Times Past

by Jenn

Characters: Buck, Chris

Author Notes: This just came to me, I sat down to write and came up with this. I hope you all like it. Please send me feedback to let me know if you did (or didn't). It takes plcae about two months into the series (after they first meet).

The six men sat at their usual table as they finished their breakfasts and relaxed back in their chairs to enjoy the fresh cups of coffee the bar girl had just brought them. Chris had declined the coffee and headed out for an early morning patrol.

Seeing the perfect opportunity to ask Buck a question that had been on his mind Vin looked over at the ladies' man who was watching the bar girl. “Buck, got a question for you. If you don't mind.”

Looking over at the younger man Buck raised an eyebrow. “Sure you can ask. The real question is whether I'll mind givin' you the answer.”

“You've been spending too much time with Ezra,” accused JD in an amused tone of voice.

Without looking, Buck reached over and knocked JD's hat to the floor. “So what's the question, Vin?”

Vin looked down for a second then made eye contact with Buck as he asked his question. “What was Chris like. . .before.”

All the men where suddenly interested in Buck's answer. They'd all wondered, but never asked. Seeing five gazes focused on him Buck realized that none of them would be likely to let this go. He took another sip of coffee and settled comfortably in his chair.

“All right. But what I say doesn't leave this table. You all know Chris' reputation as a cold blooded bastard, capable of anything. It's gone far enough in the last couple years that he now needs that reputation to protect himself, and now us and the town as well. Most of what I'm going to tell you goes against that reputation. It can't get out. And even worse, if this stuff did get around Chris would be furious. . . at us.”

“That is certainly a persuasive motivation to keep our mouths shut,” drawled Ezra. The others nodded slightly in agreement.

“He didn't have the hard, self-destructive edge he does now. He was. . . tender and caring to Sara and Adam. He had a great sense of humor. Still does, just don't show it like he used to. We had a lot of good times together. Working, hunting, riding, or just raising hell. He knew how to have a good time. How to enjoy himself and how to enjoy life. Some things were the same. He was careful who he called friend, but once you where his friend there was nothing he wouldn't do for ya. Loyalty's always been important to him.

You've all seen how he is with Billy. That's not even half how he was with Adam. I think he's afraid to get too close to Billy 'cause he couldn't stand that kind of pain again, but Billy reminds him so much of Adam that he can't help but feel some love for him.

Anything that little boy wanted his father would get for him. There were a few times he told Adam no, but only when it came to Adam's safety or it really was for the boys own good. And Adam about worshiped his father. Chris was Adam's hero. And at the time Chris was the kind of man that a little boy should have as a hero. Devoted husband and father. Hard working rancher. Former Army hero. Happy to help his neighbors and town.

I don't think he slept the entire week after Adam was born. He'd sit there at night watching Adam sleep. Or fall asleep for a nap with Adam on his chest. Sara got after him a little, but thought it was sweet. I swear that baby never touched the floor or a chair. If Sara wasn't holding him, Chris was; and if they weren't I was. He was a good baby, didn't fuss much at all. Anyway... You asked about Chris.

He always had that temper of his, but never around Adam. And one word or look from Sara would be enough to calm him down. He loved her like I ain't never seen before or since, and she felt the same way about him. She was real sweet and gentle, a Lady in every sense of the word, but she was also strong. Had to be. He wouldn't have respected a weak woman, and a woman that always let him have his way would've bored Chris to tears. And Sara needed a strong man to match her. They really were perfect for each other. Soul mates. I'd never understood the term 'til I saw those two together.

Chris really loved being a rancher. He liked horses and he was good with them. I helped out some. I visited a LOT. Sara always kept the guest room ready for me. She used to joke that it wasn't a guest room, it was my room. And it sort of was. They were my family and treated me like I was a member of theirs. Chris let me teach Adam how ride a horse. I really loved doing that. And I wish you guys could see the look of pride on Chris face as he watched Adam.

Now he's eaten alive by his demons and memories, but then he was happy and content. He was always fast with a gun, and accurate, but he didn't look for fights. Sara didn't like it and he said he'd seen enough violence during the war. He was always brave and a bit reckless, proved that during the war, but he didn't have the death wish style of fighting that he does now. Not caring what chances he takes. At the time he had a lot to live for and he fought to stay alive.

But I do remember one gun fight he got into. We were in town getting supplies. One of the men was dumb enough to make an. . . unflattering, and untrue, comment about Sara where Chris could here him.”

“Chris killed the guy,” stated Josiah with confidence.

“Nope. Worse. He wasn't aiming at the guy's heart. He was aiming. . . lower.”

Buck hid his smirk behind his coffee cup as five jaws hit the floor accompanied by winces and grimaces. None of them doubted that Chris had hit where he'd aimed.

“I do believe that it was poetic justice if the comment was of the sort I'd imagine it was,” noted Ezra as he recovered from his shock.

“It was,” Buck replied in answer to both of Ezra's statements.

Conversation stopped for a few minutes as the men drank their coffee and thought about what Buck had said. His love for Adam, and Sara was obvious to all of them. It came through so clearly in his voice as he talked of them. His nephew and the woman he'd loved as a sister. They were all enjoying the glimpse into the intensely private Chris' past that Buck was allowing them.

Nathan's instincts as a healer told him that the deaths of Sara and Adam had deeply wounded Buck and that he was being very careful to focus on the good times and not the pain of their loss. That he was switching topics and stories at very specific times to allow himself to share these memories.

“What was he like during the war? You were together during it, right?”

“Yeah, Nate. We were. He was more like he is now. Somewhere in between how his is now and how he was when he was married, I guess. He took chances. Did things he'd rather forget. We all did. It's . . . part of war. But he tried to protect the innocent people if we where near a town, and made sure any prisoners were treated OK. Not that he couldn't be. . . harsh and even ruthless when it was needed. He was a good leader, and had the men's loyalty. They'd do anything he asked 'cause they knew he'd be right there doing it with them. When it came to discipline he was tough, but fair and the men respected that. He was good at planning and coming up with strategies. During the war is when he started drinking. Oh, we'd drunk before, but that was when he really started doing it seriously. I guess a lot of us did. Most of us cut back to normal after the war, Chris included, but it's where he got the habit that he fell back on . . . later.”

Buck paused for a moment to finish the last of his coffee. Before the conversation could continue Mrs. Potter came in. “Mr. Jackson, my girl wasn't feeling too well last night and is even worse this morning. Could you come over and check on her?”

Nathan was standing before she finished. “Of course, Mrs. Potter. Let me just stop by the clinic and get my bag.”

Josiah also stood. “I'll come with you, Brother Nathan.”

Once they'd left Vin also stood. “Think I'll go check on Peso.”

“I shall accompany you and check on Chaucer," said Ezra as he followed Vin toward the door.

“I'm gonna head over to the jail and look over some of the new wanted posters. How about you, Buck?”

“Think I'll just relax here for a bit, JD. This talk has got me thinking, and remembering.”

“Sure, Buck I'll see ya later.”

For a long time Buck sat remembering the goods times and wondering if he'd ever have times like that with Chris again. The last two months had given him hope, which he'd thought lost long ago. He finally decided that he'd just have to wait and see.