Alternate Universe - RNLI
Disclaimer: Not mine, never were, never will be.
Note: This story is set sometime after On a City Street. Betaed and edited by Sue M, Spanish by Bable Fish.
Buck liked this time of day, soon the madness would start, and he'd be in the thick of things. It was a rush, a challenge, but right now it was all quiet, the calm before the storm. As a junior chef on HMS Truro, a Type 22 Broadsword Frigate, it was his job to make sure the galley was up and running on time in the morning. Two hours from now the morning watch would end and the forenoon watch would come on, that meant one hour from now the whole Port Watch would be piling in for breakfast before they went on duty. After them the starboard watch would arrive as they came off duty. The next few hours would be some of the most frantic of the day. Full English breakfast, some would say the highlight of British cuisine, others would just call it heart attack on a plate. All Buck knew was if he didn't get kippers, sausages, bacon, fried bread, mushrooms, black pudding, grilled tomatoes, baked beans and eggs - fried, scrambled, poached - not to mention toast - brown and white, ready on time, his life wouldn't be worth living.
Buck was early, he liked to be in first, to make sure there were no surprises, if someone had forgotten to defrost the sausages, he wanted some warning. He was on his way to the notice board, to check the daily orders, to be sure there was nothing unusual going on he'd forgotten about, when he pulled up short. He could smell hot fat and if he could smell it, it was much too hot. Someone must be cooking something as a special request, and that could only mean the Captain. Truro's captain was Commander Michaels, a notoriously early riser; he would often make impromptu tours of the ship at six or even five in the morning. No doubt the old man wanted an early breakfast, probably off on another trip around the ship. Chung wasn't meant to cook as such, though he was a very good cook, but making toast was the most he was meant to do. He knew Buck would be in soon, why the hell didn't he wait? The Captain knew the rules; he knew someone would be in by six. Almost running, Buck headed for the cooker, the one he knew Chung would have used.
The man who appeared in front of him was not who he was expecting, and was holding a chef's knife. Long, broad and wickedly sharp. Buck moved on instinct, trying to get back to the door, but the man with the knife anticipated this, moving swiftly to block his exit. So now he was trapped in the galley with this man and his knife.
Ten Years Later
Buck lifted his arms and stretched, arching his back. It was a Friday and Friday was one of the two busiest nights at the Lifeboat Inn. He was used to being busy. Busy nights were one thing, busy nights that followed busy days which started with a three hour RNLI training exercise in the morning, were something else – and it had taken its toll. Lowering his arms he looked at his watch, in twenty minutes it would be midnight, which meant he'd been working for the best part of seventeen hours.
Buck looked down at his dog, who was still lying on the hearth rug, despite the fact that the fire was now all but out.
"I am getting too old for this," he told Mac.
The black greyhound lifted his head and waved his tail in response to his master's voice.
"Come on you old bag of bones, time to head out."
Mac made no attempt to move.
"Up! Now!" Buck commanded.
Very slowly Mac pulled himself to his feet, stretched and wandered slowly toward the back door. Since the pub garden was used as an extension of the pub, Mac wasn't permitted to 'mark' it as his own. So everyday, at least three times a day, Mac was taken out for a walk. The last walk of the day was always the shortest, down to the harbour and back. Occasionally Buck would stop and have a word with Vin if he was up, or just spend some time looking out to sea. The sea always made him feel calm, safe somehow. His mother always insisted his father was an American sailor and that a love of the sea was in his blood. Buck personally didn't believe his mother had any idea who his father was, but he surely did love the sea; he just couldn't imagine living inland. Today however it was cold outside, so Buck wasn't lingering long, he stood on the harbour wall long enough to see the lighthouse on the distant island flash once, before he turned and began to walk back up to the pub.
He was about half way back, when he noticed a man standing in the middle of the road. He seemed to be swaying and staggering about. The town was quiet, but not dead, cars did move about at night, especially as some of the holiday parks outside the town had night clubs which didn't close until one or two in the morning. The local taxi drivers who collected people from the clubs often drove thought the town at speed. The faster they dropped off one customer at their hotel, the faster they could get back and collect another one. Buck mentioned it to the local police a few times, but they only had two officers to cover the whole town at night. With one at the station and one keeping an eye on the clubs, that didn't leave anyone to deal with minor traffic violations in the middle of the night.
"Hey mister, you need to get out of the road," he called as he approached the man.
The man turned around, he looked to be about seventy, but he could have been younger, drink had a way of aging people.
"Piss off," he slurred.
"Come on mate, you're gonna get yourself knocked down." Buck approached, holding his hands out wide in a non threatening gesture.
"Leave me alone."
By now Buck was almost on top of the old man, the stench of alcohol was overwhelming.
"Come on, just move to the pavement, it's for your own good."
"You stay away from me, I know what you want!"
With that he took a swing at Buck, who dodged it easily. Having put so much power into the blow and missing his target, the old man overbalanced. Buck sidestepped so they wouldn’t collide. The man stumbled past him and wheeled to land a punch to Buck's lumber region.
"Damn it!" Buck swung around. "What did you do that for?"
"Thief! You just want my money!" the man spat.
"Your money? I don't think so. All I want is to help you."
"You leave me alone, damn thieves, always after my money. You leave me alone!" The man took another swing at Buck, this time there was a knife in his hand.
Buck dodged the knife. "I'm not gonna hit you and I don't want anything, except to help you. Just get off the road."
"Bugger off!" the man swore, swaying alarmingly, but making no attempt to move to the pavement.
Buck had lost his patience with the drunk. "Fine! Have it your way, get yourself run over, see if I care!"
He walked backwards for a while, keeping the man and his knife in view for a good few yards before he turned and strode up the hill, Mac trotting on ahead, eager to get home to his bed. As Buck closed the door behind him and locked it, he was still debating if he should call the police. It seemed these days more and more people carried knives, the police had never been that interested when he called about the speeding taxis. It wasn't that they didn't care, they did, he knew most of the police officers by name, even played cricket with one of them, but they were overstretched. Buck didn't think one old drunk ineffectually waving a knife would be high up their scale of priorities. Besides he'd been raised to view the police with suspicion, growing up he was always worried that every patrol car he saw in his neighbourhood was there to arrest his mother.
As he reached up to push the top bolt home he hissed.
Damn old fool,*he commented to himself, as the spot on his back where the old man hit him twinged.
JD woke to the shrill beep of the alarm, without opening his eyes, he reached out and hit the 'snooze' button on the top and silenced it - at least for the next eight minutes, then the alarm went off again.
No way was that eight minutes,*JD silenced the alarm for good and forced himself to open his eyes. He probably lay there another five minutes, before his bladder forced him out of the sanctuary of his nice, warm, comfortable bed. Still only half awake he took care of business and started the shower running. Some twenty minutes later, he stepped out of his room and went in search of breakfast.
There was no sign of Buck or Mac in the flat, so he assumed Buck had gone out running and taken the dog with him. JD ran most days, but not today. Buck liked to run alone, or at least without human company. As Vin once observed, watching Mac running with Buck was highly amusing. He described it as looking as though someone had their hand on the dog's remote control and kept hitting fast forward, since the dog would dawdle along until Buck was almost out of sight and then suddenly sprint to catch up.
With a glass of orange juice and a couple of slices of toast on board, JD headed downstairs, on his way to his other job, working at Aquarius, the new age shop run by Rain Jackson, where he worked five days a week. Combined with his evening and occasional weekend shifts behind the bar at the pub, JD was making good money. Without even thinking he opened the back door - or at least he tried to. The door knob turned, but the door didn't open. Instinctively he tried it again, frowning when nothing happened. Then he noticed that the door was still bolted. If Buck had gone out, the door wouldn't be bolted. JD looked at his watch, it was nine thirty.
Mac must be crossing his paws by now,*he commented to himself.
On an impulse he ran back upstairs and crept up to Buck's room. For a second he listened at the door, nothing, not a sound. He knocked gently, once, then eased the door open. Buck had blue curtains in his bed room, which with the morning sun on them, gave the room a strange blue/grey light. Despite the dimness, JD could make out Mac's head, he was on the bed, as always, when Buck was sleeping alone, and had lifted his head when the door opened.
"Mac, here boy," JD whispered.
For a second the dog hesitated then dropped lightly to the floor and trotted over to JD. It took about ten minutes to get a collar and lead on him and get as far as the closest lamp post.
"You, dog, are going to make me late for work," JD told him as they returned to the pub. "If he wanted a lie in, why didn't he just ask me to take you for the night? Hum?" he asked the dog. "Just like he does whenever he gets lucky!"
Mac took no notice, he just bolted upstairs as soon as he was loose of his collar.
JD frowned. Mac got fed - officially - once a day, at five o'clock in the evening and to JD's knowledge, other than when he was out on the beach, only food would make him move at that kind of speed.
"What's got into you?" JD wondered. He looked at his watch again. "Rain is going to kill me."
Upstairs he could hear Mac whining and whimpering. He'd never heard the dog do that, not once. With a shake of his head JD headed upstairs to see what was wrong with him. He found the dog outside his master's room, still whimpering and even scratching at the door.
"You want to get back on that bed that much? Oh well…" JD opened the door.
He watched with some amusement as the dog darted to the bed, Buck might sleep through Mac getting down, but JD doubted he'd sleep though him jumping back up. Except he didn't jump, instead, Mac placed his long snout on the bed, with his nose as close to Buck's face as he could and just stayed like that, tail waving slowly.
"What is the matter with you?" JD was about to close the door and go to work, but then he stopped. He'd been out riding with Vin one day, they were speaking about the wildlife, the country raised Welshman had told him to always pay attention if animals act out of character. 'Most animals are creatures of habit, so if they act weird, there's usually a good reason.'
If he wakes up and finds me here, I am so dead. Oh shit, what if he isn’t alone after all?
JD all but held his breath until he reached the bed and found that Buck was indeed alone. There seemed to be nothing wrong, the big publican lay on his side, sleeping peacefully. As JD stood there Mac leaned in a little closer to his master and nudged his cold, wet nose against Buck's cheek. Buck didn't stir, he didn't so much as flinch. Buck was a deep sleeper, Chris always said he could sleep anywhere and under any circumstances. Yet JD though it odd he remained so still, Mac nudged his cheek again. Chewing his lip worriedly, JD reached out his hand, but hesitated. Then, screwing up his courage, he let his fingers brush over his best friend's face.
It was cold, it was so unnaturally cold.
Rain picked up the phone in the shop while she was counting the float into the till. "Hello, Aquarius."
"Rain? It's me JD."
Rain glanced at her watch, he was late. "What is it?" she asked, expecting some excuse explaining his tardiness or even total absence.
The urgent, even, panicked tone of his voice suddenly got her attention. "Are you sick?"
"Not me, Buck, I called 999, but …"
"999! What's happened?"
"That's just it I don't know what's wrong. Where's Nate?"
"Upstairs." The Jackson's lived in a flat over the shop.
"I called there and his mobile."
"He's probably in the bath, I'll get him, don't worry."
JD all but dropped the phone and ran downstairs to open the front doors, so that the ambulance crew and Nathan could get in. He wished Inez was home, Inez was always so calm in a crisis. Their fiery, live in cook had taken the weekend off. She'd left the previous evening, after work, so she could catch the overnight sleeper train up to London, where she was meeting an old school friend for the weekend on the town. With the door open, he bolted back into the bedroom, Mac was still there, but now he was up on the bed, his head and neck lying across Buck's chest, gazing up at JD with sad, soulful eyes.
"Help's coming, not long now boy."
It seemed to take ages, to JD it felt like hours passed before he heard the sound of someone running outside. Downstairs the door banged.
"JD!" Nathan bellowed.
Seconds later the tall doctor burst into the bedroom, black medical bag and green first aid rucksack in hand, his shirt still clinging to his wet torso.
JD stood up, backing off a little, pulling Mac with him. "He won't wake up. He's…cold."
Nathan stopped where he was. "You mean he's…"
"He's breathing, but he's cold and he won't wake up."
Nathan visibly relaxed a fraction then moved to the bed. "Right Buck, lets see what we're dealing with."
JD shut Mac in his bedroom and was returning to Buck's room, when he heard the siren of the approaching ambulance. He was about to go and show them the way, but Nathan was already shouting to them and the well trained crew was responding. He realised ambulance crews must be used to finding their way around strange houses. He stood there in the passageway, rooted to the spot as the two paramedics, a man and women in green overalls, pounded up the stairs and disappeared into the bedroom.
Nathan was a worried man and a confused one. All the indications were, that Buck was suffering from an advanced case of shock. The trouble was he could find no apparent reason for it, for Buck to be as sick as he was, he must have lost a lot of blood, but there was no apparent wound. Nor was there any reason a reasonably young, fit man like Buck should suddenly start to bleed internally.
"JD?" he called, as the paramedics went downstairs to get the stretcher.
"Yes?" JD replied hesitantly as he came to the door.
Buck was still lying on the bed, only now his legs were propped up on a mound of rolled duvet and pillows and he had a drip in his arm.
"Did anything happen last night?" Nathan asked.
"A fight, did he fall? Was he sick? Anything?"
JD shook his head. "He was tired, we all were, after the training exercise in the morning, but other than that he was on top form. I came up at about eleven thirty, he stayed down to lock up and take the dog out - as usual."
"Did you hear him come in?"
JD shook his head.
The paramedics were back and they started to get Buck ready for transportation to hospital.
"Can I come?" JD asked.
Nathan sympathised, but it really wasn't practical. "Best not, stay here, call Chris, make sure the pub is covered, see to Mac and then dive on over to Helston."
"Helston, not the cottage hospital?"
Nathan just shook his head, this was far too serious for the little local hospital to deal with.
Chris decided JD was too upset to drive, he wasn't sure he was anymore safe behind the wheel, but at least he was more experienced than the teenager. They arrived at the hospital where - somewhat predictably - the receptionist in the Accident and Emergency department wasn't able to tell them anything.
"Look someone must know something!" Chris demanded.
"I'm sorry sir, if you take a seat, someone will come and get you when there is some news," the harassed woman told him firmly.
"Could you get a message to Dr Jackson?" JD asked her.
"Dr Jackson? I don't think we have a Dr Jackson, not in A and E anyway."
"He came in with Bu… Mr Wilmington."
"Oh, right, well I'll ask one of the nurses to look out for him, okay?"
Chris was about to protest, but JD headed for the rows of plastic chairs in the waiting area. "Thanks Miss, we'd appreciate that."
They waited, one hour became two and they waited. Chris stepped outside once or twice to make some phone calls. Ezra and Vin were going to take care of Mac and help out behind the bar. Rain promised to meet Inez of her train on Monday morning, there was no reason to spoil her first weekend off in months - not unless… well no one wanted to even think about that. Josiah was busy, with pastoral commitments, but he would offer up prayers for a speedy recovery.
Finally - and just before Chris was ready to explode, Nathan came out. "Come with me to the family room."
With a horrendous sinking feeling, they followed Nathan to the small side room. "He's not"? Chris began as soon as the door closed.
"No, but it was touch and go, still is." Nathan faced them both, not bothering to suggest they sit, he knew Chris wouldn't. "We finally found were the bleed was. He'd been stabbed in the back, here." He pointed to his lower back.
"Stabbed?" JD exclaimed.
"It hadn't bled much outwardly, but it nicked his intestine. They're still operating now. It must be a small knick, so small he didn't even notice. As he slept, he was slowly bleeding out."
"Oh shit," JD gasped. "I almost went to work, I almost didn't go back and check, it was only because of Mac."
"Mac? Chris asked.
"He was acting up, wouldn't leave Buck, kept whimpering."
"Good job you were paying attention to him," Nathan told him. "We were almost too late."
"So he's going to be okay now? JD asked. "You - they'll, stopped the bleeding and they'll give him a transfusion and he'll be fine now - right?"
Nathan glanced at Chris, who clearly knew it wasn't going to be that simple. "Well hopefully, once he's out of theatre he'll go to recovery and then to the high dependency unit."
"What's that?" JD asked, sounding less confident.
"It's for patients who need more care or more close observation than the staff on a general ward can give, but not as much as in ICU. The blood loss and the shock put a lot of strain on his heart and some other organs, we need to stabilise these, there is also the infection to consider."
"He's got an infection? Already?" Chris asked, he'd known the blood loss would be a problem, he hadn't considered infection.
"In all likelihood, his intestine wasn't just leaking blood, plus there's the wound itself, who knows what was on that blade or what was pushed in with it. They'll pump him full of broad-spectrum antibiotics and keep testing his blood. Other than that it's just keeping him stable, treating his symptoms and waiting to see what happens."
"What I don't get is, how he could be so stupid as to go to bed like that? Why the hell didn't he call you when he was stabbed, at least wake JD up? I always knew he was a stubborn bastard but this is just …"
"Chris!" Nathan interrupted.
"Stop that." The doctor glanced at the stricken looking JD. "I told you, it hardly bled at all, I saw his shirt in the bedroom, there was no visible blood, and none on the bedding. It's probable he thought it was just a scratch, he may not even have known about it at all. I've treated a fair few stab victims in my time and I can tell you, they all say the same thing, either it feels like being punched or they didn't feel the blade at all."
Chris visibly took a calming breath. "Okay, okay, so why didn't it bleed?"
"Ever pricked your thumb with a needle?"
"Alright, ever stapled your finger?"
"Yeah," JD answered.
"What happened when you pulled it out?"
JD thought a moment. "Nothing, it didn't even bleed."
"Right, if the wound is slim enough the skin has a remarkable ability to seal itself."
Just then there was a knock and the receptionist put her head around the door. "Dr Jackson?"
"The police are here, they need to speak with you about Mr Wilmington."
"The police?" JD asked.
"He was stabbed JD," Chris reminded. "Come on, let’s see what they know - if anything."
This wasn't the first time JD’d heard Chris express a lack of faith in the police, sometimes he forgot that the police had never found the driver who knocked down and killed Sarah and Adam. Now that he thought about it, Buck wasn't overly fond of the boys in blue either. They both worked and even socialised with the local police in Four Corners, all four of them, cordially enough, but when it came to officers from further afield, especially when it didn’t concern the RNLI, there was a palpable coolness to their attitude.
Miss Holliday, the surgeon who operated on Buck stood at the end of his bed in recovery and frowned at the piece of paper in her hand.
"He's the one, the stabbing?" the man beside her asked.
"Yes, you read the notes?"
Doctor Irving, the senior consultant in the high dependency care unit, nodded. "Don't worry we'll take care of him."
Jane Holliday looked over at him. Derek Irving was older than her, close to retirement in fact, his wavy grey hair just beginning to thin and his face still tanned a month after his latest golfing holiday in Portugal.
"Blood tests," Jane explained as she handed over the slip of paper from the haematology lab.
Dr Irving read it, it made depressing, if not unexpected reading. "Damn."
"That about covers it. I've already ordered them to change the antibiotics, at least now we can start to target the little bug…blighters."
"Let's hope to hell he's strong enough to hang on until they can get to work."
For the first time Jane Holliday smiled. "Somehow I get the feeling this one is definitely a fighter. Sister Penhaligan told me he's a lifeboat man, down in Four Corners."
The police had found a man, passed out drunk in the church yard. He was carrying a switch blade. They weren't able to question him, he was still too intoxicated, but they were having the knife analysed. A constable from Helston had been dispatched to the hospital to gather more information
"SOCO's reckon there's blood on the blade," the constable told them. "Dr Jackson, would it be possible to get a DNA sample from Mr Wilmington?"
"Sure, I can get you a blood sample."
As Nathan returned to the treatment area, JD turned to Chris and whispered. "What's a soco?"
"Scene of crime officer," Chris told him. Then Larabee turned to the policeman. "You know this guy, the drunk?"
"No sir, he's not one of our regulars, or Four Corners, so we're checking with the neighbouring stations, see if anyone knows him. I expect he's from some place fairly close, these guys usually get themselves barred from every pub in a place then move on to the next town - sad really."
"He tried to kill Buck, forgive me if I don't worry about him too much!" JD snapped.
"All I meant Sir was…"
"We know what you meant," Chris all but growled at the poor young man. "Now, is there anything else you need from us?"
"Good." With that Chris turned and marched back toward the family room, JD close on his heels.
An hour later Chris and JD were pacing outside the ward, waiting to be allowed to see Buck. A nurse appeared at the door.
"Wilmington?" he asked softly.
"Here!" Chris turned abruptly.
"Immediate family only," the nurse explained.
"He doesn’t have any blood family, we're the closest thing to family he has."
If the young man was going to object, one look at Chris convinced him differently.
"Okay, please remember to keep it quiet, there are several other patients in his section."
"How's he doing?" JD asked.
"The doctor hasn't spoken to you?"
"We haven’t been told anything other than he was out of surgery," Chris explained.
"Oh, well, okay, I'll see if I can find someone to speak to you."
"Why can't you tell us? You must know."
"Please Sir, keep your voice down," the nurse reminded Chris. "Doctor Irving always likes to give the first briefing himself, it shouldn’t' take too long.
Chris was scared, and frustrated and he hated waiting, but there was nothing he could do about it. By now they were approaching Buck's bed; he was asleep. The first thing that struck Chris was how pale he looked, the second thing he noticed was that his friend was lying on his side. Somehow that looked wrong, people in hospital usually lay on their backs, but here was Buck on his side, a pillow tucked in behind him, against the raised bed rail so that he couldn't roll onto his back, even if he had wanted to. JD sat himself down on the orange plastic chair beside the bed. His glanced up to the bags hanging above the bed, following the twin lines, one red, one clear, as they ran down and disappeared into his friend’s arm.
"What the hell happened?" Chris whispered to himself.
Buck was trying to work out what the hell was happening. He was standing in the galley of a ship, possibly HMS Truro, but he wasn't sure about that, because the equipment looked wrong. There was a man, he looked old and dishevelled, was standing in front of him, holding a knife. Buck was about to ask what he was doing there, when he felt something press up against he leg. Looking down, he found Mac standing beside him, wagging his tail.
"What the hell are you doing here? You can't be on the ship, I'll get into trouble."
Mac just looked at him, tail still wagging. Buck turned his attention back to the man with the knife. To his horror, JD was now standing in front of the man, a knife at his throat.
"Let him go," Buck commanded.
"Only if you give me my money back," the man responded, his accent sounding northern.
"I don't have your money," Buck told him.
"Sure you do, you have everyone's money. Money only has to walk past you and you've got it."
"Come on Buck, give him his money back, you don't need it, you've got lots, you can have any money you want," JD pleaded.
Buck was scared and confused. "I don't have anyone's money, except my own." He looked back at the old man. "Please let JD go."
"Let him go! Let JD GO!"
"Buck!" JD called him desperately. "Buck help me. Buck! Buck! Buck wake up!"
Buck's increasingly violent nightmare was causing problems, his heart was racing and he was in danger of pulling out his IV.
Chris and the nurse, who'd come running in, stood back as JD tried to coax him awake.
"Let the kid do it," Chris told the nurse. "Buck has a tendency to come up fighting, unless he hears a familiar voice, or a woman."
"Aren’t you familiar to him?" the nurse asked.
Chris considered trying to explain the complexities of his relationship with Buck, and how that might make Buck even more likely to come up swinging. Then he thought better of the idea and just shrugged. "Let the kid do it."
The sound of Buck's voice, quiet and a little hoarse drew both men's attention back to the man on the bed.
"The one and only," JD confirmed.
"I'm fine." JD watched Buck's bleary eyes dart past him, looking for something familiar to orientate himself. "You had a nightmare, but you're okay now. You're in the hospital, remember? They moved you down to the ward while you were asleep."
Buck looked back at JD, the ghost of a smile appeared on his face. "Thanks."
"What are you thanking me for?"
"Not a problem, we were worried about you."
"Hi Buck," Chris called.
Buck twisted his head to look at the end of the bed. "Chris? What are you doing here?"
"Watching your back - as usual." Chris grinned at him.
"You haven't cleared your debt yet," Buck told him, coming more awake.
"I know," Chris admitted, remembering all the times Buck had kept him safe, solvent and alive in those dark months when he'd tried to follow his family to the grave via the whisky bottle.
"Awake at last, good, good."
All three men looked up to see who had spoken.
"This is Dr Irving," the nurse introduced.
The three men from Four Corners scrutinised the doctor. "Okay, so now we all know what I look like, perhaps I could have some privacy, to consult with my patient?"
Chris paced, JD fidgeted, but neither left the area outside the ward once. Eventually the door opened and the doctor walked out.
"He told me you'd still be here," he chuckled. "He also told me I can tell you anything, including about what happened - what he remembers of it."
"So?" Chris asked.
Irving related Buck's recollection of his encounter with the drunk. "He thought the old man had punched him, no idea he'd been stabbed."
"This is so stupid, to think he could have died, just because he tried to help some old drunk." Chris shook his head.
"It's what he does," JD commented. The two older men turned to him. "Helps people," JD clarified. "Buck, he helps people."
"That he does," Chris admitted. "So, doctor, how is he doing?"
For the first time Irving looked worried. "His temperature is elevated, we've been able to target the antibiotics, but it's going to get worse before it gets better."
"How much worse?" Chris asked.
" Impossible to know, but definitely worse."
"But you know what’s wrong, you're giving him the medicine, so he should be getting better, not worse." JD moved closer to the doctor.
"You have to understand, he lost a great deal of blood, he's very weak. In the immediate future the bacteria in his body can multiply faster then the antibiotics can kill them. We have to treat the symptoms, support his body’s own defence mechanisms, until the medication begins to fight back." The doctor looked at the two worried men before him. "There's no need to panic, Mr Wilmington is a fit, strong, healthy man. It could have been a lot worse, if the knife hadn't hit the scar tissue, it probably would have gone a lot deeper." Before either of them could ask what he meant, the doctor excused himself. "I have to go now. He's asleep again and to be honest, I'd expect him to sleep on and off until the morning. I suggest you come back during visiting hours tomorrow."
“I’ll stay with him,” JD stated firmly.
“Best not to, not yet,”Irving, began, seeing the determined set to the boy’s jaw. “I know you mean well, but the chances are, with all the medication we’ve given him, he’ll sleep right through to morning now.”
JD opened his mouth to protest.
“He’s going to need you more when he’s awake. What used will you be if you’re exhausted? Because trust me, you won’t get much sleep on that chair.”
Chris knew from past experience the doctor was right, so although it went against his own natural instincts he decided to go along with the plan.
“Come on JD, he’s right, let’s go home, get some rest and come back in the morning,” he encouraged quietly.
JD remained in rigid defiance for a second or two and then his shoulders slumped. He turned to look up at Chris.
“You think so? Really?”
“Okay, I guess,” JD finally admitted in defeat.
On the drive back to Four Corners, neither man mentioned the doctor's comment about scar tissue. Both knew Buck had a large scar on his back, indeed anyone who had seen the calendar the crew made the previous summer knew, since it was there in the photograph of a naked Buck for all the world to see. The scar might be common knowledge, but the story behind it wasn't. Chris had known Buck a long time and he didn't know, so he was fairly sure no one else did, with the possible exception of Nathan, since he had access to Buck's medical notes and whatever he knew, Nathan would never betray a confidence. Buck did have a George Medal, he'd told them he'd helped rescue someone from a galley fire, while he was in the navy, though Vin was convinced there was more to it than that. Since he didn't seem to have any burn scars, that incident didn't seem to relate to the large scar on his lower back.
Buck tried to work out who it was, standing there with a knife in his hand. He was in overalls, his insignia told Buck he was an electrical engineer. Though he recognised the face, try as he might he couldn't put a name to it.
"Look why don't you let me take that pan off the heat, we don't want any accidents, do we?" He tried edging toward the stove.
"You back off now!" The knife flashed in front of his face. "Maybe it was you as well?"
"Me?" Buck asked, before he'd realised he'd said anything.
"Ay, you as well as him."
The man's accent was unmistakably Yorkshire. Buck tried to think of the Yorkshire men in the crew. Gough? Was that his name? Yeah, that was him, he had a bit of a reputation for being rather full of himself, what the navy called‘all tits, teeth and toenails’. The fat in the pan was smoking now.
"As well as who? Come on mate, what's the problem here, maybe I can help?"
"You've done enough! I've heard about you, maybe you were the first and the little Chink git was just the latest."
Little Chink git?That description sounded a lot like Sam Chung, he was shortest, he was from Hong Kong, Chung was always known as Sammy, affable and diligent, he was harmless. The fact that he still hadn't seen Chung was beginning to worry Buck more and more.
"It's Gough isn't it?" The man didn't react, so Buck pressed on. "Have you seen Sammy? He should be there."
Gough smiled, it wasn't a comforting sight. "Ay, I've seen him, dealt with him too.”
"What do you mean, dealt with him?" Buck asked, trying to keep his voice calm.
"She wrote me, the wife, told me all about it, how she's leaving me, moving to Scotland with her new fancy man!"
No one would call Sam Chung a fancy man, he was in his late thirties, slightly overweight, married with three children, he was no one’s 'fancy man', except possibly Mrs Chung.
"That's rough, but I don't think it was Sammy, he’s happily married, lives in London."
The smoke from the pan was now getting dangerously dark.
"She said he was foreign. Foreign like you - I've hard all about you! You’re American, that why the call you 'Buck'?"
Normally 'Buck' was a nickname given to anyone called Rogers or Taylor, since Buck had 'Wilmington' on his chest badge, that clearly wasn't the case. Like almost everyone in the Navy, Buck did have a nickname, in basic training he'd managed to avoid anyone finding out his father was an American - well probably an American, possibly - which would have earned him the name Elmer. His squad mates had given him the name, 'Long' - after the Long Man of Wilmington. The Royal Navy, in a stroke of genius, used male P.T. instructors to train woman and females to train men. It was Petty Officer Lindsay Durrell, who'd looked at Buck - in nothing but a pair of shorts, prior to a swimming test, and said.
"So what do they call you - other than Buck?"
Buck had just smiled at her, giving her the full on Wilmington charm.
"This is our very own 'Long' ma'am," Jimmy Green told her.
"Oh I can see that," she'd commented.
"Oh, no ma'am, his name is Wilmington, you know, the 'Long Man of Wil…"
"She knows Jimmy," Buck had cut him off, keeping his eyes on the petite, but beautifully formed Durrell.
"Long, it's a bit impersonal - don’t you think?"
"Whatever you say ma'am," Buck had all but purred.
"I'm thinking 'Legs', would suit you better."
"I can live with that."
Unfortunately, much as he'd been happy to live with 'Legs' and as good a memory as Lindsay had been, a Chief Petty Officer at catering school had other ideas. Using the same twisted Navy logic that turned a white tea or coffee with no sugar into a 'Julie Andrews' - a white nun - he concluded that a cook who had an American name should be called 'Chuck', because cowboy cooks worked from a 'chuck wagon'. Buck hated the name and once he was on his first ship, he managed to drop it, most people just assumed that Buck was his nickname.
"No, Buck is my real name."
"Right, like anyone calls a kid 'Buck'," Gough sneered sarcastically.
In any other situation, Buck would have defended his mother intently, but this was not the time or the place. Before he could work out what to say, the frying pan burst into flames.
"Buck, Mr Wilmington?" The soft feminine voice began to pull him back to the here and now.
The day nurse, Marc Churchman, remembered what Mr Wilmington's friend had said about waking him and advised the night shift. Thus they sent Sally Longstone to wake him, so they could take his temperature and blood pressure.
Sally called his name again and gave his shoulder a gentle shake. "Hello sir? It's Nurse Longstone."
"Wha…?" Buck asked groggily.
"Sorry to wake you, need to check on a few things."
"I'm in sick bay?" he asked.
"Well, in a hospital," she corrected gently.
The memories of waking up in recovery and then again on the ward with JD beside him flooded back to Buck.
"Oh, yes, right - sorry."
Sally smiled at him. She was in her early thirties, fair, rather plain looking and a bit overweight, but she was very good at her job.
"Nothing to apologise for. I'm gonna pop the thermometer in your ear and then take your blood pressure - okay?"
"Well?" he asked when it was done.
"Your blood pressure is a bit low, nothing to worry about and your temperature is a little elevated."
Buck reckoned it was a good deal more than 'a little elevated' if his headache was anything to go by.
"Can I go back to sleep now?" he asked.
"Almost, we need to turn you over."
Buck made a face.
"We don't want bed sores do we?" Sally Longstone asked, in her best 'don't argue with the nurse' voice.
"I can do it," Buck told her.
"No you can't, you'll get all the tubes in a mess, besides, I don't think you're strong enough. Come on, be a good boy and let us help you."
Only now did Buck notice the young man standing at the end of the bed. That was also the moment he realised even if he had tried, he really couldn't do it himself, he needed help just to be able to do a simple thing like roll over in bed - God he hated being sick and he hated hospitals!
"Okay," he agreed with due resignation. "Be gentle with me."
They were gentle, but it still hurt like hell, leaving him breathless and panting. "Damn it, don't I get the good drugs?" he asked.
"You're on morphine," Sally told him. "It'll pass, just lie still for a bit. The doctor will be around to see you in a couple of hours, then we'll change the dressing."
Buck was in his own personal hell, his back was on fire, though as the nurse had promised, as he lay still it did slowly diminish, down from inferno to just white hot coals. Yesterday the doctor told him that although the actual wound was small, the surgeon's incision had been quite large. She had needed to 'flush out' a large area and drain off all the blood that had accumulated. It was this injury, rather than the knife wound that was causing the pain when he moved. Yet there was another pain, it was seeping through his body, settling in his gut and radiating out into his joints, throbbing behind his eyes. He told himself it was fatigue, he was just tired, maybe the medicine was making him feel ill, but at the back of his mind he knew better, infection was taking hold, faster and faster. As bad as this knowledge was, as painful as it was, as uncomfortable as the injury to his back was, the worst thing was being dependent, lying there, hooked up to the hated tubes, unable to even take himself to the lavatory for the simple pleasure of emptying his bladder. Buck hated to be dependent on anyone. He was raised to be self reliant, to not count on anyone.
"Darling," his mother would tell him. "The world doesn’t owe you a living, it doesn’t owe you anything. If you want something, you have to work for it, do it yourself or get very, very lucky. The only person you can really rely on is yourself."
"And you," Buck had pointed out to his mother.
"Yes dear, and me, family - blood family, when you get a family and you raise them properly, you'll be able to rely on them."
Buck knew his mother had been let down by her own family. He didn't know the full story, she never spoke about it. There were no pictures of her family other than her mother's parents, who were dead. All Buck knew was, that in one of the pictures of her grandparents, there were two children. Somewhere he had an aunt and possibly cousins. For all he knew he had other relatives, even grandparents might still be alive, but they hadn't been there when his mother needed them, so to Buck they might as well have been dead.
All this made it very hard to just lie there and let people do things for him, when all his instincts were to look after himself.
The day ended and the night shift came on duty
"Still awake?" someone asked.
Buck looked up and smiled at the pretty African nurse beside him. "Any chance of a drink?"
"I'm sorry, not yet, the doctor wants your wound, the one inside, to heal a little first." Buck had almost forgotten he had a hole in his intestine. "I'll be back in a moment." She had the sweetest, lilting accent. Soft fingers felt his brow for a second, then she left.
True to her word, she returned with in a few moments. "Here, try this." She placed a cool gel pack, in a soft cover, on his forehead.
"Thanks," he all but whispered. "What's your name?"
"You're an angel Ruth Matongo."
"Thank you." She sat with him for five more minutes before removing the cooling pack. "Think you can sleep now?"
She switched off the overhead lamp.
The man the police found in the in the graveyard had sobered up, with no memory of the night before. Not that they needed his confession, the blood on his knife was proven to be Buck's. His name was Albert Wickers, he had more than twenty convictions for drunk and disorderly, three for affray and one for threatening behaviour - with a knife.
Chris sat at the bar helping JD to cash up the till after a hectic night, he was diligently stacking coins into neat piles. JD was having trouble concentrating on is work, he was so tired. It was hard enough to do his job and Buck's and show Ezra what to do - though to be fair Ezra was a very quick study– and also worry about Buck. Behind them Vin was helping wipe down tables, while Ezra did his best to cheer up Mac. The dog was clearly pining for his master, even Ezra's offer of a biscuit didn't cheer him up, though he did take the treat, he wasn't that upset.
"This is just so stupid," Chris commented darkly, as he finished stacking the last of the pennies.
"I have to count it all," JD pointed out.
"Not the money!" Chris snapped. "This situation. All Buck did was try to help an old man, like he does, like we all should. And what is his reward? He ends up fighting for his life."
No one said anything, what was there to say? Nathan had been called to the police station to assess Buck's attacker's mental state, Josiah went with him, in case he could be of some help. It turned out that - according to the custody sergeant - in the last town Wickers had been arrested in, as well as being a drunk, he was paranoid, believing that people were trying to take things from him.
"Apparently he's a schizophrenic, meant to take medication - course he doesn’t." The sergeant shook his head sadly. "A drunk, nutter wandering around with a knife; and they call it 'care in the community'." He looked up. "What community are they caring for, that's what I want to know? What was wrong with locking them up?"
There seemed little doubt that this time Wickers would be detained in a secure mental health unit.
"I mean," Chris continued, reaching for the whisky he'd been drinking, draining the glass. "Why did he actually have to hurt someone before he could be 'sectioned'?"
JD kept his eyes on his figures and just shrugged as he counted. "Okay, we're all square, time to go home," he announced.
"Are you sure you want to stay here alone?" Ezra asked. "I am more than willing to stay on your sofa."
"Thanks Ez, but I'm fine, I've got Mac to keep me company. I'll see you in the morning?" this question was directed at Chris.
"Sure kid, pick you up at eleven, that'll get us there in plenty of time for visiting hours at twelve."
"Ezra and me 'll be here by ten, don't you worry," Vin assured him.
Ezra took a deep breath as he stepped out into the night. To his left, a little way down the hill, heading for the harbour he could see Vin, walking beside JD and the dog. How many times had it been Buck, taking that ten minute stroll, just before the midnight hour. Everyday, come rain or shine, that dog got his last walk. If Buck or JD weren't there Inez did it, even Rain had been known to come and collect the reluctant dog.
"It's better than being woken at five o'clock with his nose in your ear or a puddle on the carpet," Buck always pointed out.
JD and Vin were out of sight now, no doubt Vin would leave him at the harbour master's office and continue down to his boat. Ezra was sure the Welshman would say nothing, it wasn't his way, yet his very presence would be of comfort, he had a way about him, a way of conveying things without a word needing to be spoken. The door behind him banged, making Ezra jump.
Ezra turned his head a fraction to acknowledge Chris' presence. "He could die - couldn’t he?"
Chris came to stand beside him. "Yeah, he could."
"It's not fair."
"Life's not fair."
"What's that meant to mean?"
Chris looked up at the stars, his breath compensating as the temperature fell toward freezing. "Don't start with me Standish, not tonight. Life isn't fair, if it was, my wife and son would still be alive, so would Steven Travis and the others." Finally he looked at Ezra. "If life was fair, you'd still be in the City, making more millions than you already have."
"It's because I'm not there that I know, that sometimes things happen for a reason."
"Maybe," Chris admitted. "But not this."
"No, not this."
"You believe in God Ezra?" Chris asked after a long pause.
"Me neither - I used to, in a sort of generic way, sang hymns and said prayers at school, got married in church. You know, the usual."
"And then? Then there was nothing left to believe in, no reason to believe."
"I don't ever remember believing in a higher being. Mother spent so much time teaching me that the only person I could trust or rely on was myself, that there was no need for God."
Chris looked toward the harbour. "We better go, JD 'll think we're hovering." They turned to walk up the hill. "Buck believes in God, or at least I think he does," Chris stated. "He believes in Heaven, I know that. Told me his mum would look after Sarah and Adam for me."
"He's not going to Heaven, or Valhalla or the happy hunting ground or anywhere else, he's coming back here," a familiar voice boomed out of the gloom, causing Ezra to turn suddenly and almost run into Josiah.
"You two have let alcohol seduce you into becoming maudlin. What we need is positive thinking." He jogged ahead a few paces. "Come on, I'll race you to the crossroad!"
"Josiah!" Chris protested, even as Father Sanchez was jogging up the hill. "What are you on about?"
"Not afraid you can't beat an old man are you?"
"Bastard!" Chris hissed.
"You can't call me that, I'm a priest!" Josiah was now a good twenty yards away.
Ezra just looked at Chris, shrugged and took of at a sprint.
"Mad, they're both mad," Chris commented as he gave in and followed them.
Despite the head start, Josiah couldn't hold off Ezra, who reached the 'give way' sigh at the top of the hill first, but he and Chris, who had even more ground to make up, arrived together. All three of them then spent a few moments wheezing and panting, as they hung on to the traffic sign while the caught their breath.
"Right…" Josiah gasped, well aware that his younger friends were recovering much faster then him. "Are we… feeling… more positive?"
Chris nodded, letting a smile escape.
"So, Father," Ezra began. "Is this how you normally console parishioners when their loved ones are in hospital?"
"Only the ones… under sixty!"
"You better not do it too often, could be fatal," Chris commented, giving Josiah a pat on the back, causing him to start coughing again.
"Bastard," Josiah snarled.
"Now, now, you can't call me that, you're a priest!"
Maybe if Buck had known the lengths his friends were going to, in order to maintain a positive outlook on his condition, he might have felt better - but probably not. He was so very tired, he wanted to sleep, he needed to sleep, they gave him drugs that should have made him sleep and they did, for short periods of time. It seemed to take about an hour, sometimes one and a half, then the drugs began to wear off and he'd wake up. They had given him a self administering drip, when he pushed a button he got a measured dose of morphine, the trouble was even pushing the button hurt and it wouldn't let him overdose.
He was finding it harder and harder to remember what had happened to him - this time, and while current events were more and more difficult to recall, past events were all too clear.
Buck was almost happy to see the frying pan burst into flames. Like all kitchens, the ship's galley wasn't fitted with smoke detectors, what would be the point? Instead it had flame detectors, though even these had their limitations. They had to be set so that the odd flambé, accidental or intentional didn't set them off, you had to be able to carry a flaming Christmas Pudding under one without spoiling Christmas Day with an unplanned fire drill. A flaming pan shouldn't set of the fire alarm, not if it was dealt with promptly, but left unattended, the flames would extend out past the extractor hood and then the alarm should sound.
Okay Buck, think!*he told himself. The guy's gone Tonto. So what do I do now? I've tried talking to him. Help's going to come soon, either Chung will come back or the alarm will sound. So all I have to do is keep him from doing anything stupid, well more stupid than he's done already.
The flames were now jumping higher and higher, they licked around the edge of the extractor hood, but still the alarm didn't sound. It doesn’t matter how often or how diligently you clean, there will always be fat and debris under a cooker hood. As the flames reached this they grew in intensity, feeding of the new fuel supply - and still the alarm didn't sound. As they began to lick higher and higher, curling out around the stainless steel housing, Buck realised Gough was now in danger. Somehow he had to get the man to move, no matter how crazy he was, he didn't deserve to burn to death. Though it took him away from the door, Buck took a step back, hoping Gough would advance - he did.
"Where are you going?" he asked, the blade flashing in front of Buck.
Buck didn't answer, he'd stepped in some liquid on the floor, something thick and slippery. The blade flashed again, causing him to duck back to avoid it. In doing so he lost his footing on the slick floor, taking a step back, he tripped over something and fell. It took him a second to realise what it was, a body, lying in a pool of blood, it was Chung.
When Chris saw Buck's condition, when he took in how far his friend's health has deteriorated in the few hours since he last saw him, his first reaction was anger. From now on, someone was going to be here for Buck, for as long as he needed them. He was so consumed in his anger that he almost forgotten JD was standing beside him.
"Oh God!" the young man breathed.
Chris forced himself to think about someone other than the idiot who thought up the concept of 'visiting hours'.
He wanted to say, 'Come on kid, we need to be strong and positive - for Buck.' He knew he should say it, he was the Coxswain, he was the leader, but he couldn't, he couldn't even move.
Even the very evident high fever couldn't hide how pale Buck looked, the little colour he'd regained had been lost. No longer lying on his side, he was now on his back, but propped so high in the bed, he was all but sitting. The blood transfusion bag was gone, but there were now two clear IV lines running into his arm. The other new addition was the oxygen canula under his nose.
"It's not as bad as it looks." Dr Irving's voice was as soft as his approach, for neither man had noticed him. "Really," he assured. "If it was as bad as it looked, we'd have him in intensive care."
Chris decided he didn't like the doctor after all; he was far too flippant and cheerful. His feelings must have been evident on his face, because Irving let his smile drop.
"Trust me. He's still conscious, he's maintaining normal kidney function, his heart rhythm is regular and with the additional oxygen, his blood saturation levels are fine." He smiled confidently. "His last blood tests were encouraging."
JD seized on this. "So he's getting better?"
"He's not getting any worse," the doctor clarified. "Before you go to him, I have to warn you that he has been a little disorientated at times."
"Disorientated?" JD asked.
"It's the fever, sometimes he's a bit confused, don't worry about it, it'll pass as he gets better."
JD was more than a little apprehensive, Buck was his rock, Buck had given him a home, had been there at a point when he felt he was really ready to give up and quit altogether. The simple, honest offer of a room, a roof over his head and a meal, had restored his faith and his hope. Buck had to be there, he had to be strong, and he had to be Buck. He wasn't sure how he would react to a 'disorientated' Buck. When he was seriously ill in hospital, after being injured saving JD's life, Buck had still been Buck. He'd joked, he'd smiled, he'd told JD not to worry, he'd be fine.
As they approached the bed, was almost relieved to find Buck asleep. JD hated himself for that.
"He just dropped off a minute ago," the nurse told them. "Try not to wake him."
Chris nodded as he eased himself into the chair, careful not to scrape it across the floor. JD copied him as he sat down. He watched, as with infinite care Chris pulled opened each of the 'Get Well' cards he'd been given to bring to Buck. One by one, in total silence he set them on the bedside locker, until there was no more room. Then he handed the rest to JD and pointed at the table at the end of the bed. Taking a deep breath JD took them and began to set the cards up. He hadn't realised how many there were, but he wasn't surprised, Four Corners was a small town and Buck was very popular. The majority of the cards were humorous in nature, mostly of the bawdy kind. Not only was Buck well liked, he was also well known. One caught JD's eye, it wasn't a cartoon or a photo with some added caption, it was a simple picture of doe eyed puppy. Inside it read 'Come back soon Master, from Mac' then there was a drawing of a dog's paw print. JD smiled, Ezra's immaculate italic hand was unmistakable. He took the card and showed it to Chris, who grinned and winked at him, taking the card and setting it on the locker, in pride of place.
The two of them then settled down to keep silent vigil, sharing the Sunday paper Chris had purchased on the way in. JD busied himself with the crosswords and puzzles while Chris read the sports section. Buck was still sleeping when Nathan came to pick up JD. As much as he wanted to be with Buck, JD was very aware of his responsibilities, with Inez away, he was running the Pub, Buck would be counting on him to keep everything running smoothly and profitably.
Sadly he said a silent farewell to Chris and Buck and followed Nathan out.
"JD, you'll remember to ask Vin to go over to the farm and help Casey out?" Chris reminded as he stood up.
"Sure, don't worry."
"How are you doing?" Nathan asked JD as the two of them left the ward.
"I don't know, and that's the truth. I just want all this to be over, I want things back to normal."
"Sounds to me like you do know how you feel."
"But it's all about me, I want my life back to normal, how shallow am I?"
"No more shallow than the rest of us, all we all want is our lives to be smooth, no hiccups, no surprises, we all want everyone we love and rely on to always be there. It doesn’t mean we don't care or don't love someone."
JD nodded his understanding and quickened his pace, moving ahead of Nathan. He wanted to believe Nathan, but he wasn't really convinced of the truth of the words.
Buck scrambled to get off poor Chung. Glancing up, he checked on Gough, he was still there, but didn't seem to be moving forward at all. Behind him the flames were growing. He had to get Sammy out, fast, no man deserved to die at the hand of some maniac running amuck with a knife, just because of a 'Dear John' letter.
Why the hell hasn't the fire alarm sounded?
There really wasn't time to ponder this problem, he needed to see to Chung. Blood, there was so much blood, it was everywhere, thick, dark, sticky. With hands that were already covered in it and shaking, Buck tried to find a pulse. His first aid training was basic and taking pulses had never been his strong point. As it turned out it was easy. The pulse in the poor guy’s neck was going so fast, it was almost visible.
At least he's still alive– for now.
He might not have much first aid training, but you didn't need much to know Chung needed help and he needed it fast, very fast! The fire was beginning to take hold, knife or no knife, they had to get out. Suddenly there was a bang, it seemed to come from above them, simultaneously the flames billowed out, setting light to anything that would burn in their path - food, food packages, plastic and most significantly oil. All around the galley there were more fires, small, but threatening to join up into one huge conflagration.
"What the hell have you done?" he asked Gough, without even thinking about it.
Chris dropped his paper and looked up, finding dark blue eyes, which while they looked at him, clearly didn't see him.
"Look at him!" Buck demanded forcibly, though his voice was harsh and raspy.
"Look at who mate? What's happened?"
"What happened? You stabbed him you moron. Now get out of my way before we all fry!"
Chris stood up and came closer to his friend, reaching out to take his hand, hoping to help him reconnect to the here and now. Unfortunately it had the reverse effect.
"Get out of my way! I didn't do anything! I don't even know your bloody wife!"
The heart monitor machine began to beep alarmingly fast, bringing nurses and the doctor at a run. Several people crowded around the bed, all talking at once. This only served to increase Buck's confusion and distress.
"Back off all of you!" Chris commanded, there was such authority in his voice, in his whole being, that they obeyed instantly. "And shut that thing up." He pointed at the heart monitor.
Once he had some quiet, Chris turned back to his friend. "Come on mate, listen to my voice, you know me, it's Chris." Buck frowned at him. "There you go, it's me Chris - remember? Buck didn't look like he was remembering. "We sail together, you serve me scotch - the best stuff."
Chris was a little thrown by‘Skipper’, while Buck had called him that - usually as a joke - he didn't use it often, but then he was Buck's captain, so...
"Yes, I'm here."
"We need to stop him, he's crazy."
"It's okay, honestly, it's all taken care of, just lie still and rest."
Buck was still frowning at him; perspiration beading on his forehead, but the red light on the now silent heart monitor was slowing. Then his eyes closed and he sank back against the pillow. Chris suddenly became aware of Sister Penhaligan standing on the far side of the bed; she was doing something to one of the IV bags. She smiled reassuringly
"It's a sedative," Irving explained from his position at the end of the bed. "He needs to rest."
Chris took a moment to calm himself, then nodded; they were the experts after all.
"You did a fine job, keeping him calm," Penhaligan assured him. "Are you able to stay here for a while?"
Chris fought the urge to point out what a stupid question that was, after all where else would he be when a friend needed him?
"As long as he needs me."
While Buck succumbed to drug induced sleep, Chris found himself some food and made some phone calls. One was to JD.
"He's about the same, the doctor is still confident he's doing okay - as expected - that's what they keep saying," he assured. "I need you to do some research, Vin might be able to help you, maybe Ezra as well, hell ask any one you think can help."
"Help with that?" JD urged.
Chris recounted what Buck had said in his delirium. "I know he could have been talking about what happened the other night, but he said 'fried'. That sounds like a fire; he told us he got his George Medal for pulling someone out of a fire. Can you find out what happened? I get the feeling it may be important."
"Leave it to me!"
JD actually sounded almost cheerful, probably happy to be able to help in some tangible way. Chris envied him that.
There really was nothing for it, Buck had to get Chung out as soon as possible, before he bled to death - assuming he wasn't dead already.
Don't think like that!*he chided himself.
He wasn't a hostage negotiator, he wasn't a fire fighter, nor was he in the SBS, but he was a rugby player, an explosive Number 8, who could launch himself at an opponent with speed that belied his size. He looked up at Gough, the man looked vacant, it was as if he no longer knew were he was, he seemed oblivious to the increasingly fierce flames behind and around him and the ever thicker blanket of smoke.
Why the hell hasn't the fire alarm sounded?
He reached out his hand, giving Chung a reassuring pat on the shoulder. Then pulling his feet under him he prepared to launch himself at the madman with the knife. He almost made it, under normal circumstances he could flatten an opponent with one thumping tackle, but he slipped, his feet losing purchase as he stepped in the ever growing pool of blood. He did make the tackle, but Gough had time to react, there was a brief tussle before he was toppled, falling back, pinned to the deck by fourteen stone's worth of Wilmington. Almost instantly, even as he struggled under this weight, Gough was struck by a pounding upper cut, that left him dazed and confused. Buck grabbed the knife, threw it under the cooker and scrambled back to Chung.
The smoke was now choking, it stung his eyes and burned his throat. He began to drag Chung's inert form toward the door. The moment he got the door open, thick black smoke billowed out and within seconds the fire alarm sounded.
'Bout bloody time!
As he pulled Chung all the way into the passageway, people came running, including the Captain.
"What the hell's going on?" Michaels demanded.
"Gough's thrown a double six Skipper," Buck told him. "Knifed Sammy and set the kitchen on fire, I've got to get him out of there!"
With that, Buck ducked down and ran back into the galley.
Chris hated that he had to keep his phone switched off while he was in the hospital, he understood the ban, he just didn't like it. Buck was once more getting restless, the sedative was wearing off, but Chris needed to check in with the others. Rather than go all the way outside, he used the payphone in the passageway outside the ward.
"JD? … Yeah it's me … he's the same." Privately Chris thought Buck looked even worse, the nurses were coming at regular intervals to sponge him down, a large fan had been placed at the end of the bed. There was talk of a 'cooling blanket'. "Did you find anything out?"
"Sort of, I know where he keeps the medal, so I took a look, there was a fancy card with a date on it, not sure if it was when he got it or when what happened, happened. Anyway Vin called someone he knows in the MOD and they're checking on it. Ezra says if they can't find out anything, he knows someone in London who can look up back issues of the London Gazette, but he can't do it until the morning."
"The London Gazette?"
"That's were they publish…"
"Citations for medals, I remember now. Okay thanks for trying. Call the hospital and leave a message if you find out anything. How are you coping?"
"Okay I guess, I wish Inez was here. Rain is going to meet her off the train first thing tomorrow. So I guess you better expect her in the morning."
"I am so warned."
"Ezra said to tell Buck to get back soon. He said to tell him he’s not used to all this menial labour and he's found the stash of vintage champagne."
Chris had to laugh at that one. "Oh I bet he did, how long did it take him, half an hour?"
"About three minutes after he went down into the cellar, but it took me half a day to get him down there. Chris?"
"Can you tell Buck… tell him… Tell him I…"
"I will JD, don't worry." Chris was pretty sure he heard JD sniff, when he spoke again, there was a crack to his voice. "And tell him Mac misses him, so he has to come home soon, 'cause I'm tired of sharing my bed with a depressed greyhound."
With Buck lost in his own world, re-living some nightmare event from his past, a long evening stretched into a long night. Chris wasn't really sure what it was Buck was remembering, but he was beginning to piece some of it together. One thing was clear, he thought Chris was his commanding officer. He seemed to rest easier when his 'CO' assured him it wasn't his fault - whatever it was.
As the clock moved remorselessly on past midnight, Chris feared his friend was getting worse; it seemed as if the fever was burning him up from the inside. It didn't help that in his hallucinations he seemed to be fighting some fire. As well as the confusion, it was evident to Chris, that, even with the medication he was on, his friend was in considerable pain. Despite all these fears the doctor seemed eternally confident.
"This is normal, honestly. Trust your friend, he'll beat this."
Chris nodded, he did have faith in Buck, he just hoped faith was enough.
Buck could hear voices behind him, but he paid them no heed, all he could think was that he needed to get back and find Gough. Crawling on his hands and knees, where the air was cleaner, he quickly located his quarry. Gough was also on his hands and knees, looking for his knife - it didn't seem to have occurred to him he was in a kitchen full of knives.
"Come on man, out!" Buck shouted at him.
"Get away from me!"
"Don't be so bloody stupid, we have to get out of here!"
But Gough wasn't listening, he seemed oblivious to the fire raging all around him. Just as Buck was about to tackle him again, the Captain arrived, between the two of them they had no trouble dragging him to safety. As they once more made it out of the galley, the fire control party were arriving, responding to the deafening alarm. Someone was applying pressure to Chung's wound, awaiting the arrival of the Medical Assistant, known to all as 'Doc'.
Doc's real name was Foster - anyone who though that was funny was likely to find a dose of laxative slipped into his tea - and he was a trained paramedic. Despite his considerable skill, it quickly became clear that if Chung was going to live, he was going to need surgery and fast.
Chris was leaning over the bed, talking as calmly as he could.
"Don't worry, they'll put out the fire, I've taken care of it," he assured.
"Sammy, he's bleeding!"
"It'll be okay, the doctor will take care of him."
"You got him to a doctor, a real one?" Buck asked, almost sounding surprised.
Chris cursed; he'd forgotten that whatever happened had been on a ship, clearly one which didn't have its own doctor.
"Sure, we got him to a real doctor, he's in safe hands now," he promised.
"Thanks Skipper." With that Buck relaxed back on to the pillow, his eyes closed and he began to breathe more easily.
"You have done very well." Chris turned toward the familiar voice of the night nurse, Ruth Matongo, she smiled at him. "See he's sleeping easily now. Go and get some rest, something to eat."
"I should stay."
"Nonsense man, you need to eat, he won't wake up for a while now, go on, I'm here."
She never raised her voice, there was no hint of annoyance or anger, she smiled warmly and yet there was no doubt she expected to be obeyed. Chris looked back at Buck, he did indeed look to be deeply asleep, looking more relaxed than at any time since he'd been admitted.
"Very well, I won't be long." It would at least give him a chance to call JD, he knew he would still be up.
"It's Ezra, JD is walking the dog."
Chris checked his watch. "Oh, yes of course. I was just checking in."
"It was rough, but he's sleeping now, seems peaceful enough. The doctor is still confident. Did Vin find anything out?"
"He hasn't been in touch, did he leave a message at the hospital?"
"Is there anything else I can do?"
Chris could tell what he was really saying was 'give me something to do, give me a way to make this better faster', the reason he knew this was because that was how he felt, he was sure it was how they all felt.
"Carry on doing what you're doing. Be there for JD, watch out for Buck's interests, don't drink the champagne - yet."
Chris could almost hear Ezra smiling. "Understood. Josiah is going with Rain tomorrow to pick up Inez. Thinks it might be best."
"Oh, okay. Keep up the good work Ezra, I'll ring in the morning."
"Understood, speak to you then."
Chris hung up, took another pull on the can of coke he'd purchased from a vending machine and a bite of his Mars bar, before calling Vin.
"Larabee farm and stables," Vin answered promptly, clearly not asleep.
"It's me, any news?"
“That is spooky,” Vincommented. “I was just about to call you.”
“Got what you need,” Vin told him bluntly.
Vin told him everything he’d found out. “No wonder he’s having nightmares,” he commented when he’d finished.
"So how's he doing?"
Chris told him what he’d told Ezra.
"Sleeping is good - right?" Vin offered, sounding optimistic.
"So the nurse thinks."
"Well there you go man, gotta be good hasn't it?"
"Sure. How are things at home?"
"Good, Casey and Harry seem to have everything covered, I just did what they told me to do. By the way your dog doesn’t listen to me, Harry and Casey yes, me, no."
Fly, Chris' sheep dog was the very opposite of the sedentary Mac, Fly was always on the go, and while Mac would follow anyone - so long as they had food - Fly was very loyal.
"Don’t worry about her, just put the food down and let her sleep in front of the fire until bedtime, she'll be fine."
"Okay, look can you tell Buck I expect him to pull me a pint next Sunday."
"I will, he can pull one for all of us. Bye mate."
It transpired the galley’s fire detectors had been taken offline for maintenance that night and hadn’t been switched back on, which was why no fire alarm went off until the door to the passageway was opened.
Frantic signals were sent to locate the closest doctor, which turned out to be on a French aircraft carrier sailing 600 miles to the south, just inside the range of a Sea King helicopter. Gough had inhaled some smoke and had a few bruises, mostly from Buck’s fist, but he was basically okay, physically at least. Buck might also have been left behind, had the captain not noticed that the blood stain on the back of his shirt was still growing. So high was he on adrenalin that Buck hadn’t even noticed he’d been injured. At some point in their fight Gough had managed to drag his knife across Buck’s lower back. It wasn’t a penetrating wound, but it was a gaping slash and ‘Doc’ Foster wanted him seen by a real doctor.
In the time it took to fuel up the helicopter, Foster worked on Chung, starting a blood transfusion and anti shock medication. Even with the La Quatorzième Juillet steaming toward them, it was going to take more then three hours to reach her. Foster flew with them all the way, but had to leave them on the French ship. Truro was forced to divert to Gibraltar, where Gough could be handed over to the provosts and get the galley repaired. La Quatorzième Juillet was heading home after a long deployment in the Pacific, her captain was disinclined to delay his crew’s well deserved leave for a couple of Englishmen, by diverting to a Spanish port. They would stay on board until the ship was within helicopter range of a suitably equipped British hospital, which, fittingly, would be in Truro,
As soon as they landed, Chung was taken in to the ship’s operating room while Buck was made comfortable in the sick bay. Since the ship only had two doctors, and they were both needed to work on Chung, he would have to wait for his surgery to be over before anyone was free to treat him, None of the medical orderlies could speak English, so the ship’s weapons officer was drafted in as a translator, but he couldn’t be there all the time often leaving Buck to lie there rather isolated. After nearly four hours, Chung was wheeled back in and settled beside Buck, hooked up to all kinds of bags, drains and monitors. It took them nearly an hour to stitch up Buck’s back. By the time he was returned to his bed beside Chung, the day’s events and the medication had caught up with him, and he slept for the rest of the day, waking up in the evening. It took him a while to work out that, one; his friend was in a very bad way and two; the doctors didn’t seem to give him much chance. One of the doctors did speak English and explained to Buck that Chung had lost so much blood that he was at risk of multiple organ failure.
“He’s already lost his spleen and one kidney. We can support his remaining organs, but not indefinitely. The real problem is that when you lose that much blood there will be damage to his brain.”
“Meaning?” Buck asked.
“He will mostly likely not wake up.”
That apparently was that, the doctors seemed to have given up on Sammy. Well not Buck, Buck Wilmington, never gave up on anyone. Ignoring the orderly, protesting in French, Buck got out of bed with difficulty, and walked– very gingerly – over to Sammy Chung and began to talk to him. He reminded him he had a family to live for and a dream to realise. The two of them had shared their dreams of owning their own catering businesses. Buck wanted a pub in his home town and Chung a restaurant in London. Sometimes, while Chung waited to collect the Captain’s meal, they’d plan their respective establishments and menus.
The medics tried to make him get back in bed, but Buck was having none of it. Some of his stitches tore, but as soon as the damage was repaired, he was back. They gave him a chair, but when the ship hit some rough seas, it fell over, forcing him to once more stand by the bed, hanging on to the side rail for grim death. After that, they admitted defeat and moved Buck’s bed right next to Chung’s. Never once did the doctors hold out any hope for Chung, he had a GCS score of 3, to them that indicated he was, if not brain dead, certainly in a permanent vegetative state. Never a fan of doctors, Buck’s belief that doctors were always overly pessimistic, was consolidated on that ship. After almost three days Chung proved Buck right by opening his eyes, briefly. By then, Buck was exhausted, he’d reopened his own wound three times, picking up an infection that took two weeks to heal, but he didn’t care, as with each day Chung began to come a little further out of his coma.
Buck slept through the night, waking fitfully in the morning, as the nurses carried out their morning checks and helped him roll over. After that he was wheeled away for a scan. Irving explained that they wanted to check there had been no further internal bleeding.
“I have every faith in the surgeon, but, Buck can’t tell us about any pain he has and the fever could be masking other symptoms.” He smiled broadly. “It doesn’t hurt to check. Won’t take long, but we’ll have to sedate him so he doesn’t move. Okay?” he asked cheerfully.
“Yes, of course whatever you think is best,” Chris agreed, really not sure what was going on, but trusting the ever cheerful doctor to do nothing that wasn’t in Buck’s best interests.
“Good, good, go get some fresh air and a bite to eat,” the doctor advised as he left.
By the time he returned Buck was back and awake.
“Skipper?” he asked as Chris approached.
“Hello,” Chris responded “How are you feeling now?”
“Oh I’m alright Sir, what about Sammy?”
“He’s doing fine, recovering well. You did good, so you just concentrate on getting better now, okay?”
Some twenty minutes later, Chris was returning from a bathroom break and encountered Sister Penhaligan.
“I overheard you just now, it sounds like you know ‘where’ he is?” she asked.
Chris had always liked Penhaligan, she was perceptive, practical and best of all she was prepared to adapt.
“Yeah,I do, hopefully it will make it easier to reassure him.”
She smiled almost enigmatically at him, knowing he wasn’t going to explain further. She trusted Larabee to look after his men, she didn’t have to pry any further.
Buck rested fitfully for the rest of the day, when he was awake he still believed himself to be back on HMS Truro. Mid morning he was sleeping deeply and apparently untroubled by dreams, when someone entered the room.
“Madre de dios!”
Chris spun around to see Inez standing at the end of the bed.
“It’s not as bad as it looks,” Chris assured her.
“Cómo puede eso ser?” she mutteredcoming closer. “Qué han hecho a usted mi amor?”
“English Inez, I don’t speak Spanish, remember?” Chris reminded.
She didn’t look up, waving away his comment as she picked up Buck’s limp, sweaty hand. Chris watched with fascination, he had suspected that her attitude to Buck had been softening of late, after all he hadn’t ‘fired’ her for months. Clearly things had gone further than he had suspected. Well good for the two of them, since they seemed to be the only people in town who didn’t know they were perfect for each other.
She was still there, his hand in hers, muttering in Spanish, Chris thought she was probably praying much of the time, when Dr Irving returned, smiling as always.
“And who is this delightful lady?” he asked Chris.
“Doctor Irving, may Ipresent Senorita Inez Recillos.”
The doctor gave a small bow, took the hand she offered and kissed it. “Encantado Senorita.”
It was at that point that Chris had a vision of the doctor as a young man, another Buck, charming the women without even thinking about it.
“Do I have to ask the young lady to leave?” the Doctor asked Chris.
“Leave?” Inez asked indignantly.
“While we discuss medical matters.”
Chris was tempted to say no, but Buck was generally guarded about what personal information he shared and he didn’t know just how close the two of them were, so – reluctantly - he asked her to leave. Inez was predictably unimpressed and positively flounced out of the ward in high dudgeon. She was still out there, pacing angrily when JD arrived.
They were still hugging when Chris emerged with the doctor.
“Good news,” heannounced. “He’s turned the corner. Right Doc?”
“Indeed, no internal bleeding, fever dropping, his white blood cell count is still significantly elevated but that is to beexpected, and perfectly normal while his body fights the infection. Red cell count is perfectly normal, so all the lost blood has been replaced.” The doctor wagged his finger at Chris in a slightly comical manner. “I told you he would be fine, should have had a fiver on it!”
JD just snatched the man’s hand and pumped it up and down enthusiastically. “Thanks doctor, thanks so much!”
Inez then grabbed him around the neck and planted a kiss on his cheek. “Gracias!”
“De nada, Senorita.”
“She never kiss’me like that,” Chris commented to JD.
“Really?I get kissed all the time.”
“So I’ve noticed.”
When Buck woke up again, he was much more orientated to the here and now, even more so when he saw Inez. He had once lamented to Chris that he’d been assigned to the only surface ship in the Navy with no women in the crew and how unfair it was. Chris privately thought someone in the Navy knew Buck too well to let him loose on a ship with woman on it. Nonetheless the lack of women in his delusion meant that seeing Inez helped him to hold on to the present.
“You’re here?” he asked frowning.
“I am,” she confirmed.
“Thought you were inLondon?”
“I was and now I am home, to take care of you.” She bent down and placed a kiss on his still too hot forehead.
JD stood at the end of the bed unsure what to do or how he felt. On one hand he was very happy that Buck was clearly getting better, but yet he felt… jealous? Inez was taking his place, Buck came back when he saw her, not him. As much as he loved Buck as a brother and he was sure that Buck felt the same about him, Buck wasn’t ‘in love’ with him. He wasn’t so naive he didn’t know there was a huge difference. If they really were in love now, where did that leave him? Almost as soon as all this went through his head he left about two inches tall. What kind of jerk thinks about himself while his best friend is in hospital and begrudges him a chance at true love?
Much to his annoyance, they kept Buck in hospital for ten days. It wasn’t so much the infection they were worried about, but the injury to his intestine. Only when they were happy he could eat normally without any ill effects would they let him home.
Chris came into the bar the morning of Buck’s liberation, to find JD hoovering.
“Hey!” he shouted over the noise of thevacuum cleaner.
JD switched off the Dyson and turned to face Chris.
“Ready?” Chris asked.
JD looked unsure. He and Chris or one of the others had been to see Buck every day, but now for some reason he felt unsure of his place. Inez had also visited, but nowhere near as often.
“Well Jenny’s little boy’s been puking all night, so she can’t come in, I need to get the place clean before opening time,” he explained, his hand taking a tighter grip on the handle of the vacuum cleaner. Jenny was the pub’s regular cleaner.
Chris took a step closer. “Where is Inez?” he asked, looking around.
“She’s had to go to the cash and carry, we had a run on crisps, she won’t be long.”
“Okay.” Chris came closerstill, by now JD was looking resolutely at the floor. “JD,” he began gently. “What’s wrong?”
JD just shrugged.
“You know whatever Inez and Buck have, it doesn’t change what you two have.”
JD shrugged again. “I know.”
“You don’t sound very convinced. John Dunne, look at me.” Clearly reluctantly JD looked up. “First off, once Buck was awake the two of them were the way they always are with each other.”
“I know, but shedoes love him,” JD told him, sharing with Larabee something he had known for months, but had told no one, save Mac.
“I believe you, but irrespective of that, you and him, it’s different. Now I am never sure just what you two have, it’s more than friends, brothers?”
JD gave him a half smile. “He calls me‘little brother’ some times,” he admitted.
“And this is Buck we are talking about, so if he said it he means it. But you know, I think sometimes he’s more like a father?”
JD dropped his head again. The truth was when he needed the kind of support a father should provide, Buck was always there, he’d never tell him so, but those times meant more to him than anything else.
“JD therelationship a man has with his brother or best friend, even his son, that is not going to change when he falls in love. Or at least it shouldn’t.” JD looked up, worry painted across his face again. “But good men, men like Buck Wilmington, would never let that happen. He’s a long way from fit JD, but we both know he’ll never let Inez see any weakness, and sure as Hell he’s never going to let her help him. I doubt he’ll let me help him, at least not willingly.” That made JD smile, “But,” Chris continued. “He just might let you in, just a little. He might, if you are there for him, even let you help him.”
“Why me and not you?”
“Because we’re friends, you’re family.”
Despite their talk, JD insisted he had to say behind and finish getting ready for opening time.
“It’s my responsibly while he’s away, he’s trusting me to take care of things,” he explained.
It was mid afternoon by the time Chris was dropping Buck off outside the pub. Wilmington lowered his long frame gingerly to the ground from the high cab of the Land Rover.
“Damn it’s good to be home,” he commented. For a second he glanced over at the spot on the road where he’d been attacked then headed for the door. Inside most of the regulars greeted him. In the kitchen Inez smiled as she prepared curry for the evening menu.
“Hola, Mi Jefe, good to have you back.”
“Good to be back Senorita,” he responded.
“JD is upstairs,” she told him.
Buck turned to the rather steep stairs and steeled himself for the climb. It was going to be a bit of a challenge, but he’d never let anyone see how much it hurt. He could hear Chris chatting with people in the bar as he carried Buck’s things in from the car. On reaching the landing he forced himself to stand up straight and take a deep breath. Once he had things back under control he walked on into the flat.
JD was sitting at the desk, a whole pile of receipts and invoices beside him.
“Hey there Squirt, stillkeeping me solvent?” Buck greeted.
JD shot out of his chair and ran over, then pulled up short, not sure Buck was up for a hug.
“Ohfor God’s sake come here!” Buck exclaimed, pulling JD to him. They were still there when Mac finally worked out his master was home and not making a fuss of him. Jumping up he forced his way between the two men.
“Dog if you think I’m bending down to you, think again,” Buck told his dog as it dropped back down to the floor, looking up at him hopefully, tail wagging. With that he tapped his chest twice, a clear invitation to Mac, who immediately jumped up, resting his front paws on Buck’s hips as he was fondled and petted.
“Mac down,” JD finally commandedfirmly. “You, armchair,” he told Buck equally firmly.
“You telling me what to do?”
“If I need to, tough love, isn’t that what families do for each other?”
Buck eased himself down into the recliner in front of the TV, Mac circled a few times and then settled himself beside the chair.
“He’s missed you,” JD commented.
“I missed him, and you.” Bucksmiled at JD
“I saw you every day,” JD reminded.
“Not the same.”
“Um.” JD easing himself down onto the arm of the sofa. “I read the citation.”
Buck frowned, not understanding.
“The citation for your GM, the fire and mad guy with theknife.”
“Ah, yeah, Chris told me I was kind of out of it for a while.”
“You though you were back on the ship, in the kitchen.”
“Galley,” Buck corrected.
JD rolled his eyes, giving Buck the‘whatever’ sign.
“Well you can put those eyes back where they belong, around here we use proper Naval terminology.”
JD knew Buck was trying to deflect the conversation away from something he wasn’t comfortable discussing, but he’d taken Chris’ words to heart and family didn’t shy way from the hard stuff.
“Must have been scary, I mean you were only 22.”
Now it was Buck who shrugged. “Would have scared anyone, at any age. You remember what I told you about fear?”
“Fear keeps you sharp, only crazy guys aren’t scared.”
“What happened to Sammy?”
“He made a full recovery, damnmedicos were always giving up on him, but he showed them.”
“He should have had Dr Irving, he never gave up on you.”
Buck relaxed back into his chair a little. “No he didn’t, he’s okay, for a doctor.”
“Don’t let Nate hear you say that.”
“Nate doesn’t count, he’s one of us.”
JD stood up. “Want something to eat or drink?”
“I though you would never ask, I need food JD, real food, food to line a man’s stomach, not the slops they gave me in hospital and sure as Hell not the healthy crap on that so called diet sheet they gave me!”
“Baconsandwich, slice of cake and a coke?” JD offered.
“What kind of cake?”
“Well apart from whateverthere is downstairs, we’ve got ginger cake and some of those mini chocolate Swiss rolls.”
“Ginger, and a beer.”
“Coke, I’m not dumb, no booze until Nathan gives you the all clear.”
JD made enough food for two, he’d been so nervous all day, waiting for Buck’s return he hadn’t eaten since breakfast.
“So, where’s Sammy now?” he asked between mouthfuls of bacon, studiously ignoring Mac’s pleading eyes.
“InLondon, running his own restaurant.”
There was a pause, then JD smiled. “That explains it.”
“Ezra told me, when he was in hospital inLondon, this Chinese restaurant kept delivering food, free of charge, something to do with you.”
“Oh yeah,Sammy reckons he owes me a lifelong debt of honour – which he doesn’t, not as far as I’m concerned – it’s a big deal with his people. So, if you ever need a meal in London and you’re out of funds, you get yourself over to the Ocean Dragon in Lisle Street and tell them you’re my brother.” Buck’s look turned serious. “Do not offer to pay, or even leave a tip, they would be insulted.”
JD put down his sandwich. “Guess Sammy and me have a lot in common. We both owe you a debt of honour for saving out lives.”
“You’ve saved mine, in more than one way, so I reckon we’re even. Besides, family don’t owe each other.”
There was moment of silence, as if each man had suddenly realised the full meaning of what had just passed between them.
“Hey!” Chris’voice broke the mood, causing them both to laugh. “What’s so funny?” Larabee asked as he came into the living room.
“Nothing,” JD told him.
“Inezwants to know when you’re coming back down. Things are getting busy again.”
“I’ll be there in a sec.”
“Okay.” Chris dropped Buck’s bag by the door. “His medication is in there, along with the instructions, he probably needs some fairly soon.”
“Oy! I am right here you know!” Buck protested.
Ignoring him, JD said goodbye to Chris, retrieved the medication, read the instructions, noted that Buck would need antibiotics at supper time, gave him the remote controls for the TV and the satellite box and prepared to head down to the pub.
“Oh,” JD turnedway from the door. “There’s a party tonight, to welcome you home, it’s meant to be a surprise, so act surprised, I just thought you should be … you know, warned.”
“I am so warned, and thanks, Iappreciate the heads up. JD?”
“Thanks, for everything.”
With that JD, grinning broadly, headed back down to take care of Buck, by keeping him solvent.
‘On October the 12th at approximately 06:00, Leading Rating Wilmington, a junior chef on board HMS Truro entered the ship’s galley, where he encountered a crewman who was brandishing a knife. It subsequently transpired this man had suffered a serious mental breakdown. He threatened Leading Rating Wilmington with the knife, having already attacked the captain’s steward causing him life threatening injuries. While attempting to rescue the steward, who was unconscious and bleeding heavily, the kitchen caught fire and Leading Rating Wilmington was himself stabbed. Despite his own injuries, and the fire, Leading Rating Wilmington managed to subdue the deranged men and pull the steward to safety. He then returned to the kitchen to rescue his attacker, despite the continuing danger from the fire and man’s violent and unstable mental state. With the assistance of the Captain, this man was also pulled to safety. For his heroism that day, in saving two lives, Leading Rating Buck Wilmington is awarded the George Medal.’
Sectioned = to be detained under Section 2 of the Mental Health Act 1983, under the provisions of which, people can be detained against their will for mental health assessment/treatment.