Dark Times
Broken Friendships

by Jackie and Lanna

Three weeks passed and it looked like JD was well on the road to recovery. But looks could be and were deceiving since Chris could still easily sense the presence within the boy.

JD knocked quietly on Ezra's door. When it opened, he gave the gambler a bright smile. "Hey Ezra. Could I talk to you a minute?"

Ezra was a little apprehensive, after all, he and Vin were supposed to be sticking together at the moment...especially when JD was around. But he couldn't leave the kid outside and so stepped aside. "Of course JD. Welcome to my abode," he said more confidently than he felt.

JD entered, a troubled look slipping into place on his expressive face. He fidgeted a bit as he looked around Ezra's room.

"Have you lost something, JD?" Ezra asked the clearly uncomfortable younger man. "If you have, I can assure you it is not knowingly in my possession."

JD shook his head. "No," he replied, "I haven't lost anything. I just wanted to discuss you throwing down your weapons and taking a little trip with me to the livery," he added, drawing his gun as he turned around, a small smile playing on his lips.

Stunned for a moment, Ezra stood stock still, his green eyes warily watching JD's gun. "I don't understand," the words came slowly from his lips as his mind searched frantically for a way out of his situation.

JD rolled his eyes and went to the window. "Ok, how 'bout this. You drop your guns in the next say, five seconds, or I start shooting and seeing how many people I can take out before the rest find cover. Be a fun little game." He gave a nasty grin. "Understand now?"

"No need to be rash." Ezra unbuckled his gun belt and dropped it to the floor. He flicked his arm and the derringer slid from his sleeve. "I suppose there's no use hiding this one."

JD grinned. "Now," he said as he moved over to the other man, "Let's head for the livery. Vin will just be getting ready to head out on patrol." He jabbed the gun into Ezra's side. "Little warning. You do anything I don't like, and I open fire on the town. Clear?"

"Abundantly." The Gambler walked to the door and opened it, "I take it Vin is being invited to this little party also?" he threw over his shoulder as the headed down the hallway.

"Of course. Wouldn't dream of having a get together without him. And later on, I'll have one with Nathan."

They reached ground level and JD holstered his gun. "Remember," he murmured, "One thing I don't like..."

Ezra only nodded, darting his eyes one way and the other all the way to the livery in the faint hope that he may see one of the remaining seven and somehow get across to them that JD had gone stark raving mad.

They made it to the livery unchallenged. "Hey Vin," JD greeted as they entered and he pulled the door shut behind them. He then drew his gun and put it to Ezra's head. "Three guesses as to what I want you to do and what will happen if you don't."

Vin's hands stilled their movements. He'd just finished saddling Peso and was about to head out. "Reckon I only need the one guess JD." Warily the tracker moved away from Peso his hands slightly out to the sides. "What's brought this on? Ezra beat ya at cards one too many times?"

JD laughed then cocked his gun and gave Ezra's arm a little yank. "Drop your guns, Vin. And your knives. I know you got some hidden on ya."

Turning his blue eyes to Ezra Vin noticed the slight nod. He sighed in surrender and unbuckled his gun belt and dropped it to the floor with a thud. Next he took out his knife and threw that down too. "Happy now Kid? Or ya upset ya can't hurt anyone now?"

JD raised a brow, then shoved Ezra forward. "Saddle your horse," he ordered, then looked at Vin. "You sit over there, legs crossed, hands on knees," he directed, motioning with the gun to a corner where he could easily watch both Vin and Ezra, as well as the door.

Sitting where JD indicated Vin looked at him questioningly. "Are we allowed to ask why yer doin' this?"

JD gave Vin a funny look. "Isn't it obvious? I've got to finish what the Master started with you. So his death won't be in vain." A flicker of pain and fear flashed through JD's eyes, gone seconds later and replaced with the hard coldness that had been dominate. He nodded toward Ezra and said, "Got to kill Ezra for being a traitor."

A sneer crossed his lips. "Didn't actually think you'd get away with it did ya?" His eyes flickered to the door. "Once I'm finished with you two, I'll get Nathan. Bastard is the one who killed Father."

Vin's eyes found Ezra's, the two men were at a loss to know what to do. Turning back to the younger man the tracker licked his lips. "JD, you gotta try an' think clear. I know you thought a lot o' Calhoun, but he got int' yer mind. We're yer friends, d'ya really wanna kill us?"

JD wavered again, then turned back to the icy coldness. "You ain't my friends. Ya never were. Just some dumb kid ya thought was amusing to have around. Father put me on the right path and ya'll just couldn't stand it," he snarled.

"My horse is saddled," Ezra informed the agitated younger man. "Will this be a long journey? If it is I'd like to fill my flask." He realized he was goading JD but had to stall for time somehow. The faint hope that someone may happen along was the only thing holding his nerves in place.

"You don't need your damn flask!" JD snapped, then quickly aimed his gun at the door as it opened and Josiah stepped in. The older man didn't look surprised in the least to see a gun pointed at him, his eyes flickering to Vin and Ezra with a silent 'it will be okay' message. "JD," he greeted.

"Get in here preacher and loose your guns," JD ordered, changing his aim to Vin's head.

Josiah took a further step inside, his eyes fixed on JD's gun. "There's no need for this JD. I know what you're going through remember?" The preacher held his hands out to his sides. "I'm not gonna draw on you, I want to help. Do you remember our talk in the church?" The words came out slowly and clearly and Vin and Ezra were tense as they listened.

JD smirked. "JD ain't here right now preacher. If ya wanna leave a message, I'll see that he gets it. Now drop your guns or I'll just kill Vin right here instead of somewhere else."

"Alright, son." Josiah released his gun belt and let it fall to the floor. "Now, are ya gonna steer that gun somewhere else? You're making me nervous pointing it at Vin like you are." The preacher darted another quick look at the other two men.

"I will as soon as you tell whoever it is trying to sneak in the back way that if he doesn't get his ass in here with his hands where I can see them, Vin's going to have a real neat little hole in the middle of his head," JD snarled back.

"Alright, I'm comin'," Chris called out, leaving the cover of shadows and walking with his hands out to his sides so the young sheriff wouldn't get an itchy trigger finger. "I think it's time to put the gun away JD."

JD tensed and fought the urge to lower his eyes. "N...No. Dr...drop your guns." He quickly moved so that he could see everyone, growling softly and threateningly.

Chris stopped walking when he was only a few feet away from the wary Bostonian. "JD, look at me." His voice was soft but held a note of command. When there was no response he tried again, louder this time. "I said look at me."

JD obeyed, breathing hard now and cocked the gun warningly. The three other men breathed a communal sigh of relief. But Chris's eyes never left JD. "That's better. Now, how about we talk about what's goin' on here." He took a step nearer to the younger man. "Why do you want to hurt your friends JD?"

"Stay where you are," JD replied warningly, taking a step away and checking quickly on Josiah's position. He looked back at Chris and said, "Drop your guns or I swear to God I'll kill them both right now!"

Chris glared at the youth. He'd hoped that the power he'd seemed to have over him was still present, but it appeared not. With a sigh he loosened his gun belt and dropped it to the floor. "JD," he started, his mouth an angry line. "You know you can't win. If you start shootin' at least one of us will have time to grab our gun and put a bullet in you. Is that what you really want?"

JD looked at him, then laughed. "To die avenging my Master and Father would be an honorable death." He paused. "And would also further prove him right. You aren't my friends. Never have been never will be." He glanced at Josiah. "May as well let Buck and Nathan in. No reason we shouldn't all be together one final time."

"He doesn't intend to survive this," Ezra murmured softly, puzzled over why JD would let the last of their numbers in and further outnumber him.

Vin eyed his gun, laying close by. He wondered if he could move fast enough to grab it and maybe get the upper hand. It wouldn't be too hard if he did it now, while Buck and Nathan had most of JD's attention. He wriggled a little, and glanced up at Chris.

JD had seen or felt the movement and, taking quick aim, he fired his gun. The bullet slammed into wall just inches from Vin's head. "Don't even think about it!" he growled, ignoring the startled calls of the horses. "Everyone who still has a weapon, drop it! DO IT!"

Nathan and Buck quickly dropped their guns to the floor. All seven men now stood or sat in the livery, but only one man had the floor. Six pairs of wary eyes waited for his next move.

"Tanner, Standish, mount up. Both on Vin's. I'll take yours," JD stated, glaring at Ezra.

Vin and Ezra looked at each other and slowly made their way over to Peso.

"JD...kid. You gotta listen. You're makin' a big mistake..." Buck's words were cut short as Chris raised his hand to stop him. The gunslinger turned an icy glare on the young man.

"I'm not gonna let you do this JD. So we can do it the easy way or the hard way." He was barely managing to keep the anger out of his voice. "You might have the gun, but we can take you down. You know it and I know it."

"Course I do," JD replied calmly even as he moved over and grabbed the reigns of Ezra's horse. His eyes met Chris' and a pleading look flashed through them, trying to get past the cold evil shining through. "But ya gotta remember," he continued as though nothing had happened, "I can easily take out two or three of you before the rest of you take me out. You prepared for that Chris?"

Vin sighed in frustration. It wasn't often he felt helpless, but right now he did. He'd thought about digging his heels into Pesos sides, to make the animal move suddenly, but wasn't ready to take the risk of JD maybe shooting one or more of the others. No, he and Ezra had to bide their time. It was up to the other four to get them out of this, he just hoped it was soon.

Chris hadn't missed the look in the kids's eyes. He could sense that JD was trying to fight against what he was doing, he was just losing the battle. The gunslinger's mind was whirling around, trying to figure out how to end this quickly and safely. He looked to Nathan for guidance, in the hope that the healer and his well read book had the answer.

Unfortunately, JD saw Chris look over at Nathan and it reminded JD of his task concerning the healer. "This is for my Master," he growled, aiming his gun, his finger putting pressure on the trigger.

Chris knew he had to take a chance and act. He lurched forward and shoved JD from the side. At the same time, Vin and Ezra both had similar thoughts. Digging their knees into Peso's sides, the horse moved forward and knocked JD in the back.

The gun went off, the bullet burying itself harmlessly in the wood. JD hit the ground hard and stayed still for a couple of seconds, stunned. He shook his head to clear it, then quickly reached for his fallen weapon. A boot was quicker, covering the gun to stop JD from retrieving it.

Chris stood over the younger man, his green eyes boring into JD's skull as he waited for the Bostonian to look up at him. Buck had managed to grab Peso's reins and Vin and Ezra jumped from his back and came to stand beside Chris.

Slowly, JD looked up at Chris, eyes alive with pure hatred. He moved quickly and smoothly, gathering himself into a crouch, his mind clearly working on a plan.

"I tried to warn you," Chris told the youth. He looked around at the others. "Buck...Josiah, I think the best place for him right now is jail, until we figure out what to do." The two men nodded and moved forward ready to grab JD. Buck's sad blue eyes rested on his young friends face. "I'm sorry kid, but its for your own good."

JD stayed where he was, looking up at them, a funny little smile crossing his lips. "If you say so," he said very softly, sending warning bells off in everyone's head. All of a sudden, a knife appeared in his hands and it plunged into Buck's thigh, ripping out again as he jumped to his feet, kicked Chris hard in the stomach and slashed at Josiah.

Surging forward, Vin flung himself onto JD's back and grabbed his wrist to still the knife's movements. He clenched his teeth as he used all of his strength to wrestle with the younger man. His eyes darted around, checking on each of his friends in turn, assuring himself that they were all still in relatively one piece.

JD managed to stay on his feet despite the extra weight. He ran backward, ramming Vin hard into a wall and repeated the motion, trying to cause as much damage as he could. Vin released his grip as the air was knocked from his body one too many times and he sank to the floor. But it had given Chris time to recover from the kick and he and Ezra both ran at the younger man, this time ready for the younger mans sharp weapon.

JD was in a fighting position and, snarling, he tried slashing at both of them, his other hand reaching for his forgotten second gun. He may be going down, but he was taking as many of the bastards with him as he could.

With a growl from deep in his throat, Vin jumped to his feet and once more grabbed JD from behind. He caught hold of the hand going for his gun and flung his other hand around the youth's neck. "Give it up JD," the tracker growled into the youth's ear.

"When...you're...dead!" JD growled back, adjusting the knife so that it was pointed down. He raised it and brought it down fast, aiming for whatever happened to be exposed.

Vin let out a cry as the blade found the flesh of his side, but managed to keep his grip. Ezra and Chris both grabbed at JD wherever they could to try and bring him down to the ground once and for all. The gunslinger had had enough of the knife and grasped JD's wrist in a steel grip, and with his other hand he pried the Bostonian's fingers open and the weapon fell to the floor.

"I'll kill you all!" JD screamed as he struggled violently. Someone kicked his leg and he fell to the floor, never stopping his struggles and insane screaming. It took all six men to keep the younger man on the ground. Chris relieved him of his gun and they all held him the best they could, waiting for him to calm down.

"Nathan!" Buck yelled above the noise. He winced when his leg protested at his kneeling position. "What do we do now?"

Nathan looked at Josiah, who nodded and left his position. He moved around to JD's head and grabbed the boy's neck, squeezing. JD's eyes widened and a gasp escaped his lips before his eyes closed and he went limp.

"It's all right," the big man said softly. "You can let go now."

Nathan immediately descended on Vin, having already checked Buck's injury. "Where'd he get you, Vin?"

"Ah hell, Nathan. It's nothin' I'm fine. See t' the kid." He winced, holding his injured side.

"JD ain't bleeding from a stab wound!" Nathan snapped, swatting Vin's hand away and pushing aside Vin's coat, followed by his shirt. "Doesn't look like too much damage was done," he murmured. "Stupid thing to do, grabbing him when he could still easily use that knife." He glanced at JD, then looked up at Josiah. "Why don't you get him safely put away?" He then looked at the others. "The rest of you help me get these two up to the clinic. Gotta put stitches in."

"He gonna be alright?" Buck asked, nodding towards JD. "He went awful limp." Ezra grabbed the ladies man tightly when his leg threatened to give way.

"He'll be fine," Josiah reassured as he gathered JD into his arms. He left without another word and Nathan set about herding the others up to his clinic where he worked first on Vin and then on Buck. "Try and stay off the leg, Buck," he said as he carefully stitched the wound. "Gonna be sore for a while." Buck rolled his eyes. "How can I stay off my leg Nate? I need it to walk."

Vin got an evil glint in his eye. "Well, there's other things we know ya like doin' where ya don't need t' use yer leg."

"I'll get ya a crutch or something," Nathan murmured, frowning. "Damn," he added softly. "This thing is stronger than I thought. A lot stronger. That doesn't make any sense especially after what the book said. He can't be a full on Meja because he dropped when Calhoun was killed. Could be it's stronger than its supposed to be because JD did drink human blood, which would be half of what's required to become a full sub species. Hm." He seemed to forget the others were there, staring at nothing with narrowed eyes and muttering incoherently to himself.

Buck and Vin looked at each other and then back at Nathan. Chris, who had been sitting quietly in the corner suddenly made his presence known. "So this damn book of yours is no help to us this time Nathan?" he stood and walked over, sitting on the bed beside Vin.

Nathan jumped and looked at Chris, then sighed and looked away. "I need time to think about this," he murmured. "There's got to be a solution here somewhere..."

"I certainly hope so," Ezra stated from his own spot in the corner. "I would hate to have to resort to sending JD to an asylum or something."

"There's no way we're sending that kid to an Asylum!" Buck growled angrily. He stood and then flopped down to the bed again, clearly in pain.

"Won't come t' that," Vin stated matter of factly. "We'll figure it out, we've got by so far...Nathan's book'll get us by."

"Book ain't gonna be no help now," Nathan replied. "I've finished it. I'll skim through again in case I've missed something, but I think we're going to have to get through this one on our own. I've got to think about this," he repeated. "There's got to be a way."

"I'm goin' over t' see JD." Vin stood and made his way to the door. "I feel helpless jist sittin' around doin' nothin'."

"Watch your side," Nathan replied absently. "Don't do anything to pull out those stitches ya hear?"

"I won't." Vin left the clinic leaving the others in deep thought. Nathan began pacing and scratching at his cheek absently. It nearly drove Chris over the edge.

Buck could see it and, glancing at Ezra said, "Hey Chris, why don't you and Ezra help me down stairs? I want ta see JD too."

"A push from the top should do it," Chris growled, but grabbed Buck's elbow all the same. The three men headed for the door. "We'll leave you to your pondering Nathan," Ezra threw over his shoulder as he and the gunslinger helped the ladies man exit the clinic.

When they reached the jail, they found JD sitting on a cot in a cell, arms wrapped around his legs, staring coldly and silently at Josiah and Vin. His eyes flickered to the newcomers and, when he saw Chris, quickly looked away, his normal reactions to the leader having returned.

"He behaving himself?" Chris ground out as he glared at the youngest of the seven. "Yeah, just sat and stared...and doin' a very good impersonation of that glare o' yers," Vin answered, shifting in his chair.

JD's murderous stare returned to Vin. He was shaking slightly, knowing how furious Chris was. The blond strode up to the bars and stared at the younger man. "You gotta beat this JD. Don't let it beat you...you're better than this, and stronger."

"I am stronger," JD replied quietly, but his voice was icy cold. "Forgive me," he added. "It was difficult to disobey you but it had to be done. I'll take whatever punishment you want to give, but I don't regret what I did."

Chris stared hard at JD, grinding his teeth together to keep his temper under control. He was beginning to doubt that they would be able to pull their youngest member free of what held him. Turning away, he moved to the other side of the room and sat heavily into a chair.

JD's gaze returned to Vin, but also seemed to include Ezra as well. The hatred there was intense and the smile that played across his lips was chilling. "Ain't over," he stated, his voice still soft. "Can't keep me here forever. Gonna have to do something with me sooner or later and then I'll get you."

Ezra looked bored as he stared back at the kid, and Vin raised his eyebrows and stretched out, tipping his hat to cover his eyes. Buck was the only one who looked concerned. "Hell, come on kid. This is Ezra and Vin you're sayin' these things about. Your friends."

JD's eyes moved to Buck. "Friends? You ain't my friends. Friends wouldn't do what you've done to me. Wouldn't take what you've taken from me. I was happy. For the first time in a long time, I knew who I was. Felt like I had finally found my true family. My Father."

Buck grabbed his hat from his head and ran frustrated fingers through his hair. "This is startin' to wear thin JD. When are you gonna realize what Calhoun really was?"

"Easy brother," Josiah soothed, seeing tempers were beginning to fray. "Everyone's gotta be patient." He turned steady eyes on the Bostonian. "I mean everyone."

JD smiled a bit, then slowly climbed off the cot and moved to the window, staring up at what he could see of the sky.

"Know how he feels," Vin whispered to no one in particular. "This town is startin' t' feel mighty small lately."

"Yeah, and you better get any ideas about takin' a ride outta your head...Nathan'll skin you alive." Chris growled at the tracker.

"Well, I'm finding it a trifle warm in here. I think I'll find a nice vacant table in the saloon," Ezra joined in, heading for the door before a war erupted.

"Careful what you drink," JD called clearly, not turning around however. Ezra ignored the remark as he left. "So, are we gonna just sit here and stare at each other while Nathan figures this out, or what?" Buck asked in irritation.

"How bout a game of cards," JD replied sarcastically as he turned around. He moved back to the cot, sat down and removed his gunbelt. Next, he leaned down and started taking his boots off.

"I miss JD," Buck said quietly.

Vin dipped his head and sighed, while Josiah moved his head from side to side with a pensive look on his face. Chris however glared even harder at the youth. One of them had to be strong, and it seemed like it was going to have to be him.

JD straightened, boots in hand and glanced around. He then stood and moved to the cell doors, his eyes continuing to wander around, as though searching for something. Aware he had their attention, he stared at one spot in the room until everyone else turned to look as well, then chucked one of the boots, hitting Vin in the side of the head and sending a wide grin to JD's face.

Closing his eyes against the pain in his head, and his jarred side, Vin told himself to stay calm and not rise to the bait. Josiah went to the tracker's side and he and Buck watched as Chris jumped up from his chair and strode towards the cell, his green eyes boring into the youth. "Try anything like that again and I'll show you just have tough I can play," he hissed.

JD immediately lowered his head and began to tremble. "Help me Chris," very soft, barely heard words reached Chris' ears.

"I'll do what I can to help you kid. But you gotta help yourself too." Chris's eyes remained hard. "And you gotta stop attacking everyone...I won't let you do it any more, you hear?"

"It's not me," JD whispered feverently. "It's the thing...I can't stop it...It's hurting...hurting me..."

"How's it hurting you JD?" Chris asked, his facial features softening slightly.

JD's hand shot out and grabbed Chris' wrist in a painfully tight grip. "Think of this, magnified a few hundred times," JD hissed, his voice no longer shaking and fearful, head still down. "I can kill him any time I want and I will once we avenge the master."

"Let go of me," Chris hissed, his eyes spitting green fire at the youth. "And you try anything else and I'll kill you myself."

JD pulled hard, ramming Chris into the bars once before letting go, head still bowed, a smirk on his lips even as tremors ran through his body.

"You all right Chris?" Buck asked in alarm. The others had not heard most of the conversation but had watched intently anyway.

Turning away from JD the others could still see the anger lingering in the green eyes. "Yeah, I'm fine." He looked at Josiah. "Reckon you can handle him if we get outta here?" he asked, his voice tight.

Josiah nodded. "I'm stayin' here too, can't go walking around anyway." Buck added.

"Watch yerselves," Vin warned as he followed Chris out the door. Once outside, he asked, "What happened there?"

The gunslinger glanced at his friend, feeling anger when he saw the bruise forming on the side of Vin's head. "He made out he was weak and then grabbed me, tellin' me he was gonna avenge the master with your death," he sneered. "I've nearly had enough of that kid."

Vin frowned. "There's something not right here, Chris," he said. "I mean, this whole thing ain't right, but...I couldn't hear what you two were saying, but at one point, I heard the tone in JD's voice. Kid sounded terrified. Even like he might have been in pain."

"Yeah he said he was. But then he turned all nasty again." Chris sighed heavily. "Hope Nathan comes up with something fast Vin. This is gettin' outta hand."

Vin's frown deepened as they walked. "You know, this sounds a lot like possession. Could be that what JD is saying and doing isn't really JD at all. Nathan thinks that demon is stronger than he thought. Well, I think he's right. I also think there's a lot more in there than Nate thought too."

"So what the hell do we do now?" Chris growled vehemently. "Killing JD is starting to look like the only way out, and I'm thinkin' that none of us wanna do that."

"The only thing you can do in a situation like this, pard," Vin replied. "Exorcism."

Chris stopped and stared with disbelieving eyes. "Tanner, I've heard you say some strange things...but exorcism? What the hell are you gonna think of next?"

Vin grinned. "Me to know and you to find out, Larabee. I gotta talk to Nate." Quickening his pace Vin made his way to the clinic. Chris was hard on his heels and the two men burst breathlessly through Nathan's door, startling the healer enough for him to drop his book on the floor.

"What's happened?" Nathan asked, quickly standing, alarm in his dark eyes.

"Nate!" Vin swallowed, trying to catch his breath. "He's possessed...we need an exorcism."

Chris closed the door quietly behind them and shrugged over Vin's shoulder when the healer looked questioningly at him. "Don't look at me." He nodded towards the tracker. "He's the one seems to have all the answers."

Nathan looked back at Vin, nodding slowly. "Yeah," he agreed carefully, "I guess you could call it possession. There is part of a demon inside him. But...I ain't so sure it's that kind of possession."

The tracker pointed to the door. "Go and see fer y'self Nathan. It's not JD that's throwin' his boots around and threatenin' all of us...he's inside there somewhere, but so's somethin' else."

Nathan glanced at Chris, shrugged, then headed outside and to the jail. JD was sitting in a corner of the cell, next to the bars, staring at Josiah and Buck, giggling and muttering. His gun belt and other boot were now on the desk and Josiah sported a bruise on his cheek. "What the hell's been goin' on?" The healer asked no one in particular.

"JD's been doin' some target practice," Josiah replied, rubbing his sore cheek.

"You all right?" Nathan asked and at Josiah's nod, turned his attention on JD, who glared at him with pure hatred.

"Wipe that look offa your face Kid," Chris warned. "You're not very popular around here, right now...considerin' we're tryin' to help you."

JD looked at Chris defiantly. "Why don't you wipe it off for me?" he hissed back.

Chris ground his teeth and stepped forward purposefully, but Vin's restraining hand stopped him. "Let Nathan handle it," he whispered.

JD laughed softly, watching Chris. "I know now," he hissed. "You aren't what I've been feeling you are. You would have punished me a long time ago for my insolence if you were what I feel you are. Means you must be a Hunter." His gaze flickered to Nathan and he smiled. "You know," he stated simply as he saw the look in Nathan's eyes. "You've finally figured it out."

"Yeah, I finally have..." Nathan walked up to the bars, but not close enough for JD to reach him. "...and I know what we have to do now." His brown eyes bore into the younger man's, letting the demon know that he was in trouble.

"What the hell is going on?" Buck demanded, looking from Nathan to JD and back again.

JD laughed softly. "Humans are such thick, stupid fools. No wonder my kind can take you so easily." His eyes took on a look of regret. "Pity I won't be able to bring more of my kind here. But because of my Master's premature death, I was unable to reach full maturity." He smiled slightly. "Which means, I'm going to die, as is this body. His soul is what is keeping me alive, giving me strength, but it's weakening." He grinned. "But I can still do as I wish."

As though to demonstrate, the hard coldness melted away from JD's eyes, replaced by pure fear and pain. JD started to call out, but a ragged gasp was torn from his lips instead as he began to desperately struggle to pull air into his lung, his hand clawing at his throat as if an invisible force was choking him.

Pushing himself to his feet and ignoring his injured leg Buck limped over to Nathan. He gripped the healer's shoulders. "Do something! Don't just stand there watching!"

Chris gripped the bars of the cell, a look of pure fury on his face. "You think you're gonna win by doing that? It'll just kill you sooner. Leave him alone!"

Buck grabbed the keys to JD's jail and put them in the lock.

Before Nathan could stop him, Buck turned the key and JD struck. Moving faster than they expected, JD gained his feet, slammed into the door which in turn slammed into Buck and knocked him off his feet and into Nathan and Chris. Not stopping, JD rushed to the door. Vin and Josiah both moved at the same time, flinging their bodies at the escaping figure. The three men fell to the floor in a struggling heap, while Buck and Chris regained their feet.

JD jammed an arm into Vin's injured side in an effort to gain some upper hand. Issuing a cry of pain Vin sat back on his knees, cradling his wound. But Josiah held the youngest of the seven tight, pinning him down. Nathan, Buck and Chris were soon on the scene and while Nathan quickly checked on Vin, the gunslinger decided he'd had enough of JD and hit him over the back of his head with the butt of his gun in one swift movement.

With a soft grunt, JD went limp. Nathan, cursing loudly as he tended to Vin, glanced over at JD and continued to curse as if it were the only language he knew. The door opened and Ezra entered, stopping when he saw the scene.

"Well now," he commented slowly, "trouble in paradise?"

"Just a minor disturbance," Josiah answered, getting to his feet. He looked at Chris who was watching Nathan with narrowed eyes. "You sure know how to use that gun," the preacher added, with a smile.

Before Chris could reply, Nathan caught sight of him. "What?" he snapped, being a little rougher with Vin than he intended.

Vin grimaced in pain. "Reckon I'm better off without ya right now, Nate," his voice was tight. "Take care o' JD. Chris hit 'im kinda hard."

Nathan went a little easier on Vin, then moved to check on JD. "Josiah, can you preform an exorcism?" he asked.

Josiah nodded. "Done one or two in my time," he murmured.

"Good," Nathan replied as he checked JD's pulse. "I don't think it's going to work regular like on this thing, but I'm hoping it's going to give JD the strength he needs to break through."

"Where are ya gonna do it?" Chris asked as he helped Vin to his feet and into a chair.

"Church would be the best place," Josiah replied thoughtfully. "He'll have to be conscious and restrained of course."

"How 'bout we get it over and done with then?" Buck leaned against the door to take some of his weight off his injured leg. "I wanna get rid of the mangy bastard that's usin' JD and get the kid back."

"I'll go prepare then," Josiah replied, retrieving some handcuffs. He put them in this pocket, then scooped JD up and headed out the door.

Ezra glanced at the others. "I believe I will assist," he murmured and hurried after Josiah. "Reckon I'm gonna go on t' the church m'self," Vin stated, dragging himself to his feet. "Need a hand Buck? I figure yer not gonna be far away when JD's gonna be needin' ya."

"Take it easy, both of you!" Nathan ordered as the pair slowly headed out. Nathan looked at Chris. "You may as well go on over too. I'll be there soon as I get some stuff from the clinic." Nodding Chris followed the other two out of the door, rolling his eyes his eyes as he watched them struggling.


An hour later, Josiah was still preparing when JD regained consciousness.

"What happened?" he mumbled, putting his one free hand to his head.

"Rest easy son." Josiah placed a gentle hand on the young mans arm. "Everything's gonna be fine, real soon."

JD free hand snapped out and grabbed Josiah's hand, twisting hard and pulling him down and off balance. His head slammed into Josiah's chin followed by his hand leaving the other man's arm and pressing into his throat.

"Get your hands offa him, now!" Chris growled as he rushed past Buck and Vin. He grabbed JD and pulled him hard.

JD let Josiah go, who fell back, gasping. JD turned his attention on Chris and was going to attack, but Chris, who had a handful of JD's hair, pulled hard, forcing a cry out of the boy and causing him to freeze all movement.

"Vin get over here an' tie him up good," the gunslinger growled, not relinquishing his hold. Buck stopped, watching from his seat. He swallowed hard, almost unable to stand the scene before him.

Vin moved over with some rope, jumping back when JD tried to kick out at him, paying for it when Chris only pulled harder. Vin ignored the growls escaping JD's lips as he quickly tied the younger man up so he wouldn't be a danger to anyone.

Nathan looked up from checking Josiah over and shook his head as he stared at JD. "Sure gonna be glad to have the old JD back," he murmured as he helped Josiah to his feet.

"No more'n that rest of us." The tracker moved away, satisfied that the younger man was secure.

"Amen to that," Buck added.

"Think you're getting him back?" 'JD' snarled, panting a bit as Chris released his hair. "When I die, he dies too. And it doesn't have to be me who dies first, ya know." He grinned. "Want another demonstration of what I can do?"

"No, we've seen enough." Chris didn't rise to the bait. He looked to Josiah. "Are we ready?"

"Yeah, and please tell me he doesn't have to be conscious, I wanna knock him around the head so bad," Buck growled, glaring at JD.

JD smirked a bit as Josiah replied, "Unfortunately, I need him conscious. Everyone grab a seat, gonna need your support."

JD snarled as he watched Josiah, bible in hand, take up a position in front of him. Without warning, his eyes filled with pain and he began struggling to pull in air again. "P...please," he wheezed, but was unable to say more.

"Ignore it, Josiah," Chris growled through gritted teeth. His green glare boring into the trussed up youth. A stillness filled the room as the other peacekeepers sat tensely, waiting for Josiah to begin.

"There's really nothing you can do, Buck, except monitor for fever or anything else that could cause problems."

"I'll do that." Buck nodded his head. "I just need to do something." His caring blue eyes pleaded with Nathan to grant him what he desired.


From the journal of Nathan Jackson, November 21, 1888
It's been nine months since we took JD back from the demon that tried to take him from us. I wish I could say he's back to normal again. I wish I could say he has that mixture of innocence and proudness back in his eyes again. But it seems that someone somewhere has other ideas. His eyes still carry that haunted look in them that breaks my heart every time I look at him.

When JD first woke up after the exorcism, he told me that the demon was always talking to him. That it had told him that even if JD managed to survive, a part of that demon would always be with him. Living in his dark side. At the time, I thought it had been trying to scare him, to keep him submissive but after the past nine months, I believe the demon's words to be true.

JD has what I can only describe as spells or fits. When these spells take him, he gets very angry and highly aggressive. Has been the cause of more than a few fights.

He claims he has enough control that while he acts like he does, he'll never start trying to avenge Calhoun again, who he has finally admitted deep hatred for. The good side of this is, Chris agrees with his claims. He can feel JD when the fits take him and not once has he felt a need in JD to do anything to hurt the rest of us like he did when the demon had him.

The last few months though, JD has Josiah lock him in the cellar of the Church when it happens. He may not have any desire to hurt any of us, but that doesn't mean he won't hurt someone else. Thankfully, the spells have slowed down to about two or three times a month and Chris is getting better at predicting them before they happen. He's gone from days to just hours in sensing them now.

Chris. If I thought he was interesting before, it was nothing compared to how he is now. This...gift he has is amazing. I've never before fully realized just how big the world beyond human existence is. Chris can now feel anything that isn't fully human, which saved our lives just two months ago. We had stopped in this little out of the way town on the way home from an errand the Judge sent us on. Looked like a right cozy little place but it unsettled Chris real good. He could feel a powerful lot of supernatural activity going on. Vin had picked up on it too and was chomping at the bit to get out of there, but Chris...he knew we wouldn't just be allowed to leave. Said the nice hominess of the place was fake. He hadn't seen it straight off, but the longer we were there, the fast it started to show its true colors to him.

It was his abilities that got us and a whole lot of imprisoned people out of there. Chris wouldn't tell us what that place was but I have my suspicions. Shook him up good and JD looked an awful lot like men I had seen come off the field in the war who had seen friends come to gory ends right in front of them. Couldn't get JD to talk about it, but I got the feeling that poor kid was fighting evil not even Josiah could imagine.

I hope Calhoun is rotting in hell for what he did to that boy. I don't believe he'll ever be the same again. And he remembers. God I wish he had been spared the memories like Josiah and to an extent, Ezra. We know a lot of what happened, but we don't know all of it. Only JD does and I think that those weeks Calhoun and the demon had JD probably gave him more experience with evil than all of us put together. Probably enough for five lifetimes. Only time will tell what's going to happen. Only fate knows what's going to come. But whatever comes, we'll face it together. The seven of us.

+ + + + + + +

"Mail mama."

The woman looked up from her needlework as her daughter came into the room, carrying a small stack of the day's mail."Thank you, dear," she murmured softly, taking the letters and watching the young woman leave the room.

She put her needlework down and began slowly sifting through the little pile, taking careful stock of return names and addresses. The last one was written in an unfamiliar hand and a small curious frown crossed her lips as she read first her name, Mrs. Emma Black, then the return name and address:

JD Dunne
Four Corners, Arizona


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