MILES TO GO by Raven

"Little Britches" (ATF) Universe

Larabee's every instinct, inbuilt or learned flared. He rolled off the bed and rose smoothly to his feet. "Ezra, Josiah. Check with the door guards. Find cover and back them up."

The two named nodded, and both pulled out, loaded and put away their guns. The boys watched wide-eyed as Ezra checked two ankle rigs, a wrist rig, one in the small of his back, and one conventionally holstered in a shoulder rig. They seemed disappointed when Josiah only produced two weapons. The difference between the smaller caliber guns Ezra favored, and the Glock 17 and smaller back holstered SIG Sauer worn by Josiah made no impact on them -- they only saw the quantity of hardware.

Vin watched worriedly, and Ezra paused to ruffle his hair. "You'll be fine, Master Tanner."

"Ain't worried about *us*. You be careful." His glare was pure Larabee, and his father grinned at his two agents and jerked a thumb at him.

"What he said."

"We will be entirely safe, Vin," Josiah said firmly, and Vin simply nodded. The two men slipped out of the room and closed the door behind them.

"Buck, Nate. Get the boys out of sight. I'm going to check in with the staff." He pulled and checked his guns and brushed a kiss over JD's head, wrapped an arm around Vin and hugged him hard into his chest. "Vin, look after JD. Do what Buck and Nate tell you. JD, you mind what Buck and Nathan and Vin tell you."

"Yessir," both boys said, huddling closer together, Vin shifting to conceal JD, JD shrinking in on himself.

"Is that safe?" Buck asked as Chris followed Standish and Sanchez out of the room.

Nathan was already removing the remaining IV. "It's antibiotics, but he's already responded well to them. They'll probably move him to oral later today anyway. Hold still, JD. It won't harm him if we take it out now for a little while." He answered Buck's frown before the man had a chance to speak.

JD watched with interest as the tube was tied off from IV shunt, and then the shunt itself with its long needle was slowly pulled from the back of his hand. Nathan pressed a cotton ball over it firmly and took JD's other hand. "Press hard." JD nodded and held it hard enough that his fingers whitened. Nathan pulled the needle the rest of the way and dropped it into the hazardous waste bin. "Good boy. Vin, there's a roll of tape on the shelf -- that's the one." Vin jumped down from the bed and ran to the requested item and brought it back.

He took it from Vin and quickly tore off four strips, "And there are some dressings on the shelf underneath. Right. Open that and when I say, JD, you lift the cotton ball up and Vin put the big band aid on. Okay? Okay. Go."

The boys moved quickly, and Nathan nodded. "Good. JD, press back down, that's still bleeding." He quickly added pressure to the small wound by taping the cotton ball tightly against it. "Mind your fingers." JD whisked his fingers out just in time to avoid getting permanently caught. "Hey, nearly gotya," he smiled.

"No, you didn't," JD contradicted, but his heart wasn't in it.

Buck produced a heavy fleece jacket and slipped JD's arms in it. As he did the zip up the front he said, "Vin, get dressed. The case is behind you."

Vin stripped out of his pajamas, his back to the others, and dressed in short order, jeans, t-shirt, sweater, socks, sneakers. Buck finished dressing JD by pulled a pair of Vin's sweat pants over the casted leg, and rolling it at the hips and uncasted ankle to allow his feet to peep out. He lifted the boy to the floor where he wobbled on one foot until Buck steadied him. He pulled the pants up and tucked the waist under the fleece.

"You warm enough?" He asked seriously.

JD nodded.

"You do *exactly* as we say, understand?"

"Yessir," he whispered, and Buck hugged him tightly.

"Love ya lil' bit."

"Love ya, Da."

He didn't twitch at the familiar sound of Nathan checking his weapon, but both boys turned in fascination as Nathan inserted a new clip and pulled a spare from his bag and slid it into a pocket on the holster.

There was a sharp rap on the door, and Buck snapped, "JD, down. Vin."

JD dropped to the floor, and Vin disappeared under the nearest bed.

"Larabee," a familiar voice called, and the two men relaxed, Nathan by the door, back against the wall ready to take out anyone breaking in, Buck half concealed behind the nearest bed, using it as a gun rest.


Chris slid inside. "Okay. No fire evacuation, but I have strongly recommended they clear the premises. Police back up should be here in ten minutes, max. The other kids on this floor are being moved elsewhere right now. We should --"

"No!" Vin protested, as Buck shook his head.

"Nice idea, pard, but if we all split up it gives him twice the chance to get at the boys."

"And you."

Buck shrugged. Vin saw the dawning panic in JD's eyes and scrambled over to him. "Buck'll be fine, we're all gonna be fine."

The adults grinned wryly at the firm declaration, but said nothing.

"You're sure it's him?"

Larabee shrugged. "Timing's pretty damn convenient if it ain't."

"The others?"

"Ez in the nurses' station. Josiah's in the break room. We've moved a couple of vending machines to give a better line of sight and give the guys at the door some cover." He didn't add anything. The boys didn't need to know what all the adults did, that if Charles was coming, the police officers waiting outside the door would be the first casualties. "Vin, get JD into the corner, behind the bed. That's it." He smiled grimly as the two boys crawled carefully across the room, Vin trying to take some of JD's weight. "Buck, you're with them." He jerked his head at the children. "Nate, help me shift the beds." They swiftly turned three of the four beds onto their sides, forming a barricade that should more than protect from all but the worst gunfire.

Buck knelt in front of the two boys, his eyes on the door. He pulled his own guns and loosened his shoulders. "I'm set, Chris."



Chris's lips tightened. "Wish we had some way of communicating with--" his phone rang. "Larabee. Ez?" There was a long pause, and he nodded curtly, despite knowing perfectly well the man couldn't see him. "Good work. I'll keep the line open. Nate, call Josiah. Ezra's taken down the cell phone jammers." He pulled a cable from his coat pocket and hooked up the hands free rig, Nathan followed suit.

And then they waited.


Charles nodded to the team of men as they spread out through the stairs. Four up the back way. Five and himself up the freight elevator. They hit the fourth floor silently.

"Team one: team two in position."

"Copy team two. Team one moving in." He glanced at the men he'd hired in for the job. "No witnesses. I'll deal with Wilmington."

The men nodded, pulling their weapons. "let's go."

The men streamed through the doors, spreading out. They moved ahead of him, checking rooms as they went. The place seemed deserted until they came around the corner to find a pair of cops standing in front of what had to be the brat's room.

"Jamestown PD. Throw down your weapons and get down."

"Whenever you like, boys," Charles said casually, and smiled as gunfire filled the hospital corridor. Beside him one of his men spun and fell, and he dropped back, taking cover in a doorway as he looked for the shooter. One of the cops fell behind a vending machine and he grinned.

"Standish! Behind you!" A voice yelled from near him and he turned to find himself facing a man as tall and nearly as heavily built as himself. A gun shot and a scream took out another man, probably one of his since the gunfire kept coming. The man in front of his swung at him with a massive fist, and he dodged and pulled a knife, ramming it upwards, only to find it jammed in the plates of concealed body armor. The man grabbed the handle of the knife and wrenched away from him, slamming his other hand, the one holding a Glock, into the side of his head.

He staggered, then shook his head, just as a gun went off at almost point blank range beside him, and the big man crumpled. He nodded to the man who'd killed his assailant, and ran crouched low to the floor towards the doorway. Both cops were down, one silent, the other struggling for his gun. He stamped on the man's hand and kicked the gun away with his other foot.

"Get those machines down. And someone get rid of that guy," he snapped as someone's bullet damn near took a chunk of his shoulder. Would have if he hadn't moved at exactly the right moment.

The two vending machines fell to the floor with a crash, almost concealing the single gunshot at the far end of the corridor. There was silence.

Charles tapped lightly at the walls. "Plasterboard. Clear the room for me, boys."

The remaining four of his formerly nine man team took aim at the thin walls of the target room, and opened fire, pouring clips into it, raking from floor to ceiling as they went.

Charles raised a hand, and the firing stopped. "You, you. In. There may still be survivors."

The two men looked at each other. "I'll take high and left." The other nodded. "On three. One two--" they kicked the door in and flew back, riddled with bullets. Charles scowled, he was down to two men. He looked over his shoulder and only found one. Damn. That meant the shooter down the other end had taken out the guy he'd sent to kill him. There was no shooting anywhere, so at least the man had finished the job before getting himself killed. He face twitched in a grim smile. Saved himself most of the paycheck too.

"There's at least one man alive in there." he said softly. "I'm going in. If I don't come out, I want you to kill whoever walks out of there." He gestured at a cover position in an opposite room. the lone remaining man nodded, and slipped quietly into the room, mostly closing the door.

At least one gunman, it could be a two fisted gunman. It could be more men, but he doubted they'd have the self control to not fire. So, two men down in there. The boy was probably still alive. Sentimentality on the part of the ATF team probably meant that it was the boy's father that was with him, the last one standing, and a vicious grin spread over his face. Wilmington was going to lose his entire team around him, and then his son, before he too was killed. It couldn't get any better.

Charles didn't care in the least about the bodies strewn behind him. He just wanted into that room, to get his revenge. He was even arrogant enough to believe that he could survive it.


He could hear Vin's heart beating. His own breathing sounded amazingly loud in his ears, rattling harshly, and he closed his eyes. His chest hurt when he breathed, and he was too hot with his face buried in Vin's chest. Vin's arms were wrapped around him too tight, but he didn't protest. Neither of them had spoken a word since Buck's hand had stroked his face, and withdrawn. He knew Vin was scared too. He'd shuddered with the first sounds of gunfire. It was closer than they had ever heard it, and it sounded like it would never end.

His back was tight up against the corner of the room, the two of them crouched there.

"Down! Get down!" Chris yelled, and Vin shook harder.

"Nate!" Da's voice, and JD struggled to see over Vin's shoulder, pushing up against the hand on his head.

"Stay where you are!" Chris again, yelling harshly.

"Stay down, JD," Vin ordered, twisting his head to look behind himself.

Buck was crouched motionlessly between them and the bed barricade. JD whimpered as he realised he couldn't see Chris or Nathan's heads above it on the other side. The walls were riddled with holes.

"Vin…" he wailed, more scared than he'd ever been in his whole life.

"It's okay, JD, it's going to be all right." JD looked into Vin's eyes and saw the lie, and the fear there too.

"Shit!" Nathan swore viciously, and the sound of both guns in the room stopped.

"Chris!" Buck hissed urgently, "Chris, get up."

"Dad!" Vin let go of JD and turned.

"Vin, stay where you are, JD, stop him." Buck snapped. "I don't have time for this. Nate, can you get him back here, I'll cover."

Nathan appeared a second later dragging Chris after him. Bright blood smeared a trail on the floor and matted his hair. Nathan lay him down hurriedly and turned to leave the protection of the barricade.

"It's not serious. Just knocked him out." he said hastily, and disappeared.

Vin was white, and JD had to grip his body with both arms, hard enough to make his chest hurt worse to stop him from going to him.

"Chris!" Vin whispered hopelessly.

"He's breathing," JD whispered.

"Get him back, boys," Buck said, sparing a glance for them. The two of them leaned forward in the small space and grabbed Chris's shirt, shoulders, anything they could get a purchase on, pulling until he was lying along the back wall, his head in Vin's lap. Vin bent his head over Chris's, patting his face gently.

"Chris, wake up! Wake up! Dad, please wake up!" He spoke softly but steadily, it was the only sound in the silence. JD looked from the two of them to Buck's back, the man kneeling completely still, gun aimed at the door.

"Stay where you are, kids," he whispered. "We'll be fine."

JD crawled painfully over to him, and curled up on the floor beside him, one hand gripping his father's ankle.

"Get back, lil'bit," Buck's voice was soft, and a hand stroked at his hair, cupped his cheek. "Stay back where you're safe."

"Safe here," he said quietly. He rubbed his face into his father's hand. This was almost worse than anything, ever. Vin wasn't hurt, but Chris was, and he was horribly afraid that his uncles were too.

The door slammed open and the hand vanished, Buck's body tensing above him. Gunshots rang out, two, three, four, loud above his head. "Got you, you bastards. Nate, get your ass behind here." He dropped his clip and snapped another one in place. It was hot when JD touched it.

Nathan appeared a couple of seconds later. "I think it's just Charles left." he said quickly and quietly. "Couldn't see anyone else when they blew back."

"No sign of--" Buck stopped, and Nathan shook his head once.


"Damn. God damn him."

"You okay for ammo?"

"Yeah. Got Chris's weapon too if I run out."

"Nathan, he isn't waking up," Vin said calmly, his hands clasping Chris's head. JD looked closer at him, and saw tears running silently down his face. He sobbed, once, and Buck's hand ruffled his hair briefly.

"Be brave, little'un," Buck murmured, under cover of Nathan's voice.

"He's been creased by a bullet. It ain't good, but it ain't bad, as these things go. He'll have a hell of a headache--"

"You in there! You're out numbered. Drop your weapons and send out Wilmington, and I'll let the rest of you go."

All four of them froze. JD's eyes flickered between Buck and Nathan as they communicated silently in seconds. He knew that voice. It belonged to the man who had grabbed him when he'd thrown things at them at Mrs. Potter's house. The same man who'd kicked him when he'd tried to stop them putting him inside a crate. The man who slapped his face so hard that one of his teeth came out. He wondered if Da knew.

"Throw down your weapons, and we'll see to it you survive till trial," Buck called back.

"You're the last man left, Wilmington. Is your boy in there? You want him to see you die?"

JD's fist gripped tighter on his father's ankle. "Da..."

"He isn't going to." Buck murmured reassuringly. "I promise, JD."

"They're all dead out here. Who was it? Jackson? Standish? I killed Sanchez myself. And your back up, the cannon fodder at the door."


Buck tilted his head thoughtfully. "He's being awful quiet for a guy with all the cards and a team of gunmen."

"I was thinking that myself." Nathan whispered back, easing himself to his knees the other side of Buck, his eyes fixed on the room beyond the bed.

"Maybe Ez and Josiah took some of them with." Buck said tightly, and Nathan nodded, once.

JD felt tears welling in his eyes. He didn't want to think about it. Chris was just sleeping. He was going to wake up. And Uncle Ezra would be fine, he was *always* fine. And so was Uncle Josiah. He was too big and strong to get hurt. And Da and Uncle Nathan and Vin were going to keep him away.

But he couldn't stop the tears escaping and trickling into his sleeve, however hard he rubbed his eyes.

"Come out of there!"

No one moved or spoke, as if by some unspoken agreement they all listened intently.

A footfall. Another.

"If I have to shoot y'all, I'll kill the boys first, start with the little one. I owe him some licks. And then the older one, what is he, eight? nine? Pretty kid, I hear too. Or maybe I should keep both of them alive. Wait till he's healed up and make some profit off their pretty little butts."

"Steady," Nathan said so quietly JD could hardly hear it.

"I'm going to kill him," Buck said softly, reflectively, in a voice JD had never heard before.

"I know," Nathan spoke as quietly.

"Y'know, if that stupid cow hadn't dragged us all up here, that brat would have been halfway to his new home by now."


"I can make the shot."

Buck's foot began to twitch under JD's hand, and he wrapped a second one around it without thinking, to keep it still. His eyes were fixed on Buck's hands. They were rock steady, in a line with the door, holding his gun. Da was going to stop him.

"A little more. Make it sure."

It was going to be all right.

"Come on you bastard, another inch. That's it. Show your ugly face so I can give you a kiss you won't forget. Another inch..." he whispered.

"Wilmington?" the man's voice yelled again.

"Nearly there."

Two guns fired at the same moment.


Adrian Brown followed the SWAT team into the Pediatric unit, looking around him in horror. The place was like a war zone, everywhere he looked there were bodies.

"Got a live one!" A hand waved and a pair of paramedics hurried over to the black clad marksman. Brown stared, then hurried after them as they were about to cuff him.

"That's Agent Sanchez, ATF. He was one of the men protecting the boy." He said quickly. "How bad?"

"Looks like his armor took most of the shot. He's gonna have some horrible bruising. I'd guess it was pretty damn near to point blank, but it didn't go through. One in a billion."

"Why's he unconscious?"

The paramedic gently ran his fingers over the man's head. "Ah, here we go. I guess he probably hit the wall with the force of the shot. Not serious." He stood.

"In here!" A man's voice, and Brown, the paramedic and two of the SWAT team stepped over the bodies lying in the doorway.

Brown flinched. Another paramedic was working over Richard Kim's body. Someone had draped a sheet over Gary Fines. The officers assigned for door protection. Cold gripped him. Had the child been saved?

The doorway itself was blocked by a large body. A man, dark haired, broad shouldered.

"Any ID on this one yet?" He frowned at the bloody wounds on its back, trying to make sense of them.

"Nothing." The SWAT man crouched by it stood, wiping his gloved hands on his pants.

"What's going on there?" He gestured at the man's back curiously.

"An exit *and* an entry wound?" one of the SWAT guys suggested, and Brown nodded after a second, separating out the two distinctive wounds despite the blood soaked clothing.

"Who's there?" Another voice from inside the hospital room. Guns lifted, pointing into the room.

"Jamestown Police. Hands in the air!" the SWAT team leader snapped. "Identify yourselves and throw down your weapons."

"All at once? I'm amazed at your ability to multitask under less than optimal conditions. There is an injured ATF agent and a couple of very scared little boys here. I would surely appreciate you keeping the yelling to a dull roar."

Brown grinned. "That's another of the ATF guys. Standish?" he called.

"Identify yourself."

"Adrian Brown. Jamestown PD. We dealt with the--"

"Ah, yes. Please excuse my momentary lapse of concentration."

"Momentary lapse my ass," another, unfamiliar voice growled. "I need a paramedic here, one minor gsw to the head, patient unconscious for ten minutes and counting. One gsw to upper left torso, patient as aggravating as ever."

The SWAT team leader edged cautiously around the three beds tilted onto their edges and leaning against each other in a massive barricade. He fingered one of the bullet holes in the mattress and whistled under his breath, taking in the sheer quantity of ammunition that had been let loose in the tiny room. Brown followed.

Behind the beds there was chaos. One man was lying along the wall, his bloody head in the lap of a blond boy who was stroking with hypnotic intensity along his face, his hands red stained and trembling.

A big black man was crouched next to Standish who was propped up against the bed, a hand pressed to his shoulder. As he watched blood welled up between his fingers and spilled slowly down the back of his hand.

"You're losing blood faster than I can stop it," the black guy said accusingly, and Brown frowned.

"I shall endeavor to amend my errant ways forthwith," Standish replied sarcastically, his face growing whiter by the moment.

Brown waved the paramedic through who took one look and called for a gurney. "I'm going to get this one downstairs. Name?"

"Agent Ezra Standish," the man said faintly. "I do beg your pardon, but I do not believe I shall be able to remain conscious much longer." His hand slipped from his shoulder, and his eyes half closed.

"Damn. He needs blood, stat. He's AB positive, awkward little shit," the black guy stood away as Standish was lifted onto a gurney and hurried away. "Nathan Jackson. ATF. I'm also a qualified paramedic." He held out a bloody hand, looked at it, and shrugged. "Sorry, I won't shake."

Brown shook his head. "No problem." He looked around. "Where's the kid?" he asked urgently, not seeing him.

"There." Jackson nodded to the far corner of the room.

A tall, dark haired man was sat facing into the corner between the wall and the upturned bed, he was rocking slowly, and Brown took a couple of steps forwards before he recognised the odd bunching on his back as a pair of small arms, fists clenched tight into the man's shirt.

"Is he..."

"Buck Wilmington. JD's father." Nathan smiled sadly. "That's JD hidden under him."

He moved slowly closer.

"Agent Wilmington?"

The man ignored him. He could just about make out someone humming softly, tunelessly, broken with soft whispers.

"Agent Wilmington, are you okay? Is JD injured?"

"He's fine. We're both fine. Now go away." He didn't even lift his head to look at Brown. The humming resumed.

He looked back at Jackson who shook his head and sighed. He looked over to the wall and the unconscious man lying there. "You guys need to be careful there. Vin, do you want to come with me?"

Paramedics were rolling Larabee onto another gurney, despite the death grip of the blond boy on him.

The boy shook his head, and turned to look at the two in the corner. Wilmington's head turned and an arm reached out. In a moment the child was huddled up against him. Muscles bunched on the man's back, and he stood. JD was clinging to his neck, legs around his waist, and he held him close one arm under him to support his weight. The other boy was standing against him, plastered up against his side, and his free arm draped over his shoulders.

"Vin needs to stay with Chris," Wilmington's voice was firm, and Brown nodded.

"I'll talk to the doctors."

"*I*'ll talk to the doctors," he replied flatly. "And the boys are staying with me, or with one of the team at all times. I don't care what rules we break. We're staying together."

Brown nodded and stepped back to let them follow Larabee. Before Jackson could follow, he stopped him.

"What the hell happened here?"

"Seth Charles tried to do what better men than him have failed at. Ez and Josiah took down most of the men he sent in. Chris, Buck and I took care of the rest." Jackson shrugged and looked at the smear of blood on the wall where Standish had been sitting. "Then Standish jumped in where he wasn't needed. Damn fool nearly killed himself taking a shot Buck had already made."

Brown swallowed and nodded. The two men walked out of the grim little room, and as Jackson walked away to follow his team mates down to Emergency, Brown backtracked the trail of blood as it crawled and staggered up the corridor, a smear on the wall here. A bloody handprint there. A streak along the floor where perhaps he fell and simply crawled on three limbs, the other dripping in a steady line, smeared over as his knees slid through.

A pool of blood behind the nurses' station, where another man lay dead, a tiny hole dead between his eyes, the back of his head blown away completely.

He looked back down the corridor and imagined dragging himself, so injured he could barely walk, to where a ruthless man prepared to murder his friends. His friends, and two boys that he thought of as his own kin for all they were the adopted sons of two of his colleagues.

He thought of a boy, silent and still, cradling his unconscious father. And another boy, wrapped up so close in his father's arms that their dark hair merged and blended indistinguishably. Two little boys comforting grown men. Five men building a last stand for those same boys behind a flimsy barricade improvised from hospital beds and their own bodies. Damn near dying for them.

He shook his head slowly. And smiled with deep satisfaction.

"Sleep now," he said softly, to the air. "I'll keep the watch."


Chris woke slowly and painfully to the sound of a steady beeping. He squeezed one eye open, and shut it immediately, it hurt so much. He lay there gathering his strength and processing the little information he had gathered in that brief glance.

The lights were low. Either he was deep inside a building or it was nighttime. He slowly became aware of a warm heaviness along his right side moving out of sync with his breathing. He turned his head and risked a second look. The top of Vin's head met his gaze, and he relaxed, letting his eyes slide shut once more.

"Hey, pard, how's it going?" Buck's voice was soft and he slowly squinted up towards it. Buck was smiling down at him.

"Good," he whispered hoarsely. "Boys?"

"Fine. Ezra's had a bullet taken out of his shoulder. Josiah's bruised and praising the maker of his vest. I'm fine. Nathan's exhausted keeping and eye on you and Ez."

"Vin? JD?"

"Asleep." Buck smiled. "JD's getting back to himself already. They've promised him a walking cast in four weeks if he goes on the way he has been."

"Quick," Chris said slowly.

Buck's face clouded. "Nah. Been a couple of days, pard."

"Days?" he asked, confused.

"Go back to sleep. It'll be better in the morning."

Chris closed his eyes obediently and fell into dreamless sleep in seconds.

When he woke again his head didn't hurt so badly, and someone was fiddling with his hair.





The three voices blended almost into one and he smiled, and cracked his eyes open a little. Vin was leaning right over him and he grinned straight up into the worried blue eyes, promising silently that he was fine, that he was awake, was going to stay awake.

The bed shook on the other side from Vin and he turned his head slowly to find JD bouncing there.

"Hi Chris! You stayin' awake this time?" He leaned in fast enough that Chris flinched, then stopped and pressed a gentle if sloppy kiss on his forehead. "You feelin' better now?"

He couldn't help smiling. "Yeah." He lifted a leaden hand up to cradle Vin's face. "Yeah, I'm fine."

Someone groaned in the background, and he tried to see who it was, but his view was blocked by Vin. "Who's there?"

"Mr. Larabee, I think you will find that the hospital has recently banned the use of 'fine' as a self diagnosis, and has opted for the more personal touch, such as 'I have a raging headache from the concussion rendered when I foolishly put my head in the way of a bullet."

"Knew you'd make it, you damn fool." Chris growled happily.

"It was never in question that we would all of us make it."


"Right here, brother."

"Nate? Buck?"

"Sleeping," Josiah told him. "Those two boys can take a lot out of a man even when they're just trying to help," he added ruefully, and Chris snickered quietly.

"I believe Mr. Jackson said something about speaking to a member of the medical fraternity when Mr. Larabee awoke."

Vin nodded. "I'll get 'em." He pressed the call button above the bed, and smiled down at his father, laying a gentle hand on his forehead. "Not hot."

"He rattled his brains some," JD said cheerfully. "Da said he'd be fine."

Vin giggled. "Da said he'd be as ornery as ever, and meaner'n a snake with backache when he woke up."

"As Master Dunne stated," Ezra said, "'fine'." Josiah laughed as the nurse walked in.

"Well, that's good to hear. Feeling better, Mr. Sanchez?"

"Fine, Miss Elizabeth."

"Mr. Standish?"

"Fine, dear lady."

"And Mr. Larabee," she turned to him with a grin. "Let me guess, you're fine too?"

Chris nodded, chuckling silently.

"Splendid. Then you won't mind me just doing this." She shone a light into each of his eyes in quick succession ignoring his wince and the streaming tears. "Good. Or this?" She probed carefully at a streak of fire down the side of his skull." She started to pull the sheets back. "Now, I just want to check on your catheter…" Chris's hand gripped her wrist and she found herself fixed with an icy glare.

"It's no good, Chris," Josiah said with mock sympathy. "She's not doing anything she hadn't already..."

"That was then. This is now."

To his surprise and annoyance she laughed. "I'll just leave it in shall I?"

"Boys, get down. Draw the curtains." Vin slithered down immediately, JD took a little longer, and he suddenly remembered why and reached out just as the boy disappeared off the side of the bed. "JD?" Two hands appeared, clinging to the bed rail, followed by a grinning face.

"I'm real good at hopping. Look!" JD hopped twice, then Josiah swooped down and picked him up as he over balanced with the weight of the cast.


Twenty minutes later, all embarrassing procedures completed, he was starting to feel that fuzzy warmth that meant the pain medication was kicking in. Vin was lying on his chest, staring down at him solemnly, and he smiled at him

"You okay?"

Vin grinned. "I'm *fine*."

Chris groaned. "Wake me when it's time to go home." He closed his eyes and drifted back to sleep, one hand resting contentedly on the back of Vin's neck.


"Mr. Wilmington, Mr. Larabee," Elza Kohen smiled at them from behind her desk. "I just want to reassure you that JD is doing very well."

She smiled at the two men. Mr. Wilmington leaned forward and smiled back, his deep blue eyes twinkling. Mr. Larabee looked in pain, even though the only real sign of his original injury was a line of sutures that ran horizontally across his scalp above his right ear.

"When can he get out of the cast?" Buck asked.

Elza grinned. "Asking already is he?"

Both men nodded, and she laughed. "Bed rest --or as close as you can manage without physically tying him down for another three weeks. Take him to his pediatrician, and she'll examine him, and change the cast to a walking one if he's ready."

"Four weeks?!" Mr. Wilmington looked incredulous. "How the hell, beggin' your pardon ma'am, how the heck are we going to keep him *anywhere* for four weeks?"

Larabee grinned. "We'll think of something."

Elza chuckled. "Anyway. The break is over one of the growth plates, but we're pretty sure we reduced it within a couple of hours of the break occurring. Time really is critical in these cases, and if he had to break a leg, everything else went in his favor. She'll want to do some follow-up x-rays or an MRI to make sure it's all knitting well. I hope that he should be ready for a walking cast in two or three weeks, which should give those cuts a chance to heal up completely, and he's probably going to be running around pretty soon after that." She smiled at them, and the guys smiled back.

"Thank you," Wilmington stood and held out a hand. "Thank you so much for looking after him."

"Buck," Chris growled faintly, and Buck smiled into her eyes before letting go of her hand.

Elza blinked at Mr. Larabee who shook her hand and said gruffly, "Don't pay him any attention, ma'am."

"I won't," she smiled back. "I'd say it's been a pleasure, but," she looked ruefully down the corridor to where builders were tearing down part of the Pediatric unit wall that was simply too damaged to just repair. "No offense, but I think we'll be glad when you're safely on your way home."

"Not half as glad as we are, ma'am," Mr. Wilmington said in heartfelt tones. "No offense."

"None taken. Safe journey gentlemen."

She watched as Larabee staggered slightly and Wilmington shored him up with a hand gripping tightly at his shoulder. The last thing she heard was the taller man saying, "Let's go home, pard," as the door closed, and two small boys shouting 'Dad!' 'Da!'.


Coda: Before We Sleep.

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