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Josiah and Chris were talking quietly, the profiler filling Larabee in on his conversation the previous day with Buck. As he spoke, Josiah glanced in the mirror.

“What in God’s name…” and he slammed on the brakes. Dust billowed past, blocking the view down the road,

Chris had glanced back when he saw Sanchez’s eyes on the mirror. As the dust settled, he saw what had prompted the abrupt stop. Nathan was standing near the road, a struggling JD pinned in his arms. Even as Chris opened his mouth to tell the man to turn around, Josiah was throwing the shifter into reverse. The man executed a perfect ‘bootlegger’s’ turn, never slowing as he dropped the vehicle into drive.

Seconds later, he was once again sliding to a stop. Chris’ feet hit the ground before the wheels stopped rolling and ran the short distance to the struggling duo. As they had approached, he could hear the boy’s screams and his heart seized with fear.

“NATHAN. What happened? What’s wrong?” He was speaking to the man, but his eyes were glued to the boy, fearing he was injured somehow.

Where Nathan’s voice failed to penetrate, Chris’ succeeded and JD’s head jerked up.

“CHRIS” and he propelled himself into the man’s outstretched arms.

Larabee caught the flying body and pulled it close. He could feel the shudders that racked the child’s body. The short arms wrapped around his neck, tight enough to be uncomfortable. Without a conscious thought, the man began to pace, bouncing the boy as he rubbed the narrow back.

“Shh, shh, it’s okay, I’m here,” he cooed. His eyes looked at Jackson even as he comforted the boy, the question written on his face. Nathan merely shrugged and said softly,

“I don’t know.” The man was pale beneath his normally dark skin, giving his face a bluish cast. “I’m sorry, Chris. I just…”

Larabee held up a hand in understanding. He shook his head, as he blinked his eyes slowly, It was meant as a ‘It’s okay, I know you didn’t do anything wrong.’ And Jackson seemed to understand and nodded.

Josiah had stood quietly, but now he placed a hand on the taller man’s shoulder and, once Nathan turned toward him, gestured that they should go to the house. Nathan nodded and, after a glance at Chris and his charge, he turned to the house.

Chris, meanwhile, was relieved to feel JD begin to relax. He continued to rub the boy’s back and speak soft words of comfort.

Josiah caught the man’s eye and spoke up, “Chris, why don’t’ we go…”

At the sound of Josiah’s voice, JD’s body tensed in Larabee’s arms and he pulled his arms from the man’s neck. His little fists struck out repeatedly as he screamed at the shocked man before him.


The three men stood in shock.

Nathan’s eyes flew open and he turned back to the others at the heated words from the five year old. Josiah paled at the accusations, much as Nathan had paled only minutes before, taken back by the boy’s violent reaction.

“JD, no, son. I wasn’t leaving, We were only going to the store.”

But JD wasn’t listening. He turned in the man’s arms and took two fists full of shirt and clung to the man, pleading, “Please, don’t leave me. I’ll be good; I won’t make no noise or messes. Please don’t leave me, too, Chris. I don’t want to be alone. I don’t like being alone.” The boy buried his face in Larabee’s neck, but Chris heard the words the exhausted child was uttering, over and over. “I don’t want to be alone again. Please, don’t leave me alone.”

Chris stood frozen. The boy’s words, a cold blast of vehemence almost unheard of from the normally happy and compliant child, directed at the gentlest member of the eclectic family, were so unexpected, so shocking, that he could not imagine where they were coming from. But with the heart-wrenching plea that followed, it took only a moment for the man to comprehend the boy’s reaction.

Josiah had driven away with Buck. Josiah had then driven away with Vin. And today, Chris had climbed into that same vehicle with no explanation to the boy; without a thought of waking him and asking if he would like to go; without simply having the consideration of informing him that they were leaving and would return in a few minutes. Larabee felt like he had been sucker punched in the gut. He clutched the boy tighter.

“Oh, God, JD. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.” He began to pace, walking off the tension that had his muscles clenched in knots. With the boy still sobbing on his shoulder, Chris’ hand patting the hitching back and his attention focused solely on the distraught child.

After several minutes, the blond became aware of his surroundings and the two men that stood and watched. Still patting the boy, he shook his head at the lack of consideration he was giving his friends.

“Guys, I think we’re done for the day.” His eyes moved back and forth. He could see the understanding in both pairs of eyes. “Josiah, I… I had no idea…”

The barrel-chested man waved off the apology. “No need, Chris. This is not your fault.” Placing a hand on Jackson’s shoulder, he continued. “I believe that we’ll take our leave now.”

Pressure from Sanchez’s hand prompted the taller man to move, but Nathan told Chris as he passed, “You need anything, you call.”

“I will Nathan. Thanks.” Chris watched the two men move away to the Chevy and moments later they were driving away. JD’s sobbing had settled down into hiccups now and he hung limp from the man’s shoulder.

“Come on, son. Let’s go in the house.”

Going through the mudroom, the man kicked off his boots before tugging the small boots from the boy’s feet. He then moved through the kitchen and into the front room where he dropped heavily into the recliner and moved the boy down from his shoulder to support him in his lap with one arm behind his back.

JD tensed slightly with the change in position so, cradling the boy’s head against his chest, the man murmured softly, using the tone of his voice to lull the boy to sleep. Slowly, the little body relaxed, becoming a warm ball on Chris’ abdomen as he reclined in the chair.

Sighing, he closed his eyes, but found he could not relax. Thoughts swirled around his mind in a maelstrom of fragmented sentences and voices. He reached up and rubbed his head, trying to relieve the throbbing that the stress and sense of failure had brought on.

+ + + + + + +

A couple of hours later, movement in his lap pulled the man back to awareness. He opened his eyes and found JD slipping to the floor.

"Where ya going, JD?"

The boy stood with his hands on the man's knees, his eyes wide and he shrugged.

“How about we have a talk?” Chris saw the flicker of fear cross the boy’s face and he quickly responded with, “You’re not in trouble, son. I only want to talk.”

The little boy stared wide eyed at the man, blinking rapidly to rid his eyes of the tears that had formed. Feeling the moisture leak from his eyes, he released his grip on the man’s legs and swiped at the tears with the back of his hands. A sigh from the man had him glancing up again.

“Guess we better go wash up.” Chris stated as the boy created a mud mask with his actions. Scooping the child up as he stood, the man moved to the bathroom and proceeded to wash JD’s face and hands as well as his own. As Chris placed the towel back on the rack, a grumbling noise drew his attention.

“Hungry?” he asked.

JD smiled and nodded.

“How about hot dogs?”

His answer came in the form of the boy heading out the door at a trot.

The meal didn’t take long to prepare and soon the two were seated at the table. Chris fixed JD’s dog with relish, mustard and ketchup before turning his attention to his own plate. As the boy munched, Chris began to talk.

“JD, do you mind if we have that talk while we eat?” The blond watched as the little boy glanced down and swallowed hard. After a moment, he looked back at the man.

“No, sir.”

The formal wording tore at Larabee’s heart. As aggravating as the boy’s exuberance sometimes was, Chris would have given anything to see it now. This quiet, subdued little boy was not the child that the man had grown to love. With a sigh, Chris started trying to explain to the boy about the events of the last two weeks.

“Okay, first I want to say again that you’re not in trouble about what happened with Josiah. I know that you were scared and it caused you to act in a way that, normally, is a bad thing. Okay?”

JD nodded as he looked intently at the blond.

“You know that Josiah wasn’t ‘taking’ away your family, right.” JD nodded again. “Both Buck and Vin are coming back? And that we were only going to the store today, not leaving.” Another nod. “So, I don’t think you should be upset with Josiah.”

“I…” JD looked down at his hands which he had dropped to his lap. “I know that I shouldn’t have yelled at Uncle ‘saih. And I shouldn’t hit Uncle Nathan. But I was scared.” JD looked up, his eyes wide with remembered fear and full of tears. “I was afraid of being alone, like before I had Vin.”

The blond leaned forward and ran his thumb over the boy’s eyes, pushing the tears out and wiping them away. “I know that now, JD. And I’m sorry I didn’t see it before. Can you forgive me for that?”

JD nodded and Chris continued. “You know that anytime you’re scared of something that’s happening, you can come ask me about it. And don’t be scared to ask because you might not like the answer. We can always work something out. But I can’t help if I don’t know what’s wrong.”

JD nodded, replying, “Okay.”

That settled, Chris forged ahead. “Good. Next, I want to say that, as crazy and scary as things are right now, they will get back to normal. Buck…” Chris reached out and lifted the small face up after it had dropped at the mention of Wilmington’s name. The look on the boy’s face was painful for the man. “Buck loves you very, very much. You know that.”

Chris waited and was rewarded when the dark haired boy nodded slowly after a few moments thought. As the sad hazel eyes turned to watch him, Chris smiled.

“Eat your lunch, JD.” He watched the boy take a half-hearted bite of hot dog and slowly chew.

“We’ll finish this talk when we’re done eating. Okay?” Chris said cautiously, watching the boy from the corner of his eye. JD continued to eat. Slowly, but he was eating.

The meal progressed without much conversation. After they had finished and the kitchen put back in order, Chris led the boy back to the front room. He sat the youngster on the couch and took a seat on the wooden coffee table so that he was facing the child.

“JD, I know it doesn’t really make sense to you, but the reason Buck left home is because he loves you SO much. The one thing he wants more than anything in this whole, wide world is for you, his son, to be safe and protected and happy.”

“But Buck makes me happy. And he makes me safe,” the five-year old protested.

“That’s right,” agreed Larabee. Seeing the confusion on the boy’s face, he went on. “But Buck is afraid that Miss Nettie might be mad at him for hitting Mr. Hawkins and come take you away.”

“But he ‘pologized.”

“Yes, he did. And Mr. Hawkins isn’t mad. And neither is Miss Nettie. But Buck is. He’s mad at himself and scared that he might lose you because he’s not supposed to fight and hit people. That’s one of the rules for him being your daddy.”

“But Buck’s a agent; he’s suppose ta hit people.” The little body tensed and his hands fisted in defense of his father.

“Well, not really, but if he has to do that as part of his job, well, that doesn’t count.”

“Oh, okay.” JD frowned as he considered the man’s words. “But if nobody’s mad, why did Da leave?” JD’s voice dropped to a whisper with the question.

“Because he lost control, son. He scared himself. Everyone understands why it happened, but if it happened again, they might not forgive him again. They might decide that Buck is a bad man and take you from him.”

“NO.” JD jumped up, his little body tight in anger.

Chris reached out to steady the small body on the couch. “No, he’s not a bad man. You know that and I know that. Miss Nettie and Orrin Travis and the boys, they all know that Buck is a good man; that he would never hurt anyone with a good reason. Right?”

JD nodded, still tense and shaking in the man’s strong, but gentle grasp.

“We just have to give Buck time to figure that out. Can you do that for me?”

The boy thought about what Chris had said, tension draining from his body. Tears rolled down the chubby cheeks as he nodded and Chris gathered the boy into his arms.

Words whispered against his neck as the sad child asked, “Do you think it’ll take very much longer? I miss ‘im, bad.”

Rocking the boy, Chris sighed, “I hope not, son. I hope not. “ Chris held the small form closer as he admitted, “I miss ‘im, too.”

+ + + + + + +

The two had sat close for a while and the sun was beginning to disappear behind the horizon when JD finally sat back, smiling. He then leaned forward and hugged the blond before saying, “I love you, Chris.”

Larabee returned the hug and the words, a grin pulling at his lips as he watched some of the sparkle return to the hazel eyes.

Slipping from the man’s grasp to the floor, JD asked, his face intense, “Chris, you think I should call Uncle Josiah and Uncle Nathan and ‘pologize for being mean today?”

“Well, I think they understand, but it would be a nice thing for you to do. Just so they know that you’re all right.”

“Okay.” JD ran from the room and Larabee could hear the step stool squeak across the floor. Moments later, JD reappear, the phone in his hands. “Can you dial them for me, Chris?”

“Sure.” He took the phone and dialed Nathan’s number first and handed to instrument back to the boy.

“ ‘ell? Uncle Nathan? Hi, it’s JD. I wanted to ‘pologize to you for my” JD looked at Chris.


“Yeah, for my ‘be’haver’ today. I didn’t mean to be mean and I wasn’t very nice to you and I’m not mad. Really. Are you mad at me?”

Chris snorted at the words, knowing full well, that Nathan was upset and frightened by the incident, but never was he mad. At least, not at the boy.

“That’s good, cause I don’t want to make ya mad. So, you’ll come out and see us again?”

There was a pause as JD listened, nodding. Finally, Chris reminded the child, “He can’t see you nod, JD.”

“Oh, yeah.” And the child giggled. “Okay, Uncle Nathan. I love you.” JD thrust the instrument at Larabee.

“Nathan?” “Yeah, it’s okay.” “Sure.” “Fine, I’ll see ya Monday.”

Chris broke the connection. “Okay, you want to talk to Josiah?”

JD nodded.

Before dialing, the man glanced at his watch. It was a little after seven. “JD, before we call Josiah, how about we call Vin and Ezra in Texas?”

Chris smiled as the boy’s eyes lit up and he bounced up and down. “Really? I can talk to Vin?”

Larabee nodded and JD squealed. “Yesyesyesyes.” Chris dialed the number of the undercover agent’s cell phone, not sure if the duo were at the hotel. It rang three times and then Vin’s voice came through the earpiece.

“Hello? Dad?”

“Hey, cowboy. How’re you doing?”

“I’m fine. We’re coming home tomorrow night.”

“That’s great, Vin. I really miss you.”

“I miss you, too.”

“I have someone that wants to talk to you.”


Larabee handed the phone to the dark haired boy and listened as he shrieked into the phone. “VIN. VIN, I MISS YOU ARE YOU HAVING FUN?”

Chris laughed and then said, “JD, you don’t have to shout.”

With a frown on his face, JD countered, “But he’s a long way away. I want to be sure he can hear me.”

“I can hear ya, JD. You don’t got to yell in my ear.”

“Okay. Hi, Vin. I miss you. Are you coming home soon? Are you having fun? How’s grandpa Jess? Is Ezra there? Hey, did you meet grandpa Jess’ daughter? She lives there with grandpa Jess, don’t she.”

“JD, stop asking so many questions.”

“Sorry.” JD’s voice lost some of its enthusiasm and Chris frowned.

“It’s okay, I just can’t answer all of ‘em at once. Me and Uncle Ezra…huh? Oh, Uncle Ezra and me…(sigh)…Uncle Ezra and I are coming home tomorrow. I’m having a lot of fun. I meet a bunch of family and Uncle Ezra taked…took a bunch of pictures for the picture wall. I wish you were with me, JD. I had fun with all the kids, but I could ‘a had more fun if you was here.”

“Really? You miss me?” JD bounced up and down, giggled.

“Stop bouncing, JD”

“Stop bouncing, JD”

A frowned appeared on the boy’s face. “How’d you know I was bouncing, Vin? You can’t see me?”

(Sigh)”Cause I known ya since ya was little and you bounce. A lot.”

JD giggled. “I like to bounce. Vin, I gots lots to tell you,” the boy said, his voice growing solemn. “I really miss being able to talk to ya.”

“Well, we’ll have a lot to talk about then. I’ll see ya tomorrow, okay?” Silence. “JD, stop nodding.”

JD giggled.

Chris could hear Vin say something and then JD held out the phone. The man took it and spoke to his son again. They finished and the other phone was passed to the southerner. Ezra gave Chris their arrival time and assured the father that the boy would be delivered to the ranch before seven o’clock the next evening. Chris then handed the phone to JD.

“ ‘ello? Hi, Uncle Ezra.” “Yes.” “Yes.” “No.” “Okay. I love you, Uncle Ezra.” “You did? What is it?” “Oh, well, that’s okay if it’s not a s’prize.” A sigh issued from the boy. “Okay, I can wait. Bye, Uncle Ezra.”

JD handed the phone to Chris, who put it to his ear. Hearing dead air, he disconnected. He looked at the little boy and nodding, asked, “Ready to talk to Josiah?”

JD clapped his hands together and nodded, also. As Chris dialed, hoping the boy wouldn’t ask to speak to Wilmington. A voice pulled his mind from the thought.


“Josiah, it’s Chris. JD wants to talk to you.” The man held the phone out and the boy took it happily.

“Uncle ‘siah?”

“Hello, JD. How are you, son?”

“I’m fine. Uncle ‘siah? I wanted to ‘pologize for what I said to ya and ‘pologize for yelling, too. I don’t want ya to be mad and never come to see me anymore.”

“Well, I can’t be mad at my favorite nephew, now, can I?”

“I love you, Uncle ‘siah and I ain’t mad at ya anymore.”

“I am very glad for that, John Dunne. I also must apologize for the incident this afternoon. I feel that we could have avoided the problem if we had asked you to come with us. Next time, I will not make that mistake.”

“I’d like that. I like going to the store, Uncle ‘siah.”

“Excellent. It’s a deal, JD.”

The boy giggled, his shoulders bouncing up and down. A moment later, he settled down and asked softly, “Is Da there, Uncle ‘siah?”

Chris sighed, scrubbing his face with his palms. ‘Damn, knew that was coming.’

“Sorry, son. He left a bit ago.”

JD’s lip trembling as he nodded. Remembering Chris’ words earlier, he spoke, “Okay.”

“JD, may I speak to Chris.”

“Okay. Bye, Uncle ‘siah.” JD handed the phone to Larabee and then left the room, telling the man he was going to the bathroom.

Larabee watched the boy go before bringing the instrument to his ear. ‘’’Josiah?”

“Chris, I just wanted to tell you that Buck is on his way out there.”

The blond’s eyebrows rose and he asked, “Really? Is he coming to stay?”

“Well, he packed his things. I’m fairly certain that is his intents.”

“Thanks for the heads up, Josiah. Any idea why now?”

There was a pause on the other end of the line.

“Perhaps. We did have a conversation when I arrived home.”

“I hope you’re both okay.”

“A few heated words only. Buck can explain when he arrives. I’ll say good evening to you, Chris. Buck should be there soon.”

“Thanks, Josiah. I’ll talk to ya later.”

The two men disconnected. Chris stood up to go check on the boy. He found him in the room he shared with Vin, curled up on his bed. The man approached and patted the boy on the back.

“Hey, buddy, let’s get your bath done, then we can watch a little TV.”

JD sniffed and then sat up and turned toward the man. Chris grabbed the boy’s pajamas and underpants and the two headed to the bathroom. JD played a little as Chris washed and rinsed the dark hair. Since there was no one to splash and play with, the bath ended pretty quickly. The man lifted the wet body out and wrapped a towel around it. Rubbing him dry, the blond held the underwear open so JD could step into them.

Chris toweled the dark hair and then ran a comb through it. He drew the comb straight back, knowing that as the hair dried, it would find its way back into the boy’s eyes. The boy quietly stepped into the pajamas and the two made their way back to the front room.

“What would you like to watch?”

“Can I watch ‘Brother Bear’?”

“Sure thing. I’ll put it in and then I’ll get some dinner ready. Chicken fingers?”

“Yes, thank you.”

As the boy climbed onto the couch, Chris started the video and, grabbing the phone, headed into the kitchen. He knew the movie would run past JD’s bedtime, but figured once the boy had eaten, he would settle down and drift off to sleep soon after.

He was just putting the chicken in the oven when the phone rang. “Larabee.”

“Hey, stud.”

“Buck, what’re you doing?” The man leaned out to see the child still laying on the couch, oblivious to everything but his movie. “Where are you?”

“Well, actually, I’m sitting in my truck…at the top of the road.”

“What? Why didn’t you come on down?”

“Wasn’t too sure about the reception I would get.”

Larabee sighed into the phone and nodded. “Yeah, I can understand that. But this is your home, Buck. Your home,” he stressed. JD and I were about to eat dinner. Come on home, Buck. Your son misses you.”

Silence is his answer though he could hear the man breathing on the other end of the line.

“Okay, Chris. I’ll be there in a minute.”

Placing the phone back on the base, Chris once again checked on the little boy. He thought about how to tell the boy that his father was coming home, but Chris hadn’t thought to ask Wilmington if he was planning on staying. Larabee certainly hoped so.

“CHRIS! Somebody’s coming,” JD cried out. ’Well so much for telling the boy’, the man thought to himself. He headed into the front room but turned back to the kitchen as the timer on the oven dinged.

He turned the appliance off, but left the chicken so it would remain warm. Turning, he went back into the front room, arriving just as the door opened and Wilmington walked in. Seeing him carrying his bags relieved some of the tension in Larabee’s shoulders.

JD had remained on the couch, but his attention was on the door. He was distracted as Chris reappeared in the door but quickly turned his attention back to the door. His face lit up when he saw the tall mustached man walk in.

“DA” he cried out and leapt from the couch. He started forward, but stopped before he reached the man. He had seen the look of relief on the man’s face, the shimmering of tears in his eyes, as he set the bags down and squatted, waiting to take the boy into his arms. Suddenly, anger swept through the child and instead of going to the man, the one thing he had wished for dozens of times over the past week, he veered off and instead, wrapped his arms around the black clad leg of Chris and turned his head away.

JD didn’t see the look of anguish that washed over Buck’s face, He didn’t see the look of compassion that Chris held for his old friend. He only knew that Buck had left him and the thought made him very angry with the man. But angry as he was, he was also relieved that the man was home.

“Buck,” Chris said softly. “Go put those things away. Dinner is ready.”

Wilmington continued to stare at the back of the boy’s head. Finally with a shake of his own, he picked the bags up and moved past the two and down the hall without a word.

Chris pulled JD’s arms loose and lifted the boy up. “JD, are you okay?”

The boy shook his head and looked defiantly at the man. “No. I… He… I’m mad.” To emphasize the statement, he folded his arms across his chest.

“Why are you mad?”

JD scowled at the man and shrugged.

“You don’t know?”

JD averted his eyes but ended up ducking his head and leaning against Chris’ shoulder. “I just am.”

“It’s okay, It’s an honest emotion.” He patted the boy’s back and felt him lean in more, accepting the comfort.

Buck came back into the room and his heart lurched. He wasn’t sure if it was jealousy or hurt, but which ever his heart was feeling, his mind was telling him that he deserves either one, perhaps even both.

Chris turned and saw the man and the expression on his face. He knowingly shook his head, hoping Buck would give the little boy time to readjust to the situation.

“Who’s hungry?”

He didn’t wait for any answers, just turned off the video and headed to the kitchen. Buck followed in his wake.

He set JD in a chair and got busy setting the table. Buck fell right back into the nightly routine and pulled glasses down. He pulled the carton of juice out and poured out three glasses. He started to fill the fourth glass when it dawned on him that Vin was not there, so he replaced the fourth glass in the cabinet and took the other three to the table.

Chris had placed the food on the table and sat down. The three ate in silence, each one lost in his own thoughts. Afterwards, Buck offered to clean up, so Chris took JD into the other room. By the time Buck had worked up the courage to enter the front room, he found Larabee there alone.

“Where’s JD?”

“Sorry, Buck, He asked if he could go to bed.” Seeing the crestfallen look on the man’s face, Larabee said, “Give ‘im a little time, Buck. He’ll come around.”

Wilmington nodded. “You want a beer? I know I could use one.”


Buck disappeared through the doorway and Chris waited. Just about the time he decided he should go check on the man, Buck reappeared with two beers in hand and red-rimmed eyes. Passing one to Larabee, the man flopped into a chair and uncapped the bottle.

Chris opened his beer and took a sip. “So, what happened at Josiah’s?”

Buck’s eyes shot over to stare at Chris. Then, he rolled his eyes and his head shook. “Remind me to never, ever piss Josiah off. I mean, really piss him off royally. “

Finally taking a swig of beer, Buck leaned back. “The man walked in the door and went straight to the kitchen. I could hear cabinets slamming and chairs scraping. I got up and went in, found him sitting at the table with a bottle of whiskey and a glass. I wasn’t even thinking when I asked him if he was okay.”

Buck chuckled as he recounted the exchange.


“Josiah, are you all right? Anything I can do?”

Buck froze as hard blue eyes glared up at him. “Do? You want to help.”

Josiah laughed, it started small and built to a full, deep throated laugh,

“You think you can restore the sparkle to a child’s eye that once gazed at you lovingly? Can you restore a child’s faith in someone who, in his eyes, has betrayed him?”

“Josiah, what are you talking about?”

The bottle slammed against the table, causing Wilmington to flinch. “I’m talking about a five-year old child that believes I am taking his family away, one member at a time. A child that screamed out his loathing for me.”

“JD? JD doesn’t hate you. He doesn’t hate anyone, he’s not capable.”

Again the bottle struck the table with enough force to shatter the glass but once again it held. And this time the man released the bottle and stood up.

Advancing slowly, he punctuated each step with words. “You need to go home, Buck. You need to forget your logical, though unfounded, fears, You need to go to that boy, your son, and make his world right again. You, and only you can restore his world.”

Buck found himself backed into a corner and standing toe to toe with an enraged profiler. While he had the height and weight, the dark haired man doubted he could take this man in a fight. Anger at the situation and injury inflicted by the boy’s words, fueled a fire deep within the normally gentle soul, giving him strength that overshadowed the physical. And for the first time, Wilmington found himself fearful of the barrel chested man.

"Josiah, I…"

Sanchez suddenly shuddered and shook himself. Turning from his friend, he gathered the bottle and glass and placed them back where they had come from, speaking as he moved. "Go home, Buck. Go home and love that boy everyday that you have left with him. Don't waste time worrying about what might happen."

Josiah left the room and Buck heard his steps moving up the stairs and into his room, The door closed softly, leaving Wilmington standing in the kitchen, his mind whirling.

+ + + + + + +

Chris sat quietly listening to the story, chuckling at Buck's admission of fear.

"Yeah, I have to say that an angry Josiah is an awesome sight. Witnessed it a couple of times myself. Luckily, it wasn't directed at me."

"Well, pray it never is."

They fell into the comfortable silence of old friends. The TV played quietly behind them and after the news and weather, they said their goodnights and headed to bed.

It took a while, but Buck finally drifted off.

The next morning, he woke and smiled as he recognized that he was in his own room. Maybe things weren't back to normal, but he was home and that was a start. He started to roll over, when he realized that something was pressing against his side. He turned gently and found JD snuggled up next to him. The man couldn't help but smile, the position so very familiar and comfortable.

He lay, drinking in the sight of his son, sleeping. The minutes slipped away and soon the dark lashes fluttered open and the hazel eyes looked up, sleepily. It took a moment for the boy to focus, but when he did, the blush colored his face and he glanced down.

"What's wrong, little bit? Did you have a nightmare?"

The dark hair swayed as the boy nodded.

"You want to tell me about it?"

The boy snuggled in closer to the man. He kept his eyes averted as he played with the button on his pajamas. "I dreamed that you went away and left me."

He glanced up and Buck nodded, a solemn look on his face.

"And then you came back."

Buck knew there was more, so he waited as JD continued to play with the button.

"And I was mean 'cause I was mad and you went away and…" JD glanced up, tears in his eyes. "…and you went away and never came and I growed up without you and growed old and never seed you again."

JD suddenly pushed up and wrapped his arms around the startled man's neck, weeping.

"I'm sorry, Buck. Please don't leave me."

The man's hands were already wrapping around the shuddering boy as he 'shh'ed' him and cooed comforting words.

"It's okay, don't cry. I'm right here and I'm not going anywhere."

He continued to hold and comfort the boy until JD settled down and relaxed in Buck's arms. Running his hands through the soft dark hair, the man placed a kiss on the boy's forehead.

"JD, I love you so much and I'm so sorry I hurt you."

"I love you, too." He felt the boy's hand pat his arm and the man smiled. "I missed you, Da."

Buck decided that it was time to lighten the mood. He squeezed the child and in a gruff voice, said, "But I missed you more." And he shook the boy playfully.

JD immediately picked up on the tease. "No, I missed you more."

Buck's face brightened and he rolled onto his back with the boy still in his grasp. "Did not."

"Did too."

"Did not."

"Did….too." JD struggled to get the words past his laughter as Buck tickled him. The boy writhed and slapped at the man's hands.

Chris moved away from the door. He knew it would all work out, but having the two dark haired members of the family joking around was a load off his mind. Things were on the mend and none too soon for the man.

Smiling, he headed for the kitchen to start breakfast, confident that the family was together again and healing.


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