More than One Kind of Hero

by KT

David Fallon watched the seller suspiciously, he didn’t doubt who he was or the quality of the pure Columbian white he was selling, but he still wasn’t going to turn his back on the man or that bodyguard of his. Fallon was young, he had sold his first drugs in junior high, a puff of marijuana for 50c a go, then he had graduated to selling the drug itself, and he continued to sell until now, at the tender age of twenty two, he was about to become one of Nevada’s premier drug barons. There was a secret to his success; he had people on the inside, in every branch of law enforcement, in his local area.

The seller was a compact man in his early thirties, his reddish brown hair was short and neat, and he was immaculately turned out in an Armani suit. His bodyguard was a tall man, with thick dark hair, somewhat older than his employer, dressed in black from head to toe, his eyes hidden behind dark aviator glasses. Fallon found him unnerving, he never spoke, he never left his employer’s side, and despite the glasses he was aware the man missed nothing. Fallon’s chemist, a weasely man named Hopkins, completed the chemical analysis of the white powder he had selected at random from the shipment. Satisfied he looked back at Fallon.

"Well is the merchandise all I said it was?" the seller asked in a thick southern drawl, confident of the reply. Fallon looked at Hopkins.

"Indeed Mr. Steel it is of exceptional quality," the chemist answered the smuggler while all the time looking at his boss.

"Let us complete our business, I have customers waiting." Fallon clicked his fingers and from the shadows at the back of the empty lot another man emerged carrying two bulky attaché cases.

Ezra Standish tried not to anticipate success too early, but everything was going to plan, he felt Buck Wilmington shift his weight as he stood impassively behind him, readying himself for what was to come. The man with the money approached the two cars and lay the cases on the hood of Ezra’s hired BMW, then opened them. Both cases were full of notes. Ezra advanced and quickly and expertly checked the money for quantity and authenticity, both were acceptable. He closed the cases, stepped back to stand beside Buck, placing the car between them, the money and the criminals.

"Mr. Wilcox, is our business complete?" he asked Buck.

"Oh I think we’re as complete as we’ll ever be Mr. Steel," he replied with a wicked tooth-filled grin.

If Fallon had found the silent bodyguard unnerving before, this sudden speech and grin was positively scary. And then all his fears came to life as both seller and bodyguard pulled guns and as one shouted.

"Federal agents, nobody move!"

Several things happened at once, Fallon dived for the cover of his car, the chemist froze, just as he was ordered, and the man who had carried the cases drew his own weapon. The report of Buck’s gun just above Ezra’s ear near deafened him, but the result was to fell the man with the gun instantly. Still somewhat disorientated, Ezra ran to the rear of his vehicle to find Fallon crouching, gun drawn, aiming at Buck who was still covering the downed man who was moaning as he lay huddled in the dirt, and keeping his eye on the frozen chemist who had the look of a rabbit caught in the headlights.

"What part of ‘Nobody move’ did you not understand?" he enquired, as the drug dealer spun around to find himself facing the business end of an automatic.

By now the back-up teams had arrived, the felons were read their rights, cuffed, and taken into custody or the prison wing of the local hospital. Special agent Gonzales of the DEA came up to his two temporary operatives.

"Good job guys, they told me I would get the best and I got no argument with that assessment."

Buck removed his glasses and loosened off his tie, the grin had not left his face since the deal had gone down.

"What can we say? We at the Denver branch of ‘rent an agent’ aim to please. Do we get to go home now?" he asked.

Ezra said nothing but his expression said ‘we had better or else’.

"Well once the paper work is all done I guess so for now, you’ll have to testify, of course."

Ezra made some noise that might have been ‘no shit Sherlock’ and might not as he turned away and headed for the car, Buck still grinning inanely tipped an imaginary hat and followed him.

"And just what do you find so amusing Mr. Wilmington?"

"Aw come on Ezra, we did a good job, can’t hardly remember a sweeter bust, and since it’s near dawn, if we finish the paper work quick we can have a whole day in Vegas before the midnight flight," he explained, still grinning.

"And what makes you think I wish to spend one more second than absolutely necessary in this temple to tack!" the southerner fumed.

"Ezra I grew up here, have a heart." They both climbed into the car and headed for the building, which had been serving as their headquarters.

"I believe you told us your childhood was some what nomadic," Ezra commented pointedly.

"No...? Oh, yeah it was but we lived in Vegas for eighteen months."

"Eighteen months hardly constitutes growing up," Standish pointed out.

Buck’s grin got even bigger. "Ez you can do a lifetime of growing up in eighteen months, trust me," he explained. "Especially when you’re fourteen." Ezra looked across at Wilmington, who was now grinning so widely he resembled the proverbial Cheshire cat.

"Oh good Lord no."

"Oh good Lord yes!"


"Oh yes," Wilmington responded wistfully. "Come on you’re a gambler you could clean up, I’ll take you to dinner, I’ll pay," he offered.

"You’ll pay? Oh this I have to see, very well Mr. Wilmington, on the condition that the food is edible and is not consumed in some re-creation of a pyramid or Venice or…well you understand?"

"Yes," Buck said with due resignation.

"I will agree to stay until midnight."

"Thank you Cinderella."

Since Ezra refused Buck's offer to show him the sights they decided to split up until dinner. Ezra found a poker game he approved of, and settled down to clean up. Buck went in search of old haunts and old friends; he went in search of "Calton Gentleman's Club". The club he was pleased to find was still standing and doing good business, twenty-five years ago it had been on the outskirts of the city; now the city had enveloped it. He drove around to the back and parked. Still wondering if this was a good idea he rang the bell at the tradesman's entrance.

A burly man with tattoos on both arms answered.

"Delivering, collecting or customer?" he asked.

Buck was taken a back by the man's attitude, his mom would never have let the doorman, even at the back door be so rude. The very nature of their business meant many customers came by the back door.

"Actually I'm paying a social call, looking up old friends, specifically your boss, Miss Kathy Ling." He watched the colour drain from the man's face, and smiled in satisfaction. "So I suggest you mind your manners and call her for me."

Kathy was Buck's senior by exactly four years, and she had been his first. His mother had intended it to happen on his fifteenth birthday, she knew it was technically illegal, but Buck was more than ready by fourteen and she wanted it to be a safe and enjoyable experience for him, and to have at least some control over who and when. Unfortunately Buck couldn't wait, and the club's youngest employee was more than happy, even eager to help out, some four months early. They kept it secret, and duly went through with the birthday surprise as planned. From his mother Buck knew Kathy was now the club's manager.

He recognised her instantly, the intervening years had done little to her looks and nothing to her figure. She walked into the back hallway curious as to the identity of her caller. She was wearing a simple silk dress of black with tiny gold oriental characters all over it, black shiny shoes with heels high enough to accentuate her legs without being totally impractical, hair piled high in a shiny mother of pearl clip. Buck's heart leapt at the vision. Stopping in front of him she looked up, clearly not recognising the tall handsome man before her.

"Do I know you sir?" she asked, there was just a trace of her Chinese accent left in her voice.

He smiled, his eyes positively twinkled. "Oh you sure do darlin', you sure do."

She looked more closely into those midnight blue eyes. "Buck? Buck Wilmington is that you?" she gasped.

"In the flesh honey," he affirmed.

She flung her petite five foot nothing frame at him, instinctively he wrapped his arms around her and spun around, both of them laughing and giggling. The doorman and several kitchen staff looked on in wonder at the behaviour of their normally reserved and stern boss.

"God, its true men do improve with age, you look great!" she gushed. "And even taller."

"Not as good as you, damn girl you’re looking fine." He put her down without letting go of her waist.

She blushed, and then realising everyone was watching them, led him to her office. They spent some time catching up, she asked after his mother, and he asked after business and her personal life. It turned out she had been married briefly, but it had only lasted two years, leaving her with a daughter, which made the anguish, sadness and money all worthwhile.

"God Buck I can't believe it's really you after all this time," she was sitting on his knee, like some besotted schoolgirl, a lustful smile spread across her lips. "What ya say? You and me for old times sake?" she asked, sure of the answer. "You were always the best, you know?"

He laughed. "Well I know that ain't so. I was just a boy, I knew nothing."

"Yeah but you had natural ability and gentleness, that’s all a girl needs," she explained.

"Well I ain't a boy and you’re not a girl any more, we've both learnt a lot since then I think it's time for an exchange of information."

Ezra had also had a good day, in a way; the first game he had joined just wasn’t up to his standard, it had taken a ridiculously short time to clean out the other players, and turn a nice profit. Unfortunately the management took a dim view of this and promptly banned him from their premises, believing him to be a professional card sharp. They threatened him with a city-wide ban until he produced his badge and threatened to crawl all over their liquor license with one very fine-toothed comb. Ezra took this ban as a compliment and went in search of a bigger and better game. It proved to be more challenging but no less profitable. So profitable he almost felt guilty about making Buck pay for the meal.

They met at ‘Rosie's’ a Mexican restaurant on the edge of one of the oldest residential parts of town. Buck remembered it well and Kathy had confirmed it was still the best around, now being run by the grandson of the original Rosie. Both men had had an exceptionally good day indulging in their favourite leisure pursuits. Since Buck had the car Ezra arrived by taxi, which was a good thing, as he would never have found the out of the way eatery on his own. 'Rosie's' was not the kind of place Ezra usually frequented, it was small, basic, even homely, there were no black tie waiters, no wine list, no damask table linen or crystal glasses, just rough wooden tables, red and white check cloths and plain glasses. He glared at his partner, who smiled back innocently.

"You told me in no uncertain terms not to take you any place touristy," he said trying to sound innocent. "You should know if you want the best food eat with the locals. Trust me Ezra this place is the best."

Standish had to admit Buck hadn't lied; the food had been exceptional, as was the service. He had decided not to possibly spoil the meal with what was undoubtedly a mediocre house wine and had drunk beer; Wilmington had generously offered to drive and stuck to coke. Buck was still basking in the afterglow of his afternoon with Kathy and didn't want anything to dull the memories.

They finished the meal in good time to drive to the airport. While Buck settled up Ezra wondered out in to the cool air of the desert night. Following Buck’s directions he walked around the building and past the back of the restaurant to the lot where the car was parked. The back street was well lit and he noticed a strange mark on the whitewashed wall beside him, a red brown smear along the paint, then a handprint, they looked fresh. Just as he was deciding it was of no consequence he stepped in a puddle, a common occurrence in Denver, but quite unusual for Las Vegas. Glancing down he found it was not water he had stepped in but a red sticky substance, bending his nose was assaulted by the coppery stench of fresh blood. As he looked he realised there was blood all over the place, a trail leading down the street. It was on the walls, the lampposts and on the ground, splatters and every now and again huge puddles.

A kaleidoscope of horrific scenarios ran through Standish’s quick and furtive mind to explain the blood, his stomach churned as glancing back to see if Wilmington was coming. Drawing his gun he advanced down the street, now searching intently for fresh bloodstains.

Ahead he saw a form lying in the road, under a streetlight, it wasn’t moving. Both hands on his gun, moving forward, while at the same time turning to cover the whole area he advanced. The form was a young woman; she was lying on her back, her eyes open but rolled back, exposing the whites that reflected the harsh artificial light eerily. But what really got Ezra’s attention was the blood, there was just so much blood, it bubbled and gurgled with a soft hiss out of her mouth, the front of her traditional white Mexican dress was soaked in it! With one last look around for danger Standish dropped to his knees at the young woman’s side.

In those first few seconds he tried to remain calm and remember everything he had been taught. The blood still bubbled out, it was dark, he could see now that among the blood staining her dress were little clots. Running his hand all over her he could find no wounds or injuries.

"Hello can you hear me, hello young woman do you hear me?" he called shaking her shoulders. Then he lifted her head back to open the airway.

There was no response and as he was doing this the hissing and bubbling stopped. He instantly turned her head. "Damn I was supposed to do that first!" He chided himself. Once her head was on one side he hooked two fingers in her open mouth and tried to clear her airway. Blood and mucus in great gelatinous masses came out like some grotesque unset Jell-O. It slid to the ground beside his knee with a sickening squelch. But as fast as he cleared more came, and still she did not breath. He looked over his shoulder as a sudden sound caught his attention. Buck was pounding down the street toward him.

"Call 911!" he bellowed. "Tell them she’s not breathing."

His attention went back to the girl, and without thinking about what he was about to do he wiped the blood from her mouth and positioning her as he had been taught began mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. In his heart he knew it was hopeless, there was just too much blood, the air would never get though, but he couldn’t just let her go with out trying, he just couldn’t. As he tilted his head to one side to hopefully see her chest rise he saw only the neck inflate. After two breaths he sat back on his heels and searched for a pulse but just then there was a hiss, and the bubbling began again.

"Yes my dear, yes that’s good, do it again, come on, you can do this, don’t you give up on me," he encouraged.

Buck heard all this as he dropped to his knees on the other side of the woman.

"They’re coming," he reported.

Just then the hiss stopped, then the bubbling stopped again.

"See if you can find a pulse." He instructed Wilmington, as he resumed mouth to mouth.

Try as he might Buck couldn’t find a pulse. "Nothing," he reported.

Ezra looked up, the woman’s blood was smeared across his face, "You start compressions, " he said.

Buck pulled the blood-soaked dress apart to reveal a clean undamaged chest and a delicate black lace bra, he placed two fingers on the base of the sternum just as he had been taught and then with the heel of his hand interlocking his other hand, he began the compressions. There was a sickening and audible crack as a rib gave way but he continued, counting out loud.

"13, 14, 15," he sat back as Ezra gave her two more breaths.

Then Buck went into action again. Someone came out of the back of the restaurant; he froze as he took in the horrendous sight. Standish ignored the look on the man's face, he needed help and he needed it now.

"Do you have a first aid kit in there?" he shouted at the man, but he just stood and stared.

"Consigeme una caja de primeros auxilios!" Ezra ordered in Spanish.

Suddenly the man came out of his trance and without replying he turned and ran inside, Ezra didn’t have time to worry if he had understood or not as Buck was finishing another cycle of compressions. The man from the restaurant as well as several others came running out with a green box. As Buck and Ezra alternated, Ezra fumbled in the kit with hands made slick with blood, and found a resuscitation mask. As he went back to clean the mouth out and once more attempt to get some air in Buck put the mask together and handed it to him. On the next attempt he tried to use it. Unfortunately the mask was designed for angular Caucasian faces, not the high cheek-boned flat face of the young Mexican woman before him, he just couldn’t get a seal. The blood didn’t help, it made the mask slip all over the place and after one try he abandoned it. There was no point in them attempting to pull on latex gloves as both of them were already covered in the poor woman’s blood.

Both men lost track of time as they worked at their grim task, so much so that when it came, the sound of the paramedic’s siren was almost a shock. The green-uniformed paramedics ran with the gurney and dropped down beside the two agents. Ezra had assumed they would take over the resuscitation or check the patient over as he sat back looking up desperately for some help.

"You been working on her?" the older of the two paramedics asked.

"Yes, she was breathing when I got here but only just and then it stopped and we could find no pulse." Standish explained.

"Right can you give us a hand to get her on the gurney?" he asked.

Buck and Ezra were still a little shell-shocked and didn’t instantly react to the request as the paramedics lifted the woman, suddenly both agents came to life and standing took a leg each. Just then a second ambulance pulled up. Ezra and Buck stood and watched in numb detachment as the one of the crew of the second vehicle clambered into the first, just as it sped away.

With the red and blue flashing lights of the parked ambulance giving the whole scene a surreal quality, Ezra turned and walked into the back of the restaurant, muttering something about washing. Buck just stood and watched the receding tail-lights until they disappeared before he followed. No one tried to stop them or speak to them, although by now a small crowd had gathered. Inside Standish surveyed the kitchen until his eyes lit upon a small basin with a hand symbol above it. Using only soap and the blue kitchen paper from the dispenser above him, and without the benefit of a mirror he proceeded to wash his face and hands until no blood was evident on the paper. He was just finishing when Buck walked up to stand sombrely beside him.

"Mr. Wilmington do I look presentable? I do not wish to alarm anyone."

"You look fine Ezra," Buck said quietly, as he began to wash his own hands.

Ezra looked down at his suit, there was blood on the knees, the chest and cuffs.

"Damn, I’ll never get this out," he muttered.

Others might have taken it as a callous casual remark, but Buck knew better, it was just how Ezra handled such things. His own jeans had blood on the thigh where he had tried to wipe his hands and, like Ezra, on the knees where he had knelt in the pools of blood on the ground.

"I need some things from the car may I have the keys please?" Buck handed them over.

They had checked out of their hotel in the morning and now all their bags were in the trunk of the car. Ezra walked past the small crowd outside and crossed to the BMW. From his case he retrieved his wash bag and removing the bloodstained jacket pulled on a navy blue cashmere sweater. Then he returned to the restaurant kitchens, the coppery taste of blood was over powering and he needed to get ride of it. Without speaking to any one he quickly located the staff rest room and locked him self in. There he cleaned his teeth vigorously, three times; trying to see each time he spat if there was any blood, but all that came was the green foam of his baking-soda toothpaste. Once he had finished all he could taste was peppermint. He looked down at his hands, well manicured as always he could see no cuts, grazes, sores or even hang nails, likewise his lips did not appear to be split or chapped. That was good he told himself.

Outside in the kitchen, Buck smiled at him as he emerged, not his trademark huge grin, but a small soft smile of reassurance, that said ‘ I’m here if you need me’. In his hand he held two shot glasses, one empty one full.

Holding the full one out he said. "Brandy, from the patron."

Ezra accepted and downed the drink in one, appreciating it’s inner warming properties, but deciding that brandy and peppermint were two flavours best not mixed. Once he had finished he looked up to notice Buck was studying his own hands. Their eyes met, both shrugged. It was done, it couldn’t be undone, and they would have to live with whatever consequences there were.

They strolled outside to find the remaining paramedic trying to find out what he could about the woman. From what Ezra could gather no one knew her name but some of them had spoken to her, she was a cleaner, who cleaned in the shop next but one to the restaurant at night.

"Ella me dijo que ella esta embarasada," an elderly woman said to her friend next to Ezra.

"Oh Lord," he sighed quietly.

"What?" asked Wilmington.

"It seems the poor girl was with child."

"Do ya think that had anything to do with it?" Buck asked, Ezra just shrugged.

The woman beside them over heard the comment, and the use of past tense.

"Esta muerta?" she asked.


Even Buck could follow that much Spanish. "You think she’s dead?"

"I think she was probably dead the moment she started to haemorrhage," Ezra stated flatly. "Mr. Wilmington I would appreciate it if you would keep this distressing incident to yourself, I do not want the others finding out, not yet anyway."

"Sure Ez what ever you want, but you gotta promise me you’ll do what you have to; to look after yourself, promise me mind, not just one of your poker promises a real word of honour."

Ezra regarded his colleague and friend, rarely did Buck sound so darkly serious. He swallowed hard. "You have my word of honour Mr. Wilmington."

"And if’n you don’t want the others to know, you’ll at least tell me what’s going on, and come to me if you need to." Buck put his large hand on Ezra’s shoulder, maintaining eye contact.

"Thank you Buck, I will, if I need to."

"Good enough. Now lets go give our statements or whatever we have to do and get the hell out ‘a here."

It didn’t prove to be that simple, just after they told the paramedic all they could, a police car screeched up, lights and sirens full on. An officious female officer started to give orders, and push people back. Unbeknownst to the two federal agents some of the residents had begun to wash the blood away from the sidewalk and walls. The officer grabbed all the people with mops and brushes and accusing them of tampering with evidence shoved them against a wall. Her partner started asking the paramedic and restaurant owner among others, all kinds of questions, both of them were aggressive and on occasion offensive.

"What the do you mean you don’t know her name?" he shouted at a girl of no more than eighteen, who had admitted she worked in the shop and had seen the woman to say hello to.

"I work days she works nights sometimes I saw her as I was going out, I said hello that’s all, I don’t even know her first name." The girl stammered.

"You know pard. I think it might be time to throw some federal weight about." Buck said with a sideways tilt of his head in Ezra’s direction.

"There is nothing that would give me more satisfaction right now," Ezra admitted.

Both men pushed their way to the front of the crowed.

"Officer I believe I am the one you should be speaking to, I found the unfortunate young lady and with my colleague her rendered what assistance and aid we could, until the arrival of professional medical personnel," Ezra explained.

"And who the hell are you two?" he barked. "You got I.D.?"

"I just love it when they ask that," Buck said with a velvet soft tone that somehow managed to be menacing.

The two agents pulled their badges out and showed them, the cop blanched.

"Is that satisfactory?" Ezra asked.

"’Cause if it’s not we could get Judge Travis to call and verify who we are, or better still our boss Chris Larabee, mind you it would piss him off, you calling this late in the evening and believe me a ‘pissed off Larabee’ is something you don’t want." Buck continued in the same velvet tone as before. "What do you think Agent Standish?"

"I think Officer …" He peered at the nametag on the dark uniform. "…Rossi here has never seen anything a scary as a ‘pissed off Larabee’, and would not be so foolish as to pull down such unpleasantness upon himself unnecessarily."

"No that is quite satisfactory," Rossi stammered, Buck and Ezra just continued to glare at him.

"Satisfactory sir," he ventured.

"He called us sir, now that’s nice, ain’t that nice Agent Standish?"

"Most acceptable Agent Wilmington." Ezra’s distinctly false smile vanished. "Officer, what happened here was very very unpleasant for all concerned, these people have been traumatised and even if they are suspects they still deserve to be treated with sensitivity and respect."

"Just why are you here?" Buck asked the now visibly chastened officer.

His partner came over, she was young, pretty, and had flame red hair in a tight French plait. Under any other circumstances Buck would have been turning on the charm, but this was not the time for that, and in any case he was still angry with her.

"The hospital reported a suspicious death the…" she began.

"Stop," Ezra’s commanded. "So the poor woman is dead then?"

"Yes, didn’t you know?" She said casually.

"Well if we had known we wouldn’t have just asked now would we?" Buck fumed.

"I’m sorry, yes she was D.O.A. I’m afraid, the doctors found bone fragments in her blood."

"Well I’d be surprised if they didn’t lady, I gave her C.P.R. I heard the ribs go myself!"

The policewoman took an involuntary step back as the tall, dark Federal Agent leaned toward her as he spoke. The situation might easily have gotten out of hand had not a second police car containing two detectives arrived at this point. These two were both older and less gung-ho than the uniformed officers and the tense situation soon calmed. Statements were taken, Ezra had to hand over his suit as evidence, like wise Buck’s jeans, though why they weren’t sure. Since Ezra was changing in the restroom and Buck couldn’t be bothered to wait, he changed his jeans in the lot behind the car. He reckoned he was quite decent in his ‘Scooby Doo’ boxers, this got him a small round of applause from the women watching. When Ezra returned from changing he spotted Buck on his cell phone, and caught the very end of the conversation.

"Yeah JD it’s a real downer but it can’t be helped, see ya soon kid. Bye."

"Mr Wilmington!" Ezra fumed "I believe you agreed not to discuss this with anyone, and while I appreciate that young Mr. Dunne is not just 'anyone' to you I cannot believe you would break your word…"


"like this, it is unconscionable sir, it is..."


"a total betrayal of trust. I have…"


"always thought of you as and honourable man but…"



"JD was meant to meet us at the airport, I just cancelled that 's all."


"Told him we got hung up on paper work and we'd call when we got a new flight."

"Sorry, I seem to be a bit on edge, can't think why."

Buck smiled as he put a protective arm around the younger and smaller man, turning him back toward the car.

"Come on I know a place we can stay tonight, very private,"

+ + + + + + +

They finally got back to Denver around midday the next day, and despite neither of them having had much sleep JD took them directly to the office.

"Geez guys you look like hell," Vin commented as they came in with JD.

"Well if our fearless leader had granted us the common curtsey of a trip home to freshen up before we reported to work we might present a more pleasing visage," Ezra commented dryly.

Buck glared at Chris. "What he said."

"You two my office now." Was the only comment from the fearless leader.

Larabee made then stand while he settled behind the desk. He looked from one agent to another, Larabee glare switched on to full power.

"The DEA called me yesterday morning, first thing it was," he began. "To say how much they appreciated all your work; how you two wrapped up the case before dawn yesterday, no mention of late paper work. So imagine my surprise when first you say your coming home on the 'red eye' and then not until late this afternoon. You two do still work for the federal government, and it is not paying you to swan around Las Vegas for a day and a half!"

"Aw hell Chris give us a break! We worked our tails of in Vegas, we were owed a day off, so what if we took it in Vegas instead of sunny Denver," Buck ranted. "We ain't kids you know, 'sides it was my idea to stay on don't blame Ez."

"Maybe you did deserve a day off, but that does not explain the failure to make it in this morning."

"That would be my fault Mr Larabee, I failed to meet Mr. Wilmington at the appointed hour to make the flight."

"Figures," commented Chris darkly failing to notice the strange look Buck gave Ezra.

Chris was furious with the both of them, he was equally furious at the bureaucrats that had forced him to relinquish his two best undercover agents to the DEA in Nevada. When Gonzales had called in the morning, he had been relieved, as there was a major case briefing coming up the next morning which both of them needed to attend. Then JD had informed him that Buck had requested he pick both of them up at the airport in the small hours of the next day. He wasn't happy because they would have to come to the meeting unrested, but as Buck had just pointed out they weren't children. Unfortunately come the morning he was met with only JD saying Buck had called the night before to cancel the pick up and had called again in the morning to request he or some one meet them at three o'clock. All this had conspired to blacken his mood, since had had been forced to cancel the case briefing with the DA. He was about to launch into another tirade when Ezra's cell phone went off.

Ezra answered instantly, ignoring the glares of his boss.

"Standish…yes please wait a moment." With that, and without waiting for an official dismissal, he turned and left.

"Ezra!" Larabee shouted at the retreating figure.

"Leave it Chris," Buck said quietly. "If you wan'a yell at someone yell at me not him."

Chris almost didn't hear him, then his head came around to regard his oldest friend, trying to work out what that familiar voice and face was telling him. There was something going on between the two of them. Buck's in built need to protect, while normally directed at JD would when necessary, encompass almost anyone and there was just no way of knowing who he would protect or why. And one of the ways he protected was to bring down the storm onto himself.

"Just leave it okay," he reiterated even more quietly.

"Buck I just can't have him walk out like that."

"Sure you can, you don't really think he's undermining your authority do you? He got a personal call, he's entitled to some privacy you know, you don't own him or me or any of us," his voice remained quiet, slow and measured, which Chris found unnerving since it was so out of character.

There was a long period of silence between the two old friends; finally Chris gave the smallest of nods.

Out side in the main office Buck looked for Ezra but he was nowhere to be seen, JD caught his eye and pointed at the exit door. Out in the corridor he caught the southerner closing the phone.

"Well?" asked Wilmington, knowing only one call could have made him walk out on Larabee the way he had.

Standish gave a wry smile. "The autopsy results were inconclusive and another one is scheduled for tomorrow, however it reveal that she was both Hep B and HIV positive."

"Oh great the double whammy," Buck said sombrely.

The two of them, both well aware of possible consequences regarded each other for a while in silence. Finally Buck spoke.

"Come on I'll by us coffee."

With that and with only the briefest explanation to their colleagues both men left for the nearest Starbucks. They sat opposite each other staring into the oversized cups in front of them.

"Ezra I have to tell you I did break my word to you kinda," Buck confessed.

The southerner looked up at his friend somewhat confused, as Buck went on to elaborate.

"I told Kathy what had happened, I mean she had a right to know why we had suddenly turned up needing a place to stay and if anyone knows how to be discreet she does," the words came out in a rush.

The last thing Buck wanted to do was lose Ezra’s trust but he needed to explain this before he told him the rest.

They had spent what was left of that fateful night at the club. Unwilling to sleep Ezra had hooked up his laptop in the plush room Kathy had shown him to and surfed the net until the small hours, then with his eyes so tired he could no longer see the screen he had given in and slept for a few mercifully dreamless hours. Buck had slept with Kathy, or rather he had cuddled and snuggled with her as they talked the night away until they fell asleep in each other’s arms.

"In the morning she made some calls for me," he continued.

Then he fished in his jacket pocket and handed over a piece of folded paper.

"What is this?" Ezra asked as he took it.

"It’s the number of a clinic here in Denver, very discreet, very good. In Kathy’s line of work you have to know about this stuff." He added rather superfluously, as he waited for the other man’s reaction. But Ezra remained silent. "You did promise remember," Buck prompted.

Ezra regarded the paper, for a long time, he wasn’t sure how he felt about Buck’s actions. Sure he had promised to take whatever action was necessary but he had also convinced himself there was nothing to worry about. He knew Buck was only trying to help him, protect him. He couldn’t fault him for that, it was part of his nature, it was in fact one of the most defining aspects of his personality. Still he resented the intrusion into his privacy and health, which was really no one's business but his own.

Buck, never a patient man, couldn’t stand the suspense any longer.

"Aw come on Ez don’t be mad at me, she offered, she said you can call for an appointment any time and they will usually see you within an hour, why don’t you call now?"

Finally Standish looked up. "And what about you?"

"I called already and spoke to the doc, she said even if the results were positive I should have no worries unless I had some cuts or cracked skin on my hands, which I don’t." He paused for breath. "She also said you should go as soon as possible if it’s positive," he added.


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