Starting Over

by Becky E


Author's Note: I would like to thank everyone for their kind feedback concerning my first story, Into the Fold. As always, I would also like to thank Phyllis for her wonderful job of betaing. It has come to my attention that this story has elements that are somewhat similar to Linda's great story, 'Who's the Kid?' Any similarities are truly coincidental. I have always loved Linda's work, and I have entirely too much respect for her as a writer to ever think of using her ideas under the guise of my own. This story is simply my vision of how JD, Buck, and Chris's relationship might have came to be.

Size: Approx 104K


The soft rustling of the autumn leaves as they swirled along the dirt path was the only sound young JD Dunne heard as he knelt before the small, delicately carved headstone that adorned his mother's grave. It had only been a week since he had stood at this very spot and endured her funeral, feeling so very alone in his grief. His superior officer and a few of the patrolmen from the Boston Police Department had made an appearance, mostly because it was expected of them. Although he had appreciated their gesture, it had done nothing to comfort him. His only comfort in this life lay beneath the earth, and completely out of his reach.

Now as he visited one last time, JD couldn't help but wonder if he would ever feel comfort again. Rising from the ground, he collected his few belongings; a battered backpack, a slim black laptop computer, and a worn cardboard box. Not a lot to show for twenty years of life. But as he headed out of the cemetery and climbed into the waiting cab, the young man thought, 'Well JD, here's to starting over. Denver ATF, here I come.'

ONE

"Do you want to pay for the room by the hour, the day, or what?" asked the balding clerk from behind the motel's dusty counter.

"I'll take the room for a week to start," JD responded, wondering for at least the tenth time that day if he were making a big mistake in coming to Denver so unprepared.

Scrounging around under the counter, the clerk reappeared with a silver key attached to a faded plastic keychain.

"Third door down on the right, kid. And you might want to use the chain on the inside of the door, never know who's going to wander in on ya if ya don't."

"Great, just great. I'll keep that in mind." Taking the key, JD proceeded to his new 'home'.

Sitting on the edge of the sagging mattress, the tired young man allowed himself to reflect on the many changes that had occurred in the past few weeks. When he had received word that his application to the Denver ATF's Special Unit, Team Seven, had been accepted, JD wasn't sure whether to be ecstatic or terrified. Even as he had filled out the online application months before, knowing that his mother was heading into her final days, he hadn't been sure exactly why he was pursuing the position.

It wasn't that he hated his job as a Boston police officer. There were days when he loved his work, but after spending the last two years struggling to fit into a world where he knew too much, both in intellect and experiences, to relate with those his own age, but not enough to garner the respect of those his circumstances had thrown him together with, JD realized he was in desperate need of a change. And the idea of heading out west, of making a fresh start, away from painful memories, had fueled his quest for a spot on the elite Team Seven.

"Well, I guess I can't just sit here. Better get my things washed and ready for the morning. Wouldn't hurt to find something to eat, either," JD muttered to himself. Having arrived in Denver earlier in the day, he had spent some time in the airport coffee shop, pouring over the local newspapers until he found the address for the Sunrise Motel. Relatively unfamiliar with the area, all he knew was that it was close to the ATF's Denver office and that it was cheap, exactly what the young man was looking for.

JD had come to Denver with the little money that was left over after having taken care of his mother's funeral expenses and a few other odds and ends. He had no transportation, as he had sold his motorcycle to add to his meager stash. Until he drew his first paycheck, which would be four weeks away, the young man was going to have to be extremely careful with his finances.

As he walked down the street to a small family-owned market, JD recalled his interview for the vacant position with Team Seven. He had told Assistant Director Orrin Travis that he was definitely interested in the computer ops position on the team, but that he could not give the man a definite starting date due to the nature of his mother's deteriorating medical condition.

Katherine, his mother, had already weakened to a state that offered no hope of recovery. The kind volunteer that came in daily to sit with her while JD worked, had gently informed him that his mother's time was drawing to a close. Mattie, the volunteer, had scolded JD for feeling guilty about the job interview. She had told him that it was the right thing to do, to be getting his life in order. JD was surprised when Travis had said that he understood, and that the position was his when the time came.

"That will be $12.95, please," the older man stated as he bagged the few items JD had placed on the counter.

"Here you go," JD responded with a shy smile as he paid for his things and collected his bag of Poptarts, bottled water, peanut butter, powdered detergent, and a loaf of bread. Not much by most people's standards, but enough to sustain the youth for a little while. After having struggled over the last few years to go to school, work at the PD, take care of his mom, and manage to keep a roof over their heads, JD had become quite familiar with the concept of making ends meet. He knew all too well how to make the best of what the world threw at you.

TWO

Monday morning found newly hired ATF Agent John Daniel Dunne standing in the hall outside the offices of Chris Larabee and the other five members of Team Seven. Adjusting his collar for what seemed to be the hundredth time that morning, JD took a deep breath and entered the bullpen.

Once inside, JD took a moment to take in his surroundings. The room was not unlike the one he had worked in back in Boston. Six desks were arranged, each set of two placed facing one another, in what resembled a triangle in the center of the room. The walls were adorned with the usual calendars and posters and were lined with several file cabinets. In the back corner, stood a separate office with large glass windows covered in stark white miniblinds which, when open as they were now, allowed its occupant a clear view of all activities in the bullpen. And at the moment, the room's occupant, one Agent Chris Larabee, was staring right at him.

'Well, it's now or never' JD thought as he walked toward Larabee's office, trying to project a confidence he didn't quite feel. As he raised his hand to knock at the door, he was halted by a gruff voice.

"No need to knock, kid. Come on in," called Larabee. He had been observing the younger man from the moment he had exited the elevator outside the bullpen. He couldn't believe how young the kid looked. He had already been wary of hiring this 'JD Dunne', having been unable to conduct the interview himself, too deeply involved in the team's last case to get away. Now, getting his first look at the team's newest addition, he was absolutely sure that Assistant Director Travis had been out of his mind when he had hired the kid that appeared before him.

"Good morning, sir. I'm JD Dunne. Pleased to meet you," JD offered as he reached out to shake his new boss' hand.

Shaking the kid's hand, pleased with the firmness of his grip, Chris stated, "Same here. A.D. Travis has nothing but great things to say about you, JD. With the rise we have seen in crimes involving computers and other high-tech toys, we sure can use your expertise." The two men settled down, facing each other across the older man's desk.

"Yes,sir, that's what the Assistant Director was telling me. It seems that the dealers are getting more and more sophisticated, and if the ATF doesn't start taking advantage of the available technology, then it's going to get pretty difficult to keep up with things," JD stated. The young man couldn’t help but feel as if he somehow needed to prove his value to the imposing man.

"Yeah, the days when it was enough to collect info undercover and execute raids are pretty much over. I guess we're going to have to get used to the idea that there are other means of catching these guys. Tell me, JD, your file says that you spent a little over a year with Boston PD. Why did you decide to leave and head all the way out here? How did your family feel about you moving so far away?" Chris asked. He couldn't help but wonder why a kid this young would just up and travel so far, and if he had left a mother and father behind to worry about him being in such a dangerous line of work.

"Sir, I don't have any family left. My mother passed away recently, and she was all I had. She'd been sick for quite awhile, and I felt like I needed a change. As it was, after my Captain found out how much I knew about computers and electronics, he pulled me from street detail, and had me pretty much riding a desk or setting up surveillance. It had me pretty isolated from the rest of the officers, so I really didn't have any ties to anyone there." As JD spoke, he had unconsciously lowered his gaze to the floor, his voice growing quiet in the confines of the small office.

As Larabee listened to his team's newest addition speak of the loss of his mother, his only family, Chris found his heart aching for the boy. It was obvious by the boy’s expression that JD was still feeling his loss deeply, and the hardened leader was shocked at how strongly his paternal instincts flared within him. He had thought that those kinds of feelings had disappeared years ago, along with his young son Adam. 'Careful Larabee. With a job like ours, who knows what will happen? Don't set yourself up to be hurt,' he thought to himself.

"Well, JD, don't think you’re going to have the luxury of riding a desk, out here. With the workload this team gets, we need every man out there, pulling his weight. In the office and in the field. Let's go out and introduce you to the boys." Rising from behind his desk, he came to stand beside the younger man. "And I'm sorry to hear about your mother," Chris said quietly.

"Thank you, sir," JD responded quietly as he turned to follow Larabee out.

"Just call me Chris, kid. We don't stand too much for formalities around here," Chris said as he led his newest agent back out into the bullpen.

THREE

"Mornin’ Vin. How was your weekend? Do anything interesting?" inquired Agent Buck Wilmington, Team Seven’s resident ladies man. With his handsome features and tall stature, Buck rarely had a weekend go by that he didn’t do something ‘interesting’, and it was usually done in the company of a beautiful young woman.

"Nothing interesting by your standards, Buck. Worked on the Jeep, hung out with the kids over at the rec center. Not much to speak of, but…" At that moment Vin Tanner, expert marksman and currently the youngest member of the team, caught sight of Chris emerging from his office, accompanied by some kid. ‘Wonder what he’s doing with Chris. Oh well, guess we’re gonna find out soon enough.’

"Hey, Buck. Vin. This is JD Dunne, our new computer tech. Gonna be working surveillance, too. JD, this is Buck Wilmington, one of our senior agents, and Vin Tanner, one of the best marksmen in the Bureau," Chris stated, noting that both Vin and Buck looked a little shocked by their newest teammate.

"Uh… Hey…JD was it? Nice to meet ya, kid. So you’re here to keep up the computers and sound equipment? Well, that’s great! Never can get those doggoned things working right," Buck responded.

"Good to meet ya, JD. It’s about time they got someone in here to wrangle these computers for us. Can’t tell you how much time I waste trying to keep them from losing my reports. Welcome aboard!" Vin’s face had lit up like the Fourth of July upon learning that he might find some relief from his constant computer woes.

"Well, I’m sure I can do something about your reports, Vin, when we have a little time to sit down and sort through some things between cases. I can probably help you too, Buck, with some things to make your computer go a little farther for you." Pausing to push his bangs out of his eyes, JD then continued, wanting to make a good impression, "As to the ‘sound’ equipment, I’m looking forward to seeing just what we’ve got to work with, and what new toys I might be able to throw into the mix."

Laughing, Buck asked, "Just which cases are you going to be working on, kid? I thought tech support was pretty much a one shot deal? I mean, I know we have troubles with the computers from time to time, Chris, but I sure didn’t think Travis would spring for us to have our very own tech guy, 24/7. How’d we rate JD here?"

"Wait a minute, Buck! JD isn’t some glorified technical support person; he’s one of us. He’s come out from the Boston PD, with a degree in computer science, and a record full of awards for work in surveillance," Chris spit out, exasperated with his oldest friend.

"One of us? Look at him, Chris! He doesn’t look old enough to buy a lottery ticket, much less carry a gun! Sorry, kid. No offense," Buck exclaimed, still not sure he had heard Chris correctly.

JD stood, his arms folded across his chest, taking in the exchange between his new boss and Wilmington. He could feel his face flush in embarrassment as the latter questioned his placement on the team.

"Enough, Buck! JD’s only been here fifteen minutes. Let's not totally alienate him just yet, ok? Why don’t you show him his new desk? It’s the one facing yours." Chris could barely contain a grin, as Buck slowly comprehended that he had a new deskmate.

"And, JD, don’t pay Buck any mind. He’s just…how can I say this in a good way? Resistant to change. He’s really a very easygoing guy, once you get to know him. Aren’t you, Buck?"

"Well, sure... Don't take what I said personally, kid... I mean...What was your name again, son?" Buck floundered.

"It's JD. JD Dunne, sir. And don't worry, I'm used to the comments by now," JD stated quietly. The younger man had already begun to move towards his appointed desk, hoping to escape any further embarrassment.

Noticing how uneasy his newest agent appeared, Chris broke the tension as he stated, "I’ve got a couple of things left for you to fill out, JD. I’ll be back with them in a few minutes. Make yourself at home." Turning, Chris retreated to his office.

After watching Chris disappear into his office, JD looked up to find Buck observing him with a slightly perplexed expression. 'Oh well, so much for my 'fresh start'. Looks like I'm gonna have to put up with the same questions here as I did in Boston.'

"So you're from Boston. Can't say that I've ever been there myself, but I've dated a few girls from out that way in my time. Tell me, do you have a girlfriend back home? I hear those frat parties are a great way to meet the women." As soon as the last statement crossed his lips, Buck knew he had said something wrong.

"No. I don't have anyone back home. And frat parties? I've never been to one, so I really wouldn't know too much about them. Didn't have much time for hanging out or parties when I was in college," JD replied, unable to escape the hollow feeling he always got in the pit of his stomach whenever he thought back to his time in school. 'Man, if he only knew how much I wanted to be like that. To have the chance to have fun like that,' JD thought to himself.

Just as the words were spoken, Chris reappeared with a small stack of paperwork for the younger man. He quickly noticed the tension between his oldest friend and his newest charge.

"Here you go," Chris said, handing the younger man some papers. "Just throw these in my In basket when you’re done. Buck, make sure JD gets the tour, ok?"

"Sure thing, Chris. I'll make sure he knows all the important places to hide from ya when you’re in one of your moods. Ya gotta watch this one, kid. Never know just when he's gonna blow," Buck joked, hoping to lift the veil of seriousness that had somehow come over the boy.

The banter had its desired effect as a small smile played at the corners of JD's mouth. 'Maybe this won't be so bad,' JD mused. 'Maybe I'll have a real chance here, after all.'

FOUR

Quickly familiarizing himself with the office, JD set about customizing his computer to meet his specific needs as the team’s new technical wizard. He had then begun to reorganize some file folders when a slight tap on his shoulder interrupted him.

"Good morning, young man. Let me introduce myself. Agent Ezra Standish at your service. And you might be?" As he addressed the newest addition to the team, Ezra couldn’t help but smile. He noted that for an ATF agent, the young man before him had a face that screamed youthful curiosity and innocence, traits rarely associated with their line of work.

"I’m JD. JD Dunne. Good to meet you, Mr. Standish," the computer expert offered, holding out his hand in greeting.

"It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Mr. Dunne," Ezra replied, as he clasped the younger man’s hand. "And please, call me Ezra. Now tell me young man, where are you from? I detect a slight accent. Could it be that you have come to us from the East Coast? Perhaps somewhere in Massachusetts?"

"You’re right, Mr…Ezra. I’m from Boston. Is my accent that noticeable?" JD inquired, never having given much thought to it before.

"Not particularly. Discerning a person’s place of origin just happens to be a very valuable skill when working undercover. It never hurts to garner as much information, unbeknownst to an individual, as one can."

"I guess that would come in handy. So, you’re an undercover agent. I bet that’s pretty exciting," JD declared enthusiastically.

"It does have its moments. But all in all, it is much like any other endeavor we must undertake. Often tedious, but occasionally resulting in a satisfying conclusion," the older agent mused.

"Well, I hope that maybe one day I’ll be able to compare notes with you on the subject. But right now I have a feeling just getting you guys up-to-date with the latest data bases and tech equipment will have me pretty busy."

"Indeed. I wish you the best of luck in dragging this crew, kicking and screaming, out of the dark ages. I do believe you’ll need it. Well, I must be getting to work." With a nod of his head, Ezra retreated to his desk, which was opposite Vin’s.

Before JD could get too much further with his work, he was interrupted once more by the remaining two members of Team Seven, former army medic, Nathan Jackson and profiler, Josiah Sanchez.

"Well, Buck, I guess Chris finally found someone to share that space with you. Watch this one, son, he can be a handful." This observation came from Josiah, a mischievous smirk gracing the imposing man’s face.

Laughing, Nathan warned, "Yeah, you just never know what’s going to happen when Buck’s around. And make sure, if you’ve got a special lady, that you don’t let him get too close. Buck knows no shame when it comes to women. By the way, I’m Nathan Jackson. Good to have you on board."

"Glad to be here. I’m JD Dunne," JD greeted.

"I’m Josiah Sanchez, JD. It’s always a pleasure welcoming a new face into our midst," he said with a smile. "So, son, if I might ask, what’s your background? I know Chris mentioned the Bureau wanting to improve its use of technology in the field. I assume your presence has something to do with that initiative?"

"Yes, sir. I’ve been told that my computer and surveillance skills will be helpful in getting the team up to speed. I have plenty of field experience, too, but my strong points are setting up searches, database management, and for lack of a better term, hacking. I also play around a bit with bugs for surveillance and what not." JD explained.

"Well, I’m sure that your skills will be a real help around here. And please, just call me Josiah. Can't have the others hearing you address me with such respect, they already take every opportunity to remind me of my age and place in the world as it is," the profiler said with a chuckle.

"Now, Josiah, don’t let those couple of gray hairs send you down the path to despair. Just because our new addition’s on the youthful side, doesn’t make you over the hill," Jackson teased, laughing under his breath.

"I’m not that young, Nathan. And besides, I don’t see any gray hairs, Josiah," JD declared, partly in jest, and partly serious.

"Why thank you, JD! My spirits are lifting as we speak. Well, I’ve got a report due on Chris’s desk by the end of the day, so I’d better get to work. Maybe we can grab some dinner later, son." Josiah then proceeded to his desk and efficiently started his computer.

"Yeah, JD, we’ll check back with you later; make sure Buck, here, hasn’t driven you totally nuts. See ya later."

‘Well, I guess that’s everyone,’ JD thought as he returned his attention to his computer. ‘A very interesting group of guys, to say the least. Nice, but a little strange.’

FIVE

As the end of the day approached, JD found that he had made quite a bit of progress in his work. He had already reviewed a few of the Team’s data tables and pinpointed areas of concern. He was currently jotting down notes as to how to correct some of the problems, as well as noting a few improvements to up efficiency. As he prepared to report his finding to Chris, Josiah and Nathan appeared.

"Hey JD, we’re going to run down to the Saloon to grab some dinner. Care to join us? Inez, the owner, has some of the best food around," Nathan pointed out.

"Sounds good," JD admitted. He knew he had to be careful with his money, but couldn’t resist the chance to enjoy a hot meal, as well as an opportunity to get to know some of his teammates a little better.

"How’s about it, Buck? I know you’re just itching to see Ms. Inez, as usual," Josiah asked.

"Well, I guess it beats eating leftover pizza," Buck replied, shrugging into his jacket.

"I’ll make the rounds and see if the others would like to join us. I’ll meet you fellas downstairs," Josiah said, as he made his way to Chris’s office where Ezra and Vin were engaged in a discussion with the team’s leader.

"Hey, guys, we’re heading over to the Saloon. Thought it would be a good opportunity to get to know our newest addition a little better. Care to join us?"

"Why not? Vin. Ezra. We’ll continue this discussion in the morning. Come on, let’s go."

The four men headed out the door to meet the remainder of the team in the lobby.

Entering the saloon, the seven men were promptly greeted by Inez. With her bright smile and subtle beauty, it was no wonder why the men were so eager to visit. The dark-haired young woman quickly made her way over to their small group and introduced herself to the newest member. JD couldn’t keep the blush he so dreaded from coloring his cheeks.

"It is wonderful to meet you, JD Dunne.When I heard the team was gaining a new member, I never dreamed he would be so handsome. I do hope you will be coming here often," the attractive brunnette encouraged, as she took a moment to look over the new addition. "Don't they feed young men back east? You are much too slim for your own good. If I do say so, I think you could stand to indulge in a few of our specialties. We can’t have you withering away, working with the likes of the men, now can we?" Inez was immediately taken with JD. With his dark eyes and fair complexion, he looked much younger than his line of work should allow. She felt an instant affection for the boy.

"Pleased to meet you, ma’am. If everything tastes as great as it smells, I’m sure I’ll be eating here a lot," said JD; eyes still not quite meeting those of their hostess.

The men proceeded to take their seats, each of the older men set to order their usual. Eager to eat something other than a peanut butter sandwich, JD quickly decided on meatloaf and mashed potatoes. Soon orders were placed, and the seven men settled back to enjoy each other’s company.

"JD, why don’t you tell us a little about yourself? I have to admit, I’m intrigued as to how someone your age has made his way onto such an elite team as ours. Usually, it would take several more years for one to be accepted." This observation came from Ezra as he sipped his drink.

"Well, I’ve always been a fast learner, so I was able to move ahead a few grades here and there. I was sixteen when I graduated high school and eighteen when I got my Bachelor’s in Computer Science," the young agent revealed, slightly embarrassed to see the others exchange looks of surprise. He paused a moment, as their meals arrived, before he continued.

"I was lucky enough to have met someone from the Boston PD around that same time, and he helped make it possible for me to enter the academy a little early, on the condition that I wouldn’t do any fieldwork until I was nineteen. ‘Til then I had to spend my time riding a desk. Turned out that my background in computers became pretty valuable, so by the time I was able to go on patrol, I had to split my time between the office and the street. I liked working the computer angle, but I didn’t really feel like I was going to get very far in the field. When this opening came up, I was more than ready for a change." JD was careful to avoid revealing too much of his personal history to his teammates. He just wasn’t up to dealing with questions about his mother’s death, or the rough times he had experienced due to his accelerated entry into police work.

As the men finished their meals, gathered around the large table in the back corner, Chris casually observed his now complete team. From Josiah, to Nathan, to Vin, to Buck, to JD, and finally Ezra, each man had a separate and unique strength. But together, their skill would combine, he hoped, to create a force to be reckoned with.

SIX

Not wanting to part company yet, the members of Team Seven adjourned to the rear of the Saloon to play a few games of pool. The conversation was lively, with Buck entertaining the men with one of his many exploits and Ezra taking more than one opportunity to call the ladies man on his antics. JD found himself comfortably settled against the wall, observing his new teammates as they joked and played together. He couldn’t help but smile at the easy way the group interacted with one another.

"Pretty wild group, aren’t they, kid?" A quiet voice from beside the young man inquired. As JD turned, he was greeted by Vin, who had been observing JD as he in turn, had been observing the others.

"Yeah, I guess so. But, it’s kinda nice. Back home, I hardly ever saw the guys outside of the station. Everyone had somewhere else to be, or someone to go home to. I’ve never really been a part of anything like this. You seem more like friends, than co-workers," the dark-haired youth remarked. Vin had taken note of the wistful expression on the younger agent’s face as he had stood watching Buck and Chris banter back and forth.

"Well, you’re one of us now. So you’d better get used to seeing a lot of us. I don’t know why, but no matter how our plans start, it seems like we always end up together, somehow. Not that that’s a bad thing, just took some getting used to. I have to admit," he leaned over conspiringly, "just don’t let on to Chris or the others, but I kinda like it. It’s good to have someone out there you can count on," Vin explained, offering JD a brotherly pat on the back as he headed over to challenge Ezra to another round.

As JD watched the sharpshooter move away, he was surprised at how content he felt. ‘You’re one of us now,’ Vin had said. It felt really good to be accepted, not resented or overlooked. Smiling, he took a last sip of his Coke, and pulled his jacket on.

Walking over to the table where the others were standing, JD interrupted, "Thanks for inviting me, guys. It was nice to get a chance to talk. I’ll see y'all in the morning." He acknowledged the ‘Goodnights’ that came from around the room as he turned to leave.

"Hey, wait up a second, JD," Chris called. The leader had made his way around the pool table and had caught up with his newest agent.

"I'm really impressed with the work you've done today. I guess I never really thought, too much, about how many things we could do, if we had the right kind of equipment and the know-how to use it. I have to admit I was a little wary of bringing you on board at first, but I just want you to know that we’re all glad to have you." The older man genuinely seemed happy with JD’s performance. "Wait, didn’t you ride over with Nathan? I can give you a lift if you need one. I was going to head out myself, shortly," the blond offered, wondering for the first time where his agent was residing.

"Oh, no, that’s ok. I’m not too far from here. Don’t leave early on my account. I just have a couple of things to take care of, is all," the youth hurriedly explained. JD really didn’t want the other men to know where he was staying. They didn’t need to know just how bad his finances were at the moment.

"Alright then. Well, take it easy, kid. See you in the morning," and with a slight nod Chris returned to the game.

JD breathed a sigh of relief, glad that he would not have to handle the embarrassment of having his new boss escort him home to the rundown motel he currently occupied. Deep down, he knew he had nothing to be ashamed of. He had no control over the circumstances that had left he//him// pinching every penny, but his pride just wouldn’t bow to reason.

‘Yeah, I’ve got things to take care of all right. Like washing my dress shirts in the sink and hanging them to dry. I’m smart enough not to hang out in the Laundromat after dark. Well, I guess there’s no time like the present,’ JD thought as he began the short trek to his motel room. ‘At least I won’t be dining on peanut butter tonight.’ For the first time in two days, he stomach was pleasantly full, and he didn’t feel the oppressive weight of loneliness quite so acutely.

SEVEN

The next few days found JD in seventh heaven. He had immersed himself in updating the team’s computers, developing new databases, and helping each of his teammates with their specific areas of concern. The young man found himself truly enjoying the time he spent each day with his new teammates.

"Dammit! I swear I’m gonna throw this sorry excuse for a computer out the window!" Buck growled from across his desk. The agent’s face had taken on an interesting shade of red, as he proceeded to pound his fist angrily against the side of his monitor.

"Dang, Buck, I could hear you all the way down the hall. What’s the matter?" JD asked, as he settled down in the seat across from the fuming man.

"Nothing kid, just a little frustrated is all," Buck muttered, glaring at the computer tech. He didn't want to let on to JD just how rattled he had become just trying to file his stupid report.

"Ok..." JD murmured. He knew the older agent had problems using the computer from time to time. After all, it was pretty hard to ignore the steady stream of curses that came out of Buck’s mouth every time Chris asked for one of his reports. ‘But if the stubborn fool won't admit he needs help, well, what can I do?’ the young agent thought to himself. JD pretended to ignore the other agent’s plight, as he returned to the program he was writing.

"Please be there. Come on, darling, don’t do this to me! Shit! Where is it?" Buck muttered, slumping down in his chair as he rubbed his forehead in frustration.

"Buck! How much longer on that report? The guys upstairs are breathing down my neck here!" Chris called from his office.

Noting the exasperated expression on Buck’s face, JD decided he could no longer ignore his desk mate's predicament.

Coming around to stand beside Buck, JD quietly ordered, "Move, Buck. Let me take a look and see if I can get your stuff back."

Looking up, annoyed at having been interrupted in his time of need, Buck began to protest, "I don’t have time for this, kid…"

"No. You don’t. Unless you enjoy having your ass chewed out. Now get up and let me get your report back, Buck." Practically shoving the ladies man out of his seat, JD began moving his nimble fingers swiftly across Buck’s keyboard. Within seconds, the report in question reappeared. The younger agent continued his typing, quickly creating a new folder and saving the document there. He then adjusted a few things in the document, re-saved, and sent the job to the printer.

Just as Chris approached the two men, JD reached over to the printer tray adjacent to their desks, and handed the finished report to their leader. "Here you go, Chris," he stated, offering Buck a quick grin as he returned to his seat.

After taking a few seconds to review the report, Chris commented, "Good work, Buck. Damn, but this report actually looks like a professional member of the Bureau did it. And just in time, too." Shaking his head, the blond headed upstairs, report in hand.

Buck stood, mouth hanging slightly agape, staring at the top of JD’s head as the young man sat hunched over a printout, acting as if nothing out of the ordinary had just happened. Composing himself, he settled down once again in his seat, and cleared his throat to get the younger man’s attention.

"How the hell did you do that? I was sure that the damned thing ate my report!" Buck asked, just loud enough for JD to hear him.

"Nothing to it. You just have to know how to navigate things is all," JD replied, pausing briefly before returning to his printout.

"Well, I guess I owe you one, kid. Thanks," Buck said, not wanting to sound too appreciative, but not willing to let the gesture go unacknowledged, either.

"No problem, Buck. I told you before; I don’t have a problem helping you guys out. There’s no reason to get so bent out of shape. Not everyone’s comfortable with computers. It’s not a crime, you know." A mischievous twinkle made JD’s eyes sparkle as he addressed his teammate.

"Now, wait a minute there. I’m perfectly…Oh hell, who am I kidding? I have more arguments with this hunk of junk than I have with most of my women. And that’s saying a lot. I guess ol’ Buck’s just gonna have to admit he needs a little guidance." The older man’s face colored slightly with the admission.

"Just ask next time. It’ll make life easier for both of us." JD returned his attention to his work.

EIGHT

Later that day, Team Seven was preparing for a major bust in the warehouse district. The team had acquired information that indicated a large shipment of guns from out of the country was being sold to the highest bidder. As the group assembled in the conference room for a final briefing, JD was busying himself making final adjustments to the teams surveillance equipment. It was his job to make sure that the team kept in close communication with one another, and that accurate visual evidence of the buy was gathered.

As evening arrived, each man was making last minute checks on his weapon and his Kevlar vest. Feeling a tap on the shoulder, JD was drawn out of his mental preparations, to be greeted by Buck.

"Here, kid, don’t forget your vest. Can’t have the bad guys taking down our cameraman, now can we?" the taller man joked.

"Oh…Thanks, Buck. Can’t be forgetting this." JD quickly and efficiently strapped the vest over his thin T-shirt, and then covered it up with a checked flannel shirt. ‘I can’t believe I almost forgot my vest. What an idiot! Way to go, JD. Make them think your some dumb little kid,’ the agent berated himself.

"Ok, guys. Let’s head out. Vin, you and Ezra ride with me. Nathan, you stick with Josiah. And that leaves you and Buck driving the van, JD. Make sure you make a quiet approach, no lights, so we don’t give these guys a heads up. And watch your backs. If this goes down the way we hope it does, we're going to be facing some pissed off dealers." Having given his orders, Chris headed toward the elevators, followed closely by his team.

Having arrived at their destination, the members of Team Seven separated, each man going to his location. It had been decided earlier that day, that JD and Buck would man the surveillance van. The team already had audiotapes of the meeting that had set up the buy, now they needed video evidence of those involved and the merchandise.

"Is this going to be close enough to get the shots, kid?" Buck asked as he carefully maneuvered the van into place behind the warehouse. From their location, a large window and a rusted metal door were visible. The window had been targeted to provide the team with the pictures they needed. By the time the two agents had gotten everything ready to record, the weather had become overcast, the rain falling steadily and visibility greatly diminished.

"I’m not sure, Buck. This equipment has seen better days, and with this rain…Well, we’ll just have to wait and see. For now, I’ve got a pretty decent feed," JD confirmed.

Within a few minutes the voices of the other agents could be heard over the radio as each of them checked in and reported their locations. As the last man reported, two late model trucks approached the site. Five men quickly exited the vehicles and hurried inside the warehouse to escape the inclement weather.

"Ok, it’s showtime gentleman," Chris’s voice announced over the radio. "Look sharp, we’ve got at least ten of them in there, total. We don’t want to tip our hand before we’ve got the evidence."

"JD, how are things looking from there?" the leader asked.

Adjusting his earpiece, JD replied, "With this rain, I’m not sure I can get a clear enough image." As he spoke, the wind outside began driving sheets of rain across the agent’s vantagepoint, obstructing his view. "Ah hell, Chris. I’m gonna have to get closer to get the shots. This piece of crap isn’t going to be able to do it from here," the exasperated young man informed the team leader.

"Shit…Ok, JD, I need you to work your way over to the rear window. See the crate to the left of that door?" Chris instructed.

"Yeah, I see it. I should be able to squeeze behind it and angle over for the shots," JD concluded. As he began to adjust the power supply on the camera, and rig a cover to prevent the rain from damaging the equipment, the agent shivered at the thought of getting drenched and only having his vest and flannel shirt for protection.

"I guess that’s going to be our best bet. Buck, cover JD as he gets into position," Chris ordered.

"Alright, Chris. Kid, you got everything you need?" Buck asked, observing the younger man as he prepared his gear and removed his headset. There were no other mikes available that could withstand the rain, so JD would be on his own.

"Yeah, I got it. Man, I sure could’ve done without all this damn rain. Cover me." And with that JD pulled open the van’s side door, hopped out into the downpour, and made his way quickly over to crouch beside the wooden crate.

"Chris, he’s in position," Buck reported. The older agent couldn’t help but feel uneasy as he watched JD set up to record the deal going on inside the warehouse. It wasn’t normal procedure to send one of the men out without a wire. ‘I just hope this goes down smooth. We really don’t need any aggravation, tonight. This rain’s bad enough,’ Buck mused.

Several minutes went by as JD recorded the group of men inside the warehouse. Ezra was already inside, having maneuvered himself into being accepted as a potential buyer. He had accompanied the seller to the warehouse and was acting as competition for the first group of buyers. The rest of the team was positioned either next door in another abandoned warehouse, or in vehicles strategically placed around their target location.

As time progressed, JD had quickly become soaked to the skin by the pelting rain. As the wind drove sheet after sheet over the agent, he could feel his fingertips start to become numb, and his entire body struggling to generate heat by continuously shivering. ‘Man, this sucks!’ the young man thought. ‘Buck gets to stay all nice and cozy in the van, and I’m out here freezing my ass…’

At that moment, all hell broke loose inside the warehouse as the second buyer decided he would just take out the seller, and Ezra, and take what he wanted. Gunshots sounded from everywhere as the men inside sought cover.

Before JD knew what was happening, the heavy metal door beside his position slammed open, almost crushing him between the warehouse wall and the heavy wooden crate he was behind. Two men emerged, firing their guns back into the warehouse as they moved away. Dropping the video recorder, the agent pulled his weapon and shouted, "Freeze! ATF! Stop where you are and drop your weapons!"

Visibility being minimal as the rain continued to fall, JD was not prepared for the sight of the two men before him. Having heard his command, the two men had stopped their retreat, and turned to face the dark-haired youth. Upon careful scrutiny, JD took note that each man had to weigh at least 200lbs and stand over 6’ tall.

‘Oh, this is just great! I’m gonna be squished like a bug. Shit. Oh well, here we go," JD thought to himself just moments before the two burly men made their advance.

JD managed to squeeze off a shot that felled the man closest to him. The large man crumpled into a puddle, rolling back and forth, clutching his chest. But this did not deter his companion from continuing on toward JD’s position.

With a yell, the other man plowed into the young agent, slamming him into the wall behind him. The younger man threw his arms up and attempted to wrestle the man away as he fought to draw up his knee. Finding a small opening between himself and his attacker, JD took the opportunity to drive his knee up into the man’s groin, causing him to release his hold on the agent’s throat.

‘Well, at least he didn’t crush my windpipe," JD thought thankfully as he tried to draw a breath into his starving lungs. Too late did he notice that his opponent had only been momentarily deterred, and the next thing JD knew, he was flying through the air towards the pavement. As he landed, his head smacked the ground with a wet thump, and his world slipped into black oblivion as rain poured over his face.

Across the street, still trying to work with the less than cooperative equipment, Buck was startled as gunshots filled the night. Jumping out of the van, his first thoughts were of JD, virtually a sitting duck, right outside the warehouse door. The ladies man skidded to a halt several feet from the door as to his horror, he saw the younger agent's slight form being thrown to the ground. Enraged, Buck flew forward, taking the attacker by surprise. He landed a stunning blow right between the man's eyes. Satisfied that the thug was no longer a threat, the older agent rushed over to kneel at JD's side.

"JD? Come on, kid, I know you’re in there. Kid? Can you hear me?" Buck asked, gently lifting the youth's head into his lap.

JD thought he heard something in the distance. A voice maybe? He couldn’t be sure, as his head was pounding, and his eyes refused to open. Deciding that he needed to locate the source of the sound, he struggled to raise his eyelids, which felt as if they were nailed shut.

"There ya go, kid. Let me see those pretty brown eyes," Buck coaxed as he leaned over JD, attempting to shield the young man from the rain.

"Oh, God, please, let my head fall off. Please?" came a harshly whispered plea from the prone agent. "Buck, is that you?" JD asked, squinting up at the ladies man. .

"Sure is, kid," the older man confirmed. As he spoke, JD began to push himself up, away from the shelter of Buck's form. "Now wait a minute! Don’t be sitting up like that. Let’s wait and have Nathan take a look at you, first. That damn giant practically put you through the pavement," Buck cautioned, afraid the sudden movement would complicate any injuries the younger man might have. ‘Fool kid. Doesn’t know when to quit. Takes down the bad guy, gets the snot knocked out of him, and still thinks he needs to prove something,’ the older agent thought, surprised at the protective feelings he was beginning to have towards the youth.

Not wanting to appear weak in front of Buck, of all people, JD struggled to pull himself upright. 'Whoa, big mistake! Man, what they say is true, you do see stars!' thought the young agent as the world spun around him. He shut his eyes tightly and leaned forward to rest his head on his knees as nausea and dizziness washed over him. In the distance, he heard Chris's subdued voice calling to Buck. Moments later, as he pried open his eyes, he saw his boss crouching down next to the ladies man. Unable to focus clearly on the conversation between the two veteran agents, JD could only assume that Chris was inquiring about the bust.

"Hey, Buck, is he ok? Nathan should be over in a minute to take a look at him, as soon as he hands over his man to the other team. The ambulance is loading up that fella the kid took out, along with the one Ezra got inside. Do I need to have them send out a second unit?" the leader questioned, not happy at all to see his youngest agent slumped over in the rain.

Before Buck could reply, JD lifted his head and addressed Larabee. " I'm fine, Chris. Don't bother Nathan. Just got the wind knocked out of me is all." JD managed to pull himself to his feet, although unsteadily. "I just need a couple of aspirin once we get to the office."

Eyeing JD suspiciously, Buck noted, "You're looking a little pale there, kid. Sure you don't need Nathan to take a look at your head? You were out for a few minutes there. Chris, why don't we get Nathan..."

"I said, I'm fine, Buck. Let it go." JD stated, as he walked slowly over to the side of the warehouse and retrieved the video recorder that had fallen behind the crate. Taking a moment to look over the device, allowing himself time to deal with the constant spinning that threatened to overcome him, JD then turned and made his way back to the two senior agents. "Looks like the tape is ok, Chris. Just need to get it back to the office and run it through the viewer."

"Well, if you're sure you’re ok, kid, then you and Buck head on back to the office. I'll take your weapon for now. Standard procedure. Should have it back in a day or two. You and Ezra will be riding a desk 'til then. See you in a few." Pulling his jacket a little tighter against the cold and rain, Chris headed back to join Vin and the others as they tied up the last few details of the bust.

"Let's get out of this rain, kid. There should be a towel or something in the back to drape over the seat. Can't have you ruining this plush interior, now can we?" Buck chuckled as the two men made their way into the surveillance van. Buck had managed to find a plastic rain poncho in the glove compartment after JD had made his way out into the downpour, so the ladies man was still relatively dry underneath.

JD, unfortunately, was not so lucky. He was soaked to the skin, his dark hair plastered back against his skull. Now that they were inside the van and out of the frigid rain, the youth began to shiver in earnest. After buckling his seatbelt, JD carefully laid his head back against the headrest, hoping to quell the pounding in his head and calm his rolling stomach.

Looking over at his passenger, Buck noted that the kid had become even more pale, if that were possible, and that he was grimacing in pain each time the van jostled.

"Here, kid, let's get the heater going. You've got to be freezing, all wet like that. We'll find you something to change into back at the office," Buck assured as he tried to avoid causing JD any further pain with his driving.

"Thanks, Buck. I don't think I'll ever be warm, again," JD quietly replied.

"No problem, kid. Can't have my partner turning into a popsicle on my watch, now can I?" Buck joked, then paused in surprise as he realized exactly what his words implied. 'Partner? When did we become partners? Oh god help me, the kid's managed to get to me.'

'Did he just call me his partner? I must have hit my head even harder than I thought." JD thought to himself as he fought the increasing queasiness in his gut.

A few minutes later, his breath coming in shallow pants, JD tried to gage how much longer they would be before they would reach ATF headquarters. Noting the cross street, he knew it would be much too long.

"Pull over, Buck," JD instructed in a subdued voice, one hand clutching his stomach, the other fumbling with the seatbelt latch.

"What? I can't just pull over, kid. We're in the center lane!" Buck growled.

"Please, pull over now! I'm gonna be sick!" the younger man moaned.

Buck glanced over to where his 'partner' sat, slumped over against the window, and quickly proceeded to cross two lanes of traffic, coming to rest on the grassy shoulder of the road.

As soon as the van stopped, JD flung open his door and staggered out of the van. Hanging onto the doorframe with his left hand, he proceeded to empty his stomach onto the ground. Each time he retched, his head exploded in pain. So lost was he in his misery, he didn't notice Buck approaching from around the front of the van, carefully sidestepping the mess, to stand at his side.

"Hang on, kid. You'll feel better once you get it all out. Damn, I knew I should've had Nathan check you out. I bet you have a concussion, for sure." Buck ranted, as he grabbed onto JD's arm to steady him as he was hit with yet another round of heaving.

Using his free hand to pull out his cell phone, Buck quickly hit the speed dial, and soon had Chris on the line. "Hey, Chris. It's me. No, we're not at the office. Had to pull over. JD's sicker than a dog, puking his guts out. I'm gonna run him over to the ER. Yeah, I know he said he was fine. So much for that. Nathan? Don't yell at me! The kid said he didn't need to be checked out. No, I haven't had a chance to look at his eyes! Well, right now he' a little too busy to talk to ya, losing his lunch like he is. Ok, meet y’all at the ER." With that, Buck pocketed the phone, and gently maneuvered JD back into his seat.

Shivering even more violently now, JD dragged his sleeve across his mouth, trying to wipe away the evidence of his traitorous stomach. When he felt he could move without vomiting, he turned to face Buck, and mumbled, "I'm sorry, Buck. Didn't mean to make a mess. I guess everything just caught up with me all the sudden. Just take me back to the office, I'll be fine once I get warmed up, some." The younger man hoped to avoid a scene, not wanting the other men to think he was some weak kid, incapable of caring for himself.

"Kid, you listen to me. I know you want to make a good impression with Chris and the guys, but you have nothing to be embarrassed about. Christ! You were just tossed around by a man that could make Goliath look average. You're lucky you didn't get your neck broke. Now, let's get you checked out, so that they can give you something to make you feel better." Not giving JD an opportunity to protest, Buck leaned over, buckled the kid's seatbelt, and then proceeded to head, at well above the speed limit, to the ER where Chris and the others would be meeting them.

Beginning to feel decidedly drowsy, JD whispered, "Ok, Buck. You win. Wake me up when we get there, ok?" as he slipped into the waiting darkness.

Hearing the youth's weakening voice, Buck glanced over just in time to see JD slump over against the window. "JD! Come on, son. Ya gotta stay awake for me, here. Aw, hell! Stubborn damn kid!" the older man growled, getting no response. Already driving well over the speed limit, he proceeded to shove the gas pedal all the way down to the floor.

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