Ninety-Six Hours – The Aftermath

by Angie

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Buck sat watching the news. He had gotten a call from Chris assuring him that JD and Vin were all right. He had washed every price of glass in the place and every blanket and sheet that even faintly looked like it needed washing. He had vacuumed all the carpet and scrubbed the kitchen floor. He lamented briefly that he wasn’t at home because the cess pit could definitely benefit from his energy.

Every time he started to relax, the image of JD’s lifeless body swam in his view, after spilling his iced tea in his lap, he gave up and went in search of the sleeping pills. As the drug induced lethargy crept over him, Buck almost wept with relief.

+ + + + + + +

It was cold in the warehouse and JD was shivering. He had traded coats with Vin because the Texan was notoriously thin blooded. The sounds of traffic outside would have lulled him to sleep if it were not for the sounds coming from the couples in the nearby stalls. JD found himself moving closer to Vin for warmth but he almost cried out when the arm wrapped around him and drew him close.

+ + + + + + +

The car exploded and a wave of heat and smoke enveloped him as he cried out. Chris tumbled out of bed, landing on his hands and knees. He knew that stress brought on the nightmare and he tried to calm himself. He padded up the stairs and looked in on Buck who was sleeping peacefully.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra stared at the warehouse, counting the people who moved in and out. He watched several drug deals being made. Nathan glanced at the GPS tracker that reassured him that both of his friends had not moved. It brought him a small measure of comfort. Silence reigned in the car as the men watched obsessively.

+ + + + + + +

Opening his eyes at the sound of glass breaking, JD was disoriented. He realized that the warm body he was cuddled up to was Vin and sprang back, his heart pounding. Slowly, his mission filtered thru the haze and he calmed. He crept out of the stall and found a place to urinate and them decided to do a little exploring. When he rounded a corner, three bigger, older looking gang members confronted him.

Joel, Dean and Bo circled around JD, their eyes raking over him. Bo reached out and tried to cup JD’s face. When JD pulled away from that touch, he found himself within reach of Dean and Joel who grabbed him and began to pull him into a small office. Joel kept a firm hand over the young agent’s mouth to prevent him from crying out.

Vin woke up and reached for JD. When he didn’t encounter the kid with either hand, his eyes sprang open and he jumped up. Following his ears, he heard the muffled grunts and muted blows. Opening the door silently, he found JD struggling against the three bigger men. Slipping the switchblade from his pocket, he grabbed the biggest guy and placed the blade near his jugular.

“Get yer hands offa him, NOW!” Vin shouted, his drawl thickening with his temper.

The men rolled away from JD and the kid came to his shaky feet. He moved in a wide arc away from the men to get behind Vin. Shoving the man he held, Vin grabbed JD and shoved him back toward the stall. He didn’t speak to JD for the next half hour. Gerard stuck his head in and studied the two new boys.

“I hear you had some trouble?”

“Yeah, your boys jumped JD. If you can’t control them any better, maybe we better find another place to stay. You promised that no one would touch him.”

“I have taken care of it. Don’t go, please?” Gerard saw something in the longhaired young man that he wanted to explore but he needed to get rid of the kid first.

+ + + + + + +

The ringing of the phone woke Buck and he raced down the stairs. Too late to catch the call, the answering machine light blinked. He pressed the button to listen to the message.

“Hey Buck, it’s Emily, Dr. Franklin. I won’t be able to keep our appointment today because of a family emergency. I’ll check on you later.”

Erasing the message, Buck headed for the bathroom. He found a note from Chris taped to the refrigerator. He would call later. Lacking the nervous energy from the past two days, he threw himself into the recliner and cruised the TV channels. Nothing held his interest and he dozed off only to startle himself awake out of the nightmare.

+ + + + + + +

Vin and JD walked around the block waiting for Ezra to show up. When the Jag came to a stop, the southerner rolled down the window and negotiated a price before opening the door. Kitty strolled by in time to hear the southerner inquire after the kid.

“Bring him along, my treat,” Ezra offered.

Vin put JD in the back and got into the Jag. He winked at Kitty as they pulled away.

“I gotta talk to Chris, Ezra!” Vin said as he watched out the window to see if any of the gang members were watching.

“Fear not, Mr. Tanner, Mr. Larabee will be at the restaurant. I hope you’re hungry.”

“Starving!” JD announced loudly.

At the restaurant, Vin gestured Chris into the men’s room and jumped his ass.

“You have to get JD out before he gets hurt! I can get to Gerard but not while protecting the kid. He nearly got himself gang raped this morning!”

“Calm down Vin. Give it another day or two. JD’s smart, he’ll be okay. Have you got anything on the guns yet?”

“No, but Gerard keeps hovering over me so I expect he’ll make his move soon.”

“Okay, let’s get back out there and eat.”

Kitty, Betsy and Rita were on the corner when Ezra dropped Vin and JD near the warehouse. Rita leaned in the open door and made an offer and the southerner smiled.

“My tastes run a little contrary to the ordinary, Miss. Perhaps another time?”

They spent the rest of the day pan handling in the neighborhood before returning to their stall to rest for a few hours. Gerard hit him up for the money as soon as they came in and told him that there was a present for him and one for the kid in their stall. He found a blanket and rolled up in the blanket was a gun.

+ + + + + + +

Buck struggled thru the morning. He talked to Chris after he left Vin and JD. He could hear the tension in the team leader’s voice. After picking over some leftovers for lunch, Buck popped another sleeping pill and curled up on the couch.

+ + + + + + +

For the next couple of days, Vin and JD met with Ezra or Chris everyday to get money, a hot meal and the latest info on Buck. JD was beginning to settle in to the mission and was much more careful around Gerard and the others. They always spent a little while pan handling with the others before turning in at night.

JD was curled up under the blanket asleep when Gerard stuck his head in and caught Vin’s eye. Carefully moving away from his sleeping friend, Vin followed the gang leader to another stall within sight of JD but out of earshot.

“I have something I want to show you,” Gerard whispered.

“So show me,” Vin said dispassionately.

“You have to come with me. It’s not far.”

Vin looked back to where JD lay and shook his head.

“Don’t worry about him. I told you that I took care of the problem. Come on, we’ll only be gone a half hour, tops.”

+ + + + + + +

Josiah eyed the GPS tracker and nudged Chris.

“They’re splitting up. Vin is headed west from the warehouse.”

+ + + + + + +

The small, boarded up storefront was covered with an assortment of gang graffiti. Gerard led Vin to the side of the building and slipped into the basement. It was dark and Vin was immediately on alert. His hand closed on the gun tucked into the back of his jeans. A light came on and he found himself looking around at a small arsenal.

“What do you think?” Gerard asked after seeing the light in Vin’s eyes.

“WOW! Are you planning World War III or something?”

“Nope, better than that. See, a couple of years ago, my kid brother was in trouble with a gang. He tried to get me to join and I refused. Those bastards killed my brother and dumped him on my mother’s lawn. I’m gonna pay them back in a big way. We’re getting ready to have a big gangbang and I’m gonna kill every one of those bastards.”

“So what has this got to do with me?” Vin asked nervously.

“I want you for my lieutenant.”

“I thought Joel was your lieutenant,” Vin said cautiously.

“Joel’s dead. I made an example of him for messing with your kid.”

Vin struggled to get his breath for a moment. Gerard had killed Joel and it was his fault! Despair surged over him and he staggered to sit on one of the crates. He hadn’t seen the other young man and just figured he was out ‘recruiting.’

“Why? Why’d you kill him?” Vin managed to stammer.

“Because I told you that no one would mess with your kid. What’s the deal with you two anyway? You don’t want to share with me but you took him with you this morning.”

“The guy gave me more to watch,” Vin said quickly. “JD and I are new at this.”

Gerard approached the Texan and tried to embrace him and Vin pulled away, drawing the gun and pointing it at the man’s heart. Gerard quickly backpedaled and held his hands out in a protective gesture.

+ + + + + + +

Chris jostled Buck lightly and sent him to bed. The house was still immaculate and his friend looked exhausted. He rang the office to check his messages. There were a couple of worried sounding messages from Emily on the answering machine, so he called her.

“Dr. Franklin, Chris Larabee. I just got in and got your messages. Did you ever talk to Buck?”

“No, I was really beginning to worry. Is he all right?”

“He was asleep on the couch when I got in. I sent him on up to bed. Are you all right? You sound tired.”

A heavy sigh floated thru the phone.

“Bad day at the office. I will get out there and see him tomorrow. Thanks for calling. How are Vin and JD doing?” She was concerned about JD especially.

“They’re fine. Hopefully this will all blow over in a couple of days.”

Settling into his bed, Chris hoped it would be over soon. He didn’t like the way Vin had spoken to him. It was a sure sign of just how bad the Texan thought the situation was. He tossed and turned a couple of times before sleep claimed him.

+ + + + + + +

Vin knew Gerard was watching. He could feel the hungry eyes watching his every move as the gang consumed their evening meal. He kept JD close and made his posture protective. When they settled in their stall, Vin drew JD close and began to tell him all that he had learned while out with Gerard.

“There’s a little store front two blocks west of here. It looks like it may have been a restaurant or something. It’s all boarded up with graffiti all over it. In the basement is a small arsenal and the shipment of C-4. If anything happens, you get the hell out of here and get to the others and let them know. They’ve got enough stuff to start a war over there.”

JD’s eyes went wide at the information.

“Are we going to tell the others?”

“Not yet, I need to find out what gang they’re after so the police can keep them out of the way. We’ll let them know about the cache of weapons but we can’t move on it until I get the rest of the information,” Vin whispered.

Gerard watched as Vin and JD cuddled under the blanket. He had arranged to separate the boy from Vin in the next couple of days. He smiled as he watched Vin spoon his lean frame around JD and tuck the blanket around them snuggly.

+ + + + + + +

Buck had gotten permission to drive and Josiah brought the truck to the ranch. He had figured out how to get thru his days and nights. Using the sleeping pills kept the nightmares away at night but he had to be careful not to take them during the day so that he would run out. After making a few phone calls, Buck connected with one of his informants who had connections with a local drug dealer. He managed to buy enough Ritalin and sleeping pills to get him thru the day. Emily came in the morning and stayed for an hour or two and then he would do whatever cleaning he could find to do. After lunch, he would pop a couple of sleeping pills. To perk himself up in the evening when Chris was home, he was tossing back Ritalin. If his friend noticed the shaking hands and hyperactivity, he didn’t comment on it.

+ + + + + + +

Thursday afternoon, Gerard caught Vin coming back into the warehouse. He was fairly bouncing on his heels as he tried to convince the sharpshooter to come see his surprise. Sending JD to their stall, he went with the gang leader.

On the main floor of the warehouse, the gang had cleared a large section of the floor. Benches had been set up around the perimeter. Gerard watched for Vin’s reaction.

“What’s going on? Are we having a sit down with another gang?” Vin asked.

“Yeah, the last one they’ll ever get to have,” Gerard spat.

“This is for the gang that killed your brother? You never told me, what gang was it, who are we taking out?”

The Red Dragons. They are the ones who killed my brother.”

Vin knew the Red Dragons. They used to be a really rough group of kids but most of the older kids had been sent to prison for one thing or another. The group that called itself Red Dragons now was not the same group that had killed Gerard’s brother.

“I know some of the Dragons. They’re just kids. I don’t think it’s the same group,” Vin said as he looked around the room. He was horrified to see that the benches had been wired with C-4.

“Doesn’t matter to me. Maybe these are the younger brothers of the original Dragon’s. Either way, they’re gonna die tomorrow night. As my lieutenant, I want you at my side when I push the button that ends their miserable lives.”

“Okay, but how are you gonna do it without getting killed yourself? Looks like you got enough explosives under there to bring down the whole warehouse down on them.”

“Gonna have to sacrifice some of the chickens. They’ll have the guns and they’ll keep the Dragons from leaving. When this is over, we’ll have to find a new place to crash but we’ll be the most respected gang in the Denver area.”

“Come on, Gerard, the chickens are just kids! You can’t seriously be thinking of blowing up your own people!”

The gang leader stepped right into Vin’s face. His eyes were completely devoid of compassion as he glared hard into the pale blue eyes.

“If you don’t stand with me tomorrow night, your little chicken will be plucked and fried. I might just have a piece of him myself.”

Vin felt his throat go dry. He looked around the room again before he nodded. Gerard smiled when he saw the indecision in the other man’s eyes. He knew he’d pushed the perfect button. His stomach tightened in anticipation of the explosion that would avenge his brother once and for all.

+ + + + + + +

Emily let herself into the house when there was no response to her knock. She had been unable to get there that morning because of a crisis at the hospital and hadn’t been able to get to a phone. The sound of soft snoring drew her to the living room. Buck was sound asleep in the recliner. She touched his shoulder lightly and called his name.

“Buck? Wake up, big guy. Buck?”

When he only growled slightly and continued sleeping, she began to worry. Taking advantage of the opportunity, she slipped upstairs and began to look around. She checked the guest room and all of the drawers before moving on to the upstairs bathroom. The medicine cabinet held Tylenol and band-aids but nothing else. In the closet, she found linens, toilet paper and a shaving kit. On impulse, she picked up the shaving kit and gave it a quick shake. The unmistakable rattle of pills had her opening the leather case. Two bottles rested on top of the traditional shaving gear. The Ritalin and the bottle of uppers were both half empty. Tucking everything back into the case, she carried it downstairs with her and prepared to wait.

+ + + + + + +

Vin headed back to his stall to talk to JD. They had to get out as soon as possible. When he reached the stall, the kid was nowhere to be found. With a feeling of dread, he retraced his steps to Gerard.

“Where the HELL is JD?” He growled as he took hold of the gang leader.

“I have no idea. I assure you that I had nothing to do with his disappearance. Did you ask any of the others? Maybe he found something else to do.”

It took most of an hour to find JD. He’d gone to help one of the girls who had twisted her ankle. Vin found him in another stall wrapping a new Ace bandage around Betsy’s swollen ankle. He looked up in surprise when Vin rushed in and yanked him to his feet.

“Where have you been? I told you to stay in our stall!”

“She was hurt! I took five dollars and got an elastic bandage for her ankle!” JD yelled defensively.

Vin shoved his partner toward their stall, berating him every step of the way for making him worry. Fortunately, JD had the sense to go along with it.

+ + + + + + +

The TV came on suddenly and Emily nearly jumped out of her skin. Buck scowled but began to stir in the recliner. As he lowered the footrest, he noticed Emily for the first time. His eyes danced over the shaving kit before meeting hers again.

“Do you want to talk about it?” She asked pointedly.

“It’s the only way I can get thru the day alone. If I doze off on my own, the nightmare wakes me. I’m only using the sleeping pills at night and this stuff to get me thru the day,” he explained.

“I want you to go and pack a couple of changes of clothes and come with me.”

“Where are we going?”

“I want you to voluntarily enter the hospital, Buck.”

She waited for him to object but he silently got up and walked up the stairs to his room. When he came back down, he had his overnight bag. Hi picked up the shaving kit and removed the bottles before adding it to his bag.

“Ready to go?” Emily asked.

“Will you call Chris?”

“As soon as we get to the hospital,” she answered.

Ezra and Nathan relieved Josiah and Chris in the surveillance car. The team leader was stiff from sitting in the car. He was concerned that they hadn’t seen Vin and JD all afternoon, but their GPS tags showed them together in the warehouse. He had just started the truck to drive home when his cell phone rang.


“Chris, it’s Dr. Franklin. I just wanted to let you know that Buck admitted himself to the hospital a little while ago.”

“What happened? Is he all right?”

“Calm down. He’s fine. Well, not fine, but he knows he needs help. He’s been abusing prescription drugs for morning and evening. It’s good that he’s willing to check himself into the hospital, it means he’s willing to admit he needs help.”

“I’ll be right there,” Chris announced.

“No! Give me a couple of days with him. He’s ready to talk. He’s finally reached rock bottom and he’s ready for help.”

A deep anguished sigh sounded thru the phone before Chris spoke again, “Tell him that we’re all pulling for him.”

“I’ll call you in the morning. I have a feeling it’s going to be a long night.”

Buck sat on the side of the hospital bed. Shame and terror vied for control as he watched the nurse taking his vitals. He flinched when she stuck him to draw blood. When she finally left the room, he moved to stand by the window. From the height of the floor he was on, he could see the area where Vin and JD were undercover. The sight of a DPD car racing up the street with lights and sirens ratcheted up he anxiety and he wished he could drink himself into oblivion.

+ + + + + + +

Vin shoved JD up against the wall and began to growl in his ear. Dunne shoved his hands away and scowled back. Vin pressed his against the wall and whispered in his ear.

“Make them think we are having a lover’s spat. Get out of here and go to the surveillance car and tell them where the stuff is. I’ll make sure you aren’t followed. Tell Chris to round up the Red Dragons and keep them away. Gerard is planning to kill them.

“What about you? If you got what Chris needs, let’s both go!”

“I can’t, JD, I have to try to find out where they’re getting the stuff. You go and I’ll get out in a day or two. Now, take off and don’t look back!”

JD struggled out of Vin’s grasp and shoved him hard enough that he fell before he ran from the stall. Vin gave him a moment before he ran out after him, calling for him to come back. Dean stopped JD for a moment and immediately let him go when he realized who he was.

“One of them is coming out in a hurry,” Nathan told Ezra.

The two agents got out of the car and caught JD. As they were waiting for him to catch his breath, Ezra realized that they had an audience. He grabbed JD and threw him against the car, cuffing him.

“Call it in,” Ezra shouted, “we’ll book him on soliciting.”

Nathan only nodded as the southerner shoved JD into the car. Bo and Kitty had ducked into the alley to hide. When the car pulled away, they hurried back to the warehouse. Vin was just running onto the street and they caught him by the arm and dragged him back inside.

“Don’t go out there! They just picked up the kid for soliciting. They handcuffed him and took him away!”

When they were several blocks from the warehouse, Nathan reached back and removed the handcuffs. Ezra studied the kid in the mirror as he drove. When they finally parked at a brightly lit gas station, Ezra spoke.

“Are you all right, Mr. Dunne?”

“Jeez Ez! You about scared me to death! Why’d ya bust me like that?”

“We had an audience. A couple of the gang members were on the corner across the street. I had to make it look convincing.”

“I’d say you succeeded. I have to talk to Chris. Vin game me the location of their arsenal. He’s gonna stay another couple of days to try to figure out who’s supplying them.”

+ + + + + + +

The phone rang and Chris shifted slightly. By the second ring, he was starting to waken. By the third ring, he sprang from the bed and snatched up the handset.

The five men met at an all night café. JD passed along the information that Vin had given him. Chris was boiling mad that Vin had sent JD out like that. After staring hard at the young agent for several minutes, Chris closed his eyes and massaged his aching head.

“How’s Buck?” JD asked.

“He checked himself into the hospital this afternoon,” Chris reluctantly admitted.

“He what? What happened? Is he all right?” JD spat the words out so fast that they were a mere jumble.

“Calm down, JD. Emily found him this afternoon at the ranch and discovered that he’s been abusing some prescription drugs. She talked him into admitting himself so he can get some help.”

“I want to see him,” JD demanded.

“Not until Emily says he’s ready. Now, we need to contact Clint Lawson, he’s with the unit that keeps track of the gang activities. I also need to call Judge Travis and bring him up to speed. We’re going to need all the back-up we can get.”

+ + + + + + +

Eight hours later, six ATF teams, every DPD officer that could be spared, the bomb and arson squad and two teams of FBI agents converged near the warehouse. Reluctantly, Chris allowed JD to go back in to try and get Vin out or at least get him into a vest. Nathan set him up with another set of bruises so that he could say that the cops slapped him around. Gerard allowed Vin a few minutes with JD before they got into position to blow up the building.

The two agents huddled together in their stall while Vin examined the bruises on JD’s face. Gerard watched them for a while before slipping away. JD slipped Vin the vest and whispered the information to him.

JD was wired for sound. Chris was relieved to hear Vin put on the Kevlar vest. Nathan and Josiah kept a tight rein on the blonde team leader to keep him from blowing the whole plan. They could tell that he wanted Vin and JD out of the warehouse. Vin whispered that he was going to try to get the detonator from Gerard and then he would signal for the others to come in. The ‘chickens’ not holding weapons were being sent to the storefront building for safekeeping. The DPD had the building surrounded and would move on it when the others moved on the warehouse.

Vin checked the wire again. JD had also slipped him a bright yellow stocking cap to put on when the shooting started. Every officer and agent would be watching for the cap and would not shoot at the wearer. JD hesitated when Vin told him to get out. He wanted to stay and watch his partner’s back. Finally, reluctantly, he slipped out with the others.

+ + + + + + +

With trembling hands, Buck changed the channel on the TV. He was fighting sleep. Emily had been in a couple of times to check on him. She informed him that Chris knew where he was. Buck begged her for something to help him sleep and she’d refused. His blood work was a mess from the combination of OTC medicines and the sleeping pills he’d been ingesting. She brought him a carafe of chamomile tea.

+ + + + + + +

The cordoned off area around the warehouse was crawling with law enforcement officers. An emergency triage area had been set up on the next block and several ambulances were on stand by. Nathan was surprised to see Rain hurry across the staging area. He embraced his wife and buried his face in her shoulder. They had hardly seen each other since the others went undercover.

A loud click and a brief whistle of feedback was followed by a somber voice announcing that they were getting ready to move into the warehouse. The medical teams made final checks of equipment and supplies and held their breath.

Josiah made a final check of Ezra’s vest before turning to Chris. Team 7 was going in behind Team 6 on the west side of the building. JD caught Ezra’s eye and got a nod before they lined up to wait for the signal.

Looking down on the gathering area from above, Gerard vibrated with excitement. Vin had gone with his friend and had returned quickly, not wanting to miss the big event. Dean and Bo were also on the ledge watching the warehouse floor. Their ‘chickens’ were happily chatting and snacking on the junk food set out on the tables. The Dragons were due any moment.

Vin saw the detonator sticking out of Gerard’s pocket and eased in alongside of the gang leader. He managed to ease the devise, about the size of a garage door opener, out of his pocket and removed the batteries. After sliding the detonator back into place, he rolled over and looked over he shoulder.

“What’s up, LT?” Gerard queried.

“I just wondered where you got the C-4? Can we get more if we need to adjust a few more attitudes?” Vin asked.

“Yeah, it’s easy. My cousin Kyle is in the military and he smuggles it out to me whenever he can. I keep him supplied with sex toys. Sometimes he kills them when he gets overexcited but it’s worth it.”

“I’m gonna take a leak, don’t start the show without me!” Vin called softly as he worked away from the ledge.

On the ground, that was the signal. Every door opened and law enforcement officers flooded the building like a swarm of locusts. Most of the kids dropped their weapons and surrendered. A few opened fire and were wounded. In the pandemonium, someone accidentally ignited one of the blocks of C-4. The explosion startled the people on the floor and they scattered.

+ + + + + + +

The movie ended and Buck channel surfed for another. Emily had brought in a pizza for them to share a couple of hours ago. She’d tried to talk to him about what he was feeling but he had rebuffed her sharply. He found a channel showing an old John Wayne movie and settled for that.

+ + + + + + +

When the small block of C-4 exploded, it took out several of the gang members and three DPD officers who were ushering them toward the doors. In the complete panic that followed, several of the gang members opened fire on the ATF agents trying to disarm them.

A second unfortunate shot ignited another block of C-4 attached to an upright support beam. The beam shifted and the upper deck it supported began to groan ominously as it shifted. After a minute, the boards began to snap and fall to the concrete floor. An electrical line was ripped free of its mooring and danced across the floor throwing sparks. An FBI agent and an ATF agent were pinned in a corner by the arcing wire.

From the loft above, Gerard was furious! He pulled the detonator and pressed the button. When nothing happened, he opened the case and began to curse aloud. Over the sounds of the pandemonium below, he heard the sound of a hammer being thumbed back and he looked over his shoulder.

“ATF, just stay right where you are,” Vin said as he aimed at the three men.

Just then, the second explosion caused the building to shudder and Vin was distracted for a moment. Dean vaulted across the open space and grabbed the gun. Suddenly, it was three on one and Vin went down under the barrage of kicks and punches.

On the floor of the warehouse, order was coming together. Most of the young people had been escorted out and the officers were conducting a search of the building for any others that might be hiding. The bomb and arson squad was busy removing the detonator wires and C-4 as it was discovered. Team 7 followed the men moving toward the upper floors. Chris was worried because there had been no sign of Vin.

Climbing the stairs behind the search team, Team 7 and most specifically Josiah, JD couldn’t see anything. He had told Chris about the stalls that they had been using. They spread out on the second floor and searched. They moved up to the third floor.

In the triage area, Nathan was tending to a young man who had been thrown from his feet by one of the explosions and had a bused nose and split lip. Several of the kids had been brought in for treatment along with the DPD officers who were injured. He kept watching the door, waiting for one of his accident-prone teammates to be carried in.

When the rain of kicks and punches stopped, Vin lay very still. Bo wiped the blood from the gash above his eye where Vin had hit him. Dean was sporting a split lip and bloody knuckles as he panted to catch his breath. Gerard had taken the least damage preferring to watch the fight from the side with the gun he had picked up when it was knocked from Vin’s hand.

Thinking that the younger man was not a threat, Gerard moved closer and nudged him with one foot. Seeing the head roll limply, he sneered. Shoving the gun into the back of his pants, he bent over and grabbed Vin under the arms.

“What are you going to do? They’re searching the building, we have to go!” Dean whined.

“I’m gonna make damn sure he never crosses my path again,” Gerard hissed as he dragged Vin toward the ledge.

Chris and Ezra rounded the corner and froze. From their vantage point, they could see Gerard backing toward the edge with Vin. From the other direction, JD ran out. The gang leader’s eyes widened at seeing the young man in an ATF jacket running toward him. The slight form didn’t slow as it approached. JD threw a quick right and connected with Gerard’s jaw, knocking him away from Vin.

Time slowed until the span of time between heartbeats felt like an eternity as Chris and Ezra watched the scene unfolding before their eyes. Chris realized that Gerard had a serious height and weight advantage over JD. The gang leader circled away from Vin and herded JD toward the edge. Vin began to stir and rolled over onto his stomach as he tried to push up to his hands and knees. JD looked at his teammate for a moment and Gerard charged.

At the last second, JD ducked under the hard flung right fist and moved away from the edge. He waited for Gerard to turn around and popped him quickly in the face. The gang leader staggered away from JD and stepped toward the edge. JD’s next punch set the man to swaying dangerously on the edge. Gerard’s arms waived wildly as he struggled to avoid falling. With one hand, he clasped JD’s arm as he fell.

At the same moment that he realized that he might fall, JD felt a hand brush against his back and curl in his belt. He landed hard on his knees and was pulled onto his stomach. Gerard’s weight was pulling him over the edge in spite of the grip Vin had on him. Chris and Ezra rushed forward to try to help Vin pull JD back.

Seeing the opportunity to take out all of the troublesome Feds at one time, Dean jumped up and started toward Chris. Ezra glanced up and quickly pulled his ‘drop’ gun from his ankle holster and fired, Dean stumbled and went over the edge with a cry of pure terror. He hit the concrete floor below like a sack of wet sand and JD clenched his eyes closed to avoid the bloody spectacle. Ezra turned the gun on Bo and the young man sank back on his haunches with his hands raised.

After hearing the gunshot, the search teams converged on the loft and helped drag JD and Gerard up. JD immediately toppled onto Vin who lay sprawled on the floor. Chris shifted back from the edge and sat down for a moment. Ezra moved closer to the edge and looked down. An unpleasant twinge of vertigo surged thru him and his stomach rolled. After swallowing hard a couple of times, he backed away.

It took a couple of hours to complete the sweep of the warehouse and the storefront. All of the young men and women captured in the storefront were taken to the police station. Nathan left the triage area and checked Vin and JD thoroughly after hearing what had happened. Neither man was seriously harmed. By the time the sun was coming up, Team 7 was just finishing the last details on the bust and was preparing to get some rest. Chris insisted that the team gather at the ranch.

+ + + + + + +

Emily watched as Buck began to toss in his sleep. He had resisted sleep for most of the night in between begging for something to help him sleep. The first couple of times he dozed off only to startle himself awake, drenched in sweat. Just as the sun rose, he finally fell into an exhausted sleep. She uncurled her legs from underneath her and stretched before moving to the bed. Buck had his hands wrapped around the bars on the bed rails as he fought thru the nightmare.

He was back in the old west setting. They were shooting at the Spevack gang who were camped in the bottom of a little valley. The gang was shooting, keeping them pinned under cover as they tried to mount their horses. Buck fired, noticing with satisfaction that the man toppled backwards off of his saddle.

When several of the gang had fallen, Buck turned and asked where JD was. Chris shouted back that he had been left with the female bounty hunters. Moments later, a single gunshot rang out and he went crashing thru the woods, calling for JD. He found his young friend lying on the ground as his life-blood poured out of a hole in his side. As he gathered the kid into his arms, the scene shifted and it was the dream of finding JD in the sand, dead.

“No! JD?” Buck’s hoarse voice called as he shook himself out of the dream.

“It’s okay, Buck. JD’s fine,” Emily said as she rested a hand on his shoulder.

Looking around the room, Buck sighed.

“I thought they’d be here by now.”

“I told them they couldn’t come until you and I talk about things.”

“But you can’t! Dr. Franklin, please, I need to see them. I have to know what’s going on with JD and Vin! They’re undercover. Please?”

“I’m sorry. Not until you talk to me. Buck, you’re hurting inside and if you don’t get it out, you will endanger others. I can’t allow you to return to work unless I feel that you aren’t a danger to yourself or the others.”

For several minutes, Buck warred with his emotions. He wanted to stay angry at her, it made it easier to hide the fear. The idea that Chris wasn’t coming to his rescue frightened him a little. A soft voice reminded him that Chris had spent a week in a jail cell after their last fight. He realized that no one had gone to see him, to comfort and reassure him, either. Clenching his fists in the blanket, he rolled over with his back to the doctor, shutting her out.

He remembered that last fight with Chris. It was about three months after Sarah and Adam’s funeral. Chris was drinking and fighting with anyone who as much as looked his way. The bartenders in the area all knew to call Buck when it looked like things were getting out of hand. It was a truck driver that night, the one who brought it all to a head. He picked a fight with Chris over the way the blonde was staring across his table.

Buck’s cell phone rang and the bartender told him that Chris was getting riled up. In the five minutes that it took for him to get to the bar, Chris had already begun to swing on the larger man. Buck waded into the fight and tossed the truck driver out the door. When he turned back to try to coax Chris out of the bar, his friend turned on him. Chris beat Buck until he lay unconscious on the floor.

It took a couple of hours to talk the arresting officers into burying the paperwork and holding Chris in a cell until Buck got out of the hospital. In the week that he sat in the jail, Chris dried out and had time to think. Having reached rock bottom, he was willing to accept help.

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