Sargent Buck Wilmington stretched, groaning. It had been a hard shift. He
looked around the locker room and gave a hesitant smile to his current partner,
Boyd Larsen. Larsen wasn't bad, at least, not as bad as he could be, but
he wasn't working out either. For a grand four years, Buck had been a detective
with a partner who was a good friend, had a life, and the feeling of a family.
A car bomb had ended that whole part of his world. Chris Larabee had been
his best friend from the time they met as Navy SEALs to the last time he'd
seen him, a broken angry wreck of a man mourning his murdered family.
After the bombing, Chris had taken to the bottle, though he never drank on
duty or when he knew he was going to be on duty. However, his anger was
completely out of control and it had become impossible for Buck to keep Chris
contained. Eventually Larabee had left the P.D. before he could be fired
for his attitude, and Buck had ended up back in Patrol.
He didn't resent it, Chris's grief had been far too much to handle. The only
thing that he was angry about was the murder. Sarah Larabee had been an angel,
the most amazing woman Buck had known since his mother died. Buck had been
jealous of what Chris had had, but watching the nightmare that had followed,
he wasn't sure that he'd ever have the courage to try for it. And words didn't
describe the feeling of pain that came from thinking about the infant Adam
Larabee, who'd died along with his mother.
Shaking his head to clear away the painful past, Buck pasted on his most
jovial expression. It was going to be 'one of those days'. Several of the
other men teased him, joking as they went by, but Larsen was standing stiffly
beside his locker.
"We'd have had him if you hadn't been such an incompetent!" He snarled when
they were alone. Buck sighed, this was going to be just like last time.
Wilmington would end up with all the blame, again, and if he wasn't careful,
a fist or two. Larsen had been made his partner because Buck had a reputation
for "handling Temperamentals." It was a reputation and a reminder that Buck
could have done without.
Larsen was getting worse, that much was certain. Buck had given into his
need to be "right" in all things.
Had done everything that the Department Shrink had suggested, tried the self
help books, even broke down and attended a couple of the Anger Management
classes. It was spiraling out of control. The Chief was aware of the situation
and had begged Buck to keep Larsen out of trouble, but there were limits
to what Wilmington could do. None of the stupid things that Larsen had accused
him of had ended up in his file, but because of him, Buck wasn't advancing
in the ranks.
He was tired of this, tired of wasting his talents having to babysit any
idiot with Anger Management issues. Chris had been different, he'd been his
friend first, a temper problem second. Since Wilmington was so easy going,
generally, he'd always ended up with the problem children. For once he'd
like a nice rookie, like he used to have back when he and Larabee had been
in Patrol. Someone who needed advice, wanted to try hard, and someone without
an ax to grind....
Speaking of axes, Buck listened to Larsen as he yet again lectured on the
big Sargent's "Failures." Boyd Larsen was a Pain in the Ass, Certified, but
Buck knew better than to turn his back on him. Larsen had proven to be violent
when he couldn't get his point across any other way.
"Just don't mess this up for me." Boyd spat. Buck couldn't remember for a
moment what he was talking about. Then he did, there was some sort of special
meeting that he'd been asked to attend after duty. Larsen had usurped the
invitation because he thought 'he deserved it'.
Buck couldn't remember what it was supposed to be. He was tired, it had been
too long since his last time off. Because of Larsen's attempts to 'further'
himself, Buck had ended up being volunteered for a whole lot of things that
he didn't want to do. The neighborhood Watch stuff was okay, and the midnight
basketball league, but he wasn't fond of helping to scan page after page
of old case files into the computer. That took hours of his time, and then
there were all the 'little' things that he did because some VIP had another
hair brained idea and he'd been 'Volunteered'. If that wasn't bad enough,
Buck hadn't had a date in forever, and for a man like him that was a big
Unfortunately, Buck's attention had wandered from Larsen, the new shift was
starting to come in and he needed to warn Carlisle about the recent problems
on the beat. Seeing that the big Sargent wasn't listening, Larsen grew angry,
more angry than he'd been before. The fat lump wasn't listening! How dare
he? Who did he think he was? Just the son of a Nevada whore! Why everyone
thought so much of him was beyond Larsen. Buck had such a great reputation,
but he was 'trash', whereas Larsen was the son of a member of the city council.
It was disgusting that they'd stuck him with this idiot. Wilmington had made
so many mistakes that they'd never advance.
Furious now, Larsen grabbed his baton. Buck, who was listening closely to
Carlisle's recounting of some of the problems he and his partner had encountered
in the same place, did not see the danger he was in. Larson gathered all
his anger and swung the billy club at the back of Buck's head. Carlisle saw
it but not in time to react. But the downward momentum was stopped and Larsen
flew back into the lockers behind him. Buck was startled and the rest of
the patrol was furious. The man who had grabbed the baton and hurled the
angry man away from his target gave a slight smile. He was dressed in black,
black pants, a black suit coat, even a black shirt.
"You must be tired Bucklin. The only thing I know that distracts you that
badly other than exhaustion is a woman, and there aren't any women here."
The somber blond man smiled slightly.
Buck's eyes widened, both at the salutation and the smile.
"Chris, Damn it! Chris!" He jumped up and grabbed the man in black in a huge
"Easy, Buck." Chris laughed, and Buck stared at him. The Larabee he'd known
last never laughed or smiled, had nothing in him. The shriveled husk of a
man had somehow filled back out into the form of his oldest friend. Larabee
was thinner, still a little gaunt, but there was a light of something...it
was life back in the man's face. His eyes were still harder than they had
been before Sarah's death, but there was a quality of being in them that
had been gone for so long.
Larsen chose to interrupt the reunion, trying to punch the man who'd thrown
him, but Larabee was faster and Larson found himself on the floor. He tried
it again, and was effortlessly tossed down. The third attempt left him out
of breath and red in the face.
"You're under arrest for attacking a police officer." He howled from the
"You're under arrest for attempted murder, and attempted assault on a Federal
Agent." Larabee hissed.
"You're a Fed?" Larsen snarled.
"Yes and you're dead meat." Chris Larabee gave him a cold grin, one that
promised a painful future.
"My Father is a city council man."
"So?" Larabee said unimpressed.
At that moment Captain Shipp entered the room, with half a dozen officers.
He took one look at the situation and said.
"Try not to break him into too many pieces, Larabee, I want my chance at
him. Wilmington, I'm sorry I ever kept this Jack Ass on. Are you alright?"
"I'm fine, didn't touch me." Buck said, still staggered to find Chris there,
a Chris not empty of himself, but alive and living.
"Come on, Buck. I set up the meeting to talk to you, at your Captain's
convenience, and here we are wasting time. You're dressed, so why don't you
head to the office. There's going to be paperwork, a lot of paperwork if
I remember correctly for this garbage. I'll join you in a minute." Chris
gave him a worried look. "If that's okay." He added a little hesitantly.
"Okay? Damn Pard, it's fine! Real fine!" Buck was grinning from ear to ear.
Larabee was back, out of that deep dark hole the murder of his family had
left him in. The mark of his grief was still there, but the dead lost soul
wasn't. Wilmington went out of the locker room to his Captain's office, where
Christy, the receptionist, had the paperwork waiting for him. Assault on
a fellow officer certainly required a lot of paper to explain it.
A few minutes later Buck saw Captain Shipp, who wore a very satisfied expression,
come down the hall. Behind him were a couple other members of patrol and
Larson who was shaking, his whole face twisted in horror. Buck started to
go to him, concerned about his state, but the Captain waved him off. Wilmington
was okay with the order. The man had after all just tried to kill or seriously
"Damn Larabee, wish I was that good at intimidation!" Shipp commented "Then
these loafers would do what I told them to."
"They won't, no matter what you tell them. I could glare for a week, but
unless I followed it up with action, they'd cease to believe the threat."
Chris said easily.
"Oh I doubt that you'll have that problem." The Captain laughed. "Well here
he is. Good luck, He's been wasted cleaning up after morons. He'll have better
luck with you."
"That's not decided," Chris said. "It's his choice." Shipp just gave him
a knowing look.
"What Choice?" Buck demanded in confusion.
"Why don't you use my office? Less noise." Grimacing, Captain Shipp gestured
toward the door as down the hall Larson regained some of his courage.
"Do I need to come down there and Deal with you?' Chris thundered. The noise
cut off as if it had never been. There was some whimpering but that was all.
"Now, I think I'd like to use the office, if that's okay with you?" He added
in a much softer tone. Shipp just shook his head and again gestured to his
"Buck?" Chris asked, with a little fear in his voice. Wilmington promptly
got up and went into the office. Larabee shut the door behind them. "I wasn't
sure you'd want to see me." He said quietly.
"Never Stud. How the hell are you?" Buck laughed.
"I've been better, been worse... far worse, but you know that." Chris said
frowning. "Buck, before I say anything about why I'm here, officially, I
want to say something else." He took in a deep breath of air."Buck, I'm sorry.
I'm sorry for what I did to you. You were only trying to help me, I had no
right to say what I said, to do what I did...."
"Chris, man, that was your anger. You had a right to be angry!" Buck said.
"I had a right to be angry, but no right, absolutely no right to take it
out on my best friend."
"Chris it's okay. Long forgiven" Buck reassured him, it was the truth, but
then again he'd expected to next see Chris at his funeral. His old friend
had been dying inside. This new Larabee, alive and concerned, was something
he'd never dared pray he'd see.
"It shouldn't be that easy, Buck. I hurt you. Badly," Chris said and the
pain shone in his expression.
"Hey Stud, it's okay. You're here, you look better," Buck finished lamely.
The last time he'd seen Chris, any thing would look better than that. Larabee
"I hope I am better," Chris agreed softly. The memories of that dark day
sat heavily on his conscience. His old friend had stood with him through
so much. He'd finally pushed Buck away, though he knew the big Sargent had
kept a distant eye on him. Feeling a little uncomfortable, Chris came to
"I also came to offer you a job, but if you'd like to stay here, I'd understand."
"Job?" Buck asked feeling a little slow, this had been a shock for him, and
although he was an easy-going man, the emotions raised by Larabee's presence
"I got myself togther, Buck. I was lost for a long time. However, Wiley Redd,
remember him from the SEALs? Wiley came to see me earlier this month. I accepted
a job from him."
"Working for the Senator?" Buck was confused because Larabee had been such
a dedicated lawman. He couldn't see Chris involved in politics.
"No, I'm still with the ATF," Chris paused and let out a breath. "I'm commanding
a new Task Force. A Team really. We're going to take on the worst offenders,
cold cases, Politically delicate, hell, Classified things... More importantly
Buck, I'm allowed, even encouraged to help families find out the truth of
what happened to their loved ones. I can hang onto a case as long as I feel
it's viable...What I'm asking, Buck, is... Would you be interested?" The
last was said in a rush. Buck was suddenly aware of the huge gulf that separated
the two of them. The loss of that wife and child had been almost too much
for a friendship, even one as close as theirs to handle.
"I'm in, Pard."
"But you don't know anything much about it!" Chris said in confusion.
"Where you lead, I'll follow," Buck declared with a laugh. "I'm just glad
that you want me to!"
+ + + + + + +
The rest of the afternoon was spent in a new corner bar, J. Watson's, just
across from the Federal building. It was new enough that neither man had
memories to associate with it. Filled with western decor, it served a wide
variety of Tex-Mex and American cuisine. Buck smiled at the pretty Latina
barkeep. Chris chuckled.
"Never find a place with a pretty woman if I want to talk to you, Buck."
"The Ladies love me. I'm irresistible," Buck laughed. The old teasing had
come back to them almost as naturally as breathing. There was still distance
between them, but it wasn't the strangling estrangement that there had been.
"I haven't recruited anyone else yet, Buck. I trust you, I know that you'll
tell me when I'm making mistakes, when my anger is out of control... It's
a hard thing I'm asking of you. If you backed out now, I wouldn't blame you,"
Chris said with some concern.
"I already told you, I'm in," Buck smirked. "Now what do we need for this
team of yours?"
"If you're in, it's OUR team."
"Okay, Our team, Damn that sounds good." Buck took a swig of his beer. Larabee
was more hesitant, and was drinking a soft drink.
"If I know you, you've kept up that ability of yours to get compromising
video tapes of people," Larabee teased, it felt foreign to his tongue, but
he kept it up. He wanted to re-connect with Buck so badly it hurt. The pain
they'd both been through had been enough to drive them to their knees. He'd
given up on life and pushed his best friend away. Buck hadn't had it any
easier, but had kept his optimism, his hope. For a moment Larabee envied
him his balance.
"I've kept up with it, Stud." Buck gave him a huge grin. "You wouldn't believe
the spy gadgets out there now!"
"I would, and you're going to get to play with most of them, just, Buck,
make damn sure that you keep it in the rules?" Larabee said. "They're going
to be watching us to see if we sink or swim and they want to sink us. There's
not as much money as there are hands wanting some. This is a big thing in
the budget. I don't want us to fail."
"Don't worry, Stud. We'll find the right people, an 'ol Buck will make sure
the Extra curricular stays outside of sight," he leered. "Bet there are a
whole bunch of new ladies to meet at the Federal building."
"Two words, Buck, Sexual Harassment." Chris found himself laughing. It felt
good, it felt right to be here with his oldest friend. Buck looked at him
like he'd canceled Christmas. "Just watch yourself, okay? It's one headache
that neither of us needs." Buck nodded solemnly. "Now, you have done surveillance
and I know you've done explosives."
"Don't do undercover real well, can do some, but well, they don't buy me
as a lot of things. Hired muscle is about the limit of it."
"We'll find an undercover agent."
"Won't be easy, Stud. The best ones are taken by the bigger agencies." Buck
pondered. "There really isn't anyone promising from the P.D. except Issacson,
but he's desperately needed."
"I will get us the best," Chris said. "Somehow."
"Okay. What else?"
"I'd like someone with computer experience, maybe someone with some psychological
background, definitely a Shooter of some kind. We need the best for what
we're going to be doing. And a medic. I'm not willing to have a team out
there waiting for medical help when it all comes down." His face closed up
as he remembered times in the SEALs without a proper medic. Buck remembered
too, and remembered why as well. Damn Johnson. But he'd paid for his mistakes,
the hard way... so Buck let it go.
"We've got four to six positions. I'm more likely to go for the full six.
Three sets of partners and a leader. I'd like some overlapping skills, but
I want to be selective about who comes on board. I want the best and am willing
to put up with some shenanigans, but I won't put up with too much."
"Don't worry, Pard. Just Glare at 'em and they'll all fall into line," Buck
teased. Chris stiffened and Wilmington wondered if he'd gone too far.
"Just so they do," Chris said after a moment. Buck laughed, Chris still knew
how to tease him.
After they finished lunch, they paid the reasonable bill and walked over
to the Rout Federal Building.
Security let them in under Chris's badge. They spent a couple of minutes
over in Personnel, getting Buck's paperwork taken care of. The pretty blonde
clerk had it all in order very quickly. If Buck's expression was anything
to go by, they'd be getting together soon. Chris sighed and Buck nudged him.
There was already a file, and he affixed his signature to the papers that
made Bucklin T. Wilmington a federal agent. Buck would have to go through
a fitness inspection, but as Judge Travis promised him, he was able to hire
They took an elevator up to the 11th floor.
An empty bullpen with dividers, still in boxes, on the floor and a sign that
read RMETF Seven were all that was there to greet them.
"Okay," Buck said. "So they haven't gotten to this yet."
"I only got back from training yesterday, Buck. Give them a little time.
The decision to base a team here, hiring me, getting me trained, that all
happened in a short week's time. Frankly, if they had everything ready to
go, I'd suspect the General was involved." Chris said with a laugh, it was
a forced laugh, an echo of the strain between Chris and his father. General
Larabee was a good man, Buck had met him once, but he hadn't come to the
funerals and Buck had had to deal with Chris's obnoxious brother, Rick. The
brother blamed Chris's job at the P.D. for Sarah and Adam's deaths. Buck
wondered if the General did as well, since he hadn't come when his son needed
him... Chris didn't seem to be very willing to discuss his relatives so Buck
put that aside. It had been too good a day to get bogged down on the past.
This was a new beginning, and Wilmington wasn't willing to let it slip away.
"Guess that's your office?" Buck asked trying to re-direct the conversation.
Chris was startled.
"At least there aren't any shelves of Toilet paper and cleaning supplies
"Huh?" Buck looked at him.
"My last 'office' was a glorified supply closet. I scared the other agents
so badly that they couldn't work if I was in the same room. That was the
best the SAC could come up with as a solution."
"Won't have that problem here. Wow! Windows!" Buck said. One whole wall of
Larabee's office was glass. It gave the disconcerting feeling that one could
fly out over Downtown Denver. Chris noted it and decided to bring in a couch
and a couple of trees. The view was not quite comfortable to him. Buck wandered
around the area, looking first in the little coffee break room, then the
empty briefing room. The bull pen was huge, allowing for Six cubicles and
an area for a receptionist. There weren't any desks or office fittings, except
the dividers, around the empty space. There were some tools left behind by
the work crew. Obviously they'd been called away to deal with something else.
Chris returned from inspecting the bathroom. He had one of his own next to
his office, but it was a privilege he wouldn't keep to himself. The other
bathroom was shared with other offices and was further away. Not wanting
his team to go trooping off every twenty minutes, he'd let them use his.
His team, here he was thinking about them, thinking like the leader he hadn't
been since the SEALs. Larabee caught Buck smiling at him. His old friend
twirled his mustache at him and motioned him down beside him. Wilmington
was putting together the various dividers.
Chris laughed, he'd been finding himself doing that a lot lately. What was
coming over him? Maybe it was the shared memories, maybe it was life.
By early evening the two men had put the room in order. There were six divided
sections but each agent had a clear view of the hallway and the center of
the bull pen. Buck had placed the dividers at what would be each agent's
"Is there anything else?" Buck asked looking around.
"Nothing else here. I'm going to check that the desks are coming soon, other
than that, We're going to have to figure it out." Chris said.
"Pard, you want some dinner?"
"Sounds good, got a place in mind?"
"How about Leonardo's?"
"I could go for a pizza. They still as good?"
"You bet! Like a dream," Buck said with a big smile.
"Leo still have his daughter working there?" Larabee raised an eyebrow.
"Now, Chris." Buck began, but seeing the expression on Chris's face they
both ended up laughing. It felt good. They went to the parking garage where
they'd left Chris's junky car.
"You need a new vehicle, Stud," Buck remarked casting a critical eye over
"Probably, I guess I need a lot of things," Chris said slowly. Buck worried
for a moment that he'd hurt his friend, bringing up things from the past.
"What do you want on your pizza?" he asked trying to break the tension.
"I think I'd like some of that sausage, if they still have it. The spicy
"They still have it." Buck smiled, Chris was back, not the same, no never
the same, but back. They were together and they'd get this team going togther...
That's where he belonged, with his partner.
+ + + + + + +
The pizzeria was crowded, the Local students were celebrating some win. Chris
found a corner table but Buck got the pizzas to go because he saw the firm
set of Larabee's jaw. Too many people for him to deal with. Chris had never
been good with crowds.
They went back to Buck's apartment. It wasn't the one that Chris remembered.
"What happened to the apartment over on Keiler?"
"Julie got married. The husband objected to a third wheel. Ended up with
this place, it's a little too big for me, two bedrooms and all the open space,
but the price is right." Buck laughed. Chris just shook his head, Buck was
constant in his affections, he just loved all women.
They ate the pizzas and watched a game on the T.V. It wasn't like old times,
the shadow of the past still hung over them, but it was okay.
Chris yawned and Buck offered him his guest room. It didn't take much persuasion
to get him to agree. Wilmington felt incredibly happy to have his friend
sleeping there. It wasn't like it had been, but the old feelings and connections
made it seem right.
Getting up in the middle of the night, Buck looked in on Chris. Larabee was
sleeping hunched up in a ball, wearing an old tee-shirt of Buck's. He could
see how much weight his friend had lost, how little he had been taking care
of himself. Guilt brought to mind the idea that he should have been looking
out for him, but reality reminded him that Chris had pushed him away....
With morning, both of them were more rested and Chris surprised Wilmington
by suggesting that they go out to the Ranch. He hadn't been taking care of
things, leaving it to the care of one of his neighbors. Chris felt that if
this was a new beginning, he needed to straighten past things out. Buck suggested
that they ought to find him a new vehicle first, feeling a little uneasy
about going out there.
They wandered a couple of car lots, looking for something that felt right.
Buck wanted him to get a truck. He was crazy about his Chevy and wouldn't
let him forget it. Finally about midday they found a Dodge Ram. It was black,
but that seemed to be Chris's color these days, Buck thought. It took a little
bit to convince him to buy it.
Wilmington was surprised that Chris had enough money to buy the thing outright.
But then again maybe he shouldn't have been. Chris hadn't spent anywhere
near what he made, living out in the boonies and using that old clunker.
He still had a large bit of money in the bank from the insurance on the last
The big black SUV suited Chris. It was large and comfortable, and Buck foresaw
a lot of 'team' rides in the future. Larabee didn't seem the type, but he
was a 'mother hen'. He'd been that way in the SEALs, so much that he'd been
called 'Mother Larabee,' though never to his face. It made Wilmington hide
a smile when he thought of how this future 'team' might react to Larabee's
overwhelming need to protect them. It was going to be interesting.
+ + + + + + +
The trip out to the old Larabee Ranch was hard for both men. Chris parked
the new vehicle at the top of the muddy road leading to the main buildings.
Buck could see him visually steeling himself to take care of what needed
to be done. Wilmington had handled most of the arrangements after the bombing,
but he hadn't realized that Chris hadn't changed them, hadn't been out since
The Ranch was deserted and empty looking. In spite of the snow, none of the
plants or trees around the house showed much life. Apparently the Wilcoxes,
Chris's neighbors, had kept an eye on the place, but not kept it up. Weather
and time had removed most of the burns on the concrete driveway, but the
shadow remained etched in both men's minds. The house itself was untouched,
the assorted piles of unused lumber from the remodeling that Chris had been
doing in the months before the explosion, still lay where he'd left them,
now warped and weathered. The empty barn showed some damage, but was still
"Looks like we've got some work to do, Pard," Buck remarked softly, uncertain
of his friend's temperament. The desolate home that was the reminder of the
lost family, was almost overwhelming to him, he couldn't imaging how Chris
was handling it.
"It needs some work." Chris finally said. "Sarah loved this place." He looked
toward the remains of his wife's flower garden. "She wouldn't be happy to
see it like this." Larabee closed his eyes against the pain.
As gently as he could, Buck asked."What do you want to do, Chris?" The last
time he'd asked this Larabee had exploded with rage, but that was then and
this was now. He was desperately hoping that this wouldn't sink his old friend
back into grief.
To his surprise, Chris had opened his eyes and was looking at the Ranch,
"Rebuild," he said finally. "I'm going to need some help."
"You've got it. Anytime," Buck said, letting go of the breath he'd been holding.
"Always, Pard, Always."