Old Foes

"RNLI" Alternate Universe

by KT

Part 1
"Arr the summer game!" Buck Wilmington exclaimed, his breath condensing in front of him as he rubbed his hands together to try and keep warm.

"Go to hell Buck," JD growled.

"What are you moaning about, you got more clothes on than Vin, we're the ones in thin trousers and flimsy tops."

Like the rest of the cricket team he was wearing cricket whites, albeit with two jumpers on top. JD was wearing lined trousers, a thermal vest, long sleeved tee shirt, Rugby shirt, a fleece top and gloves.

"Yeah, but you get to move about all afternoon I gotta sit still and score. Why am I doing this? Explain it to me again."

Chris, similarly dressed to Buck came up beside him. "Because there is no one else to do it, and because you offered."

"But I was drunk." JD protested.

"We were educating you about beer at the time," Buck explained not for the first time, "and one of the lessons you need to learn is to never agree to anything when you're drinking."

Buck was worried that in just a few short weeks, JD would hit the legal drinking age with no experience or understanding of his limits or likely behaviour while under the influence of alcohol. Between his hot-house education and caring for his mother he was still somewhat innocent in the ways of most seventeen-year-olds. So he along with the others had taken it upon themselves to offer the young man beer when they were socialising. But the law meant they couldn't do it in the pub bar during licensing hours. So they gathered at the farm to celebrate Nathan's birthday, where they had deliberately let him get just a little drunk. That way Buck reasoned he would understand what it felt like, how much beer it took for him to get drunk, (very little as it turned out), and the likely consequences in a safe environment, surrounded by adults who had his safety and best interests at heart.


As well as Chris, who was the captain, and Buck, Nathan also played for the team and Ezra although this was to be his first match. What was really annoying JD was that he wasn't playing, but as he explained to Buck over breakfast, he didn't know how. There were only twenty-three children in his school, team sports just weren't practical so he'd spent his summers playing tennis, swimming and running.

"Didn't you do any sports at university?" Buck had asked.

"Well I sailed, an' did some cross country, oh and I coxed an eight a few times but that was about it, didn't have the time or money for much else. You do know I don't know how to score don't you? I mean I don't really understand how the game is played, not really." JD hated that he didn't understand things all seventeen year old boys were supposed to know, not just cricket, he didn't understand the off-side rule, he's couldn't play rugby, he'd never drunk alcohol before he met Buck, nor had he even looked at a girlie magazine, never been to a dance or disco, and as for his experience with girls … well, the less said the better.

"Don't worry, Josiah 'll help you the first few times, he loves watching but can't score regularly 'cause he has usually has to work, it being Sunday like."

JD looked up from his bowl of Cocoa Pops and frowned. "Now I never would have pegged Josiah for a cricket lover."

"Ah," said Buck enigmatically, "he doesn't really like the game he likes to watch us, the players, thinks it's a 'fascinating social and anthropological spectacle', whatever that means."

JD stifled a snort. In the six months or so he had been living at the Life Boat Inn JD had learnt a lot more about his landlord, and revised some of his assumptions. One thing he knew was that Buck was lot smarter and better read than he liked to let on. And he wasn't just a capable cook, he was a skilled chef. He took care of himself, running most mornings and worked out with weights three or four times a week, he was even teaching JD to use them. He didn't drink much unless it was a special occasion, he even ate reasonably sensibly, which given the availability of pub food all around him, was amazing. Of course there was nothing to revise about his observations and assumptions when it came to Buck and women, he hit on almost any attractive women from twenty to forty five who came near him, rarely did he get an outright rejection; JD spent many a night secluded in his room with Mac or staying with Josiah for the night.

This particular Sunday morning Buck had forgone his morning run on the beach, and when JD wandered into the kitchen downstairs he found Buck hard at work baking cakes. Still sleep-worn and more than a little confused JD just stood and stared. Buck didn't make cakes as a rule, the gateaux and cheesecake the pub menu offered all came from the kitchen of the teashop, three doors down.

Buck looked up, flour smeared across his cheek. "Team tea," he said by way of explanation.

"Er?" JD had no understanding of cricket etiquette, which states the home team must host a lavish tea for the two teams, their spouses and friends between the innings. Each member of the team takes it in turns to provide the food, or more usually their wives and girlfriends do. Buck had drawn the short straw and got the very first match of the season.

"Tea, for the teams? You know, halfway through the match? Everyone takes turns, you should see Rain's teas, she makes this coconut and rum cake, man! I have tried to get her to give me the recipe but she won't, old family secret she says." While he talked Buck put the last sponge in the oven, and began washing up. "Don't know what Ezra 'll do when it's his turn? Cater it out I guess."

JD watched as Buck started to get his breakfast, finally coming to life and putting on the kettle for Buck's coffee and his own tea. Once they were sat down and eating, a thought occurred to him. "What does Chris do about team tea?" he asked.

Buck looked up, half eaten piece of toast in his hand. "I do Chris' these days, since Sarah." Then he smiled. "She made great sandwiches and scones but she couldn't make a sponge to save her life," he admitted with a small smile.

"So, she just didn't provide cakes?"

"Oh you can't not produce cakes, there’d be a mutiny. Me and Nettie used to do it for her, only Chris knew, you can't be the captain's wife and not be able to make a cake, just not possible."

After breakfast Buck set JD to work making sandwiches, some were normal, tuna and mayo, chicken tikka, smoked salmon and black pepper, cold beef and horseradish sauce, cheese and sweet pickle, and one that was not so normal.

"You're kidding? You have got to be kidding me!" JD exclaimed.

"Nope, an' it's a secret, everyone likes 'um but they don't know what's in them, well they know it's salmon paste obviously, but not what goes with it, so don't go telling, I'm trusting you kid."

JD tried to put a serious face on as he dutifully put butter and Marmite on one slice of bread and salmon paste on the other.

"I swear, Buck, you're addicted to Marmite, if you don't get some everyday you'll probably have withdrawal symptoms." JD shook his head, Buck ate Marmite on toast at breakfast every day, no matter what, he put it under the cheese for cheese on toast, and on the rare occasions he had a cooked breakfast he put it on fried bread and eggy bread; he even put it on croissants.

"Absolutely, never travel without it, I've taken a pot all over the world." Buck grinned. "A little piece of home, no matter where you are." JD just shook his head; he hated Marmite.


Vin climbed down from Chris' old Land Rover looking just as disgruntled as JD. His motorbike was in the back of the vehicle so clearly he wasn't intending on staying all afternoon.

"Look, all I'm saying is," JD overheard Chris as the two of them walked toward the pavilion. "That we need some support, and it wouldn't hurt to be seen around a bit, let people get to know you, you know? It's been months now, they don't bite, honest."

Vin was still shy around strangers; he had taken to the other members of the crew quickly enough but strangers were a different proposition. But summer was coming, and summer meant tourists, lots of them. The boat house would be open to the public and as a full time employee of the RNLI he would be expected to take his turn to show them around and even sell souvenirs and RNLI merchandise. As a charity dependent on donations the Institute couldn't turn away any opportunity to make money, and besides, the people who donated money were entitled to see what it had been spent on. Vin said he understood what this meant, he would of course take his turn. The trouble was Chris didn't believe he really did understand, he done he's share of 'grockle wrangling' as it was known and he knew sometimes it could be very hands-on. Little old ladies who worried about the crew, old men who wanted to tell you their war stories, know-it-all life boat anoraks pestering you with questions and photographing everything, small children with sticky fingers who were into everything. And they were just the British ones, God alone knew how Vin would cope with visitors who didn't speak English.

Vin merely grunted in response to Chris and stalked off to the pavilion, which offered the promise of meagre heat. Inside he found Nathan warming up, and, in boxes and on plates, safely sealed under Clingfilm a sumptuous tea of cakes, sandwiches and scones. Maybe he would just stay around long enough to have some tea; there was coffee-cake he liked the look of, not to mention some millionaire's shortbread.

"You don't play, Vin?" Nathan asked, as he continued to stretch.

"Nah, I was more of a runner in school, long distance stuff mostly," he explained.

Nathan wasn't surprised, some how a solitary sport like long distance running suited Vin. Nathan needed to warm up because Four Corners had won the toss and would bowl first. Nathan was the sides opening bowler, and the only truly fast bowler they had. Chris opened the batting along with a young bank clerk called Ted, and Buck was an all rounder, batting at number five and bowling medium pace. Ezra was going to be the new wicket keeper and number three batsman, the last wicket keeper having left for university.

"You going to stay and support us, you'll get tea if you stay." Nathan watched Vin's eyes drifted back to the tempting spread. *He really is like a little kid some times,* he mused.

"Maybe … Nate?"


"Is Buck really fit enough to be doing this?" Vin asked voicing a fear they all sheared. It had only been eight weeks since the traumatic ‘shout’ that had made them famous - if only temporarily. Josiah was still on crutches; he'd been in a wheel chair only two weeks ago. Buck had recovered quickly from his multiple rib fractures, or so it seemed. Nathan stood up from his leg stretches.

"The doctors at Helston have signed him off, fit for duty. Personally I don't reckon they know what a good actor he can be," he gave a little smile, in response to Vin's look of concern. "Don't worry, I've got my professional eye on him," he assured.


Father Josiah Sanchez made his slow progress to the veranda in front of the pavilion. He was still a novice on crutches; his hands, even encased in heavy leather gloves, were sore and blistered. He had been told sternly by the doctors that he was not to even try to put any weight on the damaged foot, which as well a broken ankle had also been dislocated when a broken rigging line wrapped around it wrenching him off his feet. He eased himself down on to the comfortable canvas director's chair behind the old trestle table, and opened up the scorebook. JD slid reluctantly into the seat next to him.

"Well I guess you better explain all this to me," he said with resignation.

"JD, you’re a bright young man you're going to love this game; there is just so much to watch, so much going on, it's chess on grass." The priest lifted his cast up onto a spare chair and took out his pencil and sharpened it with relish. JD just rolled his eyes and resigned himself to an afternoon of tedium.

Ezra liked Cricket - you rarely got dirty, you never got wet, it taxed mind and body equally and the clothes looked good. Keeping wicket kept you involved in every play, and since they were going to field first he would get straight into the action. Kneeling, he buckled on his pads, slipped in his box and with that done pulled on the huge padded gloves and his helmet as he fell in step behind Chris and the others.

Buck walked automatically toward the slips. "Buck hold up," Chris called.

Wilmington turned back, looking puzzled, as Chris continued.

"I want you down at 'long on'," he gestured to the distant boundary.

"What? I always stand in the slips." Buck looked genuinely upset, even hurt as though his undoubted skill was being brought into question.

"I know, but you're also a batsman and bowler. You're not up to doing all three yet," Chris said patiently. He knew he should have told him earlier but there just never seemed to be a right time. Buck was about to protest he was just fine and fit, but Nathan came to Chris' side.

"Buck you can fool the docs in Helston but not me, and not Chris," he said quietly.

Buck looked from the doctor to his captain, both friends, he knew they were right, he just didn't want to admit it, even to himself. It wasn't that the ribs hadn't healed, but while he was healing he hadn't been exercising at all until just two weeks ago, he'd only been back at work behind the bar for a month, officially at least.

"You’re too valuable as a batsman to risk you getting injured in the first match," Chris soothed, "If I need you to bowl I'll use you, but you need to ease your way back in gently."

Buck nodded his understanding and turned to make his way to the distant boundary. Nathan watched him go; there was a noticeable lack of the normal Wilmington love of life in the way he walked. "You reckon he's alright, I don't mean physically?" he asked Chris.

Chris shrugged. "You know what he's like. He's a proud man, he hates being dependent in anyway, he doesn't like people to see his weakness how ever mild it may be." He looked back at Nathan. "Let's play some cricket."


The game was going well; despite the biting cold wind the sky was blue and no rain clouds threatened the afternoon’s play. Ezra was enjoying himself immensely behind the wicket, now that Nathan wasn't bowling. To receive the doctor's wickedly fast deliveries he had to squat down some distance back from the wicket. Now that he was off and Marc Pendragon was bowling his deceptive little spin, he could get up close the batsman.

"So tell me sir, " he commented idly to the batsman as Pendragon walked away to prepare for another run in. "What does it feel like to be the most inadequate exponent of willow on leather this fine game of skill has ever seen? Does this shameless display of your lack of talent embarrass your wife enough for her to actually kiss the fine aristocratic gentleman she is currently running her fingers over," he purred.

Instinctively the poor man looked over toward his wife who was sitting next to one of the other wives and no where near any men aristocratic or otherwise. Just then he turned back to see Pendragon pounding in and before he knew it the ball was heading for him, he swung his bat where the ball should have landed forgetting this was a spin bowler and before he knew it the ball had curved away from him and clipped the bail off the wicket.

"Howzat!" Ezra cried leaping up, the ball safely in his glove.

The umpire duly raised his finger and declared the man out. This was the tenth wicket to fall and thus the end of Tredavoe innings, they had scored 167, setting Four Corners just 168 to win. Both teams strolled into the pavilion for tea. Buck had spent a quiet match out on the boundary, he hadn't even had a chance to bowl, and if everyone did their part he wouldn't get to bat either. It really shouldn't take four of them to make 168. Nathan was laughing as he found Buck falling instep beside him.

"What's so funny?" he asked.

"Ezra, he even sledges posh!" Nathan went on to explain about Ezra's tactics to distract the batsmen.


Vin cast his eyes over the feast and tried to decide where to start. Deep-seated training set in, and he headed for the sandwiches, savoury before sweet, as his mam and mam-gu had taught him. JD watched in morbid fascination as numerous people made a bee-line for the salmon and Marmite sandwiches, he found himself feeling conflicting emotions, revulsion that any one would eat them, curiosity to see their reaction to the taste and pride that people wanted to eat something he made. To his surprise the salmon and Marmite were the first sandwiches to run out. Team tea was meant to last twenty minutes but it generally lasted as long as the food lasted and people wanted to eat. The bigger and better the tea the longer tea went on, this was going to be a very long tea break. JD finished his fifth chicken tikka sandwich, and started on a huge wedge of chocolate fudge cake. Buck smiled as he watched JD enjoying his handy work.

"Good?" he asked.

JD nodded enthusiastically his mouth full of cake; finally he was able to speak. "The best, really, best I ever tasted, why don't you make cakes for the pub?"

"No time, beside to do it regularly I'd have to invest in all kinds of extra equipment not to mention be under Inez' feet in the kitchen, and that is not a good plan."

"Hey JD!" JD spun around to see Casey riding past the cricket ground leading a line of eight children on ponies.

Flushing red, half a wedge of cake still in his hand JD waved back. "Hi Casey," he called.

"You playing?" she asked.


"Cool, I used to do that. Well have fun. I gotta go, bye." With that she was gone.

JD finished his cake and wiped his hands on the damp grass.

"She really likes you, you know," Buck said quietly as JD stood up again, his young friend just shrugged. "What was that? Aren’t you interested in her? You don't like her?"

"I do! I mean I like her and all it's just…well…"


"Why would she be interested in me? I mean she's nearly two years older than me, she's pretty and smart, she's been working full time for three years, she can drive, I mean not just a car she drives that whacking great horse box! What can I do? Nothing. I can't drive, I can't ride, I only have a couple of dumb part time jobs. I'm short an' kinder skinny and… " JD turned away watching the line of horses and ponies disappear into the distance.

Buck frowned, he had know idea JD felt this way about himself; here, halfway through a cricket match in the middle of a public common wasn't exactly the ideal location to deal with it. Casey was teaching JD to ride, he was taking driving lessons and had his test booked for later in the summer. Why would he think any girl wouldn't be interested in him, he was smart and good looking and brave.

"Kid… JD … why would Casey, hell any girl not be interested in you?" He took hold of JD's shoulders and turned the young man around to face him. "Look JD, you aren’t exactly Quasimodo you know? So you can't drive yet, you're only seventeen. So what if Casey is the one teaching you to ride? She taught me and she was only fifteen then! That is not what she is looking for in you. You're the smartest guy I know, hell you're the smartest guy I have ever known and will ever know. You're fun and resourceful and one hell of a lot more mature than most kids your age. Then there is the little matter of being a bona fide RNLI hero, with a medal and your picture on the front page of every paper in the county, at least for one day!"

JD looked down. "She probably thinks I'm big headed."

Buck looked heavenward in exasperation. Were all adolescent boys this inept with women he wondered? He was aware he had been blessed with a unique upbringing and instilled with an understanding and a confidence around women that few other boys were blessed with, but really, 'normal' boys couldn't be this clueless, could they?

"Look, she smiles at you, she talks to you, hell you've been on dates!" Buck fixed JD with his deep blue eyes trying desperately to instil some confidence in his young friend.

"We went to a few films is all."

"Who asked who?" Buck enquired.

"Um, she asked me," he admitted.

"Well there you go. Girls …women, do not ask guys out unless they are seriously interested, believe me." JD frowned up at Buck. "This is gospel here kid, believe me if she asked you more than once she is very, very interested."


"God's honest, kid, now it may be time for you to do some of the inviting."

JD visibly paled. "I don't know if I…"

"This is something all men have to do, ask a girl on a date, this is the first time isn't it?"

JD considered lying, he didn't want to admit his total lack of experience with women, but he really didn't think he could lie to Buck about this, he had the feeling as far as Buck was concerned he was transparent. "Yeah," he admitted with a shrug, looking at his feet and shuffling nervously.

"Kid … JD… John," JD looked up. "You were younger than everyone you were at school and university with, you had yer mum to take care of, it is not surprising you had no time to socialise or even the opportunity, it's nothing to be ashamed of, really."

"Huh! I bet you weren't seventeen and still…you know…still…"

"No, no I wasn't but we are not talking about me kid, there is no blue print, no timetable laid down as to when all this has to happen, it happens when it happens and not before. Better for it to happen with the right person rather than just anyone for the sake of it."

"Maybe …"

"There is no maybe about it, that is the way it is, she's a great girl, she's tough, and smart and very independent; if she is interested in you she is serious, go with it, have fun, okay?"

JD smiled weekly, "You sure about this?"

"Absolutely certain, come on, they started batting already. Josiah will be growling at you by now and I need to be closer to my pads." He placed a hand on JD's shoulders and guided him toward the pavilion.

"Thanks Buck," he JD said quietly, than he stopped walking and looked up at his tall friend. "So how old were you?"


"You know what I mean."

"I don't remember."


"Kid I don't…"



"Bloody hell! How the hell … no, wait - I don't want to know do I?"


As the two of them walked back to the pavilion just a ripple of applause greeted the first runs on the board for Four Corners, a single to Chris, and a man who had been leaning up against the far side of the tree under which Buck and JD had been speaking turned to follow them. A small smile played on his lips as he watched the pair depart around the boundary rope toward the pavilion. As they headed up the steps he turned of toward a battered old Ford Escort, and quietly drove away.

Part 2

"To the victors the spoils!" Buck announced putting down a try laden with pints of scrumpy.

"Amen, brother!" Josiah agreed, picking up one and saluting their host. "To the hero of the hour!"

"Yeah, right!" Buck responded sarcastically. "I didn't bowl, I didn’t make one catch and I only hit the ball once!"

"Ah, but once was all it took!" Chris called loudly from another table. "We needed four to win, you hit a six, we won!"

"It was hardly a match-saver, I think between the eight of us we might have managed four runs without too much drama, I just got lucky that’s all, reckless too, could just as easily have been caught for a duck."

Damn! Buck really isn’t taking convalescence well, Chris thought. "Look if it was good enough for Botham in his last test it’s good enough for you." Invoking Buck’s cricketing hero was a dirty trick but it seemed to work.

"Well, that is true … JD!" Buck shot a warning glare at the young score keeper as he eyed the scrumpy. "You ain’t ready for that stuff yet, besides we are still on licensed premises you know." He shot a warning glance at Pete Cornell, number six batsman and police sergeant.

"Yeah, yeah, I know." With evident resignation he disappeared behind the bar and came back with a pint glass full of something looking suspiciously like lager. Cornell raised an eyebrow in his direction.

"It’s shandy, okay?" JD protested. God, but he couldn’t wait for his birthday and he’d finally be eighteen.

It was a pleasant convivial evening, and as was usual while his customers drank, even if they were friends, Buck remained sober. As the cricket crowd got well into their drinking and still feeling he didn't yet belong, Buck used the excuse of having to put in some time behind the bar to retreat from them.

"Evening." Buck turned to the new voice behind him, feminine, well-educated but not pretentious. The owner was a match to the voice, ash blonde hair, very expensively cut in a short but full style. Casual but nevertheless expensive polo shirt and no doubt, though he couldn't see them, Buck reckoned the trousers would be equally casual but expensive.

"Evening." Buck smiled at her. "What can I get you?"

"G and T?"

"Coming right up." The gin and tonic complete with ice and lemon duly arrived. Buck never asked if people wanted ice and lemon; that was how G and T came if you didn't want it you had to say so right at the start.

The woman picked up the glass which was already developing condensation on the side. She took a sip, never letting the drink or the condensation mar her perfectly glossed lips.

"Perfect," she commented.

"We aim to please, can I get you anything else?" His eyes drifted very slowly over her face, pale blue eyes, almost grey. Fine bone structure, not beautiful in a conventional sense, more what used to be called 'striking'. Her make-up was as perfect as her hair and manicure and just as expensive.

While he checked her out she was quite clearly doing the same. "No, I'm fine for now." Her eyes drifted past him to the wall behind, the one with the photos on it. "Is that you?"

Buck looked over his shoulder at the photo taken on the day the new boat arrived. "Yup."

"You're one of them, aren’t you?" she asked, smiling at him.

"Them?" he enquired.

"The lifeboat crew, the one in the papers a few weeks back, what did the Mail call you…er…oh yeah, 'The Magnificent Seven'."

"We just did your jobs and tried to bring everyone home, that was all."

"Yes but it's not your job is it, this is your job, you don't get paid to be on the lifeboat do you?"

Buck shrugged, then turned away to serve another customer, when he came back she was still there. "I don't get paid to do this, technically," he said with a smile.


"I'm the landlord," he explained.

"Oh yes! I remember now, weren't you the one who got hurt?"

Buck blushed, not something that happened often in the company of women, but this wasn't something he was comfortable discussing. "Not really, and there were others got hurt, it was a rough shout." With that he turned away to serve others and crossed back to the cricketers. After standing and chatting for a bit he went back to the bar; she was still there.

Heather Flint watched the tall landlord walk away form the bar. It had to be said the pictures didn't do him justice. He was taller than she had envisaged and a lot better-looking, and that voice with the softest of Cornish accents was quite intoxicating. He might say it wasn't anything really, but as she remembered it, he'd ended up in intensive care. Well he looked just fine now; in fact he looked more than fine.

"Must be tough running a pub and being a lifeboat man, must keep you busy." She leant on the bar, now that he was back, so she was looking up at him even more. Her neck was one of her best features.

"Fairly busy yes, but there's time to play as well."

"Well that’s good to know, what do you 'play' at?"

"Oh you know, cricket, rugby and stuff…" He tilted his head and smiled.


"Yes, 'stuff'. It keeps you young don't you think?"

"Oh I would imagine so, revitalising too."


"Er hummm!" Inez appeared beside him, dark eyes boring into him with daggers.

He turned his head to her. "Yes?" In response she nodded at the clock.

"Oh shit!" Buck exclaimed. "LAST ORDERS PLEASE!" he suddenly bellowed, ringing the brass ship's bell at the side of the bar. With that he turned away from Heather to deal with the influx of customers at the bar.


Ezra smiled at his team-mates. "I believe it is time for me to depart, I shall call for a taxi and say goodnight." With that he stood up and promptly fell over. "Oh dear. Um, Dr Jackson, I may need your proffesss…professsss…professional services."

Nathan stood up and made his way over to the retired banker on the floor.

"What appears to be the problem?" he asked.

"Um … I seem to have a spinal problem. I can't feel my legs," Ezra explained, there was a note of real panic in his voice.

"Ezra, how many pints of scrumpy have you drunk tonight?" Nathan asked, while trying to keep a straight face.

"Er, umm, I don't know … four, five, maybe? Why?"

"Ezra, have you ever drunk scrumpy before?"

"I have imbibed cider in the past, yes."

"No, not cider, scrumpy, real scrumpy."

"Errr well, no, no, not now you mention it."

"Well now you know what five pints can do to the inexperienced drinker. JD, are you listening to this?"

Unfortunately JD was laughing too hard to respond, but indeed Buck had warned him repeatedly about the dangers of drinking scrumpy and thinking it was lager.

"But I can't feel my legs!" Ezra exclaimed.

"They'll come back, come on." Nathan leant down and pulled Ezra up, putting him back on the bench seat he had just vacated. "Get yer mobile out an' call a cab, we'll get you in the car."

"But I can't feel my legs…" Ezra looked at them in despair.

"Oh hell! I'll call him a cab." JD exclaimed grabbing the miniature phone from Ezra's fumbling grasp. "Do you have an account with anyone?" Then the young man looked at the ceiling dramatically. "What am I asking, of course you do! You have accounts for everything!"

"A gentesssssl…man does not handle money directly, ‘ssssspecially with tradesmen…I can't feel my legs." Ezra went back to poking and prodding the numb limbs.

"Umm, JD?" Nathan looked at the younger and sober man.

"Yeah, yeah, I'll go with him in the cab, make sure he gets to bed. I'll take Mac, we can jog back."

The retired greyhound on the hearth rug lifted his head in case the mention of his name was an invitation to eat, but since no one held a tasty tit-bit out to him he let it flop back down again.

Nathan looked down at the dog he had only ever seen lying down before. "He jogs?"

"Well no, not really, he dawdles until you're almost out of sight then he sprints to catch up then he dawdles some more," JD explained.

Vin suddenly giggled. "You should see him an' Buck on the beach mornings. Man, it's funny, someone's got their finger on the dog's remote like, an' suddenly hit fast forward." He giggled again as the others just stared at him.

"Maybe I’d better see you make it to the Lone Star without falling in the drink!" Chris suggested.

By now closing time was fast approaching and the bar was emptying fast. Nathan and JD helped the inebriated Ezra out to the waiting taxi, while Chris walked Vin down to his yacht. One of the last men out was a quiet stranger who had nursed one beer from a far corner all evening.


Buck rolled over as the alarm beeped incessantly and reached across the sleeping form beside him to hit the off button. He propped himself up on his elbow as he observed his bed partner. The perfect make up was not so perfect, the hair tangled and astray, but relaxed in sleep her true beauty was evident. She tried too hard Buck decided, too worried about perfection; a little imperfection was a good thing. Their lovemaking had been of the slow and gentle kind. He wouldn't admit it to anyone but this was the first time he had taken a woman to his bed since before the rescue of the Septem in Unum, when he had so nearly lost his life. She had seemed to enjoy it, he flattered himself; he had not lost his touch. He smiled as he remembered how she had run her fingers over his new scar, still pink and standing proud of the surrounding skin. How she had kissed the thin line with a plethora of light kisses. All he knew of her was that her name was Heather; she lived in London and was down in Cornwall on business. But he had bedded women he knew less about many times - what was important was the moment, there was no need for a whole personnel history between two adults just enjoying themselves


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