Birch '05: Intersection

When the Cherokee's door opened Chris didn't even move, when it slammed shut he barely flinched.

"What are you doing?" Buck asked, raking a hand through his rain- shocked hair.

Chris didn't answer, didn't even acknowledge his presence.

"So you're just gonna sit here, and stare at …a road, a piece of asphalt, dirty, cracked, unremarkable. It's just a road Pal, that's all it is - just a dumb old bit of road, like millions of miles of other roads."

"No, it's…" Chris' voice was no more than a whisper, cracked and harsh.

"Yes it is, it's just a road, you can't just sit here and stare at a road."

"This is the place."

"I know! Damn it," Buck forced himself to soften his voice. "I know, I know." Chris finally looked at his partner. "I was here, remember?"


Six months on from the death of his family, Chris had finally sobered up enough to actually think about what happened. He found himself sitting in his car opposite the intersection where his family died, blown up by a car bomb. The car's engine block had blasted a crater in the road that had now been filled in, but six months on the scorch marks were still visible around the edge of the new repair. He couldn't make sense of it. Sure he had enemies, lots of them, but none whose M.O. was bombs.

If only he and Buck hadn't been delayed on their way back from Grand Junction, if only it hadn't snowed, if only they'd taken his 4x4 and not the motor pool sedan. Then Sarah wouldn't have been driving it; she wouldn't have been using it to take Adam to school.

He knew Buck has been sitting on the guys investigating the bombing, watching over their shoulders. But there was nothing, no telltale bomb fragments that only fitted one known bomber; it was a plain old bomb made of dynamite, connected to an alarm clock. They had gone through Chris' past and current cases with a fine-toothed comb, checked and rechecked his background, his military record and even checked his family - nothing. What parts of the bomb they had found were unremarkable parts freely available from Home Depot, Wal-Mart and Radio Shack. Everything the killer needed could have been purchased legitimately, everything except the dynamite. None had been reported stolen in the city or surrounding counties, all the legitimate sales had been checked and accounted for. The investigation stalled.

As he sat and stared at the spot on the road where his family died that day, Chris made a decision. He was going to leave the police and join the ATF, if they'd have him. His family was killed with illicit explosives, he couldn't stop it and he couldn't find the ones who did it. Maybe it would be a fitting to try and stop what happened to them, happening to others.


That was four years ago, his life had changed, he'd changed and his relationship with Buck had changed. Buck and he had fooled about some in the Navy, long before he met Sarah. Buck had made him ask Sarah out on that first date, stood beside him as best man, been there the night Adam was born. Buck was the boy's godfather and uncle, as much a part of the family as any blood relative. Then, when his world imploded, it was Buck who stood by him. Kept him alive, out of jail, kept him from being fired.

For reasons of his own, Buck had stayed in the Denver PD, when Chris left to join the ATF. It was the first time they hadn't worked side by side in ten years. To Chris it just didn't feel right, not having Buck right there beside him, knowing what was needed and doing it long before Chris had a chance to ask. They were a partnership, be it in the SEAL's, driving a black and white or sharing a desk at homicide. So, just six months later Chris met Buck in a bar and asked if he would consider joining him at the ATF. Buck had wanted to say yes, but then got cold feet. Federal agencies had high standards, and he didn't want to show Chris up.

"Well that's a load of crap!" Chris had exclaimed when Buck had finally voiced his fears. "You're a damn good cop Buck, and don't you forget it. Best there is when comes to questioning a witness. ATF 'd be lucky to get you."

"I don't know Chris, Feds are different." Chris had raised an eyebrow. "Well not you, you're okay, but …ah hell, you used to hate them as much as me."

"They're not all bad, and it's not like it's the Feebs. They told me to recruit my own team, so far I've only got one name on the list."

"So who's that?"

"You! You dumb shit, who else? Come on board, I need you. We'll find the others together."


As much as the ATF proved to be the saving of Chris Larabee, it also proved to be the making of Buck Wilmington, who, he freely admitted, was not an ambitious man, but who found a reason to strive to fulfill his full potential with Team Seven. Team Seven, handpicked by Agents Larabee and Wilmington, gelled as a team like no other and became both famous and infamous. And, little by little, Buck and Chris grew together again, regaining their old closeness and then surpassing it. Buck had moved out to the ranch permanently only that week. The team all knew the two of them were sharing a bed, but for the sake of appearances Buck kept his things in the second bedroom.


When, in the early hours of Saturday morning, Buck had rolled over to find Chris' side of the bed empty, alarm bells had started to sound in his head. It wasn't unusual, but the three year anniversary of the death of his family was close. There had been none of the heavy drinking of previous years, but Chris had been quiet and somewhat distant, for the last three days he hadn't wanted an kind of intimate contact, they had still shared a bed, but that was all.

The bare patch of sheet was cool, so it had been some time since Chris left. Under normal circumstances Buck would have woken as soon as Chris left the bed, but he'd been putting in a lot of long hours, working on a case that was about to go to court. He'd come home late and so tired he was asleep almost as soon as his head hit the pillow.

He rolled slightly and looked over to the bathroom door, no light spilled out from under it. He lay still and listened, rain, outside, steady but not driving, the clock in the hall ticked, if he really strained he could hear the hum of the fridge. No sounds of someone in the kitchen fixing a snack, no muffled TV, no click-click of the computer keyboard. The door to the bedroom was open, the heating worked best if the air circulated, so from the bed Buck could see that no lights we on, not the harsh white light of the kitchen, the soft glow of the living room lamps, not even the blue flicker of the TV.

"So where are you?" Buck asked out loud.

Finding he needed the bathroom, Buck left the bed and attended to that, as he came out he pulled on a robe and wandered into the house. Chris was nowhere to be found so he took a look through the windows overlooking the yard, there were no lights, the barn, workshop and yard were all dark. He was just about to turn away from the window when something caught his eye. Something about the dark outlines outside was wrong. Flipping on the exterior lights he took another look. And then he knew. The Ram was gone. Cursing, he turned away from the window and turned on the house lights. As he made his way back to the bedroom something else caught his eye. The door to the study, like all the doors, was standing ajar. There on the desk and spilling down on to the floor were papers and pictures. He stepped closer and felt a cold dread take hold of his gut. Chris had pulled out the long ignored file on his family's murder.

Even while Chris was still on compassionate leave after the murders, Buck was sneaking copies of reports, statements, and pictures of the case and bringing them out to the ranch. For months, whenever he was at the ranch and moderately sober, Chris would take out the files and study them. But as the months past and no new evidence came to light, the file came out less and less often. Buck couldn't remember seeing it out once in the last fourteen months.

As he pulled on some clothes, Buck tried to work out where Chris had gone; he had already dismissed a bar. Even when his drinking was at its worst, Chris was never a drink-driver. Buck had always been the driver of the partnership, at least professionally. Chris' usual pattern was to leave the station house at the end of the shift, walk until he couldn't be bothered to walk any more. Then he'd enter the nearest bar and start drinking. Sometimes he'd take a cab home, but mostly Buck would turn up, either because he'd followed Chris or because the bar had found his number and called him, and deal with whatever 'situation' he discovered. He usually took Chris home, but if he was in a really bad state he'd take him to his own place. Technically Chris probably was still over the drink-drive limit on most mornings when he drove to the station, but he never knowingly drove while intoxicated.

So, setting aside Chris' old drinking haunts, that left two probable destinations. The first place he checked was the cemetery, but it was deserted; there was no sign of Chris or the Ram. That left one other place to check. Even as he drove that conversation re-played in his head. The two of them sitting in Chris' Cherokee opposite the interchange. What was he going to say this time, the same thing? He'd thought that was behind Chris - thought he'd made peace with the past.

"Guess not," he admitted out loud.


Buck pulled his truck up behind the Ram, the rain was threatening to turn to sleet, as he got out and hurried the short distance to the other vehicle. Just like before he climbed into the passenger seat, just as before his arrival was not acknowledged, as the man he loved stared out at an anonymous interchange. There was no trace of the horror visited on the place now, no more scorch marks, the patch now impossible to identify among all the others.

Why was Chris here, now, like this? Buck asked himself, the then the truth, a truth he'd been carrying for years, hit him like a lead weight, making him feel sick to his boots.

"You worked it out, didn't you?" Buck finally asked.

Chris nodded. "Eight twenty, it was eight twenty. I always left the ranch at seven thirty, I'd pick you up at about five to eight, ten past at the latest, the earliest we were ever got to work was eight

thirty. The bomb was timed to ensure you were in the car." Chris finally looked at his lover. "They couldn't find anyone trying to kill me, because they were trying to kill you."

Buck blanched, and looked away. "Yeah, I reckon so," he finally admitted.

"How long have you known?"

"Not soon enough, the trail was stone cold."

"That's not what I asked you."

"Just before you stopped drinking."

"Why didn't you tell me?" There was an edge to his voice now.

"You were just beginning to get your life back together, I thought…"

"I couldn't handle it? What gives you the right to determine what I can handle?" Chris had now turned in his seat to he could see Buck better.

"What give me the right? Hell if you don't know that? Who the hell was watching you 'handle it' with a bottle of Jack Daniel's in both hands for six months? Jesus, I wish I had video of you back then, maybe you'd understand why I couldn't face sending you back to that place."

"Get out," Chris snarled.


"Out, now!"

Buck looked over at his best friend and lover, for a moment he didn't move, then he gave a little nod of the head and opened the door. He didn't so much as climb out of the truck as slip out, dropping down from the high cab to the wet street in one smooth movement.


He sat there and stared at that intersection for the rest of the night, rain turned to sleet and eventually to snow, though it didn't settle on the wet road. Because of Buck he'd lost everything. No matter what why he looked at it, it all came back to that. So where did they go from here?

Dawn was just breaking as he pulled up outside the house again, still not sure what he was going to do or even how he felt. So distracted was he that he didn't even notice Buck's truck wasn't there. Wilmington always parked his precious vintage Chevy under the lean-to beside the barn, but in the dark shadows you could miss it.

"Buck!" he called as he opened the door, there was no response to his call. A quick check proved that Buck wasn't in the house. Knowing Buck liked to ride when wanted to think he headed out to the barn. It was then, as he crossed the yard, that he realised the truck was missing. After a quick check to prove to himself that Beau really was still in his stall, Chris decided to get on with the morning chores. No doubt Buck had gone for a drive, and working helped Chris to pass the time and think. He worked non-stop, fed the horses, groomed them until they shone, and cleaned out all the stalls completely, laying new beds of wood chips. Then he oiled all the hinges and bolts in the barn, pulled out the feed bins and cleaned behind them, swept out the hayloft and even refilled the emergency hurricane lamps. Had it not been snowing, he'd have cleaned the Ram as well.

Hunger and thirst finally sent him back to the house. He'd called Buck's cell phone more than once, but it was only taking messages. Uninterested in cooking, he ate some jerky and chips, managed to make some coffee and then set about doing something they only normally did on Sunday's, he cleaned the house.

By the time he was back in the barn, doing the evening chores, he was worried. Call after call to Buck went unanswered, JD called back, in response to a message he left, confirming that neither he nor Casey had been in all day but now they were home there was no sign of Buck having been at his old place, which they now rented. A few calls later, and it was clear none of the others had seen him since work on Friday.

"What's up?" Josiah asked. When no answer was forthcoming he pressed again. "Is Buck in trouble?"

"No, I don't think so, or at least I hope not."

"Did you two have a row?" More silence greeted this summation. "You know when we could see the way your friendship was going, that was our biggest worry."

"Our? Who are you talking about?" Chris demanded.

"Me, Nate, Ezra, Vin, we were worried about how any upset in your private relationship would affect the team."

"What about JD?"

"No, he said Buck would never let that happen, said he'd let you rant, say what you wanted to hear and then talk it through once you were calm again - if he thought it was worth fighting over at all."

Chris cringed inwardly, knowing how true a description of Buck's behaviour that was when it came to their domestic life and how unlike Buck at work. If he thought Chris had it wrong at work, Buck said so, loudly, persistently and if necessary in front of the others. If he believed he was right, he stood his ground, yet in the six months they'd been together at the ranch, he'd backed down and acquiesced in every confrontation.

He hadn't realised he'd been silent so long until he heard Josiah in his ear. "Chris? Chris you still there?"

"Oh, yes, sorry. We - Buck and me - we had …" he searched for a word to describe what has happened.

"A what?"

"A misunderstanding."

"Really?" Josiah clearly knew it was more than that.

"He took off last night, I haven't seen him since and he's not answering his cell phone."

"Took off? On foot, on Beau? It's freezing out there."

"No, no, he's got the truck. I need to find him."

"He's an adult, he's got a perfect right to take off if he wants to."

There was a long silence after that. "I know," Chris finally admitted, "but I have to talk to him."

"Did you check the hospitals?"

"Yes, nothing thank God."

"Does his cell have a satellite locator?"

"Yes but he'd actually have to have it switched on for that to work."

"True, what about his credit card?"

"What about it?"

"Well it's not exactly ethical, but if you know the number you could run a check, see if he's used it."

"Damn, why didn't I think of that. I can find the number."

"Ok. If you need any help, need a third party, you know where to get hold of me."

"Thanks Josiah, I appreciate the help."



Using his position as a federal agent to get the necessary information to track down his male lover could end his career, but Chris was past caring. If anyone did question it, no doubt the team's reputation for 'eccentricity' would cover any abuse of power.

Buck had used his card to secure a room at a motel Chris had never heard of on the interstate, some four hundred miles north of the ranch. Once he'd called his neighbours, and arranged for their teenage daughter - who was always grateful for the extra money - to come over and tend the horses until he got back, he set out. The snow was still falling but it was wet snow, not settling on treated roads, so he made good progress, and in flagrant disobedience of the speeding laws, it took him just under six hours to reach the place.

He hadn't been sure what to expect, but this motel was cheap and a little worn at the edges, that said it seemed to be clean and, at least on the outside, respectable. Promising to himself that this would be the very last time he did it, Chris showed the desk clerk, a girl of no more than fourteen, his badge and demanded to see the register.

There it was in blue and white. The motel apparently believed in keeping the formalities to the minimum.

WILMINGTON B - cabin 8

"I need a passkey and direction to cabin 8," he informed the girl behind the desk.

She nodded nervously and collected the passkey. "Is he dangerous?" she asked.



Number 8 was all the way at the end of the first row. The cabins were old, but seemed to be well maintained. Chris knocked and waited, there was no reply, so he knocked again, then used the passkey.

The first thing that hit him was the smell, whisky, sweat, takeout food and vomit, mostly vomit. Buck wasn't difficult to spot, sprawled across the bed, one leg and one arm hanging over the edge.

"Oh shit," Chris sighed to himself.

He turned away and headed back to Buck's own truck, parked outside. He knew that behind the seat was a small grip. Buck always kept the overnight bag packed, just in case. Once back inside and despite the freezing air temperatures, he opened the window. The vomit - he was relatively pleased to discover - was at least confined to the bathroom. After a quick foray to the storeroom he'd seen near reception, which opened with the passkey and contained, as he suspected it might, cleaning products, and fresh linen, he set about cleaning the room. He could have had the maid do it, but he didn't want anyone seeing Buck in this state. Once the bathroom was clean he pulled some of Buck's deodorant from his wash bag and sprayed it about to help cover the smell. Then he placed all the fast-food wrappers in a trash sack along with the bottle of Johnnie Walker - once he'd poured the dregs down the sink.

With as much tidying up as he could do, Chris sat down on the other bed to watch some TV. Some five hours later, after a double bill of SG1, one episode of JAG, half an hour of CNN and a basketball game he mostly dozed through, Chris noticed Buck moving.

Switching off the TV he switched on the small table lamp beside him. In response to the light Buck just groaned, stretching out his hand to try and switch it off.

"Oh, no you don't."

In response to this, Buck froze. "Chris?"


"What the hell are you doing here?"

"Open your eyes first."


"Come on."

Bloodshot eyes finally appeared, scrutinising Chris. "What the fuck are you doing here?"

"I was worried about you."


"Why? What kind of question is that?"

"You kicked me out." He pushed himself up to sit on the side of the bed, pulled his hand through his matted hair. "Can't say as I blame you either."

"Take a shower, I brought your bag in from the truck. Then we'll talk."

"What's to talk about?"

"Just get cleaned up."


Buck stood in the shower, making no actual attempt to wash himself. Seventeen hours ago, his world, his life, had been destroyed. Deep down he had known it would be one day, it was what had always happened. As a boy, he and his mother had settled down a few time just long enough for him to put down roots, make friends, begin to excel at school, play team sports, but every time things had really started to go well, they'd had to move on. He'd been happy in the navy, he belonged, he met Chris, they became friends and lovers, sure it was just fun fucking, he knew that, he told himself that all the time, but it was good. Then Chris met Sarah, and was smitten, it was clear to Buck if not Chris, that they were made for each other, so he gave the romance a gentle push in the right direction. It lost him Chris as a lover, but he gained a sister and a nephew.

Then that too was taken away. The difference was, it was all because of him. But he'd put that to the back of his mind, tried not to think on it, and slowly he and Chris had returned to their former relationship, and then moved on to a different place. That was what Buck had always wanted, a partner, someone to love and care for, for the rest of his life. As a youth, he had imagined that there would be children, but after he met Chris, he was happy to spend his life with him. Buck had never put his sexuality in a compartment, as far as he was concerned, if it felt good, it was good, that was all that mattered.

Finally he pulled himself together enough to actually wash. **Best get it over with,** he decided.


The Buck that appeared was clean, but that did little to improve his appearance. He needed a shave, looked haggard and drawn.

"So," he started, deliberately not looking Chris in the eye.

"So," Chris responded.

"Why are you here?"

"I told you I was worried, and…"


"I need answers."

"What do you want to hear?"

"The truth, not…" Chris realised Buck was doing it again, he was going to tell him that what he thought he wanted to hear.

"Not what?" Buck had asked.

"Not what you think I want, just the truth." Chris sat down on the bed. "Come on, sit down." Buck shrugged, but sat down on the bed opposite. "I just don't understand, why you never told me. I've always believed you didn't lie to me, I always trusted you to tell me the truth. You do it at work, if I'm being an asshole you're the one you says so, not Vin, not Josiah - you. So why did you lie to me, about this, of all things?"

Buck frowned, this wasn't what he expected, Chris was meant to shout at him, and hit him and then leave him. Yet here he was cool, calm and reasonable. Could he really tell the truth? Was it worth the risk? **I've lost him anyway, what is there left to lose?**

"I told you why, there was no point."

"Don't do that, damn it!" Chris' temper was resurfacing.

"Do what?"

"Say what you think I want or need to hear. God damn it!" Chris was up on his feet again. "I hadn't even noticed you were doing it until I spoke to Josiah and he told me something JD had said. At home you don't stand up to me like you do at work, why? You didn't trust me with the truth about the bomb, I just what to know why? I want to understand. Don't you trust me?"


The response was so quick and so quiet, Chris almost missed it.

"Did you say 'no'?"

Buck nodded.

"You don't trust me! After everything we've been to each other, all the times we've covered each other's backs? I trusted you with my family, I trusted you to look after my child, my son! But you don't trust me?" Chris sat down again, leaning close into Buck. "You better explain that right now!"

"Why? You've got your answer. They were trying to kill me, it's my fault your family are dead. Adam died because of me!" Now it was Buck who was up, he moved over toward the door, closer to an escape route. "How was I meant to tell you that?"

"You told me they were dead. You were the one who came and told me what had happened, if you can do that, why couldn't you do this?"

"I couldn't, I promised Sarah a long time back to take care of you, but it was an empty promise."

Chris' eyes flashed with renewed anger.

"It was empty because I promised myself that years before. I know you, I know what you're like, even sober. If you'd have gotten even a hint who might have done this, then that would have been it."

"Meaning what?"

"Some poor cop would have ended up arresting you for assault, or…"

"Or, go on say it - murder. Damn right, think I'd have cared what happened to me, so long as I got the bastard?"

"No, no I don't, not then, maybe not even now, but I care, so I never told you. Trust me, if I could have found a way, if there was any evidence, if he…"

"Trust you? How? You've been lying to my for years, how do I trust you?" And then the penny dropped. "He? You said he? You know who it is!" This was a statement, not a question.

"I have a suspicion, that's all, and besides its academic now."

"Tell me."

"Chris, please don't…"


Buck tore his eyes away. This was going to end their relationship. He'd always known that someday Chris would work it out or he'd let something slip. All he'd ever wanted out of life was to be loved and have someone to love in return, someone he could take care of, give pleasure to, making other people happy was what made him happy. He wanted a home, a real home not some rented trailer or motel room, and a family. Living with Chris at the ranch and calling a bunch of misfit ATF agent 'family' wasn't what he had imagined as a boy, but it suited him just fine and was - had been - happy and content, finally.

Avoiding Chris' gaze, he started.

"You remember Guy Morris, who transferred up from Colorado Springs? That summer, when you were laid up with a broken leg, I was partnered with him, just 'till you were back."

Chris did remember the man. He'd been thrown at an amateur rodeo and broken his leg restricting him to deskwork for the rest of the summer. The captain had refused to let Buck work alone and insisted he was too good to be wasted in the office, so had reluctantly split up his best partnership, just temporally. Morris was older than them, probably in his mid forties but he was in good shape, shorter and stockier than Buck, yet the extra bulk was all muscle. Chris recalled him as a good looking man, who, despite the name, seemed to Chris at least to be at least partly Latino or possibly Italian or even Greek.

"Well he came on to me, big time," Buck explained.


Buck looked back briefly at Chris. "He was cute, and you know full well I've always played both sides of the fence."

That was true, only he knew, well only he and all the men Buck slept with, but Buck had been happily finding pleasure in both camps, sometimes on alternate nights, all his adult life.

"So you slept together?"

"Yeah, only…"

"Go on."

"It turns out he was a talker, in his sleep, he talked. It was hard to pull it together at first, much of it was just random words or sentences. But I worked it out in the end. He was dirty, on the take, and - well I can't be sure, but - I think he's the one gave up Martinez."

Jorge Martinez had been a cop, who looked even younger than he was, which was young enough. He'd gone undercover in the world of teen gangs and was on the point of discovering who was using the gangs to distribute drugs, when he was murdered, his throat slit and his body left to rot on a garbage dump.

"Who was paying him?" Chris demanded.

"I don't know, I never got that far. I tried to find out more, after all, I couldn't go to the Captain and tell him what I knew, not without telling them how I found out, so I started to investigate a bit on my own. As soon as I did he started putting pressure on me, threatened to out me. Well if he outted me he outted himself so that wasn't gonna wash. Not long after that, you got certified for the field again and we got sent to Grand Junction and…" He looked up at Chris. "With everything that happened, everyone, including me, thinking you were the target, I sort of forgot about Morris for a bit, only when I worked it out, the significance of the time, did I think about him, but it was too late."

"Too late? What the hell happened to him anyway, I don't remember seeing him again, did he go back to Colorado Springs?"

"While you were still soaking up the Jack Daniels, he had a massive heart attack that forced him into retirement." Buck looked into Chris' eyes. "I had no evidence except what he said in his sleep and coincidence. You and I both know that's nothing, the DA would laugh us out of the office. If I'd have had more, I'd have used it, even if it did 'out' me, I don't care about that, but I had nothing and that scared me."

"Scared you? Scared of what?"

"You, what you might do. He was a sick man, your kind of 'questioning' could have killed the rat, it's not like he didn't deserve it, I'd have had no problem if you had killed him, but not at your expense, he wasn't worth it."


"He died."


"Two years ago. Another heart attack."

"So why didn't you tell me then, if he was dead, why?"

"Because I was still scared." Buck pulled his eyes from the man he loved to stare once more at the floor in front of them."

"Scared? Scared of what? Of me, hell you've never been scared to face me before. If I'm making an ass of myself at work you say so, in private if you can, in public if you have to. I rely on that, I need to know that you, of all people, won't lie to me."

"Don't you get it? I love you, I love our life, everything about it, I can't…I didn't want to risk that. Dumb, I know that now, but I never was the sharpest knife in the drawer."

"Ah hell," Chris shook his head. "Don't give me that! You're not dumb."

"I didn't want to lose you, I can't change what happened, I didn't make it happen, but it did, and all I've got left is you, the only person in the world I love. How was I gonna tell you I'm the reason your family died. I'd lose you, I am losing you. So just go, if you're gonna hit me, just do it and go."

Chris was up now, he grabbed hold of Buck by the shoulders.

"Is that it? How could you think that? I love you. Don't you get that, I love you! You're not going to change that with the truth. You don't have to let me have my way all the time. Okay, when you told me, last night, when you admitted you knew. I was mad at you, I needed time to think, but I never wanted you to leave for good - never." Chris turned away.

"I'm sorry, I know it's lame, and it doesn't mean anything, but I'm sorry."

Buck couldn't believe how lame that sounded. Then Chris was right in front of him again, his eyes soft with love.

"It means something because I know you mean it. I used to think they were trying to kill me, I've lived with that, now I know you've been living with the same guilt, and we're both wrong. It wasn't our fault, never was, it was whoever planted the bomb - no one else. Maybe it was Martinez, maybe not, but whoever it was, it wasn't our fault. We both need to remember that."

Buck's face visibly relaxed. "Josiah's gonna kill us if he ever finds out what a mess we made of all this, just because we didn't talk to each other," he said with a hint of his old self.

"I think he already does."

"Ah shit, he's gonna want us to talk about it."

"I've got a better way to sort it out."

"Good, what is it?"

"This!" With that Chris sent Buck crashing to the floor with a brilliantly timed uppercut.

Buck sat up rubbing his jaw. "What was that for?"

"For lying to me, don't do it again." With that he reached down and held his hand out. "Come on, let's go home."

After gathering Buck's few possessions and Chris' jacket, they opened the door and closed it very quickly. What had been moderate wet snow, had -while they had been in the cabin, - become heavy, blanketing, snowfall.

"I'm not driving in that," Buck declared. "Not in my truck."

"So what do we do?"

"Well we have a motel room and at least one clean bed."

"I'm sure we can think of something." Chris slid his hand behind Buck; coming to rest on is firm ass. "How long do you reckon it's gonna snow?"

Buck leant over and kissed his cheek. "Days, days and days. Think our boss will understand if we get snowed in here?"

"Oh yes, he's a very understanding man." Chris returned the kiss.

Buck pulled back, arching an eyebrow. "Really?"

"Oh yes, compassionate, reasonable, approachable." Chris placed his other hand on Buck's ass, letting them roam freely over the tight buns.

"Do I know this man?" Buck asked, trying to look serious.

"Remarks like that will not get you laid."

Buck silenced any other comment with a long, deep, lingering kiss.