The Way of Things:

by Phyllis

This is a response to US's story that left Buck injured and after KT's response for Chris.

I couldn't stand it-Buck and JD needed some closure.

Part of The Way of Things story collection.

Buck had been home for four days.

Chris had picked him up at the hospital and brought him home to find the others there and waiting. They had wanted to celebrate Buck's recovery and release from the hospital. It had started out as any welcome home party they had ever had, but the mood turned somber as the evening wore on and they had all left early, a bad taste in their mouths.

Casey had been there. She and JD had gone outside to see each of the men off, each one reassuring the youngest member of their team that time would bring Buck back to normal. Each reassurance had a hollow feel to it.

The two young people sat on the stoop. The only one left inside was Vin, the only person that Buck seemed to want around. The young sharpshooter just accepted this and didn’t question the man about it. Casey wrapped her hand around JD's bicep and leaned against that arm.

"JD, Buck‘ll be okay. You just have to give him time to heal."

He reached over and encased her hand with his, as it lay on his arm. "No, there's something wrong and he doesn't want to talk about. He’s hurting about something and he won’t tell us what it is. And he’s mad…mad at everyone on the team, except for Vin. It's tearing the guys apart and the whole team is suffering. Time ain't going to fix this. In fact, I think it'll only get worse."

They sat in silence a few minutes more. Finally, the evening chill caused the girl to shiver and the young man looked down at her. "Come on, Cas. Time for you to head home." He stood and pulled her to her feet. He cradled her against his side as he walked her to her car. Once she was in and buckled up, he leaned in the window and kissed her lips. He straighten up, his hands braced against the doorframe.

Casey reached over and caressed his hand as she said; "You'll work it out, JD. I know you will. You and Buck love each other too much to not."

He looked at her with doubting thoughts plaguing his mind, but he smiled at her. "I used to think that, but…"

She tightened her grip. "All brothers fight, JD. You won't let Buck push you away that easy."

He leaned in and stared at her from mere inches away. "When did you get so smart?" he whispered.

"I've always been smart. You just hadn't noticed."

He smiled and then kissed her again, a long kiss that left both of them flushed. He pulled away, but maintained eye contact. The sound of the front door closing finally broke the spell. Both young people laughed softly and Casey started the car. She waved quickly as she backed away and then moved off down the street.

JD watched and was startled when a hand dropped on his shoulder. He spun around and came face to face with Vin. The lean man threw up his hands, smiling as JD rounded on him. "Just me, JD. Wanted to say good night." Looking down the street at the fading taillights, he stated. "'Fraid I interrupted something."

JD relaxed, "Nah, just saying good night to Casey."

Vin smiled, his eyes twinkling at the blush on JD's face. The dark hair swayed side to side as JD denied any wrongdoing. "We were just saying good night, Vin Tanner. You need to get your mind out of the gutter."

Vin held his hands up in defense. "Hey, I didn't say anything. You're the one that looks like ya spent a week in the sun."

The two young men wrestled as JD made a grab for Vin's jacket and tried to yank him off his feet. JD conceded when Tanner got him in a headlock that he could not break free from. They stood up and brushed at their clothes.

"Listen, I best be going. I'll see ya tomorrow, kid." Vin turned to walk away, but stopped and turned back to the younger man. "Buck went on to bed."

"Thanks, Vin. See ya in the morning." JD stood outside until Tanner's jeep disappeared around the corner and then he went back into the apartment. After cleaning up, he tiptoed up the stairs to check on his roommate. Finding him asleep, JD pulled a light blanket over the prone form and started back to his own room. Mumbling from the bed caused him to pause momentarily.

"…import… just…replace…Chris"

JD moved closer to the bed as Buck continued to talk. Only a few of the words could be made out. And they didn’t make a lot of sense. JD reached out and placed a hand on Wilmington’s shoulder, quietly saying, "It’s okay, Buck, you just go to sleep, everything is fine." He spoke the soothing words that he had so often heard whispered to him as he fought with his demons. It seemed to help as Buck settled down with a deep sigh.

Dunne couldn’t help but wonder what the nightmare was about. Maybe he could ask the man tomorrow.

+ + + + + + +

That had been four days ago. If anything, Wilmington was more withdrawn than before. Each night he trudged up the stairs after a quiet evening of TV, barely speaking a word to his roommate. JD wanted to talk, had even tried to start conversations, but the normally jovial and social man answered only in monosyllable words or nods.

JD had spoken with Chris and they planned to confront the man that weekend, so JD did not push. He waited and hoped that the man who given him a home and family would reappear soon.

As per his custom, JD quietly went up the stairs to check on Buck before turning in for the evening. Each night he found the man tossing and turning and mumbling in his sleep. As he approached the bed, he found that tonight was no different than the others. He squatted near the bed and was reaching for the man’s arm when he spoke clearly in the grip of his nightmares.

'It's not… you're…important. You're… just…disposable nobody…look how easily…replaced you…Tanner.'

JD rocked back on his heels. Buck thought he was a nobody? Easily replaced? He listened as Buck started to mumble again.

…Chris…hero…he's sticking…Vin… …You're…mother hen…won't let…anything.'

The words became more intelligible the longer JD listened.

'Hell, Chris…least… you put Vin…my place…gave yourself a partner…equal…watch your back…you give me…replace you?…rookie…train…babysit…wouldn't notice…been replaced…kid…busy…trying …prove himself…danger…everyone…isn't qualified…watch…back.'

JD gasped at the words. Buck didn’t trust him? He wasn’t qualified to watch his back? How could he think that? Was the last three years a lie?

‘Check Tanner…forget bout me…bleeding…no…cares…’

The young agent closed his eyes at the accusations. No wonder Buck was so upset. He must have seen them gather around Tanner. Why didn’t he say something? Ask why, so they could explain. He opened his eyes and found himself looking into the dark blue eyes of Wilmington.

"What are you doing, JD?"

JD stood quickly. "I… I wanted to check on you, make sure you had enough covers," the young man stammered. "You need anything?"

"No. Just some rest." Wilmington closed his eyes, shutting himself off from JD.

Feeling defeated, the young man turned to leave, but paused. "Buck, do you know you talk in your sleep?"

Without opening his eyes, he took a deep breath. "No, kid, I didn’t."

"Buck…" he paused, forcing Wilmington to open his eyes and look at him. "… do you believe all that stuff you were saying?"

"What was I saying? I slept through it."

"That you’re a dispensable nobody. That Chris replaced you with Vin and stuck you with me…to baby-sit? That I’m not qualified to watch your back?"

Buck’s eyes were dull as he stared at the young man. And he lied, "No, JD. I don’t believe that."

"You were awake when we came out that night, weren’t you?"

"JD. I'm tired. Can’t this wait?"

Moving closer, the young man shook his head. "No, Buck. I don’t think it can. You think that we ignored you, don't ya? That we chose to let you lie on the ground, bleeding, in order to help Vin? That’s right, isn’t it?"

Buck sat up in the bed, but found it hard to look his partner in the face.

"Buck, you know that’s not true."

Wilmington finally met the young man's eyes. "Not true? I was there, JD. I know what I saw."

"Did you see what we saw? We were about to step out the door when we heard the shots. The five of us hit the door within seconds. We get outside and we see Vin, unconscious, on the ground. A man with a gun is moving toward him, but bolts when he sees us. Josiah and Ezra went after him. Chris and Nathan went to Vin. I looked around and didn’t see you, figured you took off after another gunman. I didn’t see you…didn’t know you were laying on the ground, bleeding." JD’s voice quivered as he remembered finally seeing his best friend, laying there, bleeding, as they had stood only a few feet away.

Gathering himself together, he continued. "You know what the lights are like in front of the saloon. There’s a light on either side of the door and then nothing until you get to the corner of the building where the parking lot is. You fell into that dark area just past the light. Remember what you were wearing? How everyone was saying you had gotten your clothes from Chris’ closet?"

Buck stared at the sheet as JD talked. It made sense, but a part of him refused to listen, to accept. He turned hard, cold eyes on the young agent. "It doesn’t matter, JD. It’s done and I’m fine. I really need to rest. Flip off the light when you leave." He settled back into the pillows as JD stood up.

"Buck, if you really believe this stuff, then I think I should move out."

Buck’s heart pounded at the words. He didn’t want JD to move out. He didn’t want to think that he wasn’t needed. Not by JD, not by the team. But he didn’t tell the boy that. He simply pulled the blanket up tighter. "If that’s what ya want, kid."

JD closed his eyes for a moment and then walked out of the room, flipping the light switch as he passed.

The little voice was back. 'See? See how easy it is for them to turn their backs on you? You're nothing more than poor white trash. Didn't have a daddy, your mother…'

Wilmington ground his teeth as he tried to silence the voice. 'Don't say it. Mom did the best she could. She was a good mother' he wanted to scream. He was so intense on stilling that inner voice, the man didn’t hear the heavy footsteps coming from the stairs.

Buck jumped in the bed as the door slammed back against the bedroom wall.

"Buck! This is BS! We did not ignore you in favor of Vin. We wouldn't do that and you know it. I am a qualified agent and I don't need a baby sitter." JD was riled and he wanted Buck to know it. "And you aren't going to run me out of the house. It's my home as well as yours, so deal with it."

He spun on his heel and left the room as quickly as he had entered. Buck heard him stomping down the stairs, mouthing the whole way.


"Dumb…hardheaded. Jerk."

Wilmington frowned as he thought about the kid's words. He jumped again as the door was flung open and the kid entered.

"And another thing, Chris didn't replace you with Vin. Vin took over cause you replaced Chris…with me. You walked out of that role and Vin stepped in. Got it?"


"ASSHOLE!" filtered through the closed door.

Buck's eyebrows rose. Thinking he should go down and talk to his roommate before the neighbors called the police, Buck threw back the covers and stood up slowly.

Once again the door slammed open.

"And another thing, Buck. 'Dispensable nobody'? Those are kids' words. You aren't the only one that the kids picked on when you were little. What do you think Vin put up with? Or Josiah? And Ezra, can you imagine always being the 'new' kid, never having friends to speak of?" JD moved up to stand at the foot of the bed. His voice softened slightly. "What do you think kids said to me? No Dad? Mom always working? I'm sure that we heard the same things growing up. But we survived. Words hurt but they can't kill ya, not unless you let them."

"JD, I doubt that the kids talked about your mom the way they did mine. They knew what she did; they knew I didn't have a father, didn't even know who he was. They figured that if Mom was a stripper, then she must have slept around. 'Poor white trash', that was us."

"Well, at least she knew the man that conceived you. My mom didn't have that luxury. She… " JD clamped his jaw closed. "Why am I wasting my time on you. This isn't my problem, it's yours. So get over it, Buck. You're tearing the team apart, stupid son of a bitch."

JD turned to walk away, but Wilmington's hand stopped him cold.

"JD, I know what I saw" he started.

JD blew up. "NO! You're remembering a sixty second span of time. It happened fast, Buck. Never, NEVER would we have ignored you. We've worked together for three years and you…" JD's finger punched into the taller man's chest. "… know we would not do that."

"JD, the team doesn't need…"

"GOD, Buck, what do I have to do to make you understand?" JD yelled. "We do need you, but more importantly, we want you. We want the cocky, self-assured, womanizer that we have come to depend on."

"He ain't here anymore, kid."

"BULLSHIT. He's there. He's just hiding behind a scared little boy."

"No. He's not..."

JD turned and headed out of the room again, yelling all the way. "STUPID, HARDHEADED, MOTHER…"

Buck followed slowly. "JD, if you don't stop yelling, someone's going to call the cops."

"I don't care." At the foot of the stairwell, JD spun to face the taller man. Craning his neck back, he stated. "I'm calling Chris and we're going to work this out."

"The hell you are. I ain't having this conversation at two in the morning." Wilmington turned to head back upstairs.


"Shit" was heard from the kitchen area. Limping back down, he entered the kitchen to find JD cradling his right hand under his left arm. Glancing around, he found the broken drywall, bloodstains telling the story.

"Dammit, JD. I thought you didn't need a babysitter?" He pulled on the injured limb as he spoke.

"Ow. No. Leave me alone. You don't need me, remember. Or is it that I don't want you? I can't even remember now."

JD pulled away from Buck and walked into the living room. Wilmington trailed behind. "Let me see that hand."

Buck grabbed JD and jerked him around, pulling the hand into view as he did.

"Shit" JD whimpered.

"God, JD." The knuckles were cut and bleeding and the whole hand had a bluish tint. The swelling was obvious already. "Okay, you're going to the hospital."

"NO." the kid lamented as he tucked his hand back under his other arm.

"Kid, you don't have a choice. That hand is broke, badly broken."

Suddenly, JD paled and shot off to the bathroom. The sound of retching was all Buck needed to hear. He wasn't okayed to drive yet and JD couldn't, so he grabbed the phone and dialed Nathan Jackson.

"Yeah, Nate? Sorry to call so late. JD broke his hand and I can't drive. You…" Buck listened for a moment. "Thanks, Nathan. See ya in a few."

Buck moved to the door of the bathroom and pulled a towel off the rack. Wetting it, he gingerly sat down next to JD. The dark-haired head was leaning against the cool ceramic tub and he murmured thanks as the man pressed the damp cloth against the boy's sweaty neck.

"Buck, you know that we would never do that. You have to know that." Tears fell as the boy asked. "Please. I need you so much."

"I know, kid. I just sometimes let that inner voice make me crazy. I just get scared sometimes."

Hazel eyes looked up at him. "Those childhood demons are hard to ignore, but that's what we have each other for. Don't ya think?"

Wilmington slowly smiled, the light back in his eyes, as he rested the boy's head against his chest and his chin on the dark hair. "Yeah, kid, I think you're right 'bout that. We got each other. I guess that's what counts."

The End

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