When the Past Bites

~ Yolande

Thanks to Mitzi  and Beth Baker  for their  beta reading skills and to Heather for allowing me to use the 'CDC' - Centre for Disease Control - for Buck and JD's apartment.

Story moved to Blackraptor in October 2009

Part 1: 

In the capacity of his job, working for the ATF, flying was a given.  Not that he was always at the airport, but there were times that it seemed that way. And because of the many hours he’d clocked up as a passenger, Buck Wilmington had no hang-ups about flying.  That was until now.  Although flying home had to be a better option than driving.  God forbid!  This flight though, seemed to have lasted an eternity, and his kinks, bruises and broken bones were screaming out for relief.  Everything hurt!  

Buck Wilmington stretched uncomfortably in the reclined seat of the plane.  Stiffness was a curse, but if he didn’t shift his position every so often he’d be fastened to the seat with no hope of being pried off it.   Every movement was a bleak reminder of how close he’d come to never moving again.  At least he could feel the pain – if he was dead, he’d be feeling nothing.  He lifted his backside gingerly from the padded seat and groaned involuntarily.  Buck dropped back to the hollow of the chair and grimaced as the pain sliced though his body.  He imagined his face paled marginally when the airhostess edged worriedly towards him, but he waved off her concern, giving her a plastic smile.  The limited conversation he’d held with the attendants had drawn heavily on his reserves, and he didn’t want her to think he was encouraging her.  He was in no mood to flirt. 

He’d slept for the majority of the flight, but woken feeling cramped, uncomfortable and decidedly irritable.  His only consolation was the allocation of the aisle seat, and the fact that he hadn’t had to share his seat with another passenger.  At least something was running smoothly - the flight was on schedule and he’d arrive in Denver at 7pm. 

The ATF agent mentally examined his injuries.  Every muscle was strained beyond extreme, his body was a mass of purple and yellow bruising, his left leg, broken in two places, no less, was sheathed in a green fibreglass cast from his ankle to mid thigh and three cracked ribs were slowly beginning the process of mending.  He had ten stitches above his right eyebrow and another twenty or thirty hidden under the cast on his leg – he didn’t know for certain and he’d forgotten to ask.  A portion of the cast was wrapped in a crepe bandage, holding together a small window of fibreglass cast that had been cut out, once the cast had been set, to give access for treating the wounded area.  Hence, when the stitches were removed in a week’s time, he’d be up for a replacement cast.  Oh, the Joy!  

His jaw was stiff and swollen, and his eyes were hooded and held dark shadows of exhaustion.  If only he could crawl into bed, take some painkillers and sleep until he recovered. And it’d be even better when he awoke if everything was back to normal.   But that was highly unlikely.  His carefree days were numbered and were disappearing as quickly as each progressive mile was eaten up and brought the planeload of passengers closer toward their destination. 

“Excuse me, sir?” The pretty blond air stewardess bent at the waist and smiled sympathetically at the bruised and battered traveller.  “We’ve landed…if you’d like I can arrange for some help…” She’d watched earlier when Buck boarded the plane, and had wanted to help, but was politely refused; the difficulty he had manoeuvring about on his crutches down the narrow aisle had brought out a sympathetic response in the woman.  She couldn’t help wondering how he’d come to be in this wounded state.  He seemed devastated by something and terribly distracted; truly hurting and not only from his injuries. 

Buck returned a warm smile, but shook his head.  If circumstances were different, he would have spent the entire flight chatting up the young woman and would have successfully departed with her phone number.  This time, it didn’t feel right and he’d been in no mood to do so at any rate.  There was already too much on his mind that needed serious thought.  “I can manage.  You mind if I sit here for a little while longer?  I don’t mind waiting ‘til last.” 

She nodded; knowing that going against his wishes would be seen as an affront.  “Okay, if you’re sure, but it will take several minutes.  I’ll let you know when everybody else has disembarked.  It’ll give you an easier run…” She chuckled at her use of words.  This man wasn’t going to be running anywhere for quite awhile.  When the passenger ducked his head in equal humour she released a sigh, thankful that she hadn’t inadvertently offended him.  “Do you have someone to meet you?’ 

“I’ll be fine…thanks.”  Was anyone coming to pick him up from the airport? No, he hoped not, not if he was lucky.  But he nodded his head just the same to alleviate the flight attendant of any falsely assumed responsibility she might be feeling. She drifted back down the aisle to assist the departure of her other passengers. 

Part 2:

 The crutches tapped lightly as he swung though them and slowly, and awkwardly, the agent shuffled his battered body from the terminal.  Nobody would be here to meet him, but that was of his own doing.  He’d called Chris Larabee from the hospital in Baltimore, and informed his boss and long time friend, that he would be catching a flight home to Denver on the weekend.   He had neglected to tell Chris that he was in the hospital and that he’d been hurt.  Not that any of his other friends were aware of the accident he’d been involved in, or the mental anguish he’d suffered over the past week and a half.  He’d kept it all to himself.  He grinned wryly.  His teammates would know soon enough of his physical injuries, and he hadn’t wanted to worry them needlessly.  And he couldn’t bear to face them at the airport; he needed the time and space to sort out his muddled thoughts before answering a multitude of well-intentioned questions he expected from them.  He wanted to do it on his turf and terms.  Besides, he was fine; after all, the doctors in Baltimore said so. Otherwise he wouldn’t have been released from the hospital.  

Guess he should probably make a call, sometime tomorrow, and let Chris know that he was home.  Maybe he could put it off indefinitely.  Nope, no way around it, Chris would find out soon enough.  He moaned, not relishing the thought of Larabee’s reaction.  Chris was going to be upset - understatement to the nth degree - when he discovered the condition of his friend.  Especially since he was returning from vacation and not an assignment.  Nothing was supposed to go wrong with holiday plans.  So how did this happen to him? His head drooped between his shoulders, and his eyelids were suddenly too heavy and they closed.  He sighed, weary beyond imagination.   So much for the high school reunion…not to mention Alison Lee Jeffries…Ally…Lord, how had it gone so wrong? What was he going to do?  What could he possibly do? 


OH, Shit!  What was he doing here?  He snapped his head up and twisted around awkwardly, wincing at the painful manoeuvre.  “Ezra?”  Wilmington asked hesitantly, wondering if he wasn’t starting to hallucinate.  Perhaps not - even Buck wouldn’t have imagined the deep lines of worry and scowling concern currently imbedded on the undercover agent’s face.  But why was Standish at the airport?  He hadn’t told anyone he would be arriving on this flight!  “What are you doing here?” It was a gruff query, almost angry in its bluntness. 

Ezra Standish swapped his carryon bag to his opposite hand and frowned at the taller agent.   His sharp eyes travelled over Buck’s rumpled appearance and noted the obvious injuries, and Ezra wondered what manner of wounds were hidden beneath the casual attire.  What happened? Wasn’t Wilmington supposed to be on vacation?  How had the gregarious agent been hurt?  Why hadn’t Chris, or one of the others, informed him of Buck’s accident?  He had been out of the state on assignment, but he could have managed a message to Buck without too much suspicion.  Surely Wilmington hadn’t gone through this alone?  But where were the others?   Instead of asking, Ezra guided the wrung-out agent to a row of chairs and assisted Buck while he settled into one. The crutches fell to the floor. “Have you collected your baggage?”  Standish knew this was a dumb question, considering Wilmington was carrying nothing but the crutches, but he needed to start somewhere.  Where was Chris?  Or Vin, JD, or Nathan and Josiah?  Why weren’t the others here to greet the obviously wounded man and ferry him home…or to the hospital?  The undercover agent glanced furtively about the terminal, but none of his teammates were anywhere in sight.  “Buck will you stay here, while I collect your things?” 

Wilmington stared, a puzzled frown gracing the Southerner.  How did Ezra know when his plane was landing?  How did Standish know he was on that particular flight?  He shook his head and finger-combed his moustache while attempting to get his mixed thoughts under control.  “Ezra?”  

“Yes, Buck.” Ezra grinned slightly; concerned at the bewildering look Buck was giving him. 

“Ain’t got no luggage…” 

“You don’t?” Standish frowned uncertainly. 

Buck chuckled softly.  “They lost it,” he explained. 

“Ah…Shall I see to it?”  Filling out the multitude of forms required to find lost luggage was a nightmare…they could be here for another few hours – more likely the rest of the night, and they still, no doubt, would not have recovered it. 

“Nah…I just wanna go home.” 

Standish nodded in understanding and bent to pick up the crutches from the carpeted floor.  “Shall we depart?” 

Buck took the crutches and slowly followed the Southerner to the taxi ranks.  It still bothered him that he couldn’t figure out how Ezra was at the airport at the same time as himself, but it was taking all his strength to work these blasted crutches and keep straight the assortment of aches and pains coming from his chest, leg, arms and face, he didn’t have any energy left to interrogate Ezra on why he was there.  Later, he’d find out later.  Hell, he must look like a mess!  What did Ezra see when he looked at him?  Did Standish know how confused and bewildered he was and how much he hurt inside? Could the agent see through to his soul?  Could he survive the questions he’d anticipated, and hence attempted to avoid by catching an earlier flight?  Where did he start? And what would, or could he say? Talking was not going to change a thing! 

After struggling to get Buck in the back of the cab, Ezra joined him on the seat intent on getting some answers.  He relaxed against the upholstery, a tight smile on his face, and he sighed.  Buck had slipped sideways onto the wall of the car and fallen into a dead sleep.  He’d get some answers when they reached his abode.  

Ezra had given his own address to the cabdriver, as Wilmington couldn’t come up with house keys for his apartment, and after calling to check if JD was going to be home to let them in and only getting the answering machine, Ezra thought it imperative to have Buck settled in short order.  He didn’t need to be waiting on the doorstep in his condition for his roommate to arrive home to let him in.  Ezra made a note to call JD as soon as he got Buck settled and let the younger man know where he was staying for the night.  Standish thought about taking him out to Larabee’s ranch, but the drive would be much longer than directly to Ezra’s townhouse.  And he had a spare room that Buck could use for a few days, if necessary. 


Part 3: 

“Buck…?”  Ezra gently shook the dozing agent.  He’d paid the cab fare and the driver was waiting impatiently for the two agents to get out.  “Buck,” he hissed with a little more force and impatience of his own.   

“What…?” Wilmington slurred. 

“We’re here.  Let’s get you up and inside.”  Standish opened his door and ushered Buck inside his home.  “Take a seat on the couch, while I get the guest room in order,” Ezra called out as he disappeared down the corridor to find sheets and clean towels.  He heard no reply, and accepted this as an agreement.  “I’ll make you some dinner, when I’ve finished here,” he shouted from the second bedroom.  It might only be scrounge since he’d been on assignment for the past two months and hadn’t had the time to replenish his food supplies, but he was certain Buck wouldn’t hold it against him. 

When the undercover agent returned to the living area he stopped dead in his tracks, finding Buck sprawled, more off than on, the couch and peacefully asleep.  “You must have a hell of a story to impart,” Ezra whispered softly.  He returned to the hall cupboard and pulled out another blanket.  He’d leave Buck on the couch for now; maybe get him to move later.  Ezra draped the woollen blanket over Buck’s shoulders and gently lifted his legs onto the end of the sofa.  It wouldn’t do to leave him there for the remainder of the night.  It would become awfully uncomfortable, especially with his assortment of injuries.


Part 4: 

“Larabee…” The curt reply came loud and clear through the receiver. 

“Chris…It’s Ezra…” 

“Ezra…Where’re you calling from?” 

“From my abode…I arrived…” 

Chris interrupted.  “You’re home?  Back in Denver?  Why didn’t you let someone know?  One of us could have picked you up from the airport,” he chastised.  When would Standish learn to trust them? 

“I was fortunate enough to get on an earlier flight, but didn’t get the opportunity to call before I departed New York.  I had planned on calling when we landed, but as it turned out, I ran into Buck.”   

His tone held a note of censure and Chris wondered what the hell Standish was getting at.  “Buck’s back too?  You guys come in on the same flight?”  Wasn’t he returning Saturday?  That’s what Buck had told him on Thursday when they’d caught up. 

“No.  But yes, Mr. Wilmington has indeed returned to Denver.  Might I assume you were unaware of his arrival time?” 

Chris grunted.  Why was Standish grilling him over Buck getting home from vacation a day early?  “He was supposed to be coming in on tomorrow’s flight.” He heard Standish sigh and wondered at the cause. 

Ezra shook his head.  Chris knew Buck was coming home, but why hadn’t he been with the agent?  Surely his injuries required some time as a patient in the hospital?  “He apparently obtained an earlier flight also,” Ezra drawled wearily.   

“Okay…well I guess I’ll see you guys at the ranch as planned on Sunday?” 

Ezra’s frown increased.  The idea only now forming that Chris and the others were not aware of Buck’s condition.  Why would Buck keep it a secret? 

“Ezra?  You still there?  Is something wrong?  Are you all right?” 

“I’m fine, Mr. Larabee.  But Buck’s not.” 


Standish quickly pulled the cell phone away from his ear.  Larabee shouting down the line was not welcome to his eardrums.  “Please, don’t do that again,” he reprimanded.  “It doesn’t…” 

“Shut up, Ezra!  Tell me about Buck!”

So he doesn’t know after all.  “Buck’s been hurt.  I don’t know how badly or when, but the evidence suggests that it was not a mere tug-of-war.” 

“I’ll be there in forty minutes!”  He was about to slam the handle into the cradle and cut off the connection when he realised he didn’t know where Buck was.  “Is Buck at the CDC or your place?” 

“JD wasn’t home and Buck couldn’t find his keys…he is presently languishing on my couch.” 

“Thanks.  See ya soon.”  Larabee hung up and the phone signal died. 

Ezra fumbled with the cell phone in a daze and eventually disconnected the line.  Chris didn’t know!  That more than likely also accounted for the others being unaware of Buck’s earlier arrival home and his physical injuries.  But what the hell had Wilmington been thinking?  Why hadn’t he informed anyone?  If it had been anyone else on the team who’d been injured and withheld that information, Buck would have gone ballistic.  Standish knew this as a certainty, having been on the receiving end of Buck’s tantrum more than once.  What Ezra couldn’t fathom was why Buck would resort to such subterfuge.  He’d never done so before…Buck was always upfront with the others, especially Chris.  What had the ladies’ man running scared?   

Standish slowly wandered back to the living area, his mind running full throttle with Buck’s unfamiliar behaviour.  He didn’t realise Wilmington had woken and was studying him with equal disquiet.


Part 5: 

“Was that Chris?” 

Ezra sat down on the arm of the couch.  “It was indeed.  He’s on his way.” 

Wilmington groaned, and unconsciously picked at the blanket.   

“Do you want to tell me why Chris and the others don’t know about your injuries?  Or perhaps you’d prefer to speak with Mr. Larabee when he arrives?” 

Buck grimaced.  “Wouldn’t mind something ta eat and a shower…” 

Ezra considered Buck’s request for a moment, then nodded with agreement.  He couldn’t prevent the sad sigh of disappointment.  Why would Buck want to discuss his problems with himself?  Chris was his best friend.  Buck wanted to talk with Chris.  In the back of his mind, Ezra wondered why Buck hadn’t already explained the situation to Larabee.   “I’ll see what I can rummage up.  There’s probably something useful in the pantry.” 

“Don’t go to too much trouble, Ezra,” Buck pleaded, not wanting to put the agent to any unnecessary bother.  “I ain’t all that hungry…some toast and coffee will be fine.” 



Part 6: 

Ezra wasn’t surprised to find Buck sleeping crossways on the bed, instead of in the shower as he’d requested.  The undercover agent quietly set the tray on the night table and turned softly on his heels to leave the bedroom. 


“Go back to sleep, Buck.” 

“Ezra…?  Ya got a moment?” 

Standish leaned against the doorjamb.  “There wasn’t a large selection to pick from, I’m afraid.” 

Buck glanced at the tray the Southerner had left, noticing the plate of dry crackers, a bowl of soup, and black coffee, a glass of water and some tablets – he reached for them and downed the painkillers with a gulp of water.  And for the first time in an age, the ladies’ man finally recalled something.  Standish had been on assignment before Buck had gone on vacation.  And if he weren’t mistaken, Ezra’s arrival at the airport at the same time as himself would have been purely coincidental.  Ezra had only just made it home to Denver this very evening.  “That’s fine, Ezra,” he dismissed easily.  He wasn’t hungry any more. But the painkillers were more than welcome.   He patted the mattress and Standish sat on the edge.  “When’s Chris comin’?” 

Standish rubbed the back of his neck and sighed checking his wristwatch for the time.  “He should be here in about twenty minutes.”  Ezra got to his feet and started for the door. 

“Ezra…you ever have a holiday when everything that could possibly go wrong, does?” 

The agent hesitated and speculatively arched an eyebrow.  He smiled for the first time that night, and his dimples showed in his cheeks.  “You do realise who you’re talking too, don’t you, Buck?”  As Larabee was fond of saying, Ezra seemed to have a natural affinity for attracting trouble. 

Wilmington grinned and nodded his head.  “Yeah…I forgot for a moment.” 

“Obviously you encountered more trouble than just your bags vanishing and your injuries.”  Ezra wanted so much for Buck to confide in him.  But he wouldn’t push him; it had to be Buck’s choice.  It was usually Wilmington who offered his broad shoulders to lean on and to be truthful, Ezra really couldn’t explain why he felt it necessary to offer his support, but it was about time someone did.  Buck was his friend, and closer in fact than any member of an ordinary family would be.  They were brothers, all seven of them.  And if Standish had to choose whom he was closest to, then it would have to be Buck.   

“Yeah…you could say that,” he drawled sarcastically.  There was a long awkward gap of silence where neither man knew what to say.   “You knew I was going home for my high school reunion?”  Ezra didn’t say a word, he simply nodded.  “Well, figured I’d take a couple of weeks leave…make a real vacation of it.  Had to be the worse mistake of my life,” he mumbled.  “Then again,” he shook his head and rubbed his hand over his eyes, “reckon I might have already made the biggest one seventeen years ago.”  

Oh, dear Lord!  What had he walked into?  Waiting for Chris to arrive was looking better by the minute.  He didn’t know if he knew how to handle the confession that seemed to be looming.  “Um…Buck…Do you really want to tell me this?” 

“I need to tell someone…do you mind listening?” 

“By all means.”  He casually stepped inside the room and sat down on the corner of the mattress.  He would keep an ear open for Larabee’s arrival and the other on Buck’s story. 

“I don’t know where to begin…” 

“You could explain how you broke your leg,” Standish prompted. 

“Happened a week back,” he shrugged his shoulders and grimaced.  “Car accident.” 

“Why did you withhold informing, Chris?”   

“Cuz it would have led to a whole heap of other questions,” Wilmington admitted.  Stuff he wasn’t prepared to discuss with anyone at the time, not even Chris – he’d needed the time to accept it and analyse it himself.  Even now he found it hard to talk. 

“You weren’t driving under the influence, were you?” 

“Nah.  Nothin’ like that.  But I guess I probably shouldn’t have been driving at the time.”  Seeing he’d captured the Southerner’s interest, Buck decided he might as well continue.  “Back when I was in high school, there was this real pretty little filly, and we…well, let’s just say, we were a serious item back then.  Her name was Alison Lee Jeffries, and every stud in school had their eye on her, but she didn’t want any of them…”  Buck sighed, and shifted his broken leg to a more comfortable position.  “She was smart, a hard ass thinker, but not one of those science nerds.  She got top grades in most classes, and was also on the track and field team.  It didn’t hurt that she was a good looking babe either.”  He laughed, a bitter hollow reflection of his inner turmoil. 

“Did you reunite with her at your school reunion?” Ezra asked after Buck had fallen silent. 

He threw back his head and laughed.  “Yeah.  I’d been really looking forward to catching up with her…guess some people don’t always turn out the way ya expect ‘em to.  We had a bit of a falling out just before graduation and we didn’t keep in touch.  She’d been planning on getting a medical degree back then, and she would have been good working with those patients, but ya know what she’s been doin’ for the past decade and a half, Ezra?  She’s been waitin’ tables at the local bar,” he snarled in disgust.  “She looks like an old woman of fifty instead of thirty-four, chain-smokes three packs a day and she’s livin’ in an old shoebox in a trailer park.   Her life has been one disaster after another.” 

“Sounds as though she made those choices, Buck.” 

“NO, EZRA, SHE DIDN’T!  She had no choice and it was all my fault.” 

 “Come now, Buck.  You are no more responsible for her predicament, than you are for mine.” 

“IS THAT RIGHT?” he yelled.  “WHAT THE HELL DO YOU KNOW!  I was the bastard that left her to provide for a kid on her own.  Ally didn’t have the support of good decent folks to take her in, and she couldn’t give the baby up for adoption.  She did it though, and on her own.”  He heard the slight inhalation of Ezra’s breath and angrily flipped the tray off the bedside table sending the contents flying.  He would have got up and strode out of the room if he wasn’t dependant on those damned crutches.   

“I’ve got a sixteen-year-old daughter who I’ve never known and had no say in raising.” He snorted, the tears brimming in his eyes and the mixed emotions that he been holding under straits since Alison had blithely informed him of his fatherhood status was now bubbling over.  And that brought him to the crux of the matter.  The young girl who came to visit him in the hospital, under threat from her mother, was not a lovable little toddler, but an almost grown woman with raging hormones.  She was a hoodlum on drugs, and according to her mother, she lived on the street and was out of control.  He hated to think about how she supported her addiction for drugs and alcohol.  Her appearance alone would have rattled Buck on a normal day, but coupled with the wild hairdo, various peircings in her nose, eyebrows, lip, navel and far too many to count in her lobes, and her vibrant speech, the girl was certainly a radical.  And she couldn’t, and didn’t bother to hide her contempt of her father, or Ally for that matter.  In fact, she was quite explicit about not wanting to become acquainted with Buck or having anything to do with him.  “Her name is Becky…” 

“Did you know…that Alison was carrying your child?” 

“You think I would have left her behind if I had?” Buck retorted heatedly. 

No, Buck would never have done that.  Not the Buck he had come to know in the past few years.  “Do you know for certain that the child is yours?” 

“What the hell are you implying?  Ally told me I was Becky’s father; I have no reason to doubt her!”  He slammed his fist onto the mattress and took in a deep breath; he needed to get himself under control.  “I don’t know what to do, Ezra.  She’s a junkie and roaming the streets, her mother wants nothing more to do with her and wants me to take over her responsibility, but I don’t even know her, she doesn’t like me and we don’t even live in the same state!  What am I going to do, Ezra?”  He felt so guilty.  How had so many years past without him knowing about his little girl?  Maybe he should have remained in Baltimore.  It would be much easier to work things out if they were living in the same place.  How was he going to communicate with Ally and Becky from Denver?  Ally was as stubborn as her daughter and also wanted no part of Buck Wilmington or his life.  And he had no idea where to find Becky. 

“Unfortunately I can’t answer that question for you, Buck.  How did all of this result in your car accident?” 

“Hell, it was right after the reunion, I was talking to Ally.”  Actually she was yelling at me at the top of her lungs.  Made quite a scene!  There was no two-way conversation going on between the former lovers.  “When she told me the truth, I guess I freaked out.  I took off like a maniac and wound up hugging a tree.  No one else was hurt,” he was quick to claim. 

“Why didn’t Alison come to you before now for help?  Or at least inform you of your paternity?” 

“I don’t know, Ezra.” 

“Perhaps, she’s not exactly being honest with you.  Did she show you the birth certificate?”  It wouldn’t prove a lot, but they would have a better understanding of the then teenager at the time when she gave birth. 

Wilmington glared at the Southerner.  What the hell was he insinuating?  “No, I didn’t see one,” he admitted. 

“Then how can you be certain of any relationship between you both?” 

“I can’t, Ezra!  But I can’t prove that she isn’t mine either.” 

“There are blood tests that would prove…” 

Buck’s jaw dropped, and he sat that way for a full minute, stunned.  He hadn’t even considered broaching the subject with Ally or Becky.  He’d believed Ally, because she’d said so.  He’d never considered that she could be mistaken or that she’d lie.  “I don’t need tests to prove somethin’ that has been the accepted norm for more than a decade.  That little girl grew up thinkin’ her father didn’t give a shit about her!  Hell, I only just found out about her.  If I insisted on those tests that only proves she’s right.  Not that Becky would be willing ta take part, cuz she wouldn’t, but how would I go about telling her that she has to prove herself to be part of my life.” 

“What if you’re not her biological father, Buck?  Have you considered that at all?” 

“What if I am!” Buck countered flatly. 

Ezra sighed tiredly.  What could he say to Buck?  How did he make this easier for the gregarious agent? “Do you want to get to know your daughter?”  If she was indeed a blood relation?  “It’s never to late to start.” 

“How?  How do I start, Ezra?” 

Standish shrugged.  “You could send her a plane ticket…get her to come to Denver… Everyone deserves a second chance…perhaps she’ll accept the offer.  It would be a starting point.” 

Buck silently processed this information.  Her mother didn’t want Becky around and he didn’t really want to leave his job in Denver, but he would if it became necessary.  If he could separate the teenager from her crowd, maybe he could help her start a new life…and maybe he could be part of it.  “Ya reckon she’d come?” 

“Only she could answer that.  Just a minor point, Buck…if you’re serious about getting her here…don’t send her any money…not even when she comes, as every last dime will be spent on her habit.  You’re going to be in for a rough ride, if you decide to pursue this.” 

Wilmington nodded in understanding.  Yeah.  Once he joined the roller-coaster ride there’d be no getting off.  He’d be in it for the long haul.  

Standish slowly retreated from the room, only remembering at the last moment that he hadn’t addressed Buck’s neglect of informing the others about his accident.  He turned back, hovering in the doorway.  “Buck?” 

“Yeah?” Wilmington rolled awkwardly over onto his back. 

“You should have told, Chris…or one of the guys.  They wouldn’t have minded flying to Baltimore.” 

Wilmington sighed.  “It weren’t that simple.” 

“It never is,” Ezra replied.  “But the guys are going to be upset, and rightly so, that you didn’t feel it necessary to involve them.  I could repeat, word for word, your last speech directed at myself when I came home similarly wounded, but I’m certain that you know that one and will do a much better job rehashing over the finer points while we await Mr. Larabee’s arrival,” Standish grinned smugly.  Buck groaned and his shoulders slumped.  “I’m suspecting that you’ve already begun the journey down that trail?” 

“With everything going on...it was just too hard to tell it over the phone…” 

“I can identify with that.”  He hoped the others would too.   

“Ezra…when Chris arrives, ya mind not tellin’ him about Ally and Becky.”  Seeing the agent’s eyebrows arch he smiled wryly.  “I’m gonna take a nap now, but I’d like to be the one to tell Chris…he deserves ta hear it from me.” 

“I understand perfectly and shall abide by your wishes.”  Ezra glanced at the upturned tray and spilt dinner.  “Is there anything else I can get you?” 

Wilmington grimaced guiltily at the mess he’d created.  “Coffee and eggs for breakfast?” he asked glibly. 

Standish returned the grin and nodded at the silent apology being sent his way.  “Night, Buck.” 

“Thanks for listening, Ezra.” 

 the end...or not?

Hope you enjoyed reading...If you have any comments you'd like to share with me, please don't hesitate to drop me a line.  Thanks.