither would say it, Ezra knew it would never truly be over. . . not for any of the seven. . .

I'm so tired,
but I can't sleep.
I'm standin' on the edge of somethin'
much too deep.
It's funny how we feel so much,
we cannot say a word.
Though we are screamin' inside,
oh, we can't be heard.

When Vin got to his small apartment, he did something he hadn't done in a long time. He reached into a nook behind the mantle, and grabbed a pack of cigarettes. As he lit the first, he grabbed a bottle of tequila from the pantry, and sank onto his couch in utter exhaustion. . . Eli-Joe in prison. . . His name finally cleared. . . He just couldn't fathom it. . . it was over, finally over. . . Well, maybe, he amended. They may have been arrested, but there was still the trial, and Lord knows you couldn't much count on the FEDS to help in a conspiracy issue. . . If that were the case, they were back to square one. . . With those morbid thoughts buzzing around in his head, he lay back, took another drag, a long pull of his liquor, and sighed. . . Well, at least for now he could rest, have peace. . . At least for now it was over. . .

And, I will remember you.
Will you remember me?
Don't let your life pass you by.
Weep not for the memories.

Nathan entered his place, tossing his jacket on the couch. Sighing, he looked around and noticed a familiar jacket on the reclining chair. . . Rain smiled faintly at him as she entered the room, carrying 2 glasses of wine. . . setting them down in concern, she went to him and cupped his face, worrying over the slight bruising. He just took her hands in his and brought them to his mouth, kissing them gently. Sighing softly, he pulled her to him in a comforting embrace, as if to lock out the world. . .

I'm so afraid to love you.
But, more afraid to loose.
I'm clinging to a past that
doesn't let me choose.
Oh, once there was a darkness,
a deepening inside.
You gave me everything you had,
oh, you gave me light.

Josiah entered the church quietly. Grabbing a rosary from his pocket, he went to the altar and lit some candles, kneeling in silent prayer. The one thought that flooded his brain was "it's over, it's over". . . almost a mantra. . . he felt relief. . . But, he also felt guilt. . . Should he be so relieved at his brother's demise?

And, I will remember you.
Will you remember me?
Don't let your life pass you by.
Weep not for the memories.

JD had barely spoken since they had escaped. He had refused medical attention, but Buck decided to let it slide this time, figuring the last thing either of them needed after a day like today was to sit in a crowded ER for hours on end. . . The silence was almost deafening now. It was oppressive, something Buck could feel, though he knew it was not directed at him. Concerned, he sat down next to JD, hooking an arm around his neck. Surprisingly, JD just gave in and broke down, leaning into his cousin/big-brother's shoulder for comfort. . . Buck gently shushed him, stroking his hair, knowing now that everything would be all right, that it was finally over. . . Case closed.

I will remember you.
Will you remember me?
Don't let your life pass you by.
Weep not for the memories. . .


Comments to mercarmaid@aol.com