Chris stood in the entryway to Mercy General's ER, waiting for Buck to arrive
with their ailing computer tech. 'I knew I should have made him see Nathan
after the way things went down. Damn, stubborn kid! Why'd he have to put
up such a front?' the leader thought, guilt gnawing at his insides. Just
as he was about to pull out his cell and dial Buck's number, Chris caught
sight a flashing red light quickly approaching the drive.
Seconds later, the surveillance van jerked to a halt and Buck came rushing
around to the passenger door. Chris quickly made his way over to his friend's
side. "How's he doing, Buck?" he asked, his voice edged with concern.
"He passed out just a few minutes ago and he's real pale, Chris. I just hope
the fool kid isn't hurt real bad. I don't know what he was thinking, running
around messed up like this," Buck ranted, as he unbuckled JD's seatbelt,
and looked behind him to see two orderlies arriving with a gurney.
Gently lifting the limp youth from his seat, Buck proceeded to lay JD on
the gurney. Under the harsh lights of the entryway, JD's normally fair skin
took on an almost translucent appearance. As the gurney was shuttled down
the hall, Chris and the rest of the team followed.
As Chris and Buck looked on, JD was quickly taken back to an examination
cubicle. Ezra, Vin, Nathan, and Josiah had already located a row of seats
for the men to occupy as they prepared to wait for word on their youngest
"Excuse me, gentlemen, but I have a few forms that need to be filled out
for the young man you brought in. Now, which one of you is the boy's father?"
asked the desk nurse, a petite woman with deep blue eyes.
"Ma'am, that young man is our teammate, an ATF agent. As nice a boy as he
is, none of us can claim him as a son," Josiah informed her, noting with
a smile the incredulous look that crossed the nurses face in reaction
to his revelation.
"An ATF agent? Youre serious? Just a moment, I need to let the Doctor
know that your friend is a little older than he looks. In the meantime, would
one of you please fill in as much of this information as you can? I'll be
right back," the nurse sputtered as she hurried back to where JD was being
"Well, I guess I know more about our youngest that the rest of you, so give
me those forms. Buck, has the kid shared any important 'personal' info with
you lately? A little help here," Chris indicated, settling down in one of
the hard plastic chairs to complete the required paperwork.
Within an hour, the double doors leading from the exam rooms swung open,
and Dr. Gibson, as his nametag indicated, approached the anxious group of
agents. "Gentlemen, I'm Dr. Gibson, and I have just finished examining Agent
Dunne. Much to his displeasure, the boy is going to be spending the night
with us this evening and probably most of the day, tomorrow. Someone needs
to let Agent Dunne know that a concussion is nothing to play around with.
And running around in the cold, soaking wet, didn't help his cause, either.
Right now, we are going to get him set up with a room and move him upstairs.
The young man will be fine in a few days, but for now, we're going to keep
an eye on that concussion," the Doctor informed the worried agents. Noting
that he had the undivided attention of the six men in front of him, he continued,
"We also need to make sure that the cold he has started to develop doesn't
turn into something worse."
"Dr. Gibson," Nathan began, "How bad is his concussion? Fool kid didn't let
us know how badly he was hurt, so he's been up and around more than I would
have allowed, otherwise. He got pretty sick on the way over here, too."
"Well, after taking a look at the x-rays, I can assure you that, although
Mr. Dunne has a moderate concussion, things could have turned out much worse.
He just needs to take it easy and stay off his feet for a few days. I guarantee
that when he wakes up, he is going to be sorry that he didn't take better
care of himself."
"JD's new here in Denver, Doctor. No family. Can I run back and see him for
a minute? I don't want him to think he's all alone," Chris asked.
"Yeah, Doc, I'd like to look in on him myself if that's alright with you,"
Buck added, his request earning him smiles from his teammates, as they realized
that although it took awhile, JD had finally broken through the ladies man's
"Well, technically only family is allowed in, but seeing as the young man
is an agent of the law, I think we can make an exception. Follow me, gentlemen,"
Dr. Gibson ordered.
"You boys might as well head on back to the office. Buck and I will be along
soon to finish up our reports. Thanks for coming over," Chris stated to the
remaining four men.
"Where else did you expect us to be, Mr. Larabee? After all, young JD is
one of us, now. And we look out for our own, don't we?" Ezra inquired, an
amused smile lighting up his often-reserved features.
"I guess you're right, Ez. I don't know when the kid managed to sneak in
under our radar, but he sure has. See ya back at the office, guys."
Turning away from his retreating team, Chris quickly joined Buck as they
made their way down the hall to where JD was being treated.
As he entered the small emergency cubicle, Buck couldn't help but smile,
just a little, at the scene before him. JD lay, curled into a ball, and almost
completely covered by the white hospital sheets. Tendrils of damp ebony hair
fell over the agent's closed eyes, making him look very, very young. With
a sigh, Buck made his way over to JD's bedside. 'So young. Did I ever look
this innocent? Hell, was I ever this innocent?' Buck contemplated as he peered
down at his new 'partner'. Unconsciously, he reached out and gently brushed
the kid's bangs back, out of his eyes. Looking up, slightly embarrassed at
his impromptu show of affection, his eyes met those of his leader, his longtime
friend, Chris Larabee.
"I thought you didn't have time to deal with some fool kid, Buck? Coming
in and thinking he knows it all. Seems things may have changed just a bit,
huh?" Chris observed, surprised to see Buck looking upon his newest agent
with an almost parental caring.
"Well...I don't know, Chris. At first, I didn't want any part of him. Too
young, too green to be working with men like us. But ya know, over the last
few days I've been watching him, the way he handles himself, gets the job
done. The kid may be younger than any of us, but he's got it together. I
just wish he didn't feel like he has some kind of image he has to live up
to for us. And you're gonna hafta kick his ass for scaring us like this.
Can't have him hurting and not telling anyone," Buck admonished.
"Yeah, I'm gonna have a talk with him, as soon as he's outta here. And hopefully
before Nathan gets hold of him. That man is as mad as hell that the kid didn't
let him take a look at him in the first place, so we could've avoided all
this," Chris said, rubbing at his neck to relieve the tension created in
the last few hours.
Unbeknownst to the two men, JD had been lying there, his eyes closed, feigning
sleep as he listened to them speak. He was surprised by Buck's words of praise,
and it warmed his heart to know that the ladies man seemed to care so much
about his welfare. He was also a little surprised to hear that Nathan and
Chris held similar feelings. Never before had he worked with people who actually
saw him as a valued teammate, rather than some whiz kid to answer to their
every whim. Unwilling to break the spell created by his two teammates, JD
continued to lay, eyes closed, enjoying the warmth of Buck's hand gently
stroking the hair from his forehead.
"So, the doc says your gonna be here a little while, kid. I guess we better
let you get some rest," Buck said, in a soft, comforting voice. He was unaware
that JD was hanging on his every word.
"Damn, kid, I'm too old to be worrying like this. You'd better behave yourself
and get better," Chris added, taking a moment to gently squeeze the youth's
shoulder before motioning to Buck that it was time to leave.
As the two agents left the cubicle, they stopped at the nurse's desk. The
two exhausted men were greeted with a warm smile from the night nurse as
she looked up from her computer.
"Good evening, ma'am. Could you tell us when our teammate, the young man
in cubicle three, will be released? I want to make sure and be here to pick
him up," Buck stated.
"Let me see. Ah, Agent Dunne, correct?" she inquired. Receiving a nod, she
continued, "It looks like he'll be released sometime late tomorrow, if all
"If all goes well? Does the Doctor anticipate problems?" Chris asked, concerned
to hear that there was still a chance that JD was hurt worse than they had
"Well, the notes here indicate that in addition to the concussion, the young
man is also suffering from slight hypothermia and some chest congestion as
of his last check. I think Dr. Gibson just wants to be sure that Mr. Dunne
doesn't develop any type of complications," the nurse said, trying to sooth
the two agents' worry.
"Alright, I guess we'll be heading out now. Here's my cell phone number and
my home number. If JD has any problems, don't hesitate to call me. The boy
has no family here, so I am listed as his emergency contact," Chris informed
the nurse, his expression serious, as he stated his information.
"Not to worry, Agent Larabee, I will make sure you are notified if his condition
changes at all. Just give us a call later tomorrow about when the young man
will be released."
"Ma'am, here's my numbers as well. JD is my partner, and I'd like to be here,
if he gets to feeling any worse," Buck stated, glaring at Chris when the
leader shook his head in disbelief.
"Partner? So now the kid's your partner. I never thought I'd see the day,"
Chris laughed as the two men exited the ER.
"Don't you start, Chris! The kid doesn't have a soul to look after him, being
new to Denver and all. I'm just offering to make sure he's not all alone
if something happens. He may be an irritating little shit, but he grows on
you after a while," Buck reasoned. There was no way to hide the fact that
he was beginning to really care about the dark-haired youth that refused
to back down, even when faced with Buck's less than warm welcome.
"Hey, don't get so defensive, Bucklin! It's just been a long time since I've
heard you call someone other than me your partner. Hell, it's good to see
the two of you working together so well. The kid needs someone to make sure
he learns the ropes. And you could stand to pick up a thing or two from him,
As Chris maneuvered his black Ram out of the parking lot, both men mentally
prepared for the task of finishing up their reports, and for the chance to
get some rest before the start of a new day.
After hearing Buck and Chris exit his cubicle, JD carefully rolled over onto
his back, careful not to move too quickly. He slowly opened his eyes; the
harsh lighting causing him to squint as spikes of pain drove through his
skull. It had taken his last reserve of self-control to not acknowledge the
comforting comments of his two fellow agents as they spoke of him as if he
were truly important to them.
'It's been so long since someone took the time to care about me. Not since
Mom got sick. I forgot how good it feels,' the exhausted agent thought.
"Well, look whos awake again. We'll be moving you upstairs to your
room in just a few minutes, Agent Dunne," Dr. Gibson revealed as he
efficiently//delete 'efficiently// checked JD's
"Dr. Gibson, sir... I 'm sorry, but I won't be staying. I just need to get
my clothes and then I'll be leaving," the pale youth informed the physician
as he cautiously pulled himself upright and swung his legs over the side
of the bed. If it hadn't been for the strong hand of the Doctor grasping
his upper arm to steady him, JD most likely would have slipped right down
to the floor.
"Son, you're not going anywhere! Other than to a bed on the third floor.
Take a look at yourself! You have a concussion, the beginnings of a wonderful
cold or flu, and up until just a few moments ago, you didn't even have the
strength to keep your eyes open," the exasperated physician observed.
"I'm fine. My head hurts a little, but it's no big deal. I'm just gonna call
a cab and go home to bed. Now, what do I need to do to get out of here, Doctor?"
JD asked, trying to sound stern and mature as Doctor Gibson towered over
him, his face lined with irritation.
"Well, Agent Dunne, if you insist on checking yourself out of this facility,
against medical advice, I have no way to stop you. But be advised, concussions
are nothing to take lightly. You could lapse into a coma, suffer convulsions,
or a myriad of other things. And pneumonia's no walk in the park either.
If you insist on this rash behavior, young man, will you at least allow me
to call you boss, or Agent Wilmington, to come and assist you in getting
home?'' The Doctor was now leaning against the facing cabinets, running his
hand roughly through his thinning hair as he admonished the young agent.
"No! Don't bother Chris or Buck; they have a lot of work to do on the case
we just finished. I'm a grown man. I can take care of myself," JD advised,
desperate to avoid his teammates finding out that he left the hospital against
orders. 'I just can't stay here! My insurance doesn't take effect for another
three weeks, and I have almost no cash as it is,' JD worried as he tried
to pull himself together, to convince this man before him that he really
could look after himself.
"Well, Agent Dunne, I'll have the nurse bring you the appropriate paperwork
for your release. But as to your clothes, I guess you'll have to make do
with a pair of scrubs. Your things are still sopping wet. I'll have them
bagged up for you. Please take care of yourself, son." And with that the
Doctor left JD alone with his thoughts.
An hour later, JD wearily exited the cab that had shuttled him from the hospital
to his current home. Carrying his wet clothes and his personal effects in
a plastic bag, he slowly made his way to his room and fumbled with the key,
before finally making his way inside. Dropping his belongings in the corner,
the shivering youth laid down and drew the rough covers up to his chin as
he struggled to bring some warmth to his abused body. Within minutes his
eyelids slid shut, and he descended into the welcome darkness of sleep.
"What do you mean, he's no longer a patient there? How the hell do you lose
an ATF agent, especially one like JD? The kid's like a damn puppy, you just
can't miss him!" Buck roared into the standard issue desk phone that was
in danger of being slammed to the floor at any second.
"Buck? Buck! Give me the damn phone!" Chris Larabee demanded as he watched
his fellow agent begin to turn an interesting shade of crimson.
"Yes, ma'am. No, you will not have to speak with Agent Wilmington, again.
I'm sorry... Ma'am just tell me, where is my agent? Yes, Agent JD Dunne.
Kinda on the short side, black hair, concussion...What the hell! He did what?
No, ma'am! Please, don't hang up! Ma'am... Shit!" Chris exploded as the other
five members of Team Seven looked on in concern.
"Well, gentlemen, it seems our brilliant computer tech checked himself out
last night against the Doctor's advice. Little shit insisted he was a big
boy, and could take care of himself. Vin, look in my drawer for JD's file
and bring it here. I need to get the kid's address so that I can go over
there and ring his scrawny little neck!" The team's leader had to take a
moment to calm down before proceeding to leaf through the file Vin handed
"Plumosa Avenue? There aren't any apartments over that way. Where the hell
is the kid staying? Ezra, dial this number. Find out just where it is that
our young friend calls home," Chris instructed.
The others looked on as Ezra dialed the number Chris had indicated. The
Southerners face took on a disapproving look as he inquired about the
establishment. Politely thanking the individual on the other end of the
connection, the Southerner hung up his phone and faced his fellow agents.
"It seems, gentlemen, that Mr. Dunne has taken up residence at the Sunrise
Motel. Room 314," the undercover revealed.
"God, that place's a dump," Vin stated with a look of distaste. "If you guys
think my place's bad, that place is worse!"
"Damn fool kid! Doesn't have a clue as to how to look after himself! He's
gonna end up getting himself shot over there!" Buck ranted, already putting
on his jacket and grabbing his keys from his top drawer.
"Where do you think you're going, Buck? You stay here. I'll run over there
and have a few choice words with the kid," Chris ordered.
"Now Chris, you know if someone don't go with you, you'll end up causing
that boy more hurt than the darn concussion he already has. I'll just go
with you, make sure you don't hurt him too bad," Buck reasoned, with a
"Buck, if I didn't know any better, I'd think you've developed a soft spot
for our young friend," Josiah teased from his seat across the room.
"Yeah, Buck, since when did you start worrying about Chris beating up on
the kid?" Vin continued.
"I'm not going soft! And I'm not worried! I just think Chris might need a
hand is all," Buck barked indignantly.
"Enough! All right, Buck you can come, too. Nathan, is there anything in
particular we need to look for when we get there? I know the kid should have
been under observation with that concussion, and the Doc mentioned he might
be catching a cold or something."
"Well, you need to make sure he hasnt lost consciousness at any time,
not having double vision, or still vomiting. As to the cold, take a thermometer,
and get his temperature. If he's got a fever, make sure he takes some Tylenol
and has plenty of juice and soup," the ex-medic instructed. "You sure you
don't want me to go with you, Chris? Just to check."
"No, Nate. Buck and I can handle a thermometer and some soup. After all,
we are trained ATF agents," Chris assured, with a smile. "See ya in a bit,"
the leader called as he and Buck entered the elevator.
An insistent pounding dragged JD out of the black hole he had descended into
the night before. He attempted to open his eyes, but soon realized that might
not be such a good idea, as he became fully aware of the throbbing pain in
his head. 'Oh, God! Would you please stop beating on my door? Just let me
go back to sleep, please!' the ailing youth thought as he struggled to find
a comfortable position.
"JD! Are you in there? Open up! It's Chris and Buck!" Chris bellowed from
the other side of the door.
"Chris? Buck? What are they doing here?" JD muttered as he pulled himself
up to sit on the side of the bed. As he attempted to rise, he was overcome
by a wave of dizziness. He staggered over to the door, and released the chain.
Swallowing hard, trying to quell the sickness in his stomach, the dark-haired
youth opened his door to reveal his boss, and his partner.
"Good Lord, kid! You look like hell! Get back in that bed, before you fall
down," Buck ordered as he gently grasped JD's elbow and led the pale agent
back to the bed.
Once seated on the side of the bed, JD looked into the concerned eyes of
Chris, as the blond crouched down in front of him. Larabee placed his hands
on either side the boy's face, alarmed to feel the heat radiating from his
"Son, why the hell did you check yourself out of that hospital last night?
You have no business being laid up in here, all alone, with a concussion
and God only knows what else!" Chris scolded. Alarmed, he saw the boy grow
even paler, his cold hand flying up to cover his mouth. "Buck, quick! Trashcan!"
the leader instructed, as JD bent over and started to vomit.
"Oh God..." the young man moaned as he once again heaved. Tears trickled
from the corners of his eyes as the pounding of his head grew stronger, and
his body was wracked with tremors. Once finished, he slumped over, leaning
heavily on Buck, who had taken a seat beside him on the bed.
Removing the trashcan, Chris produced a bottle of water from the nightstand
and encouraged JD to take a sip or two. "Son, we need to get you back over
to the hospital. Doctor Gibson is gonna have your hide for leaving like that!
What were you thinking?"
"Please don't take me back, Chris! I'm fine, really. Just picked up the flu
or something. I'll be ok, just need to get some sleep," JD hurried to explain.
"I'm sorry you had to come out here and deal with this. I forgot to get up
and call in sick..." He didn't notice that Buck risen, and had started to
throw some of JD's clothes into a battered backpack, the agent shaking his
head in disapproval as he observed JD's current accommodations.
"Kid, you are not staying here, sick like you are. Hell, you're not staying
if you were well. You're going back to the hospital. End of discussion,"
Buck growled as he gently pulled the boy to his feet.
"No! You don't understand! I can't go back! I don't have insurance yet, and
I can't afford to stay there. Please, just leave me alone. I'll be fine,"
JD pleaded, hanging his head in shame as he revealed his pitiful circumstances
to the two men he had tried hardest to conceal it from.
Chris and Buck exchanged anguished looks as they listened to the slight figure
before them beg them to leave. It broke their hearts to see the boy so distraught
"Oh, kid. What am I gonna do with you," Chris said softly, as he again sat
down beside JD and awkwardly placed his arm around the pale youth. "Why didn't
you let me know things were so bad? I could've talked to someone up in payroll.
Gotten you partial pay. Something. Please, don't tell me that you have been
living like the whole time you've been with us. You don't even have a
refrigerator! How have you been eating, JD?"
"It's ok. I have plenty to eat. And I've managed things just fine. I know
how to look after myself, Chris," JD informed the leader, trying in vain
to look a little stronger in the face of the two agents' inquiry.
"Plenty to eat? All I see in here is a couple of Poptarts, some stale bread,
and peanut butter, kid. You're a growing boy! You can't be working all day,
especially doing what we do, eating that stuff! Now, I don't care about how
we pay the bill, but you need to go back and let Dr. Gibson see to you. Now,"
Buck admonished, heading for the door.
"Buck's right, JD. We'll take you back and see what the Doc has to say. If
he says you don't need to be admitted, then you can come out to the ranch
with me. Youre not coming back here. Do you know how dangerous this
area is? Especially for someone in law enforcement. You're lucky you're still
in one piece, JD," Chris stated, exasperated.
"Is that an order? Don't I have any say in all this?" JD protested, though
not very convincingly, as he stood, growing paler by the second.
"Yeah, kid. I think it's an order. Now, let's get you out of here," Buck
said gently, leading the kid out to the truck, a warm hand resting on the
back of JD's neck in support as he guided him towards the center seat of
'What are we gonna do with you, JD? It's my job to look out for my agents.
Especially stubborn ones like you who are too proud to admit when they need
help,' Chris wondered, as he looked over to where JD sat, between he and
Buck, his eyes shut as he rested his head on the seat.
'What am I gonna do? I can't afford to be in the hospital, and they won't
let me come back here. God, all I do is make trouble, everywhere I go. I'll
be lucky to have a job after this,' JD despaired as the three agents began
the journey back to the hospital, each lost in his own thoughts.
Several hours later, after having been poked, prodded, and drained of what
felt like most of his blood supply; it was decided that JD did not require
a hospital stay, after all. However, Doctor Gibson strongly suggested that
the agent stay in the company of a friend until the flu he had managed to
acquire, began to improve.
As Chris and Buck led JD out into the parking lot, JD clutched a small paper
sack with a pain killer for his headache and an antibiotic to clear the infection
in his lungs, as the two older agents began debating JD's living situation.
"Buck, he can come to the ranch with me. I've got plenty of room," Chris
"Now, Chris, you live way the heck out there. What if he gets to feeling
worse? Or you have to ride out to tend to that mare you've got that's expecting?
Who's gonna watch him, then?" Buck countered.
"Well...I'm sure things will work out," Chris reasoned.
"Why don't you just take me to my motel, and everyone will be happy?" JD
said, sighing wearily as the three approached Chris's truck.
"No way, kid. Chris, just drop us off at my place. I don't have any plans,
believe it or not. I don't mind keeping an eye on him. And I have a spare
room, downstairs. It's even close to the bathroom, in case you're still feeling
puny, kid," Buck stated, satisfied that his argument was sound. He just didn't
understand why all the sudden it was so important for him to be sure the
boy was taken care of.
"Buck, you don't have to do this! I can just go back to my room!" JD argued,
but deep down he really didn't mind the idea of staying with Buck. Not too
much, anyway. It seemed that the ladies man had kinda grown on him, and he
had to admit that the two older agents making such a fuss over him felt sorta
"Ok, I give up! JD, you're staying at Buck's. End of story. And Buck, don't
go calling me tonight, when the kid is miserable, and you're going nuts,"
Chris warned, resigned to having lost this particular battle.
'How in the world did we get here? Buck and me arguing over the kid. We both
must be turning to mush. The boys will have a field day when they hear this,'
JD wearily followed Buck into his loft. Taking a minute to look around, the
young computer tech noted that Bucks home reflected its owner: comfortable,
To the right, as he had entered, was the kitchen. It had a breakfast bar
and a small dinette set. To the left was the living room. It contained an
entertainment center, a basic computer set-up, a long, overstuffed sofa,
and finally, a faded, plaid recliner situated by the far wall, facing the
"Kid, why dont you sit down over there on the couch, and rest for a
few minutes? I just need to change the sheets in the guestroom, and tidy
up a bit. The bathroom's to the left, right off the hall. Heres a pillow
and a throw. Settle down and try to take it easy, ok?" Buck then placed the
pillow on the end of the couch, and stood with his hands on his hips, waiting
for the boy to stretch out.
"Ok, you win. Just dont feel like you have to make a fuss and clean
for me. Ill try to stay out of the way while Im here," JD promised,
as he lay down and accepted the blanket Buck handed him. As he wrapped the
material tightly around him, he reveled in its softness. This blanket was
obviously a favorite in the Wilmington household.
As if reading JDs thoughts, Buck offered, "Ive had that old thing
since I was about twelve. My momma made it for me. Nothing feels better than
having it wrapped around you when youre feeling poorly." Buck smiled
down at JD as he remembered how loved he felt each time hed pull the
blanket out and snuggle into it. Judging by the relaxed look on the kids
face, it had the same affect on his young partner. Poor kid. Just needs
someone to look out for him for a while. I bet no ones done a thing
for him since he was just a little bitty thing. Damn, Wilmington, you sure
have gone soft, just listen to yourself! Buck observed, as he proceeded
to change JDs bed and rearrange some things in order to make room for
any belongings the kid might need in the next few days.
When he returned to the living room, JD was sound asleep. In repose, the
agent looked so much younger than his twenty years. Sadly, Buck noted, his
boyish features were marred by dark shadows under both eyes. Deciding that
there was no reason to disturb his guest by trying to move him to his room,
Buck settled down in the nearby recliner and switched on the TV. He soon
found a Mel Gibson feature to pass the time as he waited for his young partner
JD slowly opened his eyes and glanced around in confusion. This isnt
my room. Where am I? the youth wondered, taking a moment to remember
that he was now staying at Bucks place. As he sat up on the sofa, a
glance to his right showed Buck, sprawled out in his recliner, gently snoring
as an infomercial played on the TV. God, how long have I been out!
JD wondered as he rose, a little unsteady, and made his way down the hall
to the bathroom.
Once inside, he quickly relieved himself. After washing his hands, he leaned
against the sink and stared into the mirror. What a mess! Cant
even get through youre first big bust without screwing something up,
can you, Dunne? Now youve got Buck and Chris, hell most likely all
the guys, thinking youre too dumb to even look after yourself,
JD berated himself. He just didnt know why Chris and Buck even cared
whether or not he had stayed at the hospital, or where he would stay until
he was cleared for work. Back home, no one gave a shit whether he was dead
or alive, as long as the work got done, and he stayed out of the way. All
the attention he was now receiving was just plain confusing.
"Hey, kid, you ok in there? Youre not sick again, are you?" Buck asked
from the hall. He had woken up just as JD had made his way around his chair,
and had been waiting a few minutes for the boy to return, so he could remind
him to take his pain pill and antibiotic, lest Chris have his ass for neglecting
Passing Buck as he returned to the sofa, JD replied, "Im ok, Buck.
Just looking for some Tylenol is all."
"Tylenol? Kid, you know that doctor sent you home with some pain pills. Just
let me get you that, and your antibiotic, then you can head on to bed," Buck
stated, as he made his way into the kitchen for a glass of water and the
"I dont need one of those pain pills, Buck. They make me feel too out
of it, and besides
think I might have a fever and
trailed off, his voice small, as he tried to conceal the last portion of
his statement from the ladies man.
"JD, did you say you think you have a fever? Come over here." Buck ordered,
already preparing the digital thermometer Chris had purchased for him at
the store when the three agents had stopped to stock the loft with soups,
crackers, and other supplies to get the younger man on the road to recovery.
Knowing it was useless to argue, and too tired at this point to even think
of taking Buck on, JD sat down at the kitchen table and accepted the thermometer.
Propping his head up on his hand, he waited for the device to signal. When
it beeped, Buck reached over and quickly removed it from the boys mouth.
"Shit kid, 101.8! No wonder you still look like death warmed over. No offense.
I guess wed better get that antibiotic into ya, and some of the Tylenol,
too. Maybe Id better call that doctor. He didnt mention you coming
down with a fever like this, before," Buck fretted as he produced the pills
and the water.
Swallowing the pills with a grimace of pain as his throat protested, "Buck!
Its just a fever. I get them all the time. Really. I just need to sleep
it off, and itll be gone in no time. For someone who couldnt
stand to look at me in the beginning, you sure have sprouted a fine set of
wings as a mother hen," JD teased weakly. "Really, Ill be fine," he
soothed as he walked toward his temporary bedroom. "And Buck? Thanks. For
doing all this. I know Im a pain in the ass, but thanks." Moments later
the bedroom door shut, and Buck was left alone in the kitchen.
"Not a problem, kid. Not a problem at all," Buck whispered. And much to his
surprise, he truly meant it.
The next morning, JDs fever was still there, refusing to give in to
the antibiotics or the Tylenol he continued to take. He forced himself out
of bed, and into the kitchen, before Buck had emerged from his room, upstairs.
If Im gonna be barging into his life like this, the least I can
do is make myself useful, the youth reasoned as he found the coffee
and started a pot for his sleeping partner. He then proceeded to start breakfast
by scrambling some eggs and setting some bread in the toaster. As he prepared
the meal, he had to stop a couple of times to settle his queasy stomach when
the aroma of the eggs became too much for him. Once the food was done, he
made Buck a plate and then quietly ascended the stairs to the older mans
JD knocked gently on Bucks door to inform him that his breakfast was
served. He had heard the agent moving around above him a few minutes earlier,
so he knew he wasnt in danger of interrupting his sleep. "Hey, Buck,
I made some breakfast. Its on the table for you," JD informed.
Emerging in a faded tee shirt and worn sweatpants, Buck did not resemble
the object of so many womens affections. His hair stuck up all over
and he appeared to have problems keeping his eyes open. JD couldnt
help but laugh at the contradictory images.
"You made breakfast? I though you were supposed to be taking it easy, kid?"
Buck reprimanded as he followed JD to the kitchen. "But boy, this sure smells
good. Most of my friends hightail it outta here without so much
as making the coffee," Buck revealed, shoving a piece of toast in his mouth.
JD could hardly watch as Buck dug into his breakfast, full force. If the
boy had been bothered by the smell earlier, watching Buck dine was even worse.
He went to the sink and got some water, hoping that sipping some would alleviate
his growing nausea and save him from further shaming himself in front of
"Here kid, have a plate. You could do with putting some meat on those bones,
if I do say so," Buck offered, as he shoved a plate in front of JD, who had
returned to the table in hopes of offering some semblance of company.
Quickly looking away from the food, JD could feel the bile rising as he tried
to fight the urge to vomit. Within seconds, knowing the inevitable was coming,
he bolted for the bathroom. Soon, the sounds of retching could be heard.
Shaking his head, Buck made his way to the bathroom door, not wanting to
just barge in, but concerned that JD was feeling so sick. Hangovers he could
handle, but he had a hard enough time dealing with himself on the rare occasions
he had succumbed to illness, much less this kid, whom he knew so little about.
What do I do now? Call Nate? Chris? Lord, the kid made me breakfast,
sick like he is. Why in the world would he do that, knowing it was going
to make him sick? Buck questioned as he leaned on the wall beside the
Minutes later, the door opened and JD emerged. "Sorry," he mumbled as he
started toward his room, shame coloring his already flushed features.
"What are you sorry for, kid? It aint your fault that you picked up
some bug. Couldve happened to any of us. And I have to ask, why cook
breakfast if you were feeling so bad? You didnt have to do that for
me, you know," Buck reassured the younger man.
"I just wanted to make this up to you, Buck. For barging in here, making
you wait on me. Im just so sick of
well, being sick. Im
gonna get my clothes and head back to the motel. I know youve probably
got plans, and you cant have me hanging around, puking my guts out.
Ill clean up the mess in the kitchen, before I leave," JD offered,
as he entered his room and began to shove his things back into his backpack.
Following right behind his partner, Buck gently grabbed JDs arm and
turned the youth around to face him. "Now listen here, kid. You dont
have a thing to make up to me, you hear? Team Seven looks out
for each other, so just quit thinking youre putting any of us out.
And another thing, you are not going back to that motel any time soon. You
need to be someplace where its safe. Where you can have cold juice
when you need it, and a soft bed to sleep in. I know you having money troubles
right now, but let me help you, ok?" Buck said, his eyes never leaving JDs
face as he spoke. It nearly tore his heart in two to see JD struggle to
comprehend the fact that he was really a part of the team; that someone other
than himself was willing to share the burden of his troubles with him.
"I mean it, JD. I cant stand the thought of you in that place. I have
plenty of room here, and contrary to popular belief, I do stay home, alone,
more than I go out. I wouldnt mind the company. I know you dont
want to be here, but humor me some, ok?" Buck asked, noticing for the first
time that he had unconsciously placed his hand on the boys neck, gently
rubbing at the tense knot that had formed.
Dont want to be here? Humor him? Compared to that room I was
in, this is like heaven. I just dont want to get use to it, and then
have to go back there, again. But maybe, just for a few days
JDs thought trailed off as he was led to the bed, and Buck urged him
to lie down. Before he knew it, the warm blanket from the night before was
being tucked under his chin, and the blinds were shut to filter out the sunlight
"You just go back to sleep, kid," Buck urged, as he exited the room, leaving
the door slightly ajar in case JD needed him.
Needs me. Boy, its been a long, long time since anyone needed
me like this. Who wouldve guessed how much Ive missed being able
to take care of someone, Buck observed as he started cleaning up the
After cleaning up the kitchen, and taking care of a few things from the office,
Buck found himself watching yet another action film to pass the time as JD
continued to sleep in the guestroom. Just as he was about to drift off to
sleep himself, he heard the chime of the doorbell.
Surprised that someone would be at his door in the middle of the afternoon,
Buck peered through the peephole and was amused to see a giant eye, which
closely resembled that of Chris Larabee, staring right back at him from the
other side. Grinning, Buck opened the door and ushered the blond inside.
"Wheres the kid? He didnt escape from you, did he, Buck?" Chris
asked, half joking, but also slightly concerned that the stubborn computer
tech might have demanded to leave.
"Naw. Hes sleeping in his
the guestroom. You
wouldnt believe what he did this morning. I thought you said the boy
scored really high on all his tests and things to join the team. Judging
by the morning, Id say someone slipped you a doctored up file!" Buck
stated, returning to his recliner and waving Chris over to the sofa.
"Out with it, Buck. What did the kid do?" Chris sighed, a little afraid to
hear the story Buck was so eager to share.
"Well, he somehow got the fool notion in his oversized brain that he
owed me something for letting him stay here. So at the crack
of dawn, the kid gets up and proceeds to make me this great big mess of scrambled
eggs and toast. Once hes sure Im up, he comes and gets me, so
I can start my day right," Buck explains.
"Its not everyday that someone makes me breakfast, so I start eating.
Once Im done, I see the rest of the eggs in the pan, so I make JD a
plate and give it to him. Big mistake, because the poor kids so sick
that before I can even sit back down, hes running for the toilet. Come
to find out he didnt want to be some kind of a burden, so he decided
to cook for me, sick as a dog, instead of staying in bed," Buck finished,
irritation clearly written all over his face.
"Burden? He thinks hes a burden? I guess he hasnt heard some
of the stories about your less than stellar female companions, has he?" Chris
"Hey, wait just a minute
" Buck stuttered in indignation.
"Hey, Chris. Whats this about female companions? I wanna hear," JD
urged, as he came into the living room and sat down on the floor in front
of the sofa. His long black bangs hung defiantly over his eyes, reminding
Chris of a small child afraid to make his first barbershop visit. It didnt
help matters that JD had arrived attired in a baggy pair of sweat pants and
an oversized sweatshirt, and sporting bare feet.
"Well, if it isnt Sleeping Beauty! Feeling better, kid?" Buck asked,
hoping to divert attention away from the embarrassing tales of his more
"Dont worry, son. Im sure the boys will fill you in later. Now,
how are you feeling? I hear you had a rough morning," Chris stated.
"Yeah, I guess Ive still got a little ways to go before I start feeling
like my old self. But I feel ok, now, at least for the moment. I was just
wondering, when can I head back to my place? Im sure Bucks anxious
to have his space back," JD surmised. He figured Chris had used some
gentle persuasion to get Buck to take him in, and he didnt
want to cause the ladies man any problems.
"Well, son, first off, I cant say that Im thrilled with the idea
of you ever going back to that dump. It just isnt right that one of
my team would have to stay there when theres room elsewhere. But as
to Buck wanting his space back, thats up to him. I dont
think he would have told me to bring you back here, though, if he didnt
want ya here," Chris assured, noting the look of confusion playing across
JD youthful face.
Daring a quick glance at Buck, JD tried to gage the mans expression.
Confused, the youth recognized immediately the look of hurt that appeared.
"Listen Buck, its not that staying here hasnt been great. I mean,
you have a nice place. And youve been really good to me, taking care
of me and all. I just think it would be better if I let you get back to the
way you do things, is all," JD reasoned, not wanting Buck to feel that his
attentions hadnt been appreciated. JD just wasnt used to accepting
support from someone. In fact, it was he who had been his mamas sole
support for so long, that the young man had all but forgotten what it felt
like having someone else taking care of him for a change.
Not comfortable with the way the conversation was heading, Buck struggled
to decide just what he was going to say to the younger agent seated on his
floor, wearing one of his old shirts and looking so much in need of someone
to care about him. It was in that moment, as he looked down upon those huge
hazel eyes, that he came to a conclusion. For whatever reason, he felt drawn
to JD. Buck wasnt sure what exactly had done it, whether it had been
the kids unwillingness to give in to Bucks ribbing, or the way
the he managed to be so damn likeable, even when he was annoying the hell
outta ya, but at that point it really didnt matter. Buck made up his
"JD, I didnt want to bring it up, with Chris here and all, but Ive
run into a little problem. Ya see, when I bought this place not too long
ago, I was seeing a girl that I somehow managed to fool myself into thinking
was the one. You know, THE ONE? I figured between what she and I made, the
payments on this place wouldnt be a problem. Well, come to find out,
her husband wasnt so keen on the idea of his wife splitting the bills
with another man. So now, here I am, paying for it all by myself, and I have
to admit, sometimes, things are a little tight," Buck said, amazing Chris
with his ability to weave such a tall tale, one worthy of Ezra for sure.
Seeing that he had JDs attention, Buck continued," I couldnt
ask any of the boys to help me out; they all have commitments of their own.
But when you came along, and I found out about your situation, I thought
maybe, just maybe
" Buck trailed off, waiting for JD to take the bait.
"Buck, are you saying you need a roommate? Someone to help with the bills?"
JD asked, not believing what he was hearing.
"Yeah, kid. Thats what Im saying. Now I realize that a young
man like yourself, you dont wanna be tied down to sharing a house with
an old man like me, but
" Buck said, noting younger mans look
"Oh no, its not that, its just that you barely know me. How do
you know that you want me living here with you? And besides, this is a great
place, it must cost a fortune, and with the bills Im still paying from
when my mama
Well, I think youd be better off looking for someone
who has a little more to spend than me," JD finished, embarrassment and,
what looked almost like disappointment, darkening his expression.
Feeling as if he had entered the Twilight Zone, Chris sat quietly on the
sofa, taking in the strange conversation. He knew for a fact Buck was lying.
Hell, his friend had had the condo for years, and made plenty enough not
to be struggling with the mortgage. He looked on in confusion as the conversation
"Listen, JD. If thats the only reason you dont want to stay,
then quit your worrying. I dont really need half the money, or anything.
Just enough so that Im able to indulge the ladies and maybe put a little
back for a rainy day. Id bet that if we looked over everything, that
youd have plenty to help me out. And admit it, staying here is a damn
sight better than that motel from hell, now isnt it, son," Buck implored,
hoping the young man would ignore his fierce pride and just say
"Well, I guess youre right. But are you sure..."
"Kid, I wouldnt ask for your help, if I wasnt. Now, do we have
a deal?" Buck asked, not realizing how much JDs answer meant to him.
As Chris and Buck looked on, JD took a moment to think about Bucks
offer. Deep down, he had a feeling there was more to Buck asking him to stay
than needing help with the bills, but at this point, JD really didnt
care. He was just too tired, too ill, and too broke to turn it down. And
having Buck around wasnt all that bad, either. He had made up his mind.
"Ok. You have a deal, Buck. Chris, I guess Ill be needing to make a
few changes on my personnel forms when I get back," JD informed his boss,
unable to conceal the smile that had lit up his face as he accepted Bucks
"Well, alright!" Buck exclaimed. "Heres to being roommates, kid. I
bet Im in for one hell of an adventure!"