"Little Britches" (ATF) Universe

8.45 am, Jamestown, ND

Jane Caverty left Gilles, and waited patiently, her back turned discreetly a few meters from where Adrian Brown was finishing up with the other guy. Wedden, or something like that, she seemed to remember.

"Officer?" she turned at the voice down the corridor, and smiled at the nurse who approached, looking upset.

"Officer, could you come please?"


The nurse headed back to the cubicle where the boy was being examined. "I don't want to say. You need to see this, though."

Jane walked through the doorway and stopped dead. The little boy was lying on his back, eyes closed. His face was swollen on one side, darkening with bluish bruises. His chest had more bruises, his shoulders and wrists marked in finger-sized stripes. His legs were covered in them, the right one red and severely swollen.

"Dear Lord," she whispered. "I'll get the camera."

The doctor looked up and nodded. "His back is as bad, we saw when we took that top off of him, but I won't risk moving him again until we're ready to x-ray him."

Caverty nodded, and left at a run. The camera was in the evidence kit in the back of the car, and she was back in under two minutes. "I'd like to record this as well, if I may?" she pulled out her little tape recorder and slipped a new tape into the machine.

The doctor hesitated as he pulled on gloves. "Okay, he said finally. "My insurance people will probably have my head for it, but yeah. Where's the portable x-ray unit?" He turned back to the nurse.

"On it's way, Doctor Lundquist," the nurse replied.

"Thanks, Liz," he said absently. "Okay. Palpation of the abdomen indicates some internal swelling. We're going to have to operate for that before we can see what's happened. The lower right tibia appears to be fractured, a complete break judging by the distention of the shin. No breakages in the upper limbs. Severe bruising in the chest area suggests possible damage to the rib cage," he paused and lightly pressed his stethoscope to the child's chest, moving it about. "No real respiratory distress, but some roughness, indicating water in the lungs. Need to watch for pneumonia and bacterial infection. Start him on general antibiotics. Do we have any ID on him at all?"

Caverty shook her head. "Not definite. My partner's going to run the description with central once we've got the statements."

"Okay, we're going to give him minimum dosage, and watch for reactions. Hopefully he'll be fine and we can increase the dose." He moved down the lower end of the bed and gently turned the little feet up. "We need to clean these cuts. Looks like he walked over glass and then rubbed them in dirt. Better add a tetanus shot. Some of them are already showing signs of septicemia, I hope he's not allergic to broad spectrum antibiotics, because he needs them as soon as possible. Liz, numb his feet. I don't want him waking up halfway through."

Liz Smith nodded and began preparing a hypodermic, then gently worked her way around the small soles, numbing them. The child didn't do much as twitch, and Lundquist frowned.

"There's no overt head trauma, I'm hoping that what we've got is in relation to either the general trauma or the infection." He gently pressed the swollen stomach and sighed as the boy moaned. "Damn. Liz, he's going up to surgery as soon as we've got a free theater."

"I'll call Harry and let him know to call us." She squinted at the small foot she was holding and pulled out another little bit of glass.

"How's the feet going?" He peered over her shoulder as she gently held the cut open with plastic tweezers and sluiced first sterile water and then a mild antiseptic through it.

"Looks like the cuts healed up a little before he walked through all the muck, but there's fragments of glass in there." She bit her lip and concentrated on easing an almost invisible sliver out. She dropped it into the dish containing half a dozen other similarly small bits, flakes and tiny splinters, few more than a few millimeters long. "Nothing huge in there, as far as I can see. Nasty looking cuts, but none of them are too deep."

"Okay. I'll get Jade to join us in theater to deal with the leg. I'll sort out the internal bleeding. I'll call Harry myself, you get as much of that finished as you can."

"Okay, thanks, Mats."

The doctor left, and Caverty turned off her tape recorder. "Can I get some pictures?"

"Sure." Liz agreed. "I hope you find whoever did this to him." She paused in her work and smiled at the small bruised face, with its long lashes, sweetly rounded features and untidy hair. "Any idea who he is?"

"Waiting for confirmation," Jane told her. "Can you lift his foot up? And the other one? Thanks."

"You can get his back when Mats comes back. We're going to have to turn him over just to get a look at him anyway."


The two women sat in silence, Caverty watching as Smith moved on to the second foot with a new set of implements and gloves.

"We've got a room," Lundquist's voice was a shock to both of them, but the nurse's hands kept utterly steady. "We'll just let the police get the rest of the pictures, and we'll take him straight up. I've got Elza Kohen from pediatrics to come in, we'll take him there afterwards."

"I'm done," she carefully wiped over the area and neatly wrapped soft bandages over each of the small feet. "That should keep him till we get a chance to x-ray his feet."

Lundquist nodded. "I'll add that to the list," he said. "Okay, let's turn him on three. One, two--" He and the nurse gently eased him over onto his stomach.

"Looks mostly like more bruising. Interesting," the doctor added, peering closer.


"Looks more like impact than punches here. Possibly when he was in the river."

Caverty took more pictures, wondering how Lundquist could possibly tell.

"If you'll excuse us?" The nurse hastily draped a hospital issue blanket over the little boy leaving the one he'd come in with in a heap on the floor. Caverty picked it up absently, and slowly stepped away from the bed as the orderly entered and unlocked the wheels of the bed.

Caverty stood out of the way against the wall, watching as the orderly pulled the bed out of the room. The child barely took up a half of the bed, and she followed them up the corridor as far as the elevator, where the nurse paused, and told her, "I'm sorry, you'll have to wait up on two, in surgical waiting?"

"Okay," she replied, but the heavy metal doors had already closed.

"Hey." Brown's voice was quiet.

"Hey," she said softly, hugging the blanket to her.

"Don't let it get to you."

"I know." She turned to her partner, five years senior and he read her face instantly.

"He'll be fine."

"He looks like my sister's little boy."

Brown slung an arm around her shoulder and squeezed gently. "The kids are always hard. He's alive. Hang on to that. And if you've got some pictures it looks like we're going to be able to make a family in Denver very, very happy."

She smiled, and nodded. "Let's go do that, then," she glanced at the blanket. "Are those guys still here?"

"Gilles is. Wedden left about ten minutes ago."

"I'd better give this back to him," she hefted the blanket and sighed.

"Yeah. And if we take him down to the station he can sign his statement, maybe get some people up to have a look at where the boy went into the water."

"Sounds like a plan," she agreed, and they headed out.


9.30, Jamestown Airport, ND

"Give me or Jenny a call, let us know when the kid's home!"

Chris inclined his head in agreement to the pilot, and ducked out of the USAF helicopter and ran, followed seconds later by the rest of his team.

He paused, watching with eyes narrowed against the sun as the helicopter lifted off again, then turned. He stalked away to the side of the field heading into the small airport. He didn't bother looking back. He knew the team was at his heels.

"Standish. Find us transport. Josiah, local maps. Nate, make contact with the local hospital and cops, I'm calling the judge. We meet outside, half an hour." The team scattered.

He dialed. "Judge? It's Larabee." He rolled his eyes as the judge expostulated about his abrupt departure. "We've got a lead on JD. No time to waste. I called in a couple of favors, got a flight up here."

He headed out towards the exit, flashing his ATF badge as various people tried to get in his way. Otherwise he ignored them

He shrugged. "Heard anything from Buck?" His lips thinned, "Well, if there's no news at least we know he hasn't tried to kill Kemp in court. Yet." He lifted the phone away from his ear and waited for the shouting to stop.

"We're in North Dakota, Jamestown. Called in a couple of favors to get us up to Minot, and hitched a lift the rest of the way with USAF. Yes, Jamestown. Why?"

"Well, bully for the FBI. Yes, we knew about it, but that wasn't the reason. No. No. Josiah caught a name on one of the packages on the tape. Yes sir, that tape. The name matches to a brand owned by one of Kemp's sisters. Hennessy. Yes. Really? I guess that's another nail then. Yes. Okay, I'll keep you informed."

He hung up and glanced at Nathan who scowled. "I'm on hold. The locals don't seem to like the words 'federal' or 'officer'. ATF didn't much help, but at least she defrosted some after I promised we weren't FBI." He stopped, "Yes ma'am, I'll hold. Hello? Hello!" He grimaced. "Damn. Lost the call."

"Forget it. Where's Ezra gotten himself?"

"Avis desk." Nathan pointed.

"He better make it fast, or I'll shred that fancy suit he's wearing. With him in it."

Nathan grinned. "Judge have any word on Buck?"

"Nothing. I'll be outside." Chris turned on his heel and walked briskly outside.

Nathan stared after him and began the business of redialing through.

Ten minutes later the team gathered back together, Ezra pulling up in a big sedan a minute or so after everyone else.

"You're early," Larabee said coldly, and Ezra nearly apologized before catching the faint amusement in his boss's eyes.

"Very droll, Mr. Larabee."

"Josiah, you're in the front, navigating. I'm driving."

Ezra blinked, but slid out of the driver's seat and into the back of the car without argument. "I suppose it would do no good to observe that we are in fact only insured for *me* to drive this monstrosity?"

"None at all. Everyone in? Good." Larabee pulled out with a shriek of burned rubber, leaving irate drivers in his wake blaring angrily. "Where are we going?"

Josiah traced a thoughtful finger down the map. "We need the US-52. Should be able to pick it up if we head into Jamestown. Don't go North on Highway 20, we'll be on the wrong side of the river. I think."

Chris's jaw tightened until Nathan started to wonder when something would break.

"You think?"

"I'm pretty sure. You know, we could do with someone who actually knows maps. Or knows the area."

"No. We're heading up to the paper mill, and we're going to find the boy. Travis says the FBI identified Lisa Hennessy as one of the flights out of Denver yesterday morning. For all we know, the locals are in on it."

Nathan sighed. "Well, I didn't get anything out of the hospital, and the police don't seem to know how to operate their switchboard. At any rate, I never did get through to anyone who had the faintest idea of what I was talking about."

"The FBI did actually issue a kidnapping bulletin, didn't they?" Ezra asked mildly. "Someone did actually check this?"

There was silence in the car.

"Perhaps if someone would like to drop me off near a police station, I will investigate the question personally," Ezra sighed.

"No. We need all of us." Larabee's fiat was final, and they subsided into silence.

"What's the plan once we get to the Hennessy place?" Silent except for Ezra.

"Take it down to bedrock," Larabee muttered darkly, and Josiah grinned.

"Now that's a plan I can stand behind, brother."

"Ez, you go in the front with Nathan. Make nice. Josiah and I will explore around the building."

"And then?"

"And then we search for JD." Chris smiled unpleasantly. "If they're lucky, we find him quickly."


9.30 am, Jamestown, ND

"*Yes*!" Caverty whooped, and heads snapped up all around the office. "People, we got that kidnapped kid from Denver sitting in the Community Hospital!" Grins spread round the room instantly. Most of the officers had seen the pictures up on the wall of the child's battered form, and they'd all been depressed by it. Now though, it seemed like the kid might get a happy ending.

"I'll call the local FBI, and notify them," her partner said. "You'd better get back to the hospital. If the kid was kidnapped then there's a chance they're going to come back for him."

"I'll go back now."

Brown stopped her with a hand on her wrist. "Slow down, sweetheart. Don't you want to try to get the family?"

"Won't the feds do that?" she asked, puzzled.

"Addendum on the sheet. Father's ATF. Got a number for him and his partner. Wilmington and Larabee."

A huge smile grew and she took the paper. "I'll be a couple of minutes."

Her face dropped a moment later, and then she squared her shoulders. "Mr. Wilmington, this is Officer Jane Caverty with Jamestown PD, on 555-127693. Could you call us immediately and ask to speak to myself or Officer Adrian Brown. We have good news of your son." She hung up with a shrug.



"I'll see you at the hospital?"


She gathered her stuff and headed back out.


9.30 am Four Corners, CO.

Vin leaned both elbows on the windowsill and stared outside. It was a perfect day for running around and playing. It was sunny, and a little bit of a breeze flooded in through the open window, cooling the day enough that even for July it didn't feel too hot. He didn't move from his spot inside the living room.

JD had been sitting right there. Underneath one of the apple trees. He'd had some of the little toy cars, and he'd been racing them back and forth, back and forth. Vin closed his eyes. He'd gotten bored, and had gone inside to get a drink. Mrs. Potter had been taking cookies out of the oven, so he'd waited till he could take one.

When he had come back, JD was gone.

He'd stared for what felt like hours, one hand full of his glass of milk, the other clutching a plate with a cookie for him and one for JD. The toy cars were there scattered wildly as though JD had thrown them. JD's shoes were missing from where he had tugged them off earlier. He could have been anywhere. Inside. The other side of the apple tree, but every instinct he had was screaming 'danger!' at him. JD wasn't anywhere he was supposed to be.

He'd heard something, and turned, it felt like moving through molasses, his feet sticky with reluctance to move even though he whipped around fast enough to attract Mrs. Potter's attention. A red car, small, like a thousand others on the road was pulling away, JD in the back, slumped motionlessly over someone's shoulder. He'd dropped the plate and glass letting them shatter and spill, and had sprinted to the gate. Mrs. Potter had stopped him, running after him, asking him what was wrong, and he'd fought against her, screaming that JD was gone, they'd taken JD, and she hadn't heard, wouldn't listen, tried to tell him JD was okay.

He choked back a sob. They'd been too late anyway. Too slow, too late.

And all he could see was JD, lying as still as his mother had in that awful stinking car. Maybe JD was dreaming of-- His face crumpled.

Warm arms gathered him up and he burrowed into Mrs. Potter's embrace.

"Shhh. Shhh. They'll find him, he'll be fine," she whispered, over and over.

Vin didn't bother listening. Adults wouldn't tell him the truth, he knew that. Could hear it in the fear in Mrs. Potter's voice even as she tried to comfort him. Chris wouldn't lie to him, and Chris had only promised to bring JD back. He'd never promised that he would be alive.


9.30 am Jamestown Community Hospital

Lundquist smiled broadly. "Well, that went much better than I feared," he said, pulling his gown and gloves off. "Any word on whether they've managed to track the boy's family yet?"

"I'll ask," Liz Smith said, and quickly walked up to the waiting area reception. "Anything on our baby John Doe?"

Kate Jefferson smiled broadly up at her and handed over a file. "The police identified him about half an hour ago. He's John Daniel Dunne, six years old. Denver emailed his medical records through about ten minutes ago. No allergies."

Lundquist sighed with relief. "I'll order the dosage up then. Beat those infected cuts before they go anywhere." He hurried off towards the recovery area, leaving Liz to look over the rest of the kid's notes. She reached for them but Kate hung on to them, reading out the bits that struck her as interesting.

"His notes say the family call him 'JD'. They're still trying to get hold of his father or his guardian, they're ATF agents, "Buck Wilmington, he's the kid's dad, and Chris Larabee, he's the kid's guardian. All got the same address." Kate's eyebrows flickered, and Liz shrugged.

"Could be half-brothers or something. I need to get those to the doctor, Kate."

"Could be." Kate said with some disappointment that Liz wasn't prepared to speculate on the mystery kid's odd little family. "Just a minute."

"While you're thinking about it, I'll take this up to the ward, make sure they get it," Liz plucked the document from Kate's hand and Kate watched, lips pursed as she disappeared back into the recovery area.

Liz picked up JD's right hand, the one without any IV in it, and held it gently, perched by the side of the bed. "Hey, JD, I'm Liz. Howya doing there?"

He was still deep under the anesthetic, his face half obscured by the cold pack on his left cheek, and the blanket covering up the incision on his stomach and one little leg. The other stuck out, neatly covered in bright blue cast from toes to knee. "I'm going to sit with you for a while till we get you up to the children's ward. You'll like it there. They've painted all sorts of things on the walls. They got some of the students from the college to do it over the summer.

"We're trying to get hold of your Daddy right now. And your Uncle Chris. They're going to be so glad to see you. Were you scared? I bet you weren't, but it's okay now, you're safe. We'll take good care of you till your Daddy gets here, I promise."

"Liz, we're going to move him in about fifteen minutes, okay?" The supervisor of the surgical unit told her as he walked past, and paused.

"Thanks, Harry."

"He's the kidnap victim, right?" he asked curiously. "Any more on him?"

"Just a name. JD Dunne." She looked back down at the child's sleeping face. "He's only six." She stroked the smooth forehead lightly. "Poor little thing."

"Okay. Unless there's an emergency, if you want to stay with him, that's fine with me and Mats."

"Really? " Liz looked up, startled at the unexpected suggestion. She had been expecting to be told to get back downstairs to Emergency.

"Maryann says she can cover for you. She might need to call you, but unless there's a major problem you can stay. Hate to think of any kid that age ending up in a hospital full of strangers all on his own." The surgical supervisor nodded as he walked back to his office.

Liz smiled down at JD. "You're getting to everyone aren't you, cutie? And you aren't even awake. You're probably a little monster, aren't you?" She grinned, and carried on talking quietly to the child. Later she wasn't even sure what she'd said, but she stayed with him, following the bed up to the pediatrics ward talking softly, petting the dark hair and the one free hand,.

A little more than an hour later he started shifting restlessly.

"Hey, baby boy, you waking up now?" She rang the call button, and when Jake Saunders, the senior pediatric nurse, stuck his head around the door asked for ice and a doctor.

"Kid's waking up?"

"Yup, finally."

"Good." Jake smiled and hurried away. Minutes later he was back with Elza Samson, the pediatric consultant.

"Hi Liz. How's he doing?" She picked up the chart and glanced over it, then walked up to the top of the bed, pulling back the covers to examine him.

"He's a bit restless, bp normal, temp slightly elevated, pulse slightly elevated." Liz told her, the stats coming from the machines around the kid.

"Hmm." She gently peeled back one eyelid and shone a light in. The child blinked and both eyes reluctantly opened, accompanied by a huge yawn that revealed tonsils.

"You're nearly there aren't you, honey?" Elza said quietly. "Hey JD. I'm Elza, and I'm one of the people who's going to be looking after you for a little while."

They waited as the boy digested this, and then murmured, "Da?"

"Your Da can't be here yet, sweetie," Liz explained. Sad brown eyes turned to hers and she added, "We're trying to get him here as soon as he can, okay?"

"'kay," he whispered, and drifted back to sleep.

"Sleep's best thing for him," Elza said briskly, standing to note down the changes to his stats on his chart. "He's doing pretty well, all things considered. Let me know when he wakes again. He won't be fully conscious for few hours yet." She smiled briefly at the two nurses, "Maybe his family will have got here by then."


10.30 am Denver FBI Building

Sarah McKinnon listened with a growing grin to the voice on the other end of the phone.

"That is wonderful! Thank you so much. And thank Officers Caverty and Brown for me too." She checked her hastily scribbled notes for their names. She looked around the room, and when she found everyone's eyes on her turned to a new sheet of paper and wrote in large letters 'HE'S FOUND!!!!! – FBI ND!!!!' and waved it at her colleagues.

Ravi sat back with a smug grin, "I *said* it was that plane to Jamestown!" he slapped his desk with both hands, "Damn, we're good."

Ferretti whooped, "Yes!" and added a soft, "Sorry!" at McKinnon's scowl. "I'll call Travis."

But Travis was nowhere to be found.

They didn't know that Jamestown PD had been passed from Larabee's phone to the judge, nearly an hour earlier. The judge had listened politely, thanked them solemnly, and once he had put the phone down, danced a jig around his spacious office to the everlasting amusement of his secretary.

He'd grabbed her hands and told her the good news, and that he was going to make a miserable little boy the happiest child on the planet.


10.30 am, Four Corners, CO.

Vin had fallen asleep eventually, still on Mrs. Potter's lap. Nearly an hour had passed, and she was halfway asleep herself when the doorbell rang once, twice, and then whoever it was leaned on it. She put Vin down as quickly and carefully as she could trying to get to the door before he woke, but he was already stirring.

"All right, all right, lands sakes, don't wear your finger out," she pulled open the door ready to give whoever it was a piece of her mind. "Judge Travis?!"

"Where's Vin?" he asked urgently.

"What's wrong?" Vin's face was absolutely white as he emerged from behind Mrs. Potter.

Travis dropped to his knees with the ease of a much younger man and gripped Vin's shoulders, smiling into his eyes. "Don't panic, Vin-boy. They've found him. JD's been found. He's in a hospital, in North Dakota, but he's going to be fine!"

"North Dakota? What in the world?" Mrs. Potter exclaimed.

"Really?" Vin asked eagerly, "Really and truly?"

"I just spoke to a nice lady in Jamestown police department, and she was one of the people who found him. He's going to have some adventures to tell us, but he's coming home."


"I promise."

Vin hugged the judge fiercely, who hugged him back and frowned.

"I may never get back up again!" he murmured, and pushed himself upright, holding onto the wall for support with one hand, lifting Vin with the other. He grunted with effort. "My bones aren't what they were," he said resignedly. "Best news in the world, eh, boy?"

Vin nodded, so happy that he had no words for it and simply clung, beaming, to the man who had turned his world right side up again.


10.40 am, H-52, ND

Larabee's phone rang. He pulled it out of his pocket and glanced at the legend on the screen. "It's Mrs. Potter." He pulled over and answered tensely.

"Larabee." His face changed into a smile a moment later, "Hey Vin, you okay?"

Then he froze and the others, who had just started to relax at hearing it was Vin tensed. "Are you sure? Really sure?" Aching relief and joy seemed to spread over his face, and they knew before he even said it. "Put him on."

There was a long pause, then, "Judge? Is it true?" Then, "Oh, thank God." And he dropped the phone, and dropped his head onto the steering wheel and was utterly still.

"Brother Chris?" Josiah was the only one to dare disturb him. He rested a hand on Chris's right shoulder, "What is the news? Is it--?"

Chris lifted his head, scrubbing fiercely at his eyes before looking at his three friends. "He's here. In Jamestown hospital. He's *here*."

No one needed to be told who 'he' was.

"God be praised," Josiah said with deep gratitude.

"Thank God," Nathan agreed, and Ezra nodded.

"We have been more fortunate than perhaps we deserved," he murmured. Then he raised his head, anxiety in his eyes. "In hospital? Is the child injured?"

"I--I don't know," Chris said, sounding almost bewildered. "Where's the phone?"

"On the floor where you dropped it," Josiah told him with a smile.

Chris reached down for it and put it to his ear. "Sorry, Orin, I was..."

"Yeah. That's one word for it." He drew a deep breath. "Does Buck know yet?" His face fell. "Damn. But they'll keep trying? Well, maybe the FBI are good for something after all."

"Ask him about JD," Ezra urged.

"Orin. JD. Is he okay?" Chris's hand tightened on the phone till his knuckles whitened. "Damn. Damn. Okay. We're heading there now. Yeah, we'll let you know as soon as we find out. Thank you. Thank you for calling. Yeah, put him back on."

"Hey Vin. How're you doing? Isn't it great? I'm going to see him now, and I'll call you the moment I can, I promise. " He paused, "Yeah, I love you too. We'll be home soon. I promise, we'll be careful. Bye Vin." He hung up and stared at the phone for a long moment.

"I guess you know where we're going, Ez." Chris said finally, breaking the silence.


"You." Chris opened the car door, slid out, and looked at his shaking hands. He showed them to Standish who gripped his wrists and grinned wildly up at him.

"I believe I should not drive either then," he replied. "Unless the infraction of some minor traffic laws is of no moment."

"Break every speed law they have, Ez. I'll even pay the fines."

"Now that," he let go of Larabee's wrists and moved round him to get inside the car, "is an offer that would be simply churlish to refuse."

Twenty minutes later they were on the outskirts of the city, following a police car to the hospital, sirens at full blast. Ezra smirked proudly as he drove. It seemed that everyone knew about the small boy who had been lost and was found, and his family who were desperate to see him.

He pulled into a parking slot in the hospital grounds, and followed his team mates as they sprinted for the entrance, police escort in tow.

"I'm Larabee, Chris Larabee, I'm looking for JD Dunne? Where is he?"

"Upstairs, pediatrics, fourth floor, turn right." The receptionist beamed at him as proudly as if she had found him herself and Ezra threw a huge grin at her as they hurried past. Chris pushed the button for the elevator, paced impatiently for all of ten seconds, then headed up the stairs, taking them two and three at a time. Ezra sighed, and followed, to his considerable annoyance hearing the chime of the elevator as the door closed behind him.

"JD?" Chris said urgently to the first person he saw. The nurse pointed towards a door halfway down the corridor flanked by two armed police officers.

The policemen stood as Chris skidded to a halt in front of them. He gasped for air, and pulled out his ATF badge. "Chris Larabee. JD's guardian. Please?"

Perhaps it was the please that did it, from a man to whom begging was so clearly foreign. At any rate, the man and woman holstered their guns and she pushed the door open.

Ezra swallowed as he followed Larabee inside. A nurse. A trolley of equipment gently flickering and bleeping. And four beds, only one of which was occupied. A small smile settled on his lips and he could feel muscles he didn’t even know he had tensed relaxing.

It really was the boy. He was asleep. Chris was already sitting on the edge of the boy's bed, smiling down at the form dwarfed by the full sized bed. "JD." He leaned down and pressed a gentle kiss to the boy's forehead. "Thank you, God," he said softly. "Can I move him?"

"Not too much. He's got an little incision on his tummy that's going to pull if you're not very careful, and you can see the leg for yourself," the nurse told him. "Let me shift him, and you can sit with him."

He kicked his shoes off as she carefully raised the small body. He settled himself at the head of the bed, wrapping his arms around the boy as the nurse lowered him.

"Da?" JD asked drowsily at the familiar feel of strong arms around him, and Chris smiled into sleepy, half open eyes.

"It's Chris, JD."

"Dad," JD said contentedly, he snuggled closer and drifted back to sleep.

Ezra turned away and scrubbed at his eyes. "Damn allergies," he muttered crossly.

"Yeah," Nathan agreed, a huge grin shining out, "Damn allergies."

Josiah clapped a heavy hand on his two friends' shoulders, and gripped hard. He didn't need to say a word.


1pm, Austin

"Mr. Wilmington?" A court clerk hurried after him as he left for the lunch recess. His shoulders slumped. The morning had been hell. He had answered every question clearly and fully, without hesitation. Every time he looked over at Kemp the man was more and more angry. At one point, their eyes had met, and Kemp had shaken his head slowly, then drawn a finger lightly over his throat.

JD meant nothing to this monster. He knew that. It had taken every piece of willpower he had to not kill the man where he sat, every bit of faith to trust Chris Larabee, and every bit of strength to keep going despite the doubt gnawing at him.

Each word he had uttered had felt like a strip of his own soul torn away, damning himself and his son together.

His testimony had shattered Kemp's reputation. He'd been able to see it in the jurors' faces. The prosecution had even brought up the attempt to tamper with his evidence. In that sense, it had been worth it, but he couldn't help flinching when the clerk called his name again. He didn't want to know.

"Mr. Wilmington!"

He stopped and walked slowly back. "Yes?" he asked wearily.

"Phone call for you. I've put it through to the office in there." She indicated a small room that barely held a desk and bookcase.

"Thank you," he said quietly, and closed the door behind him.

A light was blinking and he slowly lifted the handset, depressed the button to connect him to the line.

"Wilmington," he said crisply. If it was one of Kemp's people then he wasn't going to give them the satisfaction.

"Buck, finally."

"Chris?" Buck sat abruptly in the chair behind him. "Chris?"

"I've got him, Buck, I've got him!"

He'd only heard joy like that in his friend's voice twice before. Once, when Chris had run out into the hall and hugged his friend, saying, 'it's Adam, it's Adam!", and once when the judge finally signed the adoption for Vin.

Buck swallowed hard and croaked out, "He's alive?"

"Yes!" Chris laughed, and Buck felt tears run down his face.

"Thank God. Oh, thank God. Is he all right?" he asked urgently.

There was a pause that went on a fraction of a moment too long. "He's going to be fine, Buck," Chris said firmly.

"What's wrong with him?" Buck's heart leapt to his throat and he clutched at the phone.

"Broken leg. Couple of fractured ribs. Some internal bleeding from his spleen that they cauterized. And bruises... my god, he looks like he went through the mill, but he's okay."

"Can I speak to him?"

"He's kind of sleepy, and he only came out from the anesthetic a couple of hours ago." Chris warned, then added, "Every time he wakes up he asks for you."

"Damn. I wish I could be there," he said regret husking his voice. Hey, where *are* you?" It suddenly dawned on him he had no idea where they all were.

"North Dakota." Chris's tone was faintly exasperated, and Buck blinked.

"What the hell?"

"Kemp's sister owns a paper mill up here. We think someone arranged to keep him there. The police are looking for evidence, once he wakes up properly we'll get the kid to look at some pictures. See what we can come up with."

"Not straight away, Chris, he's only six," he protested and reddened at Chris's laugh.

"He's fine, Buck. I'm sitting here, on one of those full size hospital beds, and he's snoring with his head on my stomach. He's got this big black eye, and I'm holding an icepack over half his face. They've put a bright blue, I mean really bright, cast on his right leg. He broke the tibia, I think she said. And they had to go in, but they did a laparoscopy, a tiny little cut, hardly an inch across on his right side. He's got plasma going into his left hand and antibiotics into his elbow." Chris stopped for a moment, and then resumed, "I'm not going to forget he's only six. I'm too busy being amazed he's alive, and asleep, all sprawled out on his back, like always."

Buck smiled, JD did always sleep like that, if he felt safe. Sometimes he'd walk into a room and find him on the floor, or on the couch, or on one memorable occasion, at the bottom of the mercifully empty bath, asleep where he'd last sat down, so tired he just stopped.

"Thanks," was all he said.

"If I wasn't here, I'd be out there, hunting those bastards and down and killing them. Trust me."

"I will. I do."

A distant high pitched voice broke in and Chris laughed. "Yes, okay, that's a dollar."

Buck grinned. "All those bad words, pard. We're going to put the kids through college on swearing alone at this rate."


Buck's other hand flew to grip the receiver, as though he was holding JD. "Hey little britches," he choked out.

"Da," JD's voice was replete with sleepy satisfaction, "you comin' soon, Da?"

"Yeah, darlin', I'm coming real soon. Just as soon as the judge lets me go I'm coming and I ain't going to let you go for a long, long time."

"Not le'in' go neither."

Buck swallowed hard. "You be good and go to sleep, okay? You be good for Chris?"

"Okay." He heard a big yawn and pressed the receiver to his ear, eyes closed to better hear each breath.

"Mr. Wilmington? Mr. Wilmington!" A hand on his shoulder and he knocked it away. "Mr. Wilmington, you're called to the stand."

"Of, of course. Give me a minute." He wiped at his eyes and cleared his throat.

"Buck?" Chris's voice startled him and he almost protested the loss of JD's breathing. "Buck, go get the bastard. We'll bring JD home."

"I'll do that." He hesitated. "Chris--"

"I know, pard. I know."

Buck smiled. Of course he did. He gently hung up the phone and followed the impatient clerk back into the courtroom.

--------------End: Promises to Keep-------------

Next: Miles to Go

Raven's website

Feedback: Raven

This story changed, and grew, and changed, and changed. I have to thank Barbaretta Hayden, for keeping me honest, even though she wasn't sure I wanted to hear it, and far kinder than an importunate stranger deserved. This is a better story for it.

I also must thank my dear friend Sabrys, who hunted through piles of information for a single name for me. It only gets mentioned once, but without it the entire plot would have fallen apart in a fairly spectacular manner. I'll thank BitTorrent, for solving a crisis, and I should probably thank Jamestown, ND, though they may come to wish I had never actually taken a map, a pin and a piece of string and looked for towns between eight and nine hundred miles from Denver! All information about North Dakota was taken from websites. I have striven to be accurate, and where I couldn't be accurate to at least be plausible! The paper mill does not exist except in my fevered imagination. Neither do Kemp or Hennessy or anyone in Jamestown: if names coincide it is sheer coincidence.

Website story:
Jamestown Airport
Jamestown, ND
Jamestown city site
Sunrise and Sunset times for North America
American Highways
American airports

can I just mention how much I love Google?

The poem that I used for the title, and that Buck misquotes is by Robert Frost

Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening, Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

9.45 JD taken from Gloria Potter's backyard
+/-11.00 Cessna Citation X takes off from Denver
+/-1.30 CitationX lands at Jamestown Airport, ND
+/-2.30 Video taken of JD
3.30 Video finishes rendering to dvd format and is downloaded in Denver.
4pm Clip transferred to video and handed in anonymously at ATF.
5pm Team seven see clip for the first time.
5pm ( 6pm Central) Buck told for first time.
6pm JD escapes from storeroom
10 pm Chris gets home
4.30 am Jack Gilles and Simon Wedden go fishing.
6am dawn. JD almost recaptured. Enters river and is rescued and
7 am taken to Jamestown hospital.
7am Standish figures out about Hennessy. Team Seven arrive at work.
9.00am -- Larabee arrives in military jet in Minot USAF base and
9.30 is shuttled by helicopter to Jamestown airport.
9 am Central Buck called to the stand.
5pm Buck dismissed as witness.

Disclaimer: I don't own any of the fandoms listed herein. I am certainly making no money off of theses creative fan tributes to a wonderful, fun show.