Disclaimer: Not mine, never were, never will be.
Note: This fic is a direct sequel to 'Old Foes', but it can stand alone. Many thanks to Phyllis for the beta work.
Feedback: Yes please.
"Ezra is that you?"
"Are you sick, you sound awful, want me to call Nate, have him come over and take a look at you?"
"W't? No, no I'm fine."
"You don't sound fine."
"It's the middle of the night, how am I expected to sound?"
"It's half eight."
"Like I say, the middle of the night."
"The sun's shining."
"An evil trick played by Mother Nature to deceive the unwary. I know better."
"Well you're up now."
"Indeed, what do you want?"
"You don't say. What is the nature of this favour?"
"I need someplace to stash it where he won't find it and then I need you to help me deliver it next week. 'Cause it's a surprise - right?"
"Could you be a little less abstruse?"
"What do you want me to conceal? Where? From whom? Deliver it when and where? Why all the secrecy?"
ONE WEEK LATER
For a long, long time JD lay awake, he'd woken early, unable to get back to sleep, with that Christmas morning feeling, and he wanted to savour it. Eventually he'd looked at the clock display beside the bed; 05:56 it read, nearly two hours before the alarm would go off. With a deep sigh he fell back against the pillow. His life had changed, in less than one short year everything had changed. He had graduated from St Andrews's just days before his mother had died, then he had been accepted as a member of a lifeboat crew in Cornwall, about as far from Scotland as it was possible to be. He'd found a new home, living above a pub, sharing a flat with the owner, one Buck Wilmington. The man had taken him in, made him feel welcome, treated him more like a brother than a lodger.
Buck was the second coxswain on the lifeboat, and on their first big shout, he'd saved JD's life, almost losing his own in the process. JD wasn't ever going to forget that. There had been rough times too, their fledgling relationship almost destroyed by a woman. A witch who deceived them all, but especially Buck. She took his innate love of women, his natural tendency to trust people and used it against him and JD, as well as others. He lifted his hands, twisting them in a narrow shaft of light that cut through the gap in the curtains. The marks left by the burns he received on a recent rescue were fading fast. He'd made a decision after that rescue, he'd chosen between his blood family and his new family. This was where he belonged now, now and forever, he hoped.
Unwilling to give in to his childish excitement, JD rose then began to run a bath. A long hot soak had always been a favourite way to while away an hour or so. Even as he was getting things ready he heard Buck get up, heard him outside talking to Mac, his lazy greyhound. JD could all but see him hopping on one leg to pull on his trainers, before heading downstairs. Then he'd take Mac with him on his daily run on the beach. You couldn't call it a jog, Buck pushed himself too hard to call it that, if the tide was in or the sea too rough he's run along the esplanade and up onto the cliffs above the town. Buck's size eleven's were heading down stairs now, doing his best to be quiet, but quiet wasn't Buck's nature.
JD managed to make the bath last nearly an hour, he even used conditioner on his hair, something he normally only did after spending hours at sea, and then only after Casey commented on how dry and brittle it had become. As the last of his bath water ran out, he could hear Buck's shower running. Once he was dressed he lay back down on his bed and switched on the radio to listen to the news. The news was unremarkable; the world did not realise how momentous a day this was, for today John Daniel Dunne became a man.
Buck hummed happily to himself as he showered. The sun was shining, there was no more than a breath of wind to disturb the sea and by noon that too would be gone, today was going to be a good day, today JD turned eighteen and Buck was going to make it a day to remember. Breakfast was already underway in the flat's small kitchen; there was no need to go all the way down to the pub's big commercial kitchen. He had bacon, eggs, sausages, fried bread and mushrooms ready to go, all JD's favourites and as a special treat, he was going to fry the bread in goose fat. He had even pulled out the juicer and cut up a dozen oranges.
Towelling his hair dry, he shaved and then pulled on his clothes, still humming and even breaking into song occasionally, as he headed back to the kitchen. He knew JD was up, knew he was waiting for an invitation to join him. Well, JD could wait a little longer until everything was just right. Once the juice was squeezed, the food was sizzling in the pan and the table laid, he was ready.
"Hey kid, you eating this morning or what?" he called.
"Just coming!" JD was fully dressed already dressed so, in order not to look too eager, he paced his room three more times, before emerging. "Smells good," he commented.
"I should hope so, the day comes I can't do a good fry up, is the day I quit the kitchen. Sit boy, eat, drink."
JD sat; there, propped between the glass of orange juice and the bowl of Weetabix were two cards and behind it a smallish present wrapped in white paper decorated with black paw prints. He was reaching for the present when Buck turned from the cooker.
"Nope, cards, then food, then presents - that was always my mum's rule. Oh, Happy Birthday."
JD grinned at Buck. "Thanks. My mum used to say the same thing - about the presents."
"Wise woman. Now open the cards while you eat your weetabix, then I'll get the eggs on."
JD added a generous three spoons of sugar to his bowl before he poured on the milk, then while it sank in, he opened his cards. After as sumptuously cooked breakfast, JD opened the present, expecting it to be from Buck, but, to his surprise, the tag read - 'To JD from Mac, woof woof.'
It was a mug, bearing the legend 'I'm only drinking tea until I can get more beer'. JD thanked Mac and Buck. He tried not to show his mixed feelings of curiosity and disappointment that there was no gift from Buck, at least not one in Buck's name. But before he could worry about it anymore, there was a gentle knock at the door.
"It's open!" Buck bellowed from the kitchen where he was loading the small dishwasher.
Inez poked her head around the door. "Feliz Cumpleaños jovenzuelo!" she greeted.
JD beamed. "Not any more, I'm a chico now."
"So you are."
She crossed the room to him and planted a kiss on his cheek, then thrust a small gift and a card into his hands. The card was simple and elegant; the gift was a small gold St Christopher medal, with his initials engraved on the back.
"To keep you safe," she whispered.
He returned her kiss. "Thanks, I promise to wear it."
"See that you do." She gave him a hug.
"Now if you're giving away kisses and hugs, how about one for the boss?" Buck asked.
"In your dreams senor," she countered.
"You can't blame a man for trying."
"I can and I do." **Publicly, at least.**
"Oh well," Buck lamented, "It was worth a try." Inez snorted. "Come on kid, lets get to work."
"I'm not a kid anymore," JD pointed out smugly.
Buck stopped what he was doing and turned to study his young friend. "True, but you do work for me now - right?"
JD stopped to look at Buck, somewhat puzzled, then the penny dropped. He was eighteen; he could legally work behind the bar. Buck had always promised him a job once he was eighteen.
"Yeah I guess I do - cool!"
The bar was still quite dark, since the windows faced west and it would be sometime before the sun lit up the room.
"Check the bar would you," Buck called as he headed for the kitchen at the bottom of the stairs.
JD found he was bouncing down the stairs, his life was never going to be the same, and he liked the thought of it. With joy in his heart he pushed open the door to the main bar.
"HAPPY BIRTHDAY JD!" The chorus that met him was almost deafening. They were all there, the members of his crew, the men he thought of as his new family.
"Oh, err thanks." JD was frozen to the spot; his hand came up to cover his mouth. "Oh shit, you blokes are the best."
"The best? And we didn't even give him his presents yet." Josiah came up and enveloped him in a huge bear hug.
"Don't come over all innocent kid, you know fuc "
"Vin!" Nathan warned.
"Sorry Rain." Vin nodded to the doctor's pretty wife.
"Don't be, I'm not a shrinking violet and I can swear like a navvy when I need to." With that Rain gave her husband a dig in the ribs.
"Well, anyway JD knows damn well he's getting presents," Vin stated with a grin.
There was then an embarrassing pause, finally broken when Buck's rather loud singing wafted though to them.
"Well he sounds happy, hopefully this will make you happy too. Here," Rain stepped up and handed over a present.
JD carefully opened the flat square present.
"Oh wow Rain, thanks."
"Well I know you've been coveting it."
JD held up the large dream catcher for all of them to see. He'd been admiring it ever since he'd begun to work for Rain in the shop.
Nathan stepped forward with his gift. JD was already excited by the time he got one corner of the paper off.
"Nate you didn't? Oh. My. God!" he gasped as he pulled the box free of the paper.
With his eyes on stalks, JD practically drooled over the 'top of the line' digital video camera. "Thanks Doc."
"I'm told you could use this." Vin thrust his much smaller gift at JD; it proved to be a memory card for the camera, with a huge capacity.
"Great, thanks Vin - do you know how long I can shoot for with this?" JD gave them a mischievous grin.
"You be careful were you point that thing," Chris warned, then handed over his small present.
Chris' gift was a top of the range Swiss Army knife, like the ones all the other's always carried with them. As JD turned it over he found an engraving, it read 'JD - "To within a meter"'. JD's oft' used brag about his navigation skills.
"Just don't drop it over board," Chris warned good naturally.
JD looked up. "Thanks Chris," he almost whispered.
Ezra's present turned out to be an envelope. Inside was a card and a sealed envelope addressed to a Mr Pickett. JD admired the card and then looked at the envelope and frowned.
"That, young Mr Dunne, is a letter of credit for the best tailor in Penzance. Take it to Messrs Pickett and Cohen and pick out a suite, couple of shirts and a few ties - anything you want. A gentleman should have at least one presentable outfit."
JD did own a suit, he brought it at M&S for his mother's funeral, he also knew what Ezra was offering was going to cost a hell of a lot more than an off the peg suit, even a good one.
"Wow Ez, I mean Ezra, are you sure?"
"Of course, just be sure you let the gentlemen in the shop be your guides. Do not take any fashion advice from Buck."
"I heard that!" Buck bellowed from the back of the room.
"No sweat, I'm young, not stupid," JD assured.
"Says who?" Buck commented.
"John," Josiah's deep baritone always got everyone's attention. "I thought long and hard about your gift, I hope this will always remind you of a special day."
JD took the offered gift with some reverence and peeled back the simple paper. Inside was an old fashioned jewelry case. Once he located the catch, JD released it and the lid popped up. Inside was an odd looking golden object. There was highly decorated heart shaped disk and hanging from it were three equally ornate chains.
"It's a " Josiah began.
"Chatelaine," JD breathed in awe.
"And a very fine one too. Late eighteenth century gilt?" Ezra looked at Josiah questioningly, who nodded.
By now, everyone was gathered around admiring the antique. From the look of him, Chris knew what a chatelaine was, but Vin looked completely lost. Buck hadn't a clue what it was, but unlike the shy Welshman, he wasn't afraid to admit his ignorance.
"So what is it?" he asked bluntly.
"Housekeepers used to wear them clipped to their belt, to carry their keys. I've never seen one like this, the one's I've seen were bigger and had sewing kits and scissors and stuff on them. When Mum worked for the professor in Oxford, he had one, but not to use, just to look at," JD explained. "Thanks Josiah, it's beautiful, I'll think of today and Mum whenever I look at it."
Josiah beamed. "I'm glad you like it. Now I'd like to stay, but time's a ticking and I have an appointment with the Father Abbott to get too."
One by one the others said goodbye and headed off to work. As she got to the door Rain turned back. "You can be a bit late in today, if you want," she offered.
"Thanks boss," he called after her as she left.
Buck was still there of course. He hadn't given JD a present. He told himself he didn't mind, he had a second job now, it wasn't as if Buck really needed another barman, and he sure didn't want anyone to lose their job for him. He decided a job was a pretty good present. Gathering up his gifts he took them upstairs to his room, leaving them on the bed, before he returned to the kitchen.
"I err, I can still borrow the car tonight - right?" he asked Buck, he'd promised to take Casey for the evening.
"Oh, I, I'm not sure, it..."
"What? I asked you ages ago, you said I could," JD protested.
"It's just, the car's been acting up a bit, I don't know how reliable it is, I was gonna get Vin to take a look at it."
"Nope, tell you what, go out and see if it'll start." With that Buck tossed him a car key from his pocket. JD didn't look at it, he just caught it and practically running, headed out into the yard to check on the old Volvo.
As he approached he pulled up short. There, behind the big estate car, was a small, stylish, silver hatchback. As he got closer he could see it was a Fiat. Buck was very strict about people parking in the yard, there was his car, Inez's little VW and that was it, there was room for one or even two more, but Buck never let anyone else park in the yard. He'd say, "If I let one, I have to let others, its just too much trouble." So who did this car belong to? Shaking his head he pointed the remote at the Volvo and pressed the button. Nothing happened. He tried again, still nothing. Buck was worried it might not start, maybe the battery was the problem? Just to be on the safe side he moved to the other side to try the passenger door, standing between Buck's car and the strange Fiat Bravo, he tried the remote again. With an audible clunk, the Fiat's doors unlocked. JD frowned and looked down at the key in his hand - it wasn't the Volvo key. He tried it again, this time the Fiat locked. JD stepped closer and peered through the windows. Sitting on the dashboard was a large manila envelope, on it in big black letters were the words OPEN ME.
JD opened the door again, this time he slipped behind the wheel. With hands that were shaking, he opened the envelope and pulled out the single sheet of A4 within and began to read.
Hi Kid, bet you thought I'd forgotten you didn't you? Happy Birthday little brother; this is for you. Technically it's mine, a second car only added £190 to my insurance, that's all. You can be a nominated driver, a lot cheaper than you getting your own insurance as an under 25 new driver! As well as this you'll have to pay the car tax when it runs out next year, MOT etc and I'd recommend you join the AA, but it's all yours kid, enjoy.
JD sat there stunned. He'd only just passed his test, he'd started to save for a car, but it was going to take him some time to save enough for even a really old car. Something like this, only four years old, in mint condition, just 30,000 and a bit miles on the clock; was way beyond his wildest dreams. This was the 80 SX model, it had a 1.2 multi-point injection engine, with a 5-speed gearbox, it had central locking, electric windows and sunroof, airbags, a stereo. It was perfect! Finally getting himself together, he reluctantly got out of the car and raced back to the kitchen to find Buck and thank him.
Buck wasn't in the kitchen, instead he found Inez.
"Where's Buck?" he asked, almost desperate.
"He's gone down to the harbour, I think he was going to buy some fish," she explained.
"Do you know what he gave me?" he asked her, still trying to comprehend.
"I know, you should have seen him and Ezra trying to push it into the yard at four this morning without waking you," she laughed.
"Does everyone know?"
"No, only me and Ezra, I think."
"I have to find him, thank him." JD was heading for the door.
"Wait," Inez called after him.
"He, he went out so he could avoid you saying thanks - at least I think he did - he's been planning this, buying you a car, ever since you passed your test. Then you two fell out and everything was so, so I don't have the English word, but you know how it was." JD nodded. "It's only just getting back to how it should be. I don't know how to explain it - he knows you like it, he knows you're grateful - but he can't handle it right now. Go to work, thank him tonight - buy him a pint."
JD gazed at her for a while, then nodded. This was part of the healing process, the mending of their friendship. Tonight, before he picked up Casey in his new car, he'd stand Buck a pint, that was how men said thanks in Buck's world and he was a man now.
It was almost two in the morning when JD finally tiptoed up to the flat. Mac was sitting at the top of the stairs, and he greeted him with as much enthusiasm as he could muster, which was to say he wagged his tail fiercely without getting up. It made a loud thumping noise on the carpet.
"Hush boy, you'll wake up Buck. Now if you're out here, I guess that means he's got a visitor doesnt it?"
If Buck didn't have company, Mac slept in his master's bedroom; he started on the floor, but always ended up on the bed. Mac's tail wagging slowed down and stopped as soon as JD began to pay him some attention, rolling over on his back for a belly rub. It was then, as he sat there on the top step, rubbing Mac's belly that JD noticed the TV was still on, filling the living room with an eerie flickering blue light, he also noticed one large foot hanging over the arm of the sofa.
"If your master spends the night on the sofa, he's gonna be stiff in the morning," JD told Mac sagely.
With that he stood up and crossed over to the slumbering form. Picking up the remote, he turned off the TV and flicked on the reading light.
"W't?" Buck stirred, his eyes opened.
"Morning," JD greeted.
"It's gone two, you need to get to bed - in a real bed."
Buck grunted as he sat up, raking his hands through his thick hair and squinting up at JD. "How'd it go?"
"How'd what go?"
"The big date?"
JD grinned. "Oh it went very well indeed, we went to a show in Penzance, and then went on to a wine bar and just talked and talked."
Buck frowned. "Wine bar?"
"Where I drank coffee, ironic isn't it, I reach the legal drinking age and don't drink a drop."
"Glad to hear it." Buck pulled himself up, stretching as he prepared to go to bed.
"I wanted to say thanks, for the car, it was "
"That's okay kid, Inez didn't want you driving around in some death trap and you couldn't keep borrowing mine."
"Don't do that," JD chided with clear frustration.
"Pretend it was nothing, it wasn't, and I'm trying to say thanks."
"So you've said it, lets get some sleep."
"Not yet, not 'til I get to say what I want to say."
"That you're the best big brother a guy could have."
Buck didn't say anything for a while, then he nodded. "Time for bed kid."
"I'm not a ki "
JD's protest was cut short by Buck's long arm wrapping around his shoulders and pulling him in for a hug that lasted until Mac - not to be left out - jumped up and tried to get between them. Laughing, they separated.
"Night little brother."