Voices of Fear

by krh

Author's comments: Several weeks ago, I posted a short story called "Do You See.." on the M7fic list. (BTW Thanks for all the wonderful feedback on it. ) I never intended to write more on it, but the story line kept running around my head. So I decided to go with the flow so to speak and continue writing. What developed was "Voices of Fear." I am reposting the first chapter, "Do You See..." for anyone who needs it. Note: The days preceding the section name refers to the number of days it has been since the shooting.

A huge thanks to Dina for being my second eyes on it! In appreciation, I'm arranging for a certain southern gambler to show up at your door. ;^)

Comments and feedback are greatly appreciated. Enjoy.

Day 1: Do You See...

Well, Lord... We are here again. All of us... except one... waiting in this sterile hospital waiting room with its uncomfortable chairs, plastic plants, and outdated magazines. Waiting to see if this time we won't be so lucky and you'll decide to take that one home with you. Will *this* be the time?

If it is, are you ready for the consequences. Do you *really* know what will happen if you take him? Do you see what I see?

Do you see Vin? Do you see a soul balancing on the precipice of blackness like I do? Do you see the scabs covering the sores caused by having part of him ripped away so many years ago? Do you know that they are waiting to burst open again--never to be healed--if he is taken?

Do you see Ezra? Do you see the terror hidden behind those carefully guarded eyes? The terror of knowing that he once again took a gamble to care about someone only to have that person leave him alone. Oh, he tries to hide it with his masks and his language, but he needs that one. He needs his guidance, his confidence, his belief that he is worthwhile. If you take that, are you ready for the shattered shell that will be left behind?

And what about JD? Do you see him sitting on the back of that chair, his arms draped on his legs, hands clasped. Do you see the aching pleas for reassurance in his eyes every time he raises his head to look desperately down the hallway at the double doors? Are you prepared to take his hero from him? Are you prepared to watch him lose one who has been a father, brother, best friend, protector, guide, and a million other things to him? Are you ready to see that light die in his eyes?

Can you see the shaking in Nathan's hands? Can you see the guilt balancing on his shoulders for being out of bullets and for not being able to throw his knife before that sonofabitch pumped three rounds into his friend's chest? Are you prepared to see that shadow lay on his soul for the rest of his days? Always wondering, always questioning... if I had only.... Are you ready to hear these pleas from him for all eternity?

And what about that one... Buck. Pacing like a caged lion wanting to pounce on anything... anyone... if it meant he could make all of this go away. His pacing simply a demonstration of him balancing between thinking he can will his oldest friend to walk into this room, look at us with those deep green eyes and make some gruff comment about us having work to do and thinking he will never again see him alive. Are you prepared to see a large part of this vibrant, big hearted man wither away?

And, oh sweet Lord, do you see Mary, folded into that chair, her forehead laying on her knees, agony oozing out of every pore? She is the newest one to these little get togethers. Are you prepared to explain to her, and in turn to Billy, why the one they love was taken from them... for a second time?

And finally, Lord, are you prepared to see what it will do to me? Are you prepared for my roars of anger and condemnation for taking one so precious to so many? Can you see the gaping hole that will be left by the loss of the one who gave me a reason to believe again? To understand that there are still people who gave a damn and who are worth fighting for? My brother, and yes, the son I never had. Are you ready to have another of your lambs turn their backs to you forever?

Because if you take him, that's what will happen. How can it not. How can I put faith in someone.. something.. who can hurt so many? How can I explain to others what I no longer believe myself... that you are a kind and benevolent God... who one day snatched him away from us for no apparent reason, only that it was *your will*.

Are you prepared for all of this? Are you *really* ready for the consequences?

I'm not.

Day 3: Are You Ever Going to Wake Up?

Look at you there... Hair sticking out in all directions, machines hooked to virtually every portion of your body.

You're so still. So quiet. Do you even hear the beeps and hums?

Are you ever going to wake up?

It's been two days and I wait. Watching ever so carefully the gentle rise and fall of your chest. Even then, at times I am not sure. I have to lay my hand on you. To feel the warmth of your body... your breath on my skin. To make sure you are still with us. With me.

You're scaring me again. When I opened my door to see Ezra and Josiah standing there, both so solemn, their faces pale, I knew. At first there was only silence and then Ezra's voice saying my name, so soft, so shaky. I knew that this was the "call" I had dreaded before he ever got the words out. It was worse than I thought it would be. I remember backing away, shaking my head, saying no. Only part of what they were saying penetrating my mind... three bullets square in the chest. No protectionno warning.

Then there was the fear that I wouldn't make it in time. You would slip away from me before I ever had the chance to hold your hand... caress your cheek... to say I love you one more time. And even with the siren and light, it took forever to get to the hospital, only to find out that you were already out of reach. They had rushed you into surgery and again, I wondered if I would have my chance.

The waiting room was agony. Six hours of holding my breath, my head buried in my arms or on my knees...wishing. Wishing that it was all just a bad dream... that I could wake up, reach out and feel you beside me again. Hear you softly snoring. See you sleeping with your arm thrown over your head. But then I would open my eyes and see the others as their features bounced between the guarded hope that you were going to be fine and the absolute despair of knowing it might never be.

And then that first glimpse of you after the surgery.... ghost pale, even in comparison to the white blankets and dressings that swathed your entire body. For the first time since I've known you, you looked small. Vulnerable. Laying there... everything ash white. Everything except for the blood that still oozed from the drain in your side.

Ordinary under the circumstances they tried to reassure us. But to me, it looked like you were slowing slipping away. One drop at a time into that little bag. So many machines. So many tubes and wires. So pale. I wasn't sure you were still here for a time. Not until I could finally approach you... lay my hand on your arm... feel your heartbeat under my hand.

A tear? Why are you crying? Are you in pain? Or does some part of you know we are here and know what we are feeling? Is it Sarah and Adam? Are they here too? Talking to you? Asking you if you are ready to go with them?

But can you also hear me? Can you hear me asking for a lifetime of evenings like the one we spent the night before you were shot ... sitting on the porch swing, my head on your shoulder, your arm around me, watching the sunset? Can you hear me wishing for another glimpse of you in the morning sunlight? The lingering feel of your lips on my skin? The way it makes me feel when your eyes soak up the sight of me after we have been apart?

Can you hear me asking you to stay?

So still. So quiet. Are you ever going to wake up?

Please don't leave me.

Day 7: Vacant Eyes

Mister Larabee. You look like what the proverbial cat drug in.

Lying there with vacant eyes. Showing no emotions. No recognition of who or what is around you.

At this moment, you could be a world class gambler. You would make my mother proud.

And I hate it.

Your eyes should be showing something... anything. I see no reaction even as they one by one remove those God-awful mechanical devices from you. It was the same when they finally moved you out of the ICU to a room with a view... so to speak. It has an absolutely stunning view of the air conditioning units for the complex. It is quite breathtaking. It must be, otherwise why else would you lie there with those vacant eyes looking out into that waste land.

Granted, *we* are not much to look at. Not after a week of virtually no sleep, except for the few hours snatched when eyelids could no longer stay open. Trying to stay with you and yet keep the criminal element at bay. After all, we can hardly have the team's reputation tarnished just because you are temporarily absent. Still your eyes are vacant.

You have quite a treat waiting for you when you are finally able to partake in the delectable morsels from this establishment's so-called cafeteria. Absolutely the finest cuisine that can come out of a bag or box. Let me just assure you that, after a week, I have tried it all. Perish the thought.

Vacant eyes turn to me. I hate it. There should be something there. Anything. They say it is merely the pain medication. But I know different. *You* are not there.

Where has that indomitable Larabee spirit gone to? Why has it stayed away? Will it ever come back?

Will I ever again see all the things that show so plainly in your eyes despite your best efforts to hide them. The anger, the determination, the happiness, the humor, the shine of contentment, and yes at times, even the hollowness of despair.

Will I ever again see *that* expression in your eyes again? You know the one. The one that tells me you have a premonition of the man I can be... an anticipation of something more than what I have shown you.... an expectation that I shall do better than I have ever done before in my life. Because you will accept no less from me.

Remarkably, I find myself rising to your challenge. Each time, I find the fortitude to excavate a little more... to find another small sliver of my humanity that I must confess, I never knew was there. It surprises me. I would never have contemplated that such a change in myself was possible.

But you want it. And I give it. A masterpiece in the making. Will you leave it unfinished? Will neither of us see the completion of your... no... *our* reformation?

Your eyes are vacant.

And I hate it.

Day 10: I Will Never Forget

Where is that *damn* form?

Write it all down they said. Every look. Every sound. Every detail. In case I forget...

I will never forget.

How do you forget the day you almost got your friend killed?

A routine meeting with an informant. That's all it was supposed to be. It wasn't even important enough for the whole team to be there. You and I going inside. Buck and JD on the out. That was enough. Yeah... the warehouse probably wasn't the best place, but, hell, we've met people in worse places.

It was so quiet inside. That probably should of been our first clue. But it *was* Sunday. Even working slobs get a day off. I chalked the stillness up to that. Why wouldn't I? It was a routine meet.

Then bullets were flying from everywhere. And we were between stacks of crates... pinned down like ducks in a shooting gallery. You took out the man above me, I took out the one above you. Another sniper... up high... *Look out Chris!* Whew... good shot. I've got the one sneaking up on us. How ya doin' you called out, your voice tight from the rush of the adrenalin pumping in your veins. Just fine, I snapped back between shots.

Silence descended as the last one fell. The only sound remaining was the ragged breathes we drew in. Cautiously looking around, our eyes met and grins began to spread over our faces. We had somehow made it. I know I am out of ammo and reach to reload. I see you have a similar thought as you reach for the clip in your back loop.

Then it happened. The sound of the clip sliding out of your gun and the sound of the gunman's foot as he slid around the last stack of crates not twenty feet from us.

Time stood still for a brief moment. I knew you would be the first target and there was nothing I could do to stop him. My gun was still empty. All I could do was go for my knife, knowing it could never reach him before he could pull that trigger. I would have done anything to be where you were.

You knew it, too. The look on your face told me that. You even smiled a little. What did it mean? Were you glad that it was you instead of me? Did you know that you were once again staring death in the face and that maybe this was your time to die? Or was it a calm acceptance of the inevitable you could see unfolding in front of you?

All I know is that I will never forget it.

Then you were in my arms. So much blood. All I could do was cradle you against me... one hand desperately moving from bullet hole to bullet hole to bullet hole. Trying in vain to stop the tidal wave of blood that rushed from each opening.

You looked at me and... God help me... I saw death in your eyes. You were slipping slowly away. Fight it Chris, I screamed at you. Damn you... fight it.

My hands are still shaking at the memory... even now... ten days after the fact. They tremble as they are poised over the keyboard waiting to type out the report. I'm not sure they will ever stop.

I know I will never forget.

Day 14: I Don't Know What To Do

Aah geez Chris...

I know its not your fault. It's just....

It's just I don't know how to do this... how to watch you when you're like this.

You have always been so strong... so self-sufficient. And now, you can barely feed yourself. It tears at me something awful.

I don't know what to do with the lump that catches in my throat when you arch in pain as they work your arms and legs trying to strengthen them so you can walk again. I don't know what to do when you snarl at the nurse or one of us to just leave you alone. Or when your eyes glitter with unshed tears as they force you to stand up beside the bed one more time.

I don't know how to make it better.

You have been so many things to me. Do you know I am always watching you? Learning from you? You always seem to know exactly what to do. You never falter... never hesitate. If there's a problem, you handle it. If someone needs help, you help them.... even if they don't want it. I wish I was like that.

Take now for example. If it was *me* in that bed, you'd know what to do. Take it easy... the pain will pass, you'd say in a quiet, calming voice. And I'd feel better. Cause I'd know the pain would go away because you said it would. I wish I could do the same for you. But I can't.

I don't know what to say.

And I don't know what to do with the empty hole in my gut every time I remember that first glimpse of you cradled in Nathan's arms. I don't think I've ever seen that much blood in my life. Nathan wouldn't let you go.

Then the medics showed up. Desperately, one of them started applying bandages while the other was sticking needles into you... so many IVs. He's flat lined, one snapped as he grabbed the paddles. It was then that the realization hit me... you were dying. I froze. Buck even grabbed hold of my shoulder so hard that it's still bruised. But it didn't matter... *You* were dying before my very eyes.

That couldn't be. You can't die. You're bigger than life... a hero. Heroes don't die... don't you know that? Heroes aren't suppose to be feeling pain either, but I know you are. You have to be.

I just wished I knew what to do to stop it. But I don't.

I don't know how to do any of it.

Day 17: Then What Would I Have Done

Hey, Partner... sure is good to see ya' walking down that hallway. Wasn't sure I'd ever see that again.

And that little lady by your side... she about worried herself to death over you. Hell, we all did. Even me.

You shouldn't do that to Buck now. My old heart can't take any more scares like this one. I wasn't sure if you had it in you to fight a battle this big. It would have been easier to just give up... to say you had done your best and ride off into the sunset like in them old westerns I make you watch. And for a while, I thought you were going to do just that.

Then what would I have done?

What would I do without you? Oh... I know I it's not like it was before. You know, before the others showed up... before Sarah's and Adam's deaths. I know that. And I know that I got JD to look after now, but hey, you know me... old habits die hard. I have to look after you too.

I promised Sarah.

I promised myself.

And look what you did the minute I let my guard down... you went and got yourself shot. What if you had gotten yourself killed?

Don't you know I need you? I ain't got many friends and I'm kinda partial to keepin' the ones I got. Maybe that's why it hurt so much when you pushed me away. Maybe that's why I keep holdin' on to you... even when you're acting like a sonofabitch. Yeah, you do you know. Sometimes I don't know how any of us put up with you.

Take a couple days ago when you laid into Josiah for doin' exactly what you would have done if it had been one of us layin' in that bed feelin' sorry for ourselves. You would of walked right up to that bed and told us to get off our sorry asses and do what the nurses told us. Boy... you should of seen the look on your face when Josiah flung those covers back and told you virtually the same thing.

You were flat out pissed. But it worked... it got you out of that bed. Course, bein' a smart man, he didn't stick around long once you was upright. But I did. There was no way I was gonna miss you walkin' for the first time since you'd been shot. I'd waited too long for it.

I wasn't sure I'd ever see you do it again.

Then what would I have done?

Day 21: Got Some Healin' to Do

Hey boy... how ya doin'? Ready for a good brushin'? I take that whinny as a yes? I thought so.

Well... today's the day. He's coming home.

Not that you and I aren't gonna have some more time together. He won't be taking care of you any time soon. Still too sore. Gettin' shot is bad enough, but sometimes the cure is worse. My chest hurts every time I think about them breakin' his breast bone to get to that bullet by his heart. Yeah, he's still got some healin' to do.

We all do, I guess.

You don't just *get better* from something like that.

What do you think? Does that feel good? Oh... need your head rubbed some more... okay... hold on a minute, I'm getting there.

It feels good to have someone reach a part of you that you can't reach doesn't it. See, I know cause that's what Chris does for me. He reaches a part of my soul that I loose track of without him around. It's like I'm incomplete.

I had begun to take that for granted until I saw him being wheeled through that emergency room door... one medic on top of him doing CPR.... the other pumping oxygen into him and spouting off his condition to the doctors that descended upon him.

Then he was whisked away. Just like that. No chance to speak to him. No chance to touch him.... Damage to the heart wall, right lung, and liver, the doctors had said. No chance of surviving the surgery, they warned us.

But they didn't know him like we do... like I do, I kept telling myself. If there was any way for him to do it, he would. Still...

There were times when I wasn't sure if he would make it back. I could almost feel him slipping away from me. Like when when I first saw him coming through those doors with no heartbeat. A coldness swept across my soul... a part of me had stopped living too.

That's a hard realization to come to... to know that one man can have such an impact on your life. And to know that when that one man is hurt, you hurt. To know that if he dies, part of you dies too.

You don't just get over something like that almost happening. It takes time.

Yeah, he's got some healing to do. We all do.

Day 28: The Greatest Fear of All

We are all here.

Only this time, it is in my living room, not at my bedside. Looking at you, knowing what we have all been through in our time together, sometimes I wonder why... how it is possible that we are all *here.*

It seems like one of us is always getting hurt. This time it was me. And by all rights, I shouldn't be here. But I am.

What do you remember after you entered the warehouse, the board of inquiry asked me today. I said very little.

I lied.

I remember it all.

I remember the rush of apprehension when I realized it was an ambush.

I remember the joy at knowing that the shooter was going to shoot me first, leaving Nathan time to reach cover.

I remember the feel of the bullets entering my body and of my life slowly coming to an end.

I remember your desperate whispers, pleas, and prayers begging me to hang on... to come back to you.

I remember your hands touching me... on my forehead, caressing my cheek, holding my hand, patting my leg... letting me know you were there while reassuring yourselves that I was still there also.

I remember the sound of familiar voices prodding, conjoling, threatening... trying anything to pull me from the pain and drug-induced haze clouding my mind.

I remember the sight of each you at various times... asleep beside my bed... leaning against the wall waiting... the sheen of unshed tears glistening in your eyes as you watched me struggle to ride out the waves of pain coursing through my body.

I remember you talking among yourselves when you thought I was asleep. Proclamations about how you were never going to let me out of the office again. Discussions about how to keep me from going back to work too soon once I was released from the hospital. Observations about how the ones present thought the ones absent from the room were *holding up* under the circumstances.

I remember the flashes of guilt on your faces every time you remembered that you could not *save* me from what I was going through.

I remember all this. But watching all of you here, I remember something else too.

I remember that it could happen again... to any of us at any time.

And that scares the hell out of me.

the end 10/99

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