Bella - Dancing

by Squeakypeep

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers Part 5/7

Disclaimer: Not Mine blah blah..No profit..blah blah….You've heard it all before and others are more eloquent than I.

Rating: Language a bit harsh in places. Slushy, romantic, suggestive.

Acknowlegements: Mog's Universe, apologies to anyone whose toes I've stamped on - I've read so many fics I can't recall who belongs to whom. Angel belongs to me and this is my first fic - go easy. I'm Irish so Texas speak was a challenge and I have a UK spellchecker - you have been warned. I still have to have the American jokes in these fics explained to me!

Warning: OFC If you don't like the boys getting hitched this Series is not for you. Think M7 meets Mills and Boon!

Comments: - be nice.

Buck Wilmington was the last to leave the Saloon. The boys had had a good evening, playing poker, which Ezra won of course, and celebrating the end of another successful case. JD had left early to collect Casey from her Aunts', they were going to spend a few days in Vin's cabin in the woods. Buck was alone. This in itself was not a normal occurrence for the gregarious ladies man and he wished he'd arranged a date for the weekend.

Somehow his heart wasn't in it.

He'd watched as Vin, Nathan, Ezra and, most recently, JD settled down. He'd suffered hangovers at stag parties and given speeches at weddings. He now realized what he'd been missing. He wanted that. He wanted to be loved without question, without conscious effort on his part, to come home to find someone waiting for him, without having to arrange it beforehand.

He'd deny it but he was even a little envious of Vin's new parenthood. He loved that baby like he was his own but, hell, he wanted one that WAS his own. God he was getting broody. He felt his forehead, wondering if he were sickening for something. Buck Wilmington was a cuckoo, not a nest builder.

He sighed. Perhaps this was a sign of aging. He was 38 years old and had noone to call his and his alone.

Reaching for the keys of his truck from his pocket he paused. What was that noise? He listened. Nothing. Now he was imagining things.

Pulling out the keys he reached toward the driver's door. There it was again. It was coming from the alley slightly ahead and to his right. Replacing the key in his pocket he reached for his badge, hanging it from his waistband, and eased his weapon from the holster. No point in asking for trouble.

Creeping toward the entrance to the alley he peered cautiously around the corner.

A young boy was being assaulted by two large, denim clad men. One was holding the boy's arms above his head while the other attempted to remove his jeans. The boy was fighting like a polecat.

'Freeze ATF.' Buck leapt forward and took up an aggressive stance, his gun raised, his badge gleaming dully in the dim confines of the alley.

To give the attackers credit they did exactly as he told them and froze… for at least a split second… before they were off and running.

He started to give chase but tripped over some unseen debris littering the floor of the alleyway. Cursing a blue streak he picked himself up and started off again, only to be called back by the boy.

'Forget it they've gone.'

Ruefully Buck acknowledged this was probably true. He turned back to the boy, 'You Okay son?'

Standing with his back to Buck, the boy was readjusting his clothing and rubbing the pain from his arms.

From his position Buck could just make out spiky red hair, a once white shirt, hanging loose over soiled denims, and sneakers. As he watched the boy shuddered and nodded.

'Sure,' the voice was tremulous, 'Not the first time I've been jumped, I… Oh shit…' He leaned forward and started to retch.

'Maybe we should get you checked out kid. Come on, I'll give ya a ride to the hospital, they know me down there.'

'No.' The boy had recovered and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. 'I'm Okay really. Thanks for your help.' They boy finally turned to face him.

Not boy, woman.

She was probably about 30 years old and the short spiky hair gave her heart-shaped face a pixie-like appearance.

'I'm not your son and I'm not a kid.' She grinned at the look of surprise on the handsome face. Yeah, definitely handsome.

'Can I give you a ride somewhere ma'am. Ain't safe down here for a woman alone.' Buck had recovered enough to find his manners.

'Nah. Thanks for the offer. My hotel is just down the street. Thanks again…'

'Buck Wilmington ma'am..'

'Thanks Buck…'

'Can I at least see ya safe to your hotel? No bother ma'am, an' it sure would make me feel better. Wouldn't sleep for worrying if you'd got back alright.'

The pixie regarded him for a minute and then nodded. 'Sure, wouldn't want to be responsible for you missing out on your Beauty Sleep.' She held out her hand, 'Bella.'

'Pleased to meet you Bella, pretty name.'

She gave him an arch look, which clearly said 'like I haven't heard that line before', but made no comment as she set off down the street, past the Saloon, towards her Hotel.

Buck, never one to remain silent long, initiated a conversation.

'Just visiting Denver?' She nodded. 'Staying long?' She shook her head. The rest of the journey followed this pattern and by the time they arrived at the Hotel he hardly knew more than he had when they set out.

'Thanks again Buck. Goodnight, sleep easy.' Smiling, she disappeared behind the revolving door.

Buck stood for a moment before heading back to the truck. He'd get JD to check out the Hotel register in the morning, even if he had to call the cabin to get him to do it. Casey would be pissed but it was worth it. He walked briskly, the spring back in his step for the first time in weeks.

The next day

He'd been right, Casey had been pissed. JD had too initially but had finally conceded and had now called him back.

'No 'Bella' registered Buck. Closest I could get was 'Isabella Barron'. She was staying in room 1012, alone, and checked out this morning. Address listed as LA.' Buck cursed as he took down the details. He'd missed her.

'Thanks JD, I owe you.'

'You have no idea how big, Bucko'. It's gonna take me all weekend to peel Case off the ceiling she hit.' Buck laughed and apologised again.

'Try using a spoon, preferably dipped in honey. Seeya Monday kid.'

Within an hour Buck had found three I.Barrons listed in the LA area. He tried phoning but got two unanswered calls and a machine. The message was recorded by an older male voice announcing 'You have reached the Barrons. We are not here. Leave a message.' Deciding this was a sign he gave up and pulled a beer from the cooler and settled down to watch an old move. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. He was really scraping the bottom of the barrel.

Four Weeks later

Dumb, really dumb Larabee. Chris berated himself even as he tried to work out his best angle of attack.

He'd been separated from the others as he chased the leader of the gunrunning racket through the hangars at the small airport outside Denver. They'd taken down all the players, a clean sweep, when Chris had spotted Carlsson slipping out though a side door. Initally both he and Buck had given chase but somewhere along the line he'd lost his backup. Now he found himself facing a grinning Carlsson with a gun pointed at his back from an accomplice. He was going to have words with the leader of team 5. As support, they were supposed to prevent this.

'Mr Larabee, I assume? I think you may soon be enjoying a short trip. Gerritt, get the aircraft ready. Mr Larabee will accompany us as insurance.' He withdrew a small handgun concealed in his pocket. 'Drop your weapon, pig.'

Chris complied, weighing his alternatives. He was wearing his Kevlar vest but somehow he didn't feel reassured.

'I think not Gentlemen.' A feminine voice from somewhere further behind and to his right. Carlsson's eyes shifted to the source of the voice and Chris made his move. He lunged at the man in front of him, trusting the unknown female to make good and cover his back. He really had nothing to lose. A shot rang out, followed by the sound of something heavy hitting the ground. Chris had nearly reached Carlsson when he saw his finger begin to tighten on the trigger.

In the endless time before the sound of the shot Chris considered the possibility of his vest stopping the slug and dismissed it. He was too close. He was a dead man.

The rapport echoed loudly around the cavernous hangar and he stopped in his tracks, his hands reaching for his chest. No pain.

Carlsson howled, falling to his knees, gripping the now bloody gun hand.

'You fucking Bitch! Who the hell are you?'

Chris retrieved his gun and moving to keep the trafficker in his sights, glanced up to meet the blue eyes of his salvation.

Small, with spiky red hair and wearing a green aviator's jumpsuit the woman regarded him over her ancient and still smoking pistol.

'All under control here now Officer?' She indicated the ATF Logo emblazoned on his chest.

'Yes. Thank you Miss…'

'Barron. No need to thank me Officer. One of your Agents rescued me from an unpleasant situation last time I was in Denver. I always pay my debts.' She put the gun away inside the partially open zipper of the overalls. 'I assume you may need me to give some sort of statement. Right now I have a plane to catch but I'll be in town tonight, you can contact me through the Airshow organisers. I'm a volunteer with the Blue Angels.' She turned away.

The airport had been running an airshow for the past two days, military and civilian aircraft being both displayed and demonstrated. The Blue Angels were the stars. Performing seemingly impossible aeronautical acrobatics in high powered military jets, they had wowed the crowds, much to the delight of the organisers who were making a handsome profit.

'Miss Barron, I really can't allow you to leave…'

'The show must go on, and without me it won't. I'll be around when you've cleaned up the mess.' She indicated the crying Carlsson and grinned.

'Was it luck or are you a good shot?'

'I'm a professional, Mr Larabee. Ex-Navy.' She was gone.

Moments later Buck appeared, panting heavily. 'Hey Buddy. I lost ya there for a minute.' He regarded the scene before him. 'I see ya didn't need back up after all.'

Cuffing the moaning gunrunner, Chris grimaced, 'Actually Buck there's a story here…' They moved away as members of the clean up team finally caught up with them.

An hour later Team 7 were hanging around the airfield watching the show. Chris was relating the story of his chase and subsequent arrest to the others when Buck's loud exclamation interrupted him.

'Miss Barron? Short, spiky red hair? Are you joshing me Buddy?'

'Don't tell me you were her 'knight in shining armour' Buck? I should have guessed.'

Buck and JD exchanged a glance. JD raised his eyebrow, Ezra-like, and Buck cuffed him around the head. 'Don't even say it Kid.'


'This is the woman you've been mooning over, Brother Buck?'

'Buck's been mooning? I thought the women of Denver just got wise…'

'Definitely mooning, hasn't had a date in weeks…'

At that moment their attention was caught by the announcement, to loud cheers, of the Blue Angels. They listened as the commentator regaled the audience with a description of their amazing and dangerous display.

'… and in the lead aircraft we have Lt. Isabella Barron, callsign Pixie, who will astound you by bringing her Russian MiG 29 to a complete standstill at four thousand feet….' The crowd gasped as the MiG roared past the grandstand, performed a tight turn with a 360 degree rollover and then scooped down before soaring vertically upwards directly in front of the main stand. Buck's mouth dropped open, much to the amusement of the others, who nudged each other as they turned to watch the aircraft slow and then hang for endless seconds before dropping nearly backwards towards earth, the engine screaming as the pilot fought to regain control and bring the plane back parallel with the ground.

'Holy Shit. That girl has a deathwish.'

The audience 'ooohed' and 'ahhed' as the plane roared off to rejoin the formation and a loud round of applause greeted the returning flotilla as they performed an intricate dance of ducking and diving, twisting and turning weaving intricate patterns in the sky, before eventually roaring out of sight.

'…Ladies and Gentlemen…The Blue Angels…' They performed a final flypast and were gone.

'Jeez Buck when you said she was 'quite a woman' that wasn't what I thought you meant.' JD was grinning at Buck.

'I didn't Kid, I didn't.'

The others were laughing at Buck's expression. Chris was just glad she'd live long enough to give him a statement. Then he'd shoot her. She was a witness. She had no business…

'I knew an Isabella Barron once,' Josiah spoke thoughtfully, almost to himself. Only Vin caught the comment and looked inquiringly at him. He shook his head.

The following morning
Team 7 Office

'Hey there Buck. Sleeping Okay?' Buck shot to his feet and smiled at the woman who had materialized in front of his Desk.

'Bella.' He remembered he was mad with her and scowled. 'What the hell kind of stunt was that you pulled yesterday? You could have gotten killed!'

Bella regarded him in silence for a moment and Buck tried to control his rare show of temper. Simply the fact that it was so rare had the rest of the team smiling and nudging each other as they stopped to watch the show.

'Your friend would have taken a short flight out of a moving aircraft if I hadn't intervened, MISTER Wilmington, so quit griping. Besides who made you my keeper?'

'Dammit Bella I ain't talkin' about that, I'm talkin' about stallin' that goddamned plane mid flight.' He jutted his chin out to emphasise his point. She matched his look with a smaller chin.

'I see. Well as to THAT, that was a planned, practised and carefully executed stunt. I've done it many times before and only complete it if I've weighed the risks. And you still aren't my keeper.'

The spectators laughed at Buck's belligerent expression, mirrored by the diminutive redhead.

'My daughter is correct, she is a professional airline pilot, Mr Wilmington. She knows what she's doing.' This came from the heavy set, greying man standing by her side, grinning at the two combatants, his head swivelling from one to the other like he was watching a tennis match.

'However, her manners are appalling. I blame her mother.' He held out his hand to Buck, who took it automatically. 'Am I correct in assuming you are the Buck Wilmington who rescued Bell from two attackers last month?'

Buck nodded. 'Yessir.'

'You have my undying gratitude Buck.' Buck almost blushed, almost. 'Since my daughter seems to have completely forgotten those few manners she did have I'll introduce myself. I'm…'

''Red' Barron.' This came from Josiah and everyone turned to look in his direction.

''Preacherman' Sanchez, as I live and breathe.' The two men clasped forearms and hugged.

'You two know each other?' This came from Chris who had come forward to introduce himself, 'Chris Larabee, Mr Barron, your daughter and I met yesterday…'

'Red and I go back to 'nam. He was a Marine pilot,…'

'… and you were my unofficial backup. Saved my ass on more occasions than I care to recall. We corresponded for a while after I was repatriated but lost touch eventually. Josiah is Bell's Godfather.'

Everyone looked back at Bella, who flushed slightly and mumbled, 'I don't remember…'

'I remember you, Isabella. Your brothers and sister called you belladonna! Reckoned you were poisonous. What happened to all those beautiful red curls?'

At this her father laughed. 'She got tired of being asked to sing songs from 'Annie'.'

Now Bella blushed. 'Daaad!…Why don't you and…. Uncle Joe, right?' She paused and Josiah nodded grinning, ' I remember. Why don't you catch up while I talk to Mr Larabee?'

Buck was trying not to laugh and she glared at him.

She sure was cute with those sparks flying. Bet she was cute as a kid too with red curls and a spit-in-your-eye attitude. Seeing her in daylight he had a clear view of the sprinkling of freckles chasing across the bridge of her nose. Unlike most redheads, her skin was otherwise clear.

Her glare was funny to anyone accustomed to Larabee and made him laugh harder.

Giving him a dirty look she followed Larabee into his office, 'I brought the gun, just in case, and my permit…' The door closed.

Buck suddenly found himself facing the curious gazes of his partners. Red and Josiah had disappeared into the coffee room and four amused pairs of eyes were fixed on him. Four married pairs of eyes.


'Reckon ole Bucklin's bin bit. Whatcha think Ez?'

'From the standpoint of someone who has himself been recently so afflicted, I would concur, Mr Tanner. Mr Jackson?'

'Yep. JD?'

'Well now, how did you describe her to me Buck, when you wrecked my weekend with Case? 'An enchanting Pixie', I think it was. Ezra got us an Elf so I reckon we could handle a Pixie. Could be interesting. She sure shoots fire.' JD Laughed as Buck blustered.

'Perhaps 'Dragoness' would be more appropriate?

'Now boys, you know Buck ain't the settlin' type, so don't get any ideas, just 'cause you all are shackled.'

'I ken hear them chains rattlin' yer name Bucklin…'

Moments later, the door of Chris's office opened and he stood aside to allow the lady to precede him. They were met by the sight of Tanner and Wilmington wrestling on the floor.

This time Buck could feel the flush spreading across his face as Chris grinned down at him in amusement. He pushed Tanner off and regained his footing, dusting his jeans and readjusting his shirt.

'Ah, Miss Bella, Sorry Ma'am.' He scuttled away, hearing the loud guffaws of his partners behind him.

'Vin are you planning on taking a nap while you're down there? Miss Barron, Vin Tanner, our sharpshooter,'Vin waved at her from the floor, 'Nathan Jackson, Medic and incendiary specialist, Ezra Standish, undercover and JD Dunne, Techno whiz. You know the others. Buck's the surveillance expert and Josiah is our profiler.'

'Your father is in the coffee room with Josiah, want me to fetch him Miss Barron?'

'Please call me Bella, or Bell if you prefer. No, leave him, he'll come when he's done. Is it Okay if I hang around for a few more minutes? I promise I won't get in anyone's way.' Chris nodded.

'JD get Miss Bar… Bella a chair. Thanks again for your help.' He wandered off to look at Ezra's screen over the undercover agent's shoulder, the two getting into a low murmured discussion.

JD pulled up a chair between his and Buck's desks, to Buck's annoyance, and then conspicuously left to talk to Nathan, nodding his head at Bella behind her back. Buck rolled his eyes and huffed.

Planting herself down Bella watched Buck who was trying to look industrious.

Buck could feel himself getting more flustered. What was with her? Why was she staring?

'What? Can't get enough of me Darlin'? Maybe you'd like to spend the evening lookin' too?' He heard the sarcasm and winced. The invitation was genuine.

Red and Josiah chose that moment to re-emerge. They exchanged a glance.

'Much as I hate to turn down such a gracious invitation, I have other plans which, unfortunately, cannot be changed.'

'Very unfortunately for you, Honey.' Red laughed. 'You know if you renege on your bet the boys will only make you pay a double forfeit.'

'Did I hear someone say bet?' Ezra's head came up from behind his computer.

'Dad, don't go there…'

Seeing he had the attention of the whole team Red filled them in.

'Bella and the other ladies on the flight team lost a wager, the details of which I cannot repeat.' He gave his daughter a glare worthy of Larabee and she cringed. Buck thought this sounded interesting.

'Suffice to say they have been forced to pay a forfeit. Tonight and for one night only, performing at the Cactus Cantina, for the amusement of the rest of the airshow staff, Blue Bell and the Angels.' He finished with a flourish and laughed as Bella buried her face in her hands. Buck looked intrigued. Josiah grinned at Red.

'I remember she had a real pretty voice, Red… at three years old performing Sesame Street!' At this all the team laughed and Bella swore.

'Isabella Marie Barron, watch you language! I'm still your father.'

Bella looked to Buck like a hole to hell would be welcome at the moment. This could be worth pursuing. 'Any chance of a table?' She looked at him balefully and poked out her tongue. Nice pink tongue. Buck felt himself reacting and concentrated on her father.

'I would be honoured if you gentlemen, and your partners of course, would be my guests. I can promise ringside seats for this once only performance.'

'Love to.' 'Got no other plans' 'We'll be there'

'Oh Christ. Make it worse pop, why don't you?'

'What you gonna sing? Do you dress up?'

'A variety JD, and the boys get to provide the costumes, it was part of the bet. I haven't seen them yet. I dread to think what they'll come up with.'

'Every man's fantasy no doubt. What?' Ezra looked taken aback at the looks he was getting. 'It's what I'd do.'

'It's what they'll do too. That's why I've made it known I will be attending. Hopefully it will temper their enthusiasm somewhat. It's bad enough she has to dance on the bar…'

'What?' Buck barely got the word out. He thought he may be drooling and fingered his moustache.

'That's it, I'm outta here. Gentlemen.'

Bella left to the sounds of raucous laughter, though she only heard Buck. Very funny. Red was finalizing arrangements and caught up with her at the elevator.

'Pop, how could you do that to me?'

'Me? What did I do?' He grinned at her. Like that huh? He'd quizzed Josiah about Wilmington and was reassured. It seemed that although he was a known ladies man and womaniser he was just as well known for his defence of the fairer sex and Josiah trusted him with his Godchild. He would too.

Cactus Cantina

The boys had settled themselves at the table in the crowded restaurant, ordering beer and food. Of the women only Rain Jackson and Kezzie Standish had been able to attend.

Buck was shifting in his seat again, looking at the bar. Part of him wanted to get on with the show, the other part was dreading it. He glanced around the room. Mostly men, getting louder and more boisterous. They'd all be gawping at Bella. He felt nauseous. Returning his gaze to the table he found Chris and Vin grinning at him. He scowled and they laughed.

Suddenly there was a drum roll…

'Ladies and Gentlemen, tonight we have some special entertainment.' Loud cheers and whistles greeted this announcement. 'The Ladies of The Blue Angels lost a wager and have agreed to perform, for our entertainment, a twenty minute song and dance show. I know the men involved in this bet are breathing a sigh of relief,' chuckles and hoots, 'as they were to have undergone full body waxing…' Groans and cries of 'They'll save it for next time guys watch yourselves',

Buck shifted uncomfortably in his chair, she was a mean one… He focussed back on the compare.

'… and so may I present, Bell, Sandy, Joyce, Ashley and Claire,…'Blue Bell and the Angels'.'

Everyone turned to look. Buck gawped.

Climbing onto the bar, assisted by eager members of the Audience, were five beautiful women. He only saw one.

She was wearing a black cropped top, tight across her chest, with 'BUXOM' emblazoned on it in silver sequins. She had a pair of studded black leather shorts, barely covering her ass, and matching thigh-length spike-heeled boots. Her flat, tanned belly was on full display and the glittering jewel embedded in her navel winked at him. He swallowed.

The music started and the girls started to gyrate.

Buck was entranced. All she needed was a whip and she was his fantasy. Someone handed her one and he became aware of the other men in the room. No longer happy he took a swig of his beer.

They launched into the first song, and Buck noticed for the first time that each performer was wearing a microphone hooked round to their faces.

They were really very good. Bella had a husky voice and perfect pitch. Buck felt it tremble down his spine and shivered. Vin was right, he'd been bitten right on the … He realized his table companions were all watching him.

'Will you stop staring at me? Have I got spinach in my teeth or something? Jeez.'

His partners exchanged looks and Rain giggled. Buck wished he was somewhere else. Preferably with Bella in that outfit… his mind started to drift again.

Chris leaned over to Vin. 'Never seen him like this, he looks like a teenager…'

'Give him a minute Cowboy he'll be askin' her to a prom…'

Josiah was amazed and a little concerned. He met Nathan's eyes and saw the confidence there. He nodded in acknowledgement. Their resident Lothario would behave himself, or Josiah would deal with him. He sent Buck a warning glance.

Buck took on a 'who me?' expression and watched the end of the show. He breathed a sigh of relief as the object of his attention took her bow and left. He wouldn't mind a repeat performance but it would have to be private, for his eyes only. He wouldn't let her strut her stuff for other men ever again. His heart couldn't take it.

What the hell am I thinking? I got no say over what she does. But you want to have, even need to have. Oh God. He was in trouble here.

He glanced at Chris for help, a beseeching look in his blue eyes.

Chris's unspoken response read something like, ''Bout time Buddy, thought you'd never stop practicing.' That was NOT what he wanted to hear. He was a womaniser, a rogue, he couldn't be anything else.

Bella did not reappear until the restaurant had quieted somewhat. She still got a few catcalls and lurid suggestions, which she took with good grace. She was now dressed in Jeans and a loose T-shirt. The black eye make-up was gone and she looked scrubbed.

Bella was nervous. She glanced at her father and godfather. They smiled and congratulated her on her performance. She looked at the others, who all grinned and made humorous remarks. Finally, her eyes settled on Wilmington. Everyone else looked too, although they had the good sense to try to seem like they were not watching.

Buck for his part tried to put on an Ezra face. He nodded slightly and turned to talk to Kezzie, seated on his right. Kezzie saw the hurt in Bella's eyes, quickly hidden behind a wall of defiance.

'I think I've developed a taste for fame Pop, I may take this show on the road…'

'The hell you will Isabella,' It was Buck who answered, while everyone sat stunned at his vehemence, 'You will not strut about like that ever again. You looked like a… like a…'

Bella was fuming, how dare he embarrass her, she hardly knew him.

'Like a WHORE? Is that the word you want Mr Wilmington?'

She anticipated a fight.

She didn't get the response she expected. Buck's face drained of all colour. He looked sick. Slowly, he climbed to his feet, placing his bottle on the table with careful deliberate movements. He looked her in the eye and walked out.

'Oh Shit.' Vin made to go after him but Chris's hand on his arm arrested the movement. He nodded towards Bella.

She was staring at the door with a look of acute distress. She glanced round the table and saw anger and pity. Oh God. What had she said? Muttering an apology to the company at large she set off after Buck.

Red looked at Josiah, a question in his eyes. Josiah just shook his head and shrugged. Let her sort it out.

Outside Bella looked around. She knew he'd arrived with his friends and their vehicles were still there. She searched the lot and saw no sign of him. He must have taken a cab. She stood looking about until she started to feel cold and then turned to go back inside. He was standing in the shadow of the porch, leaning against an impossibly large faux wagon wheel. Cautiously she approached.

Buck had watched her come out of the bar and look for him. In many ways he wanted to hear what she would say but he could feel the anger and hurt simmering below the surface and worried what he might say in return. He hardly knew this woman. Why was she able to wound him? Why did he care? He was not one to form such attachments lightly. He couldn't remember a woman meaning so much to him, not for a long while, if ever. He was about to move further into the shadow when she turned and caught sight of him. He held his breath as she came closer. He could see the distress in her eyes, the confusion.

She stopped about two feet away and met his eyes. Taking a deep breath she raised her hands, palms up, away from her body.

'Buck?' She sounded tentative, 'Buck, I don't understand exactly what I said, or how I upset you. I just… I'm sorry. My mouth always has moved way faster than my brain. Part of the curse of being a redhead I suppose. I never meant… I mean, it wasn't my intention… I was mad when you tried to… I never did take instructions well…. I'm sorry if I …' She tailed off into silence, shoulders slumping.

'You done?' She nodded, dropping her gaze to her sneakers.

'Good.' He grabbed her around the waist and titled her chin up, pushing her back against the wagon wheel with his body. 'Don't ever say that again.' She opened her mouth to ask what but was silenced by the kiss. Her knees buckled. God he was good at this.

It was nearly half an hour before they rejoined the rest of their group back at the table, neither saying anything, continuing as if nothing had happened. Buck knew he'd have an inquisition on his hands but needed time to gather his thoughts. The party broke up soon after.

5 months Later
CDC Poker Night

'So how's it going Buck?' Buck pretended ignorance at JD's question although the arrested expressions on his partners' faces told him what was being asked. 'You know, with the pixie.'

'Don't want to talk about it JD and her name is Bella.'

'Bet ya don't call her that in bed Bucklin.' Vin's comment got Buck's back up, this was sensitive territory they were stamping on. His tongue got ahead of his brain.

'We haven't…' He broke off as he realized what he was about to say.

Vin laughed. 'Yer Kiddin'. Bucklin ya sick?'

'Vin…' Chris's warning was too late.

'Shut up Vin. You don't know anything. Bella's a lady. I ain't goin' to push her into anything if she's not ready, even if I am…' There I it goes again. Damn mouth running off.

'Frustrated, Mr Wilmington?'

'If that's a problem Buck why don't you get some relief? You still have your black book don't you?' JD's teasing question had his former landlord glaring at him and stomping off to the kitchen for more beer.

'Frustration personified.'

'Nice goin' JD.' Nathan was grinning. Who'd have thought Buck would last so long?

'Gentlemen, I think perhaps Mr Wilmington would prefer us not to discuss his private affairs, or lack thereof.' Buck returned and sent Standish a scathing look.

'She got her shift with the airline changed to cover the Denver-LA route. Least I'll see more a' her than before.'

'But not as much as you'd like brother.'

Buck sighed. They weren't going to let him off. Why fight it?

'Are you in love Buck?' He got a look of sympathy from Chris who glared the others into submission.

'I dunno Chris, I really don't.'

'Well Mr Wilmington, you have before you a collection of minds well acquainted with the finer emotions, not least of them my own. Why don't you explain how you feel and we will endeavour to tell you if we consider you to be blessed with a captive heart?' The others nodded, encouraging Buck to bare his soul.

'You have to promise not to laugh. I mean it. This is too important.'

'We are familiar of the size of said heart, Mr Wilmington and would not cause you that degree of pain, I promise.'

'Me too.' The others all agreed with JD.

'Well… Okay. Where do I start?'

'Tell it like it is Pal.'

'I think about her all the time. Well, not all the time. It just sorta catches me, you know?' His companions nodded sagely.

'I can be in the truck or sittin' in the office and I suddenly wonder what she's doin', right then at that moment. I hate it when I see other men checkin' her out, dammit she's mine, can't they see that?' This was met with exchanged glances, 'been there, still there', which Buck read accurately.

'I panic when I can't reach her on the phone, just in case she's had an accident or something. She thinks it's funny and laughs when I get mad.'

'I even caught myself scrawling 'Buck and Isabella Wilmington' on scrap paper at work.' He looked up when JD laughed.

'Sorry Buck. I'm not laughing at you. I used to do the same with Casey. Struck me as funny at the time JD and KC Dunne. Thought you'd start calling us 'the Initials'.' The others smiled at this, storing it away for future use.

Ezra volunteered, 'I'd known Keziah only hours when I started thinking about 'Ez and Kez', or, God forbid, 'Ezzy and Kezzie'.' Vin snorted and choked on his beer, Ezra glared at him.

'I think ya got it bad, Buck,' Nathan clapped him on the shoulder, 'nearly as bad as me. I'm just the same with Rain, even now.'

'It was the same with Sarah.' The whole group turned to look at Chris. Information regarding his dead wife was never, ever, given lightly. They gave it the attention it deserved. 'You remember Buck, how you used to hand me the phone and tell me to tell her? That you couldn't stand me mooching any more and wanted the 'old Chris' back? Now I'm returning the favour. You should tell her and see what she says. You, my friend, are a man without a heart. You've given yours away, you need hers in exchange if you are to start living again.'

Chris looked at the gaping, amazed faces. 'What? You think I never went there? I have a heart in here too ya know. It just ain't mine.'

'Very eloquently put, Mr Larabee.'

'Jesus Cowboy, and you boys think I's the poet.'

Chris looked sheepish. Buck looked scared.

'I can't. What if…? Josiah could you talk to Red? Feel him out a bit?'

'No way Buck. I love you like a brother but I am not snooping on my Godchild. Whilst I agree you are indeed in love, a man needs to seek his own enlightenment. '

'Where is she? You got a weekend coming. Go see her.'

'Okay. I will. I'll knock her dead, she can't possibly resist…'