A Fishing Trip by LT

"RNLI" Alternate Universe

Disclaimer: The Seven are not mine, never were, never will be. I treat them rough but always patch them up. Not making even a dime off of them.

Special thanks to Katy for the AU and for all the help so that the story remains British and the crew remains part of the RNLI. Couldn't have done it without you, Pal.

Author's Note: I have taken some liberties with the medical aspects of this story. Generally these types of head injuries don't come on this fast so please forgive me.

Notes: This story could not have been written without KT's help and encouragement, plus she started this wonderful playpen for the guys. She and I did the beta job so all the mistakes are mine.

Characters: Buck and Josiah with the others joining in.

Part One
Father Josiah Sanchez ambled into the Lifeboat Inn and smiled graciously at the beautiful Hispanic woman who was serving lunch to a couple of tourists. He shifted his gaze and found the man he had come to the pub to talk to. The priest made his way to the bar and stuck his hand out. It was grabbed warmly and firmly by the inn's owner.

"Josiah, what can I get you to eat? I swear, Inez outdid herself today. The steak and kidney pie is wonderful." Buck finished wiping down the bar and then turned his full attention to his old friend and crew mate.

"I have come to propose a little fishing trip to you. A parishioner of mine just got a new fishing boat and has offered it to me next Saturday." He leaned over the bar conspiratorially. "The mackerel should still be running."

"Well now, you know how I love to go mackerel fishing but I have a game and then work to do on Saturday night. I can't just up and leave my pub on a busy night." His tone spoke louder than his words when he declined. "I really would love to go but I can't. Sorry Josiah."

Inez, moving to the bar to get condiments for her customers, had overheard her boss. He was far more than just her boss but only Josiah knew how much she loved him. It was better that way, she had convinced herself and him. Since she couldn't care for Buck the way she would have liked, this seemed an opportunity to treat him. The man loved many people and many things, including his inn, his rugby, and well, his time with women. However, he also loved fishing and he didn't get the chance to do it that often.

"Buck, I believe that for one Saturday, we could get along without you. It is September and the tourists have slowed down. Gloria, JD, and myself can handle things until you get back. You can't be gone all night, you can't fish in the dark" Cocking her head to the side, she smiled that special smile that he found so hard to resist.

Thinking it over for a minute, the tall publican inquired, "Are you sure you want to handle everything by yourself? I could ask Vin to come and help out. He's had enough free meals here."

"Yes, I am sure. Casey will probably be here to lend a hand also. Tell Father Sanchez you will go with him." She put her hands on her hips. Matters were settled in her mind.

It took Buck a few seconds longer. He smiled and kissed Inez on her cheek. "Thank you, Darlin'." Turning back to Josiah, the smile still plastered on his face, he changed his answer. "I would love to go with you. Wait, don't you have a sermon to preach on Saturday?"

"Already took care of that. I'll do the five o'clock service and Father Connery will take confession. Mackerel don't bite best until about sundown anyway, so you even have time to celebrate some before we go."

He had worked the whole thing out with his curate before accepting John Cooley's offer of the boat. Evidently, the car dealer thought that by offering the town priest his new boat, he could skate on a few confessions. Josiah loved to go out late in the afternoon and fish with his good friend. He could see right through Cooley's motive with the boat and figured it would do the man good to see that bribes wouldn't work on God.

"Well, can't say yet that there will be much celebrating but we sure are going to try. Bosliven moved up just like we did and they figure that we are their best chance for a win. So even though its only the second match of the season, they'll be out for blood." Buck glanced over at the framed photo that hung behind the bar. It was of the whole rugby team right after they had won the title last year. That was the reason why, even though they were a small town, they had moved up in divisions to play the larger towns. Buck didn't figure that they would do quite as well this year but it was an honor to be recognized that way.

Josiah shook his head and grinned. "I have every faith in you, Ezra, and the rest of the team. You will be victorious," he declared. And then he added, "But just in case, I'll light a candle and send a few prayers up His way. Should swing the luck in our favor."

Buck laughed out loud, a rich baritone sound that carried throughout the inn. "I guess I better stock up on the stout then if I'm going to be throwing a victory party. Can't wait until Saturday."

"I'll be there for the start of the game to get you off on the right foot. Meet me at the fish dock at, say six?"

"I'll be there. Might even talk Inez into packing us a hamper with some of her famous cheese and pickle sandwiches so we don't starve. Thanks Josiah."

+ + + + + + +

Saturday turned out to be sunny and warm, a perfect "indian summer" day. Buck made sure all of his fishing gear was checked and placed by the rear door so he could quickly grab it when it came time to head down to the fish dock. Inez was willing to fill a hamper with all of his favorites, marmite and salmon paste sandwiches, cold sausages, cherry tomatoes, onion bhajis, crisps, fresh strawberries and her special Spanish olives in her secret dressing. Gloria and Vin were going to help out during the supper crowd and Casey, JD's girlfriend, was even going to do some of the dirty work in the kitchen. All of his friends had only been too glad to pitch in so he could get in one last trip this season, out on the sea, to catch mackerel.

The big brunette gathered his rugby gear together, packing it carefully into his duffle. All the safety gear went in first, followed by his trademark red gum shield. On top, he laid his black shorts and then his neatly pressed navy and red hooped shirt and matching socks. Picking up his boots, duffle in hand, he headed downstairs.

"You coming with me, boy?" he called out to his boarder, JD. The young man had quickly wormed his way into Buck's heart and home when he moved to Four Corners shortly after his mother died. The teen turned and smiled at his `big brother'.

"Nah, I'm going to go pick up Casey out at the stables but she can't get off until all the horses are back in and put away. We might be a little late but we'll be there. Good luck, not that you guys need it."

"Thanks JD. I gotta get going so I'll see you later." He headed through the kitchen to the backdoor, stopping to say farewell to the fiery Hispanic woman that was in the middle of the lunch time rush.

"Le deseamo una tener cuidado, novio. Mucha suerte." Inez wiped a strand of dark hair out of her eyes with her elbow, her hands busy wrapping burritos.

"Well, I'm going to guess you wished me good luck and be careful. I will, mi amado, promise. See you around four thirty." With that, he was out the door, his mind on the rugby match.

+ + + + + + +

Steering the yellow Volvo into a parking spot near the clubhouse, Buck noticed that Ezra was already there. He remembered a time when Standish got to the field just in time to play and left immediately after the match. How times had changed. The scrum half was an integral part of the team and his life now, being one of his best friends and a crew mate on the lifeboat. He gathered his stuff together and made his way into the clubhouse. He waved hello to a few people before he entered the locker room.

"Hey, Ez, are you all ready for the match?" he asked, spotting the smaller man tying up his boots. The two of them, working together, had taken the team forward in leaps and bounds with innovative new strategy and a fierce determination.

Standish looked up and scowled. However, his eyes gleamed with pride and warmth upon seeing his pal. "Ezra, my name is Ezra, Mr. Wilmington. After all these months and adventures together, I would assume that you were acquainted with that fact."

Buck just laughed and began to strip. He soon had on the navy and red jersey that he wore with great pride. He took his time putting on his socks and boots. When he was finished, he checked how he looked in the mirror and found he looked pretty sharp. He was ready to play.

He turned around and joined the nineteen other team members as they gathered around, linking arms, heads pressing against each other. Buck, being the captain of the team, went over the strategy for the game.

Before they broke the huddle, Buck incited them with, "We play hard all day long and smash the bastards. Now, who wants it!?" Each player yelled "Me!" and then began to grunt and bark as they exited the locker room. Finally, they made their way out to the pitch.

Since Four Corners won the toss of the coin, Buck chose to go on defense first and they kicked off. The contest was a tight match with both teams finding it hard to move the ball consistently. Towards the end of the first half, one of the forwards for Bosliven was shouldered near the touch line and was called in touch. Buck lined up with Gabe Lennon for the line out as Paul Rostock prepared for the throw in.

Behind him, Buck could hear Ezra softly call his name. Without turning his head, he nodded, letting the scrum half know that he was listening. Paul called, "67, right?" Buck nodded again, it was all he had to do, confident Ezra knew what to do.

Paul got off a marvelous toss, and Buck, lifted high by his teammates, caught it clean, and passed it to Ezra before he was back on the ground. Instantly the rest of the line out moved behind Ezra, a rolling maul then pushed them ahead until Ezra passed it clean to Buck. With the majority of the opposition trying to hold back the maul, Buck suddenly had space in front of him. Trusting his teammates, Buck ran straight towards the try line, passing the ball to Rory Nilson when the last two defenders converged on him. Rory touched the ball down over the line for a five point try. Rupert Montgomery, their best kicker, added another two points with a conversion after. Four Corners went into the half ahead 17-13.

The second half was even tougher. Four Corners managed to stay ahead with some nifty running by Ezra and a sensational drop kick goal by Lennon with two minutes left in the game. All they had to do was stop Bosliven from scoring a try.

Buck positioned himself in the middle of the field. He could hear the fans cheering them on. He was pumped up, high on adrenalin, when the ball got knocked free from the Bosliven center. Buck dove for the ball at the same time the opponent's #8 kicked wildly at it. He never came near the ball but he made solid contact with the right side of Buck's head. Buck retained his hold on two things: the ball and his consciousness. A whistle blew and a referee came running up.

"Infraction, number 8, red, failure to release the ball! Scrummage right here." The referee grabbed the ball from a woozy Wilmington, who then pulled himself up and tried to shake off the instant pounding in his skull. As both teams settled in for a scrum, Buck took his place at the back of the pack, Bosliven getting to put the ball in. The front row pushed it back, it came out clean to the scrum half, who tried to dodge around the blind side. In their desperation to score as the clock ticked down, Bosliven lost cohesion and somehow the ball ended up in the hands of their blind side flanker. The flanker, not a clever chap, was stunned when control of the ball and the game came to him. He began to run but not convincingly. As teammates from Four Corners formed a marauding charge towards him, he passed the ball to his right wing. Sly Delany was quick and he knew how to play the game. With only twenty seconds to go, he was well aware that he had to get over the try line. Down the touch line he raced. He could see the opening and he squirted through. Now he was in the open and running for the win.

Buck saw who had the ball and just where he was headed. With all the intensity that he had left, he lengthened his stride and launched himself. His arms wrapped around Sly's calves and down the wing man went, his right heel coming up and catching the big man from Four Corners just below his eye. Stretching his arms out, the ball came up two yards short of the try line. The game ended with Four Corners winning 31 to 27.

+ + + + + + +

As the jubilant players from Four Corners made there way into the clubhouse, Dr. Nathan Jackson shoved his way through the pack to get a close look at the tall hero of the day. He had been right on the touch line and had witnessed the tackle Buck made at the end of the game. Nathan had cringed when he not only saw but heard Sly's cleated boot hit Buck's cheekbone, just below his right eye. Amidst the hoopla following the game, Nathan hadn't gotten a chance to examine the damage that certainly was done. Finally arriving at Buck's side, Nathan grabbed his arm. Being as tall as Buck, the doctor got a good look when the man turned to see who had stopped his progress. The cut was small, barely bleeding by this time, and Nathan figured a few butterfly bandages would keep it closed. The eye was already swelling shut and the puffiness below the eye was a light purple, sure to turn almost black by morning.

"It's nothing, Nathan. I'll have a black eye to show for my match saving play, that's all. I can't believe I caught him! Did you see me?" Buck was on such a high that nothing was going to bring him down, not the pounding in his head, and not the blurred vision in his right eye. He was sure both problems would be gone by morning. He was having way too much fun right now for the doctor to spoil it.

Nathan smiled despite the seriousness of the injury. Of course, his good friend wouldn't be feeling the pain that would accompany the contusion for at least an hour, probably more. "Before you run off to celebrate, shower and then let me put a couple of bandages on that cut. No stitches this time."

Buck thought it over for a few seconds and then nodded. "I'll come to your office when I'm dressed. Man, I still can't believe I caught Sly Delany!"

Fifteen minutes later, Nathan was putting the final butterfly bandage on Buck cheek. The whole team was heading for the Lifeboat Inn and Buck was anxious to be on his way. Nathan, however, had one last reminder for him. "If you start to feel dizzy, nauseous, or any of the other symptoms you've had before with a concussion, you come to see me right away. You might have a little blurred vision out of that eye but it should clear up in a few days. If it gets really bad, we'll have to get you to an optometrist."

"Okay, I got it Mom. Now, I have a party to host and some fish to catch. I'm meeting Josiah to go mackerel fishing a little later. This day couldn't get any better," he declared as he rushed out the door.

+ + + + + + +

The celebration was in full swing when he finally arrived back at his pub. Both teams were there, drinking together, toasting one another. When Buck walked in, Sly Delany greeted him and had a tall glass of stout in his hand before the victor could get behind his own bar. He thanked the man from Bosliven and proceeded to buy him a drink.

Not much food was being ordered and Inez found that she had time to work her way through the crowd and find her boss. She grimaced when she saw the swollen, blackened eye but she was used to him coming back from his rugby matches a little worse for the wear.

"I hear you were the big hero once again. You must be feeling very proud right now. Let me get you some ice for that eye though as tomorrow, you won't be feeling quite so grand." She made to leave but he caught her by the arm.

Lifting Inez high in the air, he grinned at her ill at ease expression. "I'm fine. And I don't really care if I have a black eye tomorrow. I ran down one of the fastest men in the league!"

"And you are feeling no pain. How many glasses of stout have you had?" Inez didn't like the look in her friend's eye, the one that wasn't swollen. Buck rarely drank more than one or two drinks, especially when he was hosting the party. Plus, he was leaving soon to go fishing with the priest. Something didn't seem right!

Buck set her down and stumbled as he let her go. He was terribly dizzy and light headed but he knew for certain that the problem had nothing to do with the amount of alcohol he had consumed. He reached out a hand and steadied himself on a chair that was beside him.

"Are you alright?" The beautiful woman asked worriedly.

The room stopped spinning and the tall publican put a gentle hand on her shoulder. "I'm fine. And I promise, no more alcohol. I need to go upstairs for a moment and then I'm going to grab my gear and your basket of food and meet Josiah for a quiet time out on the water." He stayed that way until she nodded and then he made his way to the stairs behind the bar. He barely made it to the bathroom before he vomited the one glass of stout that he had consumed. He figured the kick to the side of his head had probably given him a minor concussion and, having experienced the same affliction before, knew there was nothing he could do but take an aspirin or two. Maybe three. When he got the medication down, he straightened and gathered himself. Fishing with Josiah would be just fine. No loud noise, no alcohol, and no Dr. Jackson to contend with.

Making his way back downstairs, he snuck out through the kitchen and walked down to the fish dock with all his gear.

Part Two

Looking out at the passing coastline, Buck inquired of his friend, "Where are we going? This isn't the way to our usual spot."

Josiah turned slightly to face Buck. The tall publican wasn't acting like himself today. It was rare that they could be traveling for half an hour before Buck noticed where they were. Maybe he'd had a little too much to drink at their celebratory party following the big win. It was obvious that the man had taken a blow to the head as his eye was swollen three quarters shut and the cut below the eye had been attended to by Nathan, of that Josiah was sure. Perhaps Buck had a bit of a concussion to go along with the black eye.

"When John gave me the boat to use, he also told me about a little cove where he and some of his friends have been reeling in mackerel this whole last week. I'd never been this way, never been near this cove so I thought we might try it out. Are you feeling all right, Buck?"

"I'm having a little trouble seeing is all. Otherwise, I'm fine." Buck turned his head to search the coastline again. He had been this way, he was sure of it but his memory didn't seem to want to cooperate. It really didn't matter, he supposed, where they did their fishing as long as they were together, catching fish, and being quiet. The noise of the engine was making his headache feel like a gigantic vise was slowly screwing tighter and tighter against his skull. His face was throbbing where Sly had kicked him. He felt nauseous but there was nothing in his stomach to lose. He was literally counting the minutes until Josiah found the cove that held all the mackerel.

The priest didn't believe his friend as `I'm fine' was the common terminology amongst their crew when someone was injured but didn't want to admit it. He had used the saying himself on several occasions. Seeing that Buck wasn't going to say anything else, he turned his attention to the water ahead of him and his mission of finding the cove.

Ten minutes later, Josiah slowed and steered the fishing boat into the pretty little cove that neither of them had fished in before. They dropped anchor and set about getting their fishing gear ready to cast their lines into the water. Josiah had his line in several minutes before Buck but he knew better than to offer the tall man any assistance. Sanchez watched as the ladies man fumbled with placing the bait on the hook, his hands trembling slightly. The priest breathed a sigh of relief when Buck finally got his line in the calm water.

For an hour, they pulled in fish after fish and both men forgot about just how bad Buck was feeling. The sun was low on the horizon when Josiah pulled in yet one more fish. He then stopped to admire the colors decorating the horizon brought on by the approaching sunset.

"What do you say we take a break and enjoy the treats that Inez has prepared for us?" Buck had told him all about the luscious food that the fiery Mexican had made for their fishing excursion and ever since, he had been looking forward to eating almost as much as he had to catching fish.

Without a word, Buck slowly reeled in his line and stowed away his pole. He was not looking forward to pulling out the victuals! His stomach had been roiling and getting more and more nauseous as the minutes passed. He was pretty sure that whatever he tried to swallow, would be coming right back up. His headache was beyond throbbing, the whole right side of his skull pounded with every beat of his heart. The low sun reflecting off the water stabbed at his eyes and added a shooting pain from between his eyebrows right to the back of his skull. He wasn't about to let the priest know just how horrible he was feeling however. It just wasn't his way. He pulled the basket out from under the seat and opened it up. The ambrosial scents emanating from the food drew Josiah over just as Buck staggered away from the basket. Facing the water, the brunet placed his hands on the side of the boat, fighting the urge to vomit.

Feeling a hand on his back, he turned a pale face towards his friend. He was confronted by a knowing look in the gray eyes and a slight smile on the kind lips.

"Let's head on back and get you over to Nathan's." Josiah waited for the weak nod and then nodded himself. He took a step toward the rear of the boat to pull up the anchor but was stopped by a hand gripping his arm.

"I'm not a cripple. Go start the engine, I'll get the anchor pulled up," declared a determined brunet.

The big priest saw that his friend was bent on assisting, so he headed for the wheel and got ready to turn the engine over. He stopped en route and was busy putting the food away and didn't see the publican drop the anchor rope on his first attempt. Finishing with the food, Josiah turned the key and the motor caught, the prop churning before Buck got the anchor up. The boat moved forward slowly and when Buck pulled on the rope again, the anchor came up at an angle, advancing through the water. The rope suddenly jerked and ripped out of Buck's large hands. Before he could yell for Josiah to cut the engine, the prop caught and stopped. They were dead in the water.

"What did we hit?" Josiah called as he turned off the engine and made his way to where Buck stood, looking down into the water.

Feeling the fool, Buck shook his head. "We didn't hit anything. The anchor got caught up in something. How about you pull and I'll try to see what we're snagged on."

Josiah pulled on the anchor rope but it was slack. "It's not the anchor. Something is caught up in the prop."

"Yeah, I see it," Buck said from his position at the back of the boat where he was hanging as far over as he could. "It's a lobster pot, I can make out the buoy now. Sorry I didn't see it before we started up. It must have been just below the water. The line holding the buoy has fouled the prop, it'll have to be cut." He straightened up and pulled his extremely sharp pocket knife out, unfolding the blade in quick fashion. Before Josiah could say anything, Buck was leaning over the rear of the boat once again.

"Buck, looks like that rope's wound pretty tight, it's not going to be so easy to cut, not at this angle."

"Gotta try something or we'll be laughing stocks back home. You wanna call the guys to come rescue us?"

Buck hooked his right foot under the bench seat that ran along the rear of the boat and angled his body downward until his hair was almost scraping the water. Pulling on the rope with his left hand, he hacked at the rope where it was wound tightly around the prop. With his head down by the engine, his headache suddenly increased tenfold. His vision, which was already hampered by the swollen eyelid, tunneled down to a narrow pipeline of light. His stomach lurched and vertigo attacked his balance. On the fifth swing of his arm, he felt himself blacking out and his foot slid. The foot came loose and Buck pitched back over the hull. As he fell, the knife came off the rope and sliced cleanly through his left wrist, about four inches above his hand. The blade went deep and blood flowed rapidly out of the artery that was severed. Buck fell into the cold water and unconsciousness overtook him.

Part Three


As he yelled his friend's name, Josiah jumped into the water. He instinctively knew that something was seriously wrong with Wilmington and he had to get to the man, to aid him in his struggle in the water. When he reached Buck, Josiah found him face down, unconscious. He immediately reached around him and flipped him over, bringing his face out of the sea water. Josiah grabbed the motor of the boat with one hand and with the other, got Buck's head near his. He maneuvered around and got his mouth over his friend's, breathing life giving air into his lungs. Again and again he blew his breath into Buck's lungs but there was no response from the big man.

Taking a few seconds to access the situation, Josiah begged his companion to cooperate. "Come on, Buck. You've got to start breathing! I can't do this and get you out of the water at the same time. Please, Buck, just show me you can take a breath and we'll get back on the boat and get you some help." The body beside him remained still.

Josiah tried to remain calm but he really didn't know what else to do. He couldn't keep up the mouth to mouth resuscitation and get Buck back up on the boat. He wasn't sure he could hoist the man up onto the boat by himself anyway but that would come later. For now, all he had to do was keep his good friend alive. He pulled Buck's head back a little further and blew another breath into his lungs. A small cough came from the brunet and the priest sent a silent `thank you' up to the Lord above. Josiah turned Buck so that his head was resting on his shoulder.

"Buck, open your eyes for me. Come on, big guy, I need to see that you're with me here." He held his breath until he saw the eyelids twitch and then slowly open. There was definite confusion in the dark blue eyes that blinked at him.

"Jo...Josiah?" Buck mumbled dully, not sounding anything like the demonstrative publican.

Hugging the body closer, Josiah smiled. "Right here, buddy. Hold on and I'll figure out how to get us back on the boat. You think maybe you can help out? Can you hold onto me while I work us around to the side portal?"

"Wha'? Why are we in the water? Josiah, what happened?" The tone became frightened, Buck suddenly grasping for the priest's flannel shirt. As both hands came up, his body swung around to face the gray haired man. For the first time since they entered the water, Buck was awake and face to face with his rescuer.

Josiah almost gasped when the setting sun shone on Buck's face and highlighted just how pale his friend had become. Gone was the healthy, tanned complexion of the man who was remarkably fit and well- kept. The skin tone was almost ashen grey. Trying to stay calm, he reached up and grabbed Buck's left forearm. A grunt of pain came from the man in front of him and he looked for the first time at his friend's wrist. Even in the sea water, Josiah could see red stains running down and away from the appendage.

"What happened to your arm? How bad did you cut it?" Josiah let go of the boat and, treading water, used both hands to investigate the wound. Pulling up Buck's shirt sleeve, he saw the long bone deep gash and the blood that flowed out of it.

Buck stared at his arm, as if realizing for the first time that he was seriously injured. He stopped struggling with Josiah and commenced sinking in the water, stunned by the blood and pain which seemed to make itself known with a vengeance.

Promptly clutching the injured man, Josiah pleaded with the Lord above. "God, help me save this good man. I don't know if I can do it by myself and he surely deserves to be saved." With that, Josiah reached out, pulled Buck to him, and held on with all his might with just one arm. With the other, he grabbed the top of the hull and slowly worked his way around the boat, determined to reach the gate in the railing near the steering wheel which was up adjacent to the bow. He actually moved fairly fast but to Josiah, it seemed like the short journey took hours. Finally, he was there.

"Buck, you have to hold onto the boat yourself. I can't hold you and get the gate open at the same time. Wilmington, do you hear me?" he barked at the injured man.

The brunet was getting weaker by the minute but he heard the command in the gentle man's voice. He had to do his part, he couldn't continue to make Josiah do all the work. Gathering all the strength he could muster, Buck nodded and grabbed the edge of the boat with his right hand.

He watched as the priest jockeyed himself around so that his feet were on the very edge of the boat and his left hand was holding on to the railing. With a mighty lunge, Josiah launched himself as far out of the water as he possibly could and managed to grab the top of the railing with his right hand.

"YES!" he yelled as he pulled himself up, his feet catching ahold to assist his arms in getting him up onto the boat, pushing the gate open as he landed inside the confines of the borrowed fishing boat. It was the first thing that had gone right so far.

Quickly, he spun around and dropped down so that his stomach was flat on the deck. He hooked his feet under the seat by the wheel and reached out to his friend. "Come on, Buck. You just have to get about four foot and I can reach you. Do it, Buck, work your way over to me!"

Very slowly, the injured man inched his way towards Josiah's outstretched arms. When their hands touched, the priest grabbed on hard and pulled with all his might. Buck tried to use his feet to aid the rescue effort and eventually, Josiah pulled all six foot four inches of him onto the deck.

Jumping up, Josiah ran for the first aid kit. It wasn't as fully stocked as the ones that Nathan had provided for the crew members of the St. Nicholas but it did have a large ambulance dressing and a crape bandage. Grabbing the dressing, he ripped open the packaging with his teeth. Quickly, he placed the thick pad over the sliced arm, tied the attached bandage around it as tightly as he could, and then wound the crape on top, to add to the pressure. He then moved Buck around so he could rest his friends ankles on the rail, keeping his feet higher than his heart would help alleviate the symptoms of shock. Taking a deep breath, he stopped to think. The man was laying quietly on the deck, his breathing shallow and fast, his complexion grey. He needed to apply pressure to the wound, but right now the best thing he could do was radio for help and pray to God that medical assistance got to them quickly.

Josiah picked up the microphone and switched on the emergency radio. He made sure it was switched to the proper frequency and then he squeezed the button. "Mayday, mayday, mayday! Medical emergency! Mayday, mayday, mayday!" He waited for an answer that he was sure would be coming very soon. When the Coast Guard didn't respond right away, he tried again and then a third time. He checked to make sure the radio was working, which it seemed to be. He checked the frequency, it was on the right channel. He tried one more time with negative results.

"Damn! The cliffs have got to be blocking our signal." He felt in his pocket and pulled out his cell phone. Removing it, he watched as water poured out of the small device. The thing was dead. He checked Buck's pockets and found that his cell phone was in the same shape. Slamming his hand down on the control panel, he tried to figure out what to do next. And then he thought of the abbey. He quickly dialed to the monks' emergency channel and keyed the mic once again.

"Father Sanchez calling Saint Just Abbey. Father Sanchez calling the Saint Just Abbey, I have a medical emergency and need a relay." Holding his breath, he waited for an answering call.

"Father Sanchez, this is Brother Benjamin. How can we be of assistance?" The answer came loud and clear and Josiah looked towards the heavens and once again thanked God.

"Brother, I'm in a fishing boat that is stranded. Buck Wilmington is with me and he is very seriously injured. He cut his arm and has lost a lot of blood. We need the helicopter from Culdrose." He waited to make sure the monk got all the information before he went on.

"My goodness, Father, I'll call the Coast Guard right away. What is your exact location?" Brother Benjamin was ready to write down the position of the marooned fishing boat. He was a big fan of the large gentle cleric and he would gladly do anything he could to help an injured man.

"We are in a small cove about three miles north of Grayson Cove. Thatcher Isle is just off to the east. The Brie's farm is not far from us. Can you call all of this in for us?"

"Oh yes, of course, Father. I'll call you right back." And then there was silence.

Josiah thought he had never heard such silence in all his life. Buck was never still and mute but he lay on the boat deck, motionless, wan, lifeless. The waves had ceased crashing against the rocky shore. Even the air, normally alive with the cries of the ocean birds, seemed exanimate. Without realizing it, Josiah was holding his breath.

"Father Sanchez, this is Brother Benjamin calling. Are you still there, Father?" The radio sprang to life.

Immediately, Josiah was back at the radio. "Yes, Brother, I'm here. Are they sending the helicopter?"

"No, it's out picking up a cardiac patient. They advised that they would send the lifeboat. I'll listen for the St. Nicholas and as soon as I hear them on the radio advising that they are en route I will ask them to contact you directly. How is Mr. Wilmington doing?"

"He seems to be holding his own right now but he's still bleeding. I'm going to have to apply a tourniquet if it doesn't stop soon. I appreciate all your assistance, Brother Benjamin."

Part Four


The local parish priest turned away from the radio which he had been staring at and moved to kneel beside his good friend, lifting Buck's injured arm as high as he could and pinching the pressure point in his elbow. "Hey there. How are you doing?"

"I've been better. Has the bleeding stopped?" Buck opened his good eye and looked right at the religious man who had come to mean a lot to him. Buck had been raised solely by his mum, who was a prostitute, and thus he didn't spend much time in a church. During his time in the Navy though, he had gone to Sunday services and he had read the Bible just to get to know what some of his friends believed in and because he'd always enjoyed singing hymns in school. It wasn't until Sarah and Adam Larabee died, however, that he had sought solace with the Lord. Even though he wasn't a Catholic, Josiah had been there for him and had gotten him through some rough times. He had never told anyone but it was Father Sanchez that had kept him from giving up on Chris during the darkest of his best friend's binges.

Looking at the blood soaked bandages, Josiah shook his head. "Not completely. Chris and the others will be here soon. I'm sure Nathan will be able to do a lot more for you than I can."

"Josiah, I have to tell you." And then he stopped.

The grey-haired man leaned down, his face only a foot above the ashen face of his friend. "What is it, Buck?"

"What day is it? I need to get back. We better start back Josiah, I have to help Inez get set to open for the evening crowd. It was fun though, wasn't it?" Buck suddenly started to push himself up but was held in place by a bewildered companion. "Is Chris at the wheel?" "Buck, look at me. How badly did you get kicked during the game today? You have a swollen eye and a small cut, do you have a headache as well?"

"What? We had a call out today, mate. Steven and I had to lift that humongous man over to you and Chris, remember. He was in that dinghy. Father, it's getting dark. Is a storm coming in?" Buck stilled and his eye closed.

Josiah didn't know if Buck was resting or unconscious but he surely was confused. Steven had been gone for over a year now. The only reason that he could think of for this kind of delirium was a head injury and his friend didn't need any more complications right now.

"St. Nicholas to Father Sanchez. Josiah, are you out there?" Chris' voice coming through the radio was a blessing and Josiah moved quickly to answer.

Pressing the button, Josiah answered the call. "Chris, its so good to hear you. I sure hope that Nathan is with you. Buck isn't good. He sliced his wrist and it's still bleeding. Nathan may have to put a tourniquet on his arm. I think he also has a concussion, he's in and out of consciousness and he's very confused now."

There was a very long pause on the other end. "Nathan couldn't make the call. Art Penellum had a stroke and he went with Annie and Art to the hospital. Eric Keskeys is with us and he's a very good medic, Josiah. We're just leaving the harbor, we'll get to you as quick as we can. Call us if anything changes, you hear me?"

"Okay, Chris. Tell Vin to push the engines. I don't have much on this boat to help him if he gets any worse."

"Understood. Take care of him, Josiah."

The sound of puking got the priest's attention and he left the radio to go comfort his friend as best as he could. Touching Buck's cheek, he felt how cold the man was. He took off his outer shirt and draped it over the prone man but with everything both of them were wearing being wet, it probably wasn't going to help much.

"Thanks Chris," Buck mumbled. He tried to raise his right hand but by the time he got it eight inches off the deck, his whole arm began to spasm and it fell feebly back to his side. "I can't Nate, I can't. Leave me along. Help the others."

Sitting down by the publican's head, Josiah pulled Buck's head up onto his lap and ran his hand softly over his friend's forehead and wet hair. "Help is on the way Buck. Chris and the others are coming and we'll get you to the hospital. You're going to be just fine."

He wasn't sure he believed, looking down at the shivering, pale body. "Lord, get them here as soon as you can."

+ + + + + + +

"Father Sanchez, this is Eric Keskeys. We are just passing Grayson Cove. We should be at your location in about twelve minutes. Can you give me an update?" Eric had only been an alternate on the lifeboat crew for two months. His qualifications were two years in medical school and three years as a paramedic in London but he longed to be back home in Cornwall. He loved being back on his parents' farm and he really enjoyed the few call outs that he had gotten a chance to go on. Dr. Jackson was the first choice to go, he understood that. He also understood that the good doctor was a very busy man and that the St. Nicholas needed someone with advanced medical training when it went out to save people stranded at sea. It was an adrenaline rush usually. This time, however, the injured was one of their own.

It took several minutes for the parish priest to get back to him. "St. Nicholas, this is Father Sanchez. Buck was just suffering a seizure. He's not coherent at all now and his blackouts seem to be getting longer. The wound on his arm is still bleeding although I've been applying pressure to the pressure point near his elbow. Over"

The three men in the cabin of the Severn Class Lifeboat all took in ragged breaths. They had hoped to hear that the bleeding had stopped and that their good friend was awake and doing better. They all knew that was asking for a miracle; Josiah was well up on his first aid skills and Nathan had add to their knowledge. He wouldn't have exaggerated Buck condition to them. But to hear the disheartened voice come through the airwaves with the bad news literally made each of them sick at heart.

"Chris, how long now? I know Vin has the engines on full power but Buck needs aid now." Young JD couldn't believe that the fishing trip both he and Inez had thought would be such a treat for Buck had turned into a nightmare. And now, Nathan wasn't even with them to take care of Buck's medical problems.

"Just a couple of minutes, JD. Eric, get your things ready. It sounds like you may have to put a tourniquet on his arm. I hope it's just shock and not a severe head injury that has him so disoriented. The big fool would probably have gone fishing even if he had hurt his hard head during the game today!" Chris rechecked his bearings and swung the wheel slightly. He was pretty sure he knew which cove Buck and Josiah were in. Several lobster fisherman had pots placed around that cove and if one wasn't careful, could foul a prop very easily.

Eric left to go below and get his kit just as Ezra came in. Standish was just as worried about Buck as the other two were, for he counted the big publican as one of his very best friends in his whole lifetime. He surely didn't want to lose him. He picked up the binoculars, ready to scan the horizon as soon as they came around the edge of the cove.

"There's Thatcher Isle! It must be just around the corner. Can you see them yet, Ezra?" JD was straining now to see his surrogate brother. Something deep inside the young man demanded to know that Buck was going to be all right, it would shrivel and die if he wasn't.

Ezra lifted the binoculars to his eyes and scanned the cove as Chris steered the lifeboat around the last outcropping. At the south edge, he spotted the fishing boat. "There, to the left," he shouted, although the coxswain was a mere four foot away.

Ezra kept the binoculars tight to his face, trying to see just how bad Buck was injured. All he could make out was Josiah's back. He knew the instant that the priest knew they had arrived as the big cleric first twisted his head around and then carefully stood and began waving his arms. The affluent man had to smile at Sanchez, like they weren't looking for them.

Chris eased the St. Nicholas in beside the fishing boat; JD and Eric leaping across to the deck of the smaller boat before Vin and Fred Woon, the sixth crewman, had a chance to tie them off. Josiah backed off, letting the medic and navigator take over. Soon Chris was by Josiah's side with his hand on the gray-haired man's shoulder, offering and receiving comfort.

Quietly, not wanting to disturb Eric as he promptly went about assessing Buck's symptoms, Chris inquired, "What exactly happened, Josiah? I saw him after the game and he was fine. Did he hit his head when he fell or do you think its all from the blow to his face?"

Josiah shook his head and turned slightly to face the coxswain. "It must be something that happened at the match. His hands were shaking earlier and he was nauseous before he fell into the sea. It also seemed his headache kept getting worse. I should have turned the boat around, Chris. I could tell something was wrong with him but, of course, he told me he was fine."

"Father, stop! There is no way you could have known how bad this was going to get. We've all had concussions before and Buck probably figured fishing and staying in bed were one and the same, only he'd enjoy fishing without Nathan and Inez nagging at him. We're going to take him in and get him right to hospital where the doctors will fix him up. Okay?"

With a deep sigh of relief, Josiah nodded. "Okay."

Eric decided that a tourniquet was indeed required and he efficiently applied one to Buck's left arm. With that done, he turned to what appeared to be a concussion complicated by shock and blood loss. He inserted a shunt and started an IV bag of saline as Buck's blood pressure was extremely low. He also put a cervical collar around the publican's neck in case there was any injury incurred when he fell from the boat. Vin and Fred had transferred a basket stretcher over and Chris, Josiah, and JD lifted Buck into it as Eric kept a watch on Buck's head and IV. Very carefully, they transferred the basket with its secured load back to the St. Nicholas. As quickly as possible, they rushed down below and fastened Buck into a bunk. With everybody back onboard, Chris took off for Four Corners.

Part Five

Sitting beside his best friend, JD ran his hand over Buck's hair, talking soothingly to him while he watched every move that Eric made. He hardly knew the twenty-five year old medic and he wasn't sure he trusted the man with the friend he considered family. If only Nathan had been available. He trusted every decision Dr. Jackson made for the black man had saved every one of his crew mates in the short time they had been together. This man, however, was a chance he really didn't want to be taking right now.

As if reading his thoughts, Vin moved to his mate's side. "Eric's doing all he can. We'll be back home in a jiffy and Buck will be en route to hospital before you can say Owain Glyndwr. I know it looks bad, JD, but he's a tough bloke, as tough as they come. He's going to be all right." "I know you're right, Vin, it's just that he looks ..." JD gulped in air to keep from tearing up. Buck was so pale and his skin felt so cold, it was hard to keep believing that all would be fine in time.

When Buck spoke, it startled the young man. "JD, I ain't going away. You can always count on me being there for you, lad. I have to teach you to drive yet and I have a lot to teach you about courting that little lass of yours."

"Buck, you already gave me driving lessons and got me a car of my own. Don't you remember that?" JD was smiling down at his `big brother', so glad that the man was awake and making sense, well, except about the driving lessons. He didn't notice that Buck wasn't looking back at him.

"I got to go out and take care of the sheep. Chris ain't up to it, put away a whole bottle of Johnnie Walker last night. You wan' come `long, boy?" Buck slurred the last sentence and then his eyes closed.

Both JD and Vin turned to Eric for answers. The confusion, the slurring, and the sudden stoppage didn't bode well for their injured friend. Eric pulled Buck's left eyelid up and shined a light in his eye, judging how quickly the pupil reacted. Then he did the same for the swollen right eye. He paused and then flashed the pen light into the pupil of the right eye again. "Ah, bloody hell!" He tapped Buck lightly on the cheek and got no response. The man was unconscious.

"JD, stay with him." Without another word, the young medic hurried out and up the stairs to the wheelhouse. Bursting into the small room, he informed the coxswain, "Call for the ambulance to be waiting for us. I think he's sinking into a coma and the head injury is worse than I thought. Tell them it may be a hematoma on the brain."

As Chris made the radio call, Ezra confronted the medic. "What do you mean by a hematoma? How much worse?"

"His right pupil is nonresponsive. It means he has a possible bloodclot squeezing his brain inside his skull. He disoriented and unconscious, his breathing is slow and shallow which could signal that he's slipping into a coma, and when that happens the hematoma can be fatal." Eric stopped as Chris turned on him and both Larabee and Standish glared. "There is nothing I can do. He needs a neurosurgeon. And he needs one as soon as possible."

Chris knew that even Nathan couldn't aid his old friend at this point but he sure wished the doctor was with them. He swivelled back to the front and pushed the engines to full speed. At this point, he didn't care how rough the ride would be. Speed was the important factor now.

Eric and Ezra both went back down to sit and watch the patient as there was nothing more any of them could do for him. Buck had lapsed into a coma and he was slipping away from all his friends. They were powerless to stop his decline.

Ezra looked around and found Josiah down on his knees, praying to his Lord to save Wilmington. With tears in his eyes, he slowly moved to join the priest. With folded hands, he, too, silently beseeched God to spare their companion. Soon Vin was beside him and then Fred Woon, followed by Eric and finally JD. Each, in their own way, asked the Lord to grant a wish and spare a life for they all loved the big man with the laughing eyes, the warm smile, and the loving heart. They couldn't bear to let him go.

+ + + + + + +

The ambulance was waiting for them as they slowed, coming into the harbour and making their way to their customary mooring point. However, along with the ambulance were half of the citizens of the town. Orin Travis must have gone to the Lifeboat Inn and informed not only Inez but everyone who happened to still be there celebrating the rugby victory and those who had come out for a drink on Saturday night. Since Wilmington and Sanchez were two of the most popular men in town, everyone wanted to meet the St. Nicholas and make sure that both men were all right.

When five of the crew appeared with dispirited faces and sagging postures, the populace knew the prognosis wasn't good. The medics from the ambulance slipped aboard the boat and soon, Eric, Chris, and the two medics brought Buck off the boat and up the pier. He was wrapped in blankets with the neck brace still firmly in place making it difficult for anyone to view his face. Still, a hush fell over the crowd. As one, they could feel the touch of the Grim Reaper as he seemed to walk beside the stretcher.

"Madre de Dios," Inez cried as she rushed forward, Chris grabbing her before she could lay her hands on the man she loved. "Please, Chris, I need to be with him!" she begged.

"I'll drive you, Darling. You can't go with them, there's no room. My car is right over there and I'll take you and JD to Helston. He hurt his head and cut his arm. I'm sure the doctors can fix him up, he just looks really bad right now because he lost a lot of blood. Come on, let's grab JD and follow the ambulance." Chris waited until the Hispanic lady nodded and then he led her to where the short brunet man stood, watching the ambulance pull away. "Come on, JD, Inez needs you right now."

Hearing the woman's name, JD realized he wasn't the only one hurting. He was aware of how much the beautiful woman cared for their boss though she didn't know he had witnessed her going into Buck's room one night, while he was recovering after being kidnapped and tossed into the sea. JD eased up beside his friend and pulled her into an embrace.

"He'll be fine. We have to believe that and be there for him. You know better than any of us just how pig headed he is. He won't be leaving us for some time, right?"

Wiping away her tears, she smiled. "Si, mi temprano hora. Let's go now." The three people that meant the most in the world to Buck Wilmington made their way to Chris' Land Rover and headed for the hospital in Helston.

Part Six

Arriving in Helston, Larabee, Dunne, and Recillos were all on pins and needles. They knew the rest of the crew would be following as soon as the boat was made ready to go out again and Josiah gave Travis a full accounting of what happened out in the cove but all of them wished that the whole contingent was with them. They also wished that at least one of them had been able to ride with Buck in the ambulance instead of Eric. Chris and Inez could see the logic in Eric going along with the ambulance crew but JD was positive that any of the three of them would have made a difference to Buck. As they arrived, Chris had the feeling that JD was probably right back there in Four Corners.

Chris parked the Land Rover and they hurried into the A&E. Wilmington had already been taken into the rear area where a consultant and team of doctors were at present evaluating his condition. Chris led Inez over to a corner of the waiting room and got her seated while JD made a run for coffee. The lad was too worried to sit still.

"I'm going to see if Nathan can come down and find out for us what is going on with Buck. I'll be right back," he informed the lovely Hispanic woman.

She nodded slightly but really didn't care what the sheep farmer was up to. She was so scared that Buck was going to die not knowing exactly how she felt about him. During the past two months, they had gotten closer and had even gone on "unofficial" dates, ending in kissing and petting. However, she hadn't told her long time friend that she really truly loved him and had forever it seemed. She needed him to know!

Chris walked over to where the nurses were busy taking information from those seeking emergency aid. He waited as patiently as he could until one of them was available and then he stepped up. "I'm here with Buck Wilmington, he was brought in by ambulance from Four Corners."

"Oh, yes, Sir. We have some paperwork that needs filling out," she said, handing him a clipboard and pen.

He took the paperwork but didn't move away. "I want to know how he's doing and I need you to do me a favor, if you don't mind."

"Sir, I don't have any information about Mr. Wilmington other than he was brought in and taken into the back." Giving a little huff of impatience, she asked, "What else can I do for you? We're kind of busy tonight."

"I need you locate a Dr Nathan Jackson and have him meet me here in the waiting room, please. He came in about an hour ago with a gentleman that had a stroke." Chris could feel he was glaring but he tried not to intimidate the woman. He could tell that wouldn't get him anywhere.

She glared back for a few seconds and then gave in. "Go have a seat and fill out the paperwork. I'll try to find Dr. Jackson for you and point out your location. Perhaps he can obtain some information about Mr. Wilmington for you, Sir."

"Thank you." With that, Chris went back to sit beside Inez and between the two of them, they filled out the paperwork as best they could. JD came and joined them, although he paced more than sat beside them. They all drank coffee as they waited for Nathan to show up.

JD spotted Jackson first and hurried over to greet him and tell him exactly what had happened to Buck. By the time Nathan and JD got to Chris, the doctor had been briefed.

"I am so sorry I wasn't there when you needed me to go out on that call. Are the others on their way?" Nathan knelt in front of Inez and placed a gentle hand on her knee while waiting for Chris to answer. His caring, compassionate nature was one of the things that made Nathan such a good physician.

Chris took a deep breath. Now that Nathan was with them, he was sure they could find out what in the blue blazes was going on with his oldest and dearest friend. "The others should be here any minute, they were just securing everything and filling Orin in on what happened. I take it JD gave you all the details?"

Nathan nodded. "I'll go back and see what I can find out from the consultant. I'll come back as soon as I can. Inez, you stay strong, okay?" He patted her knee and left, hurrying through the closed doors that led into the patient area.

Just minutes later, Vin, Josiah, and Ezra came bursting in, spotting their three friends immediately and making a beeline towards them. From the look on the faces of those already waiting, they could tell there had been no good news shared with them so far. After greetings were exchanged, the typical waiting began. Vin sat beside Chris, the two of them silent and still. JD paced like a bear in a cage, constantly in motion with nowhere to go. Ezra flipped through a magazine he had found but none of the articles were comprehended. And Josiah prayed, most of the time silently but every now and then he would mumble in English or Latin and an Amen would slip out. It seemed forever but Nathan eventually came back to where they awaited news. They others swarmed around, anxious to here, yet dreading the diagnosis at the same time.

"First, he's lost a lot of blood and they were trying to stabilize him before they did anything else. They finally got his blood pressure up enough that they could treat the head injury. He is in a coma but its not a deep coma, so that's good. He's just been taken to imaging for a CAT scan of his head. We'll have a much better idea of what we're dealing with when that's done. I knew I had been gone quite awhile so I thought I'd come out and update you. Look guys, they've called in Mr. Enrique, a top neurosurgeon in this region. If surgery is necessary, he's the man to do it."

Dreading the answer, JD asked, "You think that he will need surgery, Nathan?"

"JD, until they get the CAT scan done, I don't want to guess. The symptoms could be a couple of different head injuries. The thing to hold on to is that he's at hospital and the doctors here are exceptional. They'll do the best they can for him. Just keep positive and I'll return as soon as the results of the scan come back.." With that, Jackson disappeared again.

He came back fifteen minutes later, however, with more definitive news.

"Okay, here's how it stands. Yes, Buck needs to go to theatre and Mr. Enrique is prepping now." Holding up his hand to forestall any questions, he continued, "the good news is, Buck is suffering an epidural hematoma which is a blood clot between the skull and the brain. The procedure is fairly simple. It requires a hole be drilled in his skull and the blood suctioned out to relieve the pressure. Then they'll move him to Intensive Care for a couple of days to make sure the bleeding has stopped. After that, God willing, he'll be right as rain."

"But Nate, he's in a coma! Are you sure there's not going to be any long lasting harm to his brain?" Chris didn't like the sound of coma and brain surgery and he couldn't quite trust that everything would miraculously be fine with a minor surgery.

"If Josiah hadn't gotten him here when he did, yes, it could have been very serious. However, our dear friend here did a excellent job as did you guys and I would say he's going to be fine." Nathan turned to his good friend. "Josiah, you did a fantastic job on his arm. You kept your head when you couldn't get the Coast Guard. You kept Buck from going into shock. You did really good, Josiah." He reached out a hand to shake the big priest's hand in thanks.

Josiah didn't think he had done anything heroic but he did reach out to the doctor and grasp his hand in thanks for the welcome information. As they shook, four other hands were laid on top of theirs. Then, on top, a very feminine hand joined the six masculine hands, everyone smiling in relief that their beloved Buck was going to be just fine.

+ + + + + + +

The next afternoon, a pair of dark blue eyes opened slowly. The light was dim so his head didn't hurt too bad but he was very careful turning his head to the right. Sitting there, a book in her lap, her head to the side in sleep, Inez Recillos was keeping vigil. Buck grinned slightly. He had expected to see JD, maybe Chris or Josiah, but not the lovely Hispanic woman who had wormed her way into his heart without his even knowing it.

As if she could feel his eyes on her, Inez awoke and turned her dark brown eyes to the man she loved. Seeing him awake, she smiled and stood up to come to his side. "Hola. How are you feeling?"

"All right, I guess. Kind of thirsty, can I have a drink?" he replied softly, not quite sure of his voice. His head ached but not too bad. His left hand felt strange and he lifted it to find out why. "What's with the huge bandage?"

Inez held the cup with the ice water and straw up near his mouth so he could drink and then glanced once again at the white bandaging that went from the base of his fingers to just below his elbow. As he sipped the refreshing water, she answered, "You have sixty eight stitches in your lower arm. They don't want any type of infection getting in that cut. How does your head feel? You have a bandage there as well."

Raising his right hand, he tentatively felt the very sore spot on the side of his head. "Surgery?"

"Si. But just a small hole to remove the blood. You will be fine with rest. You had us all scared with the bleeding and the coma and the delirium. I thought I was going to ..." She stopped and turned her back to him, setting the cup down, knowing she had almost gone too far. While she had been awaiting his awakening, she had decided that she didn't need to tell him how she felt about him. He didn't feel the same about her so it was only a pipe dream on her part. He loved all the ladies, not just her. He would never change.

"Sweetheart, I'm not going anywhere. You're not going to get rid of me that easy. Inez, look at me, please." He reached out and took hold of her wrist. He smiled as she turned back to look tiredly into his eyes. "I don't know exactly where we're going with this `thing'" he motioned between the two of them. "Between us, but I want to find out if you do. I don't see things changing between us any time soon, do you?"

Speechless, she shook her head no. Tears shone in her eyes but she was smiling at him. "I was so scared when they said you were unconscious and bleeding so badly. I never got a chance to tell you how much I care." "Lady, every day, I see the love in your eyes, for me, for JD, for the inn. I love you too. I don't ever want to be without you in my life. Just haven't quite figured out where its headed. We'll work on that when I get home, okay?"

"Si. I do love you, Buck, but you are el agravante, cabezudo, hombre. So, we shall see. Now, let me go call JD and tell him that you are awake. He is staying at a B and B down the road with Josiah. They both wanted to stay here until you came to and we have been sharing time with you. I am so happy you are going to be well, Buck." She leaned over and kissed him firmly on the lips.

And he kissed her back.

The End

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