Disclaimer: Just playing. I know I can't keep 'em but if I could they'd be on season 10 by now!
Thanks to Mog for her wonderful universe.
This was written to celebrate the DunnesDarlins Group's SEVENTH anniversary. Congratulations guys.
Thanks as always to Phyllis, my rock, for betaing this and for her help and guidance.
Looking down at a drop of twenty stories, while precariously balanced on the ledge of the roof of a building, wasn't quite how John Daniel Dunne had expected his day to go. Yet here he was.
Earlier that day
"Will you two knock it off, or it won't be shopping for a celebration we'll be doing, but for a wake!" Chris Larabee bellowed from the front passenger seat of Josiah's SUV.
"The kid started it," smiled Buck, poking JD in the arm.
"Did not, you took my iPod, give it back, Chris tell him to give it back."
Chris sighed, "Buck, give it back," he looked at Josiah in the driver's seat, "I don't believe those two, it's like taking two kids out for the day."
"Chris," Buck moaned, "I was just taking a look, he's over reacting."
"Gentlemen!" Ezra growled, "I swear I have never seen such juvenile behavior between two adults in my entire life. Must we endure this every time the two of you are in a confined space?"
JD snatched his iPod back "He started it!"
"ENOUGH!" Chris roared. He gestured to Josiah to stop the vehicle. They were close to where the seven men had decided to split up and pick up the items on their lists, meeting back at the coffee shop, in the square outside the mall, when they were finished.
"JD, this is where you need to be, so I think it's best you get out now and put an end to the squabbling."
JD couldn't hide the hurt in his voice, "So you ARE blaming me."
"I'm blaming no one; this is your stop, so go."
Feeling the color in his face rise, he jumped out of the vehicle, and without a backward glance, walked away.
Everyone in the vehicle was silent. Chris looked back at them.
"A bit harsh, don't ya think, pard?" Vin asked.
"I fear Mister Dunne will take that admonishment to heart, "Ezra pointed out."
"He always does if Chris says it," Nathan added.
"Ya know, it kinda was my fault, I did take the damned thing from him," Buck admitted.
Chris was exasperated.
"Listen to yourselves, one minute you're complaining about the bickering; now you're busting my chops because I put an end to it. This IS JD's stop, he needed to be here, he'll realize that as soon as he goes in the first store."
The silence that greeted him was deafening. Chris' shoulders drooped.
"Damn. Ok, I'll look for him later and make it up to him, now go shop!"
+ + + + + + +
JD's heart was no longer in his task. He felt Chris had acted unfairly and used the shopping location to single him out. The team had been together for almost a year, and he was excited by their planned weekend to celebrate, but now, he just wanted to go home.
But he was a trooper, and he didn't want to spoil anyone else's weekend, so he would get what was needed, return to the ranch and make his excuses to leave.
Stepping outside into a courtyard linking the shops, he sat on a bench next to a fountain, and glanced at his watch. The others wouldn't be here for another half-hour, so he took out his iPod to listen to some music. Not knowing why, he looked up, through the buildings, toward the skyline, shading his eyes from the glare of the sun.
His mouth dropped open as his eyes rested at the top of an office block and, grabbing his purchases, he ran for the building. As he got to the reception desk, he dumped his bags on the corner of the desk.
"Watch these for me," he panted, turning to leave.
"Sir!" the receptionist called.
JD spun ninety degrees, reaching for his wallet. He flashed his ID at her.
"Call the police and emergency services, I think you've got a jumper, oh and call this number too." He handed her a small embossed card, then took off toward the elevators.
Chris had deliberately arrived early at the square, in the hope of speaking to his youngest agent before the others arrived. JD was a quick shopper, with a good eye, so he felt reasonably confident the youth would finish early. Chris scanned the area but could see no trace of him. He was alerted to the sound of approaching sirens and then the vibration of his cell phone. Placing his free hand over his ear in an attempt to block out the escalating noise, he listened, frowning at the voice on the phone. Suddenly, his head jerked up to the top of the building opposite his position.
Chris started running.
+ + + + + + +
The roof exit was two floors above the last elevator stop. JD had raced toward the stairs, taking them two at a time until he hit the fire exit door. His eyes searched the roof frantically, finally resting on his target, and, as stealthily as possible, moved forward.
A man, probably in his forties, was standing on top of the four-foot high ledge at the building's edge, staring down at the ground below, oblivious to the approach of the young agent. JD thought it best to announce himself, so when he was within grabbing distance he spoke softly.
"Hi, my name's JD, can I offer you some assistance?"
It appeared to take the man a few seconds to register the voice, but as he did, he turned his head sharply.
"Stay away! I mean it, just leave me alone!"
JD held up his hands, standing completely still.
"Ok sir, no problem. Do you need anything; can I call someone for you?" He took a tentative step forward.
"No, now piss off; I'm trying to do something here."
"I understand, I'm pretty pissed off myself right now, too." Two more steps forward.
The man turned slightly, narrowing his eyes, "What's a kid like you got to be pissed off about? You've got your whole life ahead of you."
"Yeah, well there's the rub, I'm surrounded by people who think I'm still in short trousers. I wouldn't mind so much, but half the time I get into trouble because of a guy almost twice my age." Two more steps.
"Naw, big brother, he knows just how to wind me up. Do you have a brother?"
The man sighed, "A sister, but she's in Canada, look, just beat it, I need to be alone."
"No problem, can I just ask, are you ok? Can I do anything before I go?"
The man laughed, "Yeah, kid, go win the Lotto for me so's I can put the two million I just lost my company back, before they miss it."
"Bummer!" JD said out loud, before he'd realized.
The man laughed again, "Yeah, bummer." He looked at the boy for the first time.
"Jack," he said, sighing, "My name's Jack."
JD flashed him a smile, "Pleased to meet you Jack, so, you wanna talk about it?"
+ + + + + + +
Chris had reached the top of the building in record time, only to be greeted by half a dozen cops. One stepped forward, holding up his hand.
"Hold it there sir; I can't let you go any further."
Chris half growled and half sighed, reaching for his wallet while warning them of what he was reaching for.
"Larabee, ATF, one of my agents is out there with the jumper."
The cop extended his hand and shook Chris's firmly.
"Officer Lyle. Your boy's doing a fair job up to now, is he REALLY one of yours? Hardly looks old enough to be..."
"Don't even think about finishing that sentence," Chris glowered, "Just give me the details."
A little embarrassed, Officer Lyle proceeded to fill him in. Chris halted the officer while he answered his phone.
"Yeah, Buck... I AM here; I'm in the building surrounded by emergency vehicles... Yes, I do know where JD is...Buck, shut up and bring the guys up to the roof... when do I joke? Do it, now!"
The group at the door to the roof stepped quietly outside, ensuring they made no sudden moves or noise, holding their position, while watching the scene a short distance ahead of them, play out.
Chris stifled a gasp as he watched his youngest agent climb up onto the ledge next to the man and sit facing him side on, his legs crossed, his forearms resting on his thighs, hands clasped in front of him. The boy's eyes never dropped from the man's for an instant and Chris found himself marveling that JD hadn't plummeted to his death. A noise at the stairwell alerted him to the arrival of his Team, and he moved to warn them.
"He's what?" Buck squawked, straining to see around Chris.
"Buck, can it. This is delicate stuff, and he's doing great up to now. I let you come up here, but I can't afford for you to distract him, so either calm down, or leave," Chris warned. Buck relaxed a little.
"What can we do?" asked Josiah.
"Absolutely nothing," Chris added, "All I hope is that the stupid bastard doesn't do it anyway and take JD with him."
They all paled a little and stood in silence, watching events unfold.
+ + + + + + +
JD shivered slightly. He didn't care for the height, or more realistically, the drop, but he couldn't help but look down, regretting it instantly. With eye contact lost, Jack began shuffling his feet nervously. JD silently berated himself and set out to re-establish contact. As Jack moved closer to the edge, he turned to JD angrily.
"I warned you," he said, "Get the hell away from me, or I swear, I'll take you down with me."
JD sighed, and swung back down off the ledge, onto the roof. He thought he'd try one last shot.
"Fine by me, Jack. See, my friends and me got a little celebration planned, and I, for one, don't want to miss it. You could come, if you want. But then, it's kind of a celebration of life, too. Hell, we've been through some dark times this past year. Can't help feeling thankful all seven of us are still here to enjoy it. I guess that's not where you are right now though is it?"
Jack looked at the young man, tears falling from his eyes. "How can I go on? How can I live with myself, after what I've done?"
JD gave a sideways smile, "You can, because it's only money. You didn't kill anyone, or lose something or someone precious to you, you may even be punished a little for it, but once you've faced it, you can move on with your life. You could go see your sister; I bet she'd love that."
Jack was shaking now, "Yeah, she would, she's been nagging me for years to go see her and the kids. I always promise, but we both know it's not going to happen, I'm always too busy making money," he laughed, "Mostly for other people, though I even screwed that up."
Desperate to keep positive, JD focused back on the sister.
"So you have a niece or a nephew?"
Jack half-smiled, "Two nieces, six and four, they're real sweethearts. I couldn't believe how much they'd grown when they visited me last year. God, I miss them."
"There's your reason to live then, Jack," JD said softly, "Do it for them, they need you, your sister needs you, and being alone in this world sucks. I had no one when I came to Denver, now I got me a family, six big brothers to chew my ass out when I screw up, to lift me when I'm down. Just knowing how much we all care about each other makes my heart soar. Come on, Jack, do it for them."
The group watching gasped collectively as the man start to turn toward the agent and slowly hold out his hand.
JD extended his, smiling and keeping eye contact.
Just as Jack reached him, he lost his footing and started to slip off the ledge. Jack's eyes were wide with fear as he thrust his hand toward JD, who instantly threw himself forward to grab it.
Jack's weight was considerably more than the small-framed agent, and that, plus the momentum of the downward movement, pulled JD in hard against the top edge of the ledge.
JD knew THAT feeling, as the pressure to his ribs caused an almost overwhelmingly sharp pain and loss of breath, but he was undeterred, holding Jack's wrist in a tight grip.
The man's eyes screamed terror, as he stared up at JD, yelling,
"Don't drop me, don't let me fall. I don't want to die!"
JD dropped his other hand over to grab the man's flailing wrist, but Jack grabbed first. He heard himself scream out as he felt the bones in his wrist snap.
But that wasn't the worst of it. Unable to keep his balance due to gravity and an unequal weight distribution, JD's feet left the ground and he started to topple over the ledge. He had no doubt in his mind; they were both going to die.
+ + + + + + +
When the man had started to lose his balance, Team Seven was moving. Within seconds, Buck and Josiah had Jack's arms while Chris and Vin pinned JD's body to the side of the ledge. Ezra and Nathan quickly held onto Buck and Josiah and with one enormous effort, the two falling bodies and six men tumbled backward onto the roof in a heap.
For a few moments, no one moved, then slowly and carefully they began unraveling themselves. Two paramedics quickly joined them, examining Jack first. Buck pulled JD close to him, trying to look for injuries, as he was in no doubt the boy was in pain. Nathan joined him and began an examination while five pairs of anxious eyes looked on. Eventually he spoke, more to JD than the group, but each man was absorbing the information.
"JD, are you having trouble breathing in?" He asked.
JD screwed up his eyes in pain and nodded, his face bathed in sweat.
"Thought so," Nathan looked at Buck and Chris, then to the rest. "He's got maybe two broken ribs and I'm pretty sure his wrist's broken too."
Buck put his large hand on top of JD's now sweaty head.
"Aw hell, kid."
JD looked at him, then the group and managed to huff out a few words.
"Th...That's...n...not all...I... l...lost...my... iPod."
+ + + + + + +
As dusk fell, six men sat on the porch of Chris's ranch, each holding a bottle of beer, but neither man drinking much. Buck kept tilting his chair back to look in through the screen door at the sleeping bundle on the sofa. Soft light from the porch lights cast their glow over six sullen faces. Chris sighed.
"I guess we should postpone this little celebration of ours tomorrow, there's no way JD's going to be fit enough."
"Aw, hell," moaned Vin, "The kid's gonna throw a fit. He'll hate us canceling if he thinks it's 'cause of him."
"He's not up to it Vin, apart from his injuries, the pain meds are gonna keep him out of it for a day or two," Nathan informed.
"Poor JD, he can't even catch a break doing a good deed," sighed Josiah.
"This sucks," Buck grunted.
"If I may," Ezra interjected, "Medication and injuries aside, wouldn't it be prudent of us to ask the young man himself? I know we all think he will insist we go ahead, and if that is the case, who are we to refuse? He will still be here, just not fully compos mentis."
Buck frowned at Ezra, and then slowly nodded his head, pointing.
"I...think I agree with him."
The group chuckled.
"Ok, we'll ask him tomorrow, he might be more awake then," Chris agreed.
Nathan frowned, "I'm still not so sure, I mean, we're having the bigger cook-out next week when Rain and Casey are available, surely that's enough?"
A noise from the door had them turning to see a tousle-haired, sleepy federal agent, standing on the porch, wrapped in a quilt.
"Won't be the same, next week," he grunted through clenched teeth, "The date I started with y'all is tomorrow, that's when we became the team we are now."
Buck was on his feet and next to JD in an instant, closely followed by Nathan.
"What the hell are you doin' out here? You're supposed to be resting."
He took JD's arm as he saw the boy sway and guided him to a bench. Buck sat behind JD to support him, instinctively wrapping his long arms around the quilt to hold him in place.
JD sank back against him, grateful for the comfort. He knew he should be more of a man at times like this, but Buck, or sometimes one of the others, made it easy for him to just do what came naturally. JD could feel sleep calling him, but was determined to fight it until he got his answer. He looked sleepily around the group, resting on Chris.
"Well?" he asked, yawning.
Chris smiled, nodding. "Alright then, I guess it's still on."
Vin grinned and slapped his own thigh, nodding in agreement. One by one, the men nodded too, even Nathan.
JD smiled as he drifted back to sleep, mumbling. "Good, 'cause I got y'all a present...." Finally letting go as he heard a collective,
+ + + + + + +
Eleven forty-eight the next morning. As he slowly returned to consciousness, JD winced as he tried to stretch. He looked to the nightstand and saw two pills and a glass of water waiting for him.
He decided just to take one, determined not to be out of it at the cook-out.
It took almost twenty minutes to get himself out of bed, his left arm strapped to his chest causing some difficulty. He bumped the nightstand as he tried to put on his jeans, and within thirty seconds Buck was in his room.
"Need a hand there boy?" The tall agent asked.
JD was about to refuse, but realized it was pointless, "Yeah, please," he smiled.
A further twenty minutes saw the two men downstairs and out on the porch. The sun was high and warm, the sky blue and the air clean. JD wondered when he'd started being so consumed with the weather, settling on it having to do with the events of the previous day and the realization of how precious life was.
One by one, the team greeted him as they went about their preparations for their celebration. By two pm they were ready to begin cooking. Nathan approached JD.
"Have you taken your meds today?"
JD nodded. Nathan eyed him suspiciously, he seemed too wide awake to be telling the truth, but he knew JD wouldn't lie, so accepted his answer.
"Good, you just say if this gets to be too much for you," he reminded.
JD nodded again, "I will Nate, I promise and Nathan? Thanks."
Nathan gave him a huge toothy grin and squeezed his good arm, "Alright then, let's do this."
By five pm large quantities of food and alcohol had been consumed by six of the men, the seventh eating a little and drinking soda. JD was feeling his injuries much more now, but was so tickled by his mildly inebriated extended family, that it was put to the back of his mind. He attempted to stand.
"Jus' where are yoouuu goin'?" Buck enquired, smiling a cheesy smile and putting his arm around his roommate.
JD chuckled, "I need to get the bag from the study, the one with your presents in."
Buck put one finger in the air, "I'll get that," he insisted, going in through the door.
JD sat back down as all the team slowly joined him. Nathan seemed reasonably sober.
"Do you need your meds yet? He asked.
"Naw, I'm good for a little while, thanks,"
Chris tapped his face lightly, "Don't you be struggling now," he slurred.
The youth's smile grew, an amused look on his face, he'd never seen Chris 'funny' drunk.
"Really, I'm good Chris, thanks. Are you ok?"
Chris sat down and grinned, "Better than good, son, this was a good idea."
JD nodded, "And it was yours," he reminded.
They both turned as Buck came back out onto the porch, his nose buried in the bag he was carrying.
"Buck, get out of there!" JD called, taking the bag. He inhaled as he felt his ribs pull, but shook it off, 'just a little longer' he told himself.
Looking at the seated men, he took out a wrapped present and read the tag to himself.
"This is for you," he smiled, holding out a gift for Nathan, which Nathan took, thanking him. His eyes widened as he revealed a framed document.
"I did some digging on the internet, your great, great grandfather was bequeathed a piece of land, but I assumed the deeds had gone astray seeing as you've never mentioned it. I re-claimed it in your name, had to send in documentation and stuff, but hey, this is me right, I know how to get hold of these things. Anyway, it's all yours, and taped to the back of the frame are two 'plane tickets so as you and Rain can go down to Alabama and take a look. Make sure you take some pictures though, ok?"
Nathan could hardly see through his watery eyes, "I...I don't know what to say...Thank you. I can't believe you did this for me."
"No sweat, it was my pleasure, next," he handed a package to Josiah.
All the men had crowded in by now, totally drawn in by the emotion evoked. Josiah looked down at the most stunning red leather gold edged bible he had ever seen. He opened it and read the inscription.
Not that you're in need of any spiritual guidance, but this is just a small token of my deep affection for you. Never a day goes by when I don't thank God I met you and the guys, You are a constant strength and guide to me, and I thought this would help you remember how much you mean to me, to all of us, each time you open it.
A huge sob came from Josiah's throat as he rose to his feet. Aware of JD's injuries and uninhibited due to the alcohol, he kissed the boy gently on the top of his head. He smiled. "Thank you," he grinned, and returned to his seat.
JD chuckled, amused and touched by his actions, "You're welcome."
He handed the next gift to Ezra, who graciously thanked him and opened it.
Ezra was gazing at it in awe. The antique figurine was of a western gambler, sitting at a card table and holding a minute hand of cards.
JD grinned, "Don't you think he kinda looks like you?" he asked. "Anyway I figured you could pretend he's holding a Royal Flush or something."
Ezra held up the figurine to show his grinning teammates. He looked JD in the eyes.
"Mister Dunne, you have achieved a feat few people have had success in, you have rendered me speechless."
Team Seven burst into laughter as they watched Ezra leave his seat to give the boy's hand a firm squeeze.
Vin was next. His gift wrapping contained a small box, inside was a small silver penny whistle, which was engraved;
Vincent Michael Tanner, may he one day play as well as he shoots. - JD
Vin was choked, "How did you...?"
"The last time I was the designated driver and you were three sheets to the wind, we saw a guy on a street corner playing one." JD reminded, "You told me you'd had one once, but someone in one of the orphanages stole it from you. I figured it was time you had a new one."
JD was taken aback as Vin approached him and gave him a short tight hug, before returning to his seat, and couldn't contain his grin as his friend blew once, into the instrument. He accepted the thanks and turned to Chris.
Chris seemed shaky as he opened his gift. It revealed a framed photograph of an airman in uniform, standing alongside an unfamiliar airplane. At the bottom of the picture were a fabric insignia and a silver leaf badge.
JD offered an explanation; "You're great grandfather flew for the British air force in World War Two. He achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, the silver leaf, and the patch was his unit. I'm sorry, they're only replicas, but the picture is definitely him. The envelope contains copies of his orders officially transferring him overseas and a copy of the letter awarding him the Purple Heart, for a mission he flew before he went abroad. My only regret is that I couldn't trace the medal for you."
Chris swallowed hard then pulled JD in close, resting his chin on his head for a moment.
"This is wonderful, JD I can't thank you enough." He breathed.
Buck looked at his roommate with total admiration, then looked down as he was handed a package. He opened it and gasped. He turned the tiny music box in his large hands; tears forming as the memories came flooding back.
"When did you take this?" Buck whispered. JD looked at him a little apprehensively.
"A few months ago, when you and Ezra were on that undercover operation that took you away for the week. I know it was wrong of me to go in your room looking for it, but I'd found this guy who said he could restore it. Look, it plays now."
The youth flipped open the lid and the little box played "Beautiful Dreamer" in a tinkling chime.
Buck was crying, "My mom adored this little box, she would play it when she was sad, sometimes she would even twirl around to it, taking me around with her." He put his arms around his surrogate little brother and held him tightly for a minute. When he eventually let go, he had composed himself. Buck spoke, his voice now recovered slightly.
"JD, this is one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me. I have absolutely no way I can repay you, but know this, I thank God every day for giving me the chance to get to know you, even if you are a little shit sometimes."
Everyone burst into laughter, grateful to release the tension.
"How the hell did you do all this in one morning?" Chris asked.
"ONE MORNING?" JD squealed, "Hell, I've been doing this for six months. I was gonna give you them for Christmas, but, this seemed more appropriate."
The men looked to each other, then to JD and nodded and smiled in agreement.
"Well, I guess you'd better have this then, it's from all of us," Buck grinned, handing JD a large box and steadying it for him as he struggled with his one good arm.
JD beamed, "Wow, thanks," he said, ripping at the paper. "Whoa, AWESOME!" He yelled, pulling at the boxes eagerly.
"Well seeing as you lost yours, we figured we'd get you a new one, but then there's all these accessories too," Chris grinned, watching JD examining his iPod Nano and squealing at his new iPod Video. Then he noticed the box that said Bose SoundDocking System, a speaker system especially designed for the iPod. Now it was JD's turn to be emotional.
"Guys, this...this is...way too much, but thank you, I... I'm speechless!" he chuckled, looking at Ezra, then to the rest of the group.
The group sat in silence for a few minutes, each man quietly examining his gift in detail. Eventually, JD spoke.
"Nathan, I didn't lie earlier, but I didn't tell the whole truth either. I only took half of my medication, and I'm feeling it a little, well a lot actually," he gasped feeling the pain flooding over him. Nathan growled at him and went into the house to get the pills, Buck glared.
"Damnit boy, would you just once, do as you're told."
JD looked away, "Sorry, I just didn't want today to be ruined."
Buck opened his mouth to speak but Chris stopped him, helping JD to his feet.
"Well, it sure as hell wasn't ruined, come on, bed."
JD looked back before disappearing into the house, "G'night guys," he smiled.
They all answered him, Josiah winked.
Twenty minutes later, six men were back to drinking their beers on the porch, though considerably more sober than before.
"Can you believe that kid?" Buck asked, "Where the hell does he come up with this stuff?"
Josiah smiled, "He's a very resourceful young man."
"He's a damned liability, is what he is," huffed Nathan, "That boy's been in agony for hours, damned stupid... damned... sweet kid."
Buck winked, "Yup, hard to stay mad at him, ain't it? Good thing we don't have work tomorrow, taking the extra day was a stroke of genius, pard," he slapped Chris on the back.
Chris frowned, then swigged his beer, "Well, gonna be a few more days for JD," he informed.
They all nodded.
Ezra spoke, "Well, it HAS been a good day, and I propose we do this every year that Team Seven remains together."
Each man held up his beer in agreement, it had indeed been a great day of celebration, and Team Seven remaining strong and intact would always give cause for such an event.
JD was finally giving in to sleep. It had been a hell of a weekend, but it had ended perfectly. He snuggled down further, a smile on his face and his new iPod resting on the nightstand, drifting off to the tune of "Beautiful Dreamer" as it played in his head.
Yep, it had been a great day of celebration.