Disclaimer: Just playing. I know I can't keep 'em but if I could they'd be on series 10 by now! Thanks to Mog for her AU and letting us play with it. Thanks to Jan and Katy for their wisdom. Ratings/Warnings: Some violence. Minimal bad language.
Summary: Team Seven are tested to their limits to protect their own.
As Buck stepped off the elevator to his and JD's apartment he knew there would be trouble. Apart from the booming baseline of their music system assaulting his ears, his neighbour, Mrs. Patterson was waiting on her doorstep for him, her arms folded defensively across her chest.
"Mr. Wilmington!" she squawked, "I cannot get JD to answer the door. I've been trying for close to fifteen minutes now. I cannot tolerate any more of this...this...NOISE!!"
Buck did his best "swagger" towards her, putting his hands in the air. I'm so sorry," he said softly. "What can I say? Boy's had a bad week in court, probably got distracted. I'll go an' sort him out for ya' right now."
Mrs. Patterson gave him a withering glare. "You do that, and tell JD I'll see him later!"
Buck chuckled softly to himself as he turned from her. He could imagine JD's expressions whilst being admonished by the "demon neighbour." Still, this behavior was odd. JD was a good kid. Not one to anger people for no reason. "Must be real upset," Buck thought out loud.
As he put his key in the door he could feel the vibration. He pushed it open.
"JD! What the hell..."
The first thing he saw was the blood. So much blood. His eyes slowly rose to the prone form of his friend lying face down in the centre of it, just inside the living room. JD was looking back at him, pale and breathing quickly. His eyes showed pain and terror and his right arm was underneath him as if trying to hold himself together.
"OH DEAR GOD!!" Buck screamed starting to move forward. Suddenly Buck's head was exploding with lights and pain and he felt himself fall to the floor. He could still see JD looking at him but his vision was slowly blurring at the edges.
He became aware of someone stepping silently over him and he heard the door close. He waited for a few moments. Confident there was now just the two of them and keeping his eyes firmly on JD he painfully reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out his cell phone. He speed-dialed two.
Buck dropped the 'phone and looked back at his partner in time to see JD's eyes flutter closed. His vision darkened, "damn this music..." and he was out.
+ + + + + + +
Vin and Ezra arrived at the hospital waiting room shaken by Chris's anguished 'phone call. They were shaken to their core when they saw Chris for the first time. Josiah and Nathan were with him, but he seemed oblivious to them.
Vin gasped as he saw his crumpled friend. White, shaking and covered in blood, even his hands. He approached cautiously, Josiah looking grimly towards the two men as he relinquished his position beside Chris, to Vin.
"Hey cowboy," he said, softly. "How 'bout we get you cleaned up."
Chris slowly raised his eyes to meet Vin's. He looked deathly. He shook his head.
"I SAID NO!!" He pulled back hard and walked away.
Josiah held Vin's arm, shaking his head.
Chris turned back to them, holding out his hands, swallowing hard.
"JD!" he cried. "This...this is JD's!"
Ezra looked in horror. "Dear Lord, What happened?"
Chris closed his eyes, trying to block out the images. "Stabbed!"
"Chris," Ezra approached him. "Where's Buck?"
Josiah took up the story.
"They're working on him right now. Seems someone attacked JD in the apartment. Buck must have disturbed them, got hit on the head for his trouble."
Ezra could hardly believe it. They'd hardly seen JD all week due to court appearances, now this.
"And how is Buck?" he asked.
"Conscious, barely, and very agitated. Only to be expected with a head injury." Nathan added.
Chris was now seated again, staring at his hands. He kept shaking his head. Vin was determined. "Well, pard, if you won't get cleaned up, let me get you some coffee."
Chris suddenly went green and bolted for the toilets, leaving the men staring at each other helplessly. Vin decided to follow.
+ + + + + + +
The room was quiet and semi-dark, but Buck was not asleep. He stared at his friends, deep sorrow in his eyes. He looked back to Chris.
"They won't tell me 'nothin'," he sobbed.
"Nothin' to tell, he's still in surgery." Chris could barely look at him.
"Chris..." Buck said softly holding out his hand. "I'm scared. He looked...so..."
Chris took his hand, suddenly realizing his own hand's condition. Buck broke down. Alarmed by the reaction he'd caused and the sight of his hands, Chris stepped back and looked out of the window, resting his head on the cool glass. The room was silent except for the soft muffled sobs from Buck as Josiah soothed him, holding him to his chest.
"Never underestimate young John," Josiah said. "He has the heart of a lion."
The room door opened. All eyes stared back at the doctor trying to gauge her mood.
"I assume you're all also here for John Dunne?"
"Yes ma'am." Vin stepped forward slightly. Chris barely turned.
"He's come through surgery, but he is dangerously ill. We've given him six units of blood. There was one puncture wound to the lower abdomen which nicked his liver but missed any other vital organs. The initial blood loss and trauma have severely weakened him. We intend to keep him heavily sedated for the immediate future, until such time we see his condition is improving. For these reasons, we feel he should remain in ICU. Any questions?"
"When can we see him?"
"Mr. Wilmington, I hardly think you're up to..."
"It's Buck, ma'am. When can we see him?"
"Very well, I'll arrange a wheelchair and you can come now. Let me explain what you will see. He is wired up to various monitoring devices, simple standard procedure. However, he's been put on an artificial breathing device. This is due to the sedation and to take some of the strain off his heart and lungs so his body can focus on repairing itself. Right, I'll just go and make the arrangements." And with a tight smile she was gone.
By the time the men had arrived at ICU, Buck was in a wheelchair and Chris had been cleaned up and was wearing green scrubs. They looked through the window, each man taking in the scene quietly. Chris took control of Buck's chair and wheeled him in, the rest following.
Buck gently took JD's cold hand in his, surrounded by beeping noises and the whooshing of the ventilator. His chin visibly wobbled.
"Hey Kid," he whispered rubbing his thumb across JD's hand. "No need to rush on our account. Jest take ya' time an' come back to us when you're ready." He relaxed his shoulders and drifted off to sleep, still holding his hand.
+ + + + + + +
Two days later and Buck was up and about. Police reports had been filed, interviews given. No-one was any the wiser to the reason behind the assault. Several baskets of fruit, chocolates and some flowers from Mrs. Patterson cluttered JD's small room. He was still sedated. Buck hadn't moved far from his side, despite his own discomfort. Chris had progressed from distraught to furious. He was more like his old self every day but no-one failed to notice the underlying sadness.
"Right!" said Chris. "Let's go over this one more time. The music was clearly to drown out any noise that might be made. We estimate it occurred around fifteen to twenty minutes before Buck arrived. We have no prints, no eye witnesses and as yet, no clear motive as nothing was missing from the apartment. Have I missed anything?"
The men shook their heads. Buck looked pained.
"By noise, I assume you mean an attempt to cover up any screams of agony the Kid might've made?" Chris looked shaken.
"Buck, I'm sorry, I never..." Buck shook his head.
"Forget it, but let's just keep things in perspective here, ok?"
Larabee nodded. "Of course." He moved towards Buck. "Buck, you've gotta know, I'd never..."
Buck gripped his arm and looked into his eyes. "I know, I know. I also know you're seeing the same images I see. Stop trying to block them out. Deal with 'em. This is our Kid we're talking about here, not some faceless casualty. We're victims too, Chris. Allow us to be human."
Chris half sighed and half sobbed," You're right. I know, I'm sorry. I just can't bear to think about what I walked into. I thought JD was..." He turned his head down.
"But he's not, an' he's gonna make it. So we have a witness."
Chris looked up, the light returning to his eyes. He nodded, "absolutely."
+ + + + + + +
On day three six men stood in the ICU waiting room, looking back through the window at the flurry of activity in JD's room. He was off the ventilator, most of the machines had been unhooked and his fan was turned off. The doctor emerged from the room, smiling.
"He's still on strong pain meds and still has a catheter. His fever's down and his color's returning. It will take a little time for the sedative to reduce but he should be coming around in a few hours." All six men returned her smile. "He's making excellent progress, gentlemen, so I'll leave you to sit with him should you so wish."
They didn't need to be told twice. Shaking her hand one by one and saying their goodbyes all six filed in to welcome their youngest back to the land of the living.
Four hours later Buck had almost given up hope when a faint movement under his hand roused him. The others noticed the change in Buck's mood and started sitting forward.
"JD, son. Can you hear me?" Buck's smile grew as JD's other hand slowly raised as if to scratch his nose. He chuckled. "Hey sleepy head, Chris says ya gotta get up or you're on the coffee run fer a month."
JD slowly opened one eye, then the other. "No fair," he rasped.
A collective sigh was audible, accompanied by silent prayers. Their Kid was back.
+ + + + + + +
"C'mon JD, it's just soup. Ya gotta try an' eat somethin' Kid."
JD's pale face looked back at him.
"Sorry Buck, I just can't right now."
"The longer ya go without eatin' the longer that dang tube stays in your arm. Look, I'll make ya a deal, take a few sips an' I'll get ya some ice-cream."
JD cocked an eye. "Can I have chocolate?"
Buck grinned. "You bet!"
He helped JD sit up a little more, wincing with him as he tried to get comfortable, and handed him the mug of chicken soup. He couldn't help the small smile of satisfaction as he watched JD take four small sips. He took the mug back and placed it on the nightstand.
"That's my boy!" he smiled. "That'll do for now."
JD looked back at him.
Buck laughed. "Yeah, I did. Be right b....."
They were interrupted by the arrival of the rest of Team Seven. Chris gave JD a rare warm grin as he took a position at the side of the bed.
"Sitting up, that's gotta be good," he said.
"Might I just say, Mr. Dunne, you look considerably brighter today," Ezra commented.
JD flashed them a weary smile. "Thanks. " He shifted slightly. "I'm getting there."
Chris's expression changed to a more serious mood.
"JD, I hate to do this, but, d'ya feel up to going over the events of the other day?"
JD closed his eyes. The others looked around at each other, fully empathizing.
He sighed deeply, opened his eyes and looked back at Chris.
"Sure, why not."
They all took a chair and shuffled in close to the bed, almost protectively.
"When you're ready," Chris said gently.
JD coughed. Buck handed him a glass of water. He sipped three times, handed it back to Buck and took a deep breath.
"Court adjourned early. I was feeling really tired. We seemed to be going over the same ground time and time again. They were really pushing me about the data downloads I'd obtained. Brooks just kept glaring at me from his seat. It was awful. His eyes made me feel like I was a target on a shooting range."
Chris glanced at Vin; they would file that bit for future reference.
JD continued, oblivious. "I got home, made myself some coffee and showered. After I dressed I guess I musta dozed off on the bed 'coz the stereo was blaring and woke me up with a start. I think I must've thought Buck was home and had turned it on to a setting I'd had on previously. I remember stretching and walking out into the living room." JD started shaking violently, tears forming in his eyes. He began picking at the bedding. Buck got up and sat slightly behind him on the bed, leaning him against his chest.
"Take your time, son," Chris said, patting JD on the knee. JD looked at him, huge tears dropping down his face. He licked his lips and sniffed.
"I felt a huge punch to my stomach," he continued, more quietly, sobbing slightly. "I felt all the air rush out of my lungs and I remember dropping to my knees." His hand went instinctively over his wound. "Then I saw the blood. I couldn't work out what was happening, I guess I was still a little sleepy. I looked up and this guy was just staring at me. No expression, no emotion, just cold, staring eyes. He walked away and I fell forward." He looked absently at the palm of the hand covering his wound. "I was trying to hold the blood in." He looked at Nathan almost apologetically, knowing how impossible that would have been.
"All I remember after that was how much I hurt, how loud the music was, how scared I was that this guy was gonna do something else, and then..." he looked at Buck, closing his eyes again as if to block out the image. "Then I saw him hit Buck." His last words were barely audible.
JD broke down completely, unaware of the angry and distraught faces of his teammates. Buck was rocking him gently. Chris stood up and gently took JD's face in his hands, looking into his eyes.
"Son, JD, I'm sorry, just one more question. Would you recognize him again?"
Ezra was absent-mindedly shuffling cards. He looked back at JD's sleeping form on the bed and smiled to himself. The room door opened and he found himself instinctively placing his finger to his lips at the head peeping into the room.
"Gonna go eat. You wanna go an' I'll take over?" Vin asked.
"Please continue, Mr. Tanner, for now, I'm content just to sit and watch over our young charge. I would, however, be considerably grateful if you could obtain a cup of decent coffee on your return."
Vin chuckled. "Will do." He left. Ezra resumed shuffling.
+ + + + + + +
"How can he still be alive?!!!" The angry form of Ansell Brooks glowered at his shaking employee. "My brother will go down if he finishes his testimony!"
"I'm s...sorry, boss. I can't see how he could have survived. Maybe the Judge was bluffing, stalling for time."
"If that little runt was dead he'd have had to declare a mis-trial. I needed him gone. He's gonna come back and finish Phillip off. I CAN'T HAVE THAT!!"
"I'll do it boss, whatever you need. I'll go back and finish the job!"
Ansell pulled out a gun and pointed it at him.
"See that you do, and no mistakes this time!"
+ + + + + + +
By the end of the sixth day JD had gone close to stir-crazy, almost taking the rest of Team Seven with him. Day seven and JD was sitting in a wheelchair in his room, waiting for Ezra to pick him up.
Team Seven had been asked to assist Team Eight in a warehouse sweep, leaving Ezra free. Buck was relieved when he had offered to pick JD up and take him home.
JD's grin was dazzling as Ezra walked into his room.
"Mr. Dunne. It warms my heart to see you fully attired and prepared to depart." He gestured towards the door. "Shall we?"
"Oh yes please! Hey Ez can we stop off for some pizza. I'm starved!" JD asked.
"Today, and ONLY for today, you may have anything you desire Mr. Dunne," he smiled, pushing his chair out through the door.
"Awesome! In that case I think I'll have ..."
"I would also suggest also that you don't push your luck," he admonished, chuckling slightly. JD looked back at him, upside down, laughing softly.
"Whatever you say 'boss'. We going in the Jag?"
"Alas, no. My vehicle is currently undergoing a servicing." He grimaced. "We have the honor of traveling in the mode of transport preferred by Mr. Jackson."
They were well under way.
"Did you hear me Ez?"
"I'm sorry, JD what can I do for you?" Ezra seemed a little perturbed.
"You ok? You seem far away."
Ezra sighed and seemed reluctant to answer. Finally, he spoke.
"I hate to concern you with this, but I fear we are being followed." He looked again in the rear-view mirror.
JD looked into the door mirror. He saw the van behind them. JD went pale.
"Oh God, no," he whispered.
Ezra looked across. "Mr. Dunne?"
JD gulped. "It's him, Ez, the guy that attacked me. What are we gonna do?"
"May I suggest you try contacting one of our colleagues post-haste?"
JD was dialing Buck even before Ezra had finished speaking. After a few minutes he cussed.
"Damnit! No-one's answering. They must still be sweeping." He dialed again.
"Agent Dunne. Put me through to AD Travis quickly please! Sir, I'm sorry but I don't have much time. Agent Standish and I have just left the hospital, yes sir, I'm fine, thank you, please sir, just listen. I can't raise Team Seven. The man who attacked me is following us. We're..." he looked at Ezra, pointing. Ezra nodded. "We're gonna go through the city centre to try an' shake him off. We could use some assistance. Also can you relay this back to Chr...Agent Larabee? Thank you sir." He snapped the 'phone shut and looked back at Ezra, who was in deep concentration, plotting his next course change.
The van was shadowing their every move. Traffic was building as they neared the centre. Ezra was weighing their options. The building traffic could put innocent people at risk, a situation unacceptable to both agents. The nearest assistance would be Precinct twenty-nine. A quick slip down a side street would take them towards the old brewery which backed onto it. It could be tricky but hopefully worth the risk. Ezra made a decision.
"Mr. Dunne, I know you are not fully fit yet, but I would like to suggest we try and head for the old brewery site and continue on foot to the Precinct close by. How do you feel about that?"
JD nodded. "I can do it Ez, I won't let you down."
Ezra's face softened as he looked at JD briefly.
"JD, never for a moment had it crossed my mind that you would let me down. In truth, at this moment I fear it will be me that will let not just you, but our teammates down should I fail to return you home safely."
"Ezra, I trust you with my life!"
Ezra cracked a sideways smile, exposing a glint of gold tooth.
"As I do you, Mr. Dunne, as I do you!"
They were on a small, rarely used approach road, heading for their destination. For a brief moment Ezra believed his plan had worked, when the rear window of Nathan's Ford exploded.
"Shit!" JD yelled. Both men ducked instinctively.
Another shot, more imploding glass. Ezra pushed his arm towards JD's left shoulder.
"JD, stay down!"
He felt the pain in the shoulder of his outstretched arm. White hot agony. He was losing his grip on the wheel. Two more shots took out the back tires. The car skewed wildly.
"Hold on!" he instructed, knowing he was losing the battle for control. They careered towards an embankment and shot off down its slope. Both men were jostled mercilessly, coming to a grinding halt in some bushes.
For a moment neither man moved. JD groaned, holding the front of his head.
"Ow!" he moaned, looking at the blood covering his hand. He looked across at Ezra.
"Ez, Ez. You ok?"
A soft moan.
"Yes, Mr. Dunne, I believe I shall live. You?"
"However," Ezra added. "I think it might be best if we start moving. I'm sure they are not far behind."
With that, they exited the car. They moved around the back of the bushes for cover and looked at each other for the first time.
Ezra winced. "Mr. Dunne, your head is bleeding profusely. Here take my handkerchief."
As he offered it, he groaned. JD stared at him.
"Oh God, Ez, you've been shot!" JD moved towards him. Ezra held up his good hand.
"Pay no mind, young man. I am fine. We need to leave here." He glanced up at the top of the embankment and saw movement.
Without hesitation, both men moved off through the underbrush.
+ + + + + + +
The men were packing up their equipment as Chris's 'phone rang. Vin and Buck noticed Chris's body stiffen.
"When? Were they sure? Shit! Sorry sir! Where were they last pinpointed? What do you mean they lost them? Goddamnit! Ok, thanks, I'll get back to you."
All the team was looking now. Chris looked at Buck.
"JD called in to say they were being followed from the hospital." His face was grim. "It's the guy from the apartment!"
Buck went pale. "And?"
"And, nothing. They were heading for the city centre, but so far no-one's spotted them."
Without another word the five men jumped into Chris's Ram and were off to find their missing teammates.
+ + + + + + +
After half an hour, Chris began to get agitated.
"How the hell are we supposed to find them? We have no idea what Ezra was planning to do!"
Vin was sat at his side, studying a road map. "Just a hunch, but Precinct twenty-nine is close by. D'ya think Ez woulda tried to head there?"
"It would be less obvious if they'd gone via the old brewery. It backs on to the Precinct. The approach road is a mile that way," Nathan said, pointing.
"It's worth a try," Buck said. "What else we got?"
"It's just the sort of clever maneuver Ezra would go for," Josiah interjected.
"Aren't we forgetting something?" Chris asked.
The men all looked at him.
"JD!" Vin answered "He won't be able to travel far!"
"All the more reason for them to get to the Precinct," concluded Chris. "Here's the approach road!"
Their suspicions were confirmed when they saw an abandoned van at the top of the embankment. They approached cautiously, pulling alongside; they jumped out to inspect the vehicle. Vin looked down the embankment.
"Oh no," he said, softly. The rest joined him following his eyes with their own.
"Oh dear God," Buck said, making his way down the slope. Within seconds they were at the side of the car, looking over it in horror. Vin was inside.
"We got blood here!" He started looking around the area, finally moving in a direction. "This way!"
+ + + + + + +
JD and Ezra had got to the brewery and were holed up in an old loading bay. They were both breathing heavily and both bleeding steadily. Ezra was pale and sweaty. JD didn't look much better. They both sat quietly, trying to catch their breath.
JD touched his stomach gingerly. His bandages were warm and damp. Damn, he'd burst his stitches. The burning sensation he was feeling wasn't helping either. He looked at Ezra. His eyes were closed but his gun was firmly gripped in his hand. As if he knew he was being watched, Ezra opened his eyes and flashed JD a smile.
"I'm sorry Ez," JD whispered.
"May I ask why?" came the answer.
"I think this is down to me."
"Maybe it is linked to you, but you most certainly did not cause it. Let us not dwell on the whys and wherefores, but focus instead on solutions."
JD flipped the cell 'phone again. Still no signal. "No-one's gonna know where we are, are they?"
"We must assume not, Mr. Dunne. However, our team is nothing if not resourceful. I am confident they will reach the correct conclusion when presented with the facts."
"We changed direction, Ez. I never called it in. I'm not so sure."
"Have faith, Mr....JD, faith will go a long way."
Movement. Both men tensed. Ezra adjusted his grip on his gun. His right shoulder throbbed mercilessly. JD scanned the area, looking for a makeshift weapon. He spotted a piece of wood and started to move towards it. Suddenly bullets were pinging around his feet, sending him flying back for cover.
Ezra peered around from his position and fired off three rounds in quick succession, falling back as he did so.
"Damn!" JD called, "they've got us pinned down! How'd they find us so fast?"
"I fear our respective injuries may have left a trail!"
JD closed his eyes and shuddered. They were screwed!
"Did you hear that!" called Buck.
"Over there!" pointed Vin. Five men raced across to where the gunfire was coming from, Josiah calling in their position as they moved.
Suddenly a shout from Vin
"Hit the deck!"
Rapid bursts of gunfire whistled all around them.
"Shit, who are these people?" called Buck. He was aware of a grunt from Chris.
"Chris, you hit?"
"Don't sweat it Buck, just a flesh wound."
"Shit! Vin, we need to lay down some cover fire. I'll try an'..."
"Can you smell that?" Nathan asked.
The firing had ceased. Vin slowly raised his head.
"They done gone and set fire ta the place!"
Buck pounded the dirt. "Where the hell's back-up!"
+ + + + + + +
"Who are they shooting at?" JD asked, not really expecting an answer.
"I have my suspicions."
"Oh God no, not the guys? How did...Ez, do you smell that?"
Wearily Ezra nodded. "This just keeps getting better! JD we need to move!"
JD sighed hard. He turned to his friend.
Ezra, I'm sorry, but I don't think I can," he said softly.
Ezra struggled over to him in alarm, ignoring his own agony. He lifted JD's sweatshirt, exposing his t-shirt, once white now turning a deep red. JD's face was pain-filled and streaked with red from his head wound. He looked exhausted.
"JD..." Ezra paused, "JD, why didn't you tell me?"
"Didn't want to let you down!" He coughed. The smoke was starting to reach them. "'Sides, you got troubles of your own!"
Ezra sighed. This was a nightmare. How could he help his young friend when he could barely focus himself? He knew he was dangerously close to passing out and he was almost out of ammunition. Not that that would be an issue soon, the smoke and building heat would soon overpower them anyway. His thoughts were interrupted.
"Give me your gun. I'll cover you. You need to get outta here, get to Chris and the guys, before it's too late."
Ezra pulled JD towards him and uncharacteristically hugged him.
"Mr. Dunne, while I thank you for your selfless gesture, we entered this predicament together and that is how we will end it."
+ + + + + + +
Nathan had managed to pad out Chris's side.
"You need a doctor. It needs stitching."
Chris winced as he adjusted his position.
"We'll worry about that when we get them out of there!" He said, gesturing towards the burning building.
"Vin, we need to get you closer to take the shot. I can't imagine those bastards sticking around much longer if they wanna live."
Vin nodded. "I'm ready. Seeing as the shooting's stopped we should go now. You up for it, cowboy?"
"You'd better believe it. Buck, you veer left with Josiah. Nathan follow Vin. I'll bring up the rear." There was a distant sound of sirens. "We don't have time to wait for them. Let's go!"
As one, they moved into their positions and advanced.
JD and Ezra had dropped low to the floor. The acrid smoke was thickening, closing in on them. Slowly they inched their way across the floor. JD could feel his stomach muscles burning. He was physically shaking from the sheer effort involved.
A single shot rang out ahead of them.
"Oh God" JD thought. Guess this is it. He looked across at Ezra, thinking maybe to say his goodbyes, but Ezra was out. No longer moving. JD's heart sank. Suddenly he saw legs coming towards him. Before he could react he was hoisted to his feet by the shoulder of his sweatshirt.
"This time, I'll do it right!"
JD looked at the man in fear, then disgust.
"Go to hell!" He spat in his face.
The man screamed in anger, dropping JD in an attempt to wipe his face. JD kicked back from him and tried to wriggle away. His assailant lunged at him but JD kicked out at him again, catching him in a delicate area. Another yell but a quick recovery. This time his lunge caught JD's left leg and he dragged the boy towards him across the floor, hefting him up until they were face to face.
"Who are you?" JD barely whispered. His eyes streaming from the smoke. His body getting weaker by the second.
"Phillip and Avery Brooks say "hi"!" the man sneered, raising a gun to JD's face.
A shot was fired. JD looked in horror as part of the man's head exploded. They both fell to the floor with a sickening thud.
Things were getting hazy. He became aware of strong arms lifting him and lots of voices. A hand turned his face forwards. He found himself looking at Buck.
"Didn't I tell you to go straight home!"
JD looked directly at his closest friend, his brother, tears in his eyes. "Ezra!" he said weakly, and he was out.
The trial was over. Despite still being on sick leave, JD had insisted on continuing, resulting in a prison sentence of thirty years for Phillip Brooks, for the import and distribution of illegal weapons. Avery Brooks had been shot dead resisting arrest.
Chris was back on desk duty while Ezra was still also on sick leave. Team Seven had decided to gather at Buck and JD's apartment for an evening of TV sport, and relaxation.
Vin and Buck were in the kitchen collecting the prepared food to take to the lounge.
"How's JD's nightmares coming along?" Vin asked. "Not so bad now. At least he can sit in the lounge again."
"Yeah, Chris seemed a little apprehensive when we first came in. Seems more settled now."
Buck sighed deeply. "Tell you the truth, I suggested we sell up and move somewhere else. JD wouldn't hear of it. So I figure, if the Kid can live with it, so can I."
They took the food in. Chris was sitting in the over-stuffed armchair. Nathan and Josiah were looking at fishing catalogues at the dining table. Ezra and JD were sharing the sofa, JD with his back against some pillows, his socked feet resting on Ezra's knees. Vin put down the food on the coffee table and pulled up a dining chair. Buck put his food down and took up the recliner. They all sat quietly sipping on their drinks.
Ezra broke the silence.
"May I make a toast?"
They all turned to him.
He raised his glass of wine. The others raised their beers, JD raised his coke.
"To us. May we always be comforted with the knowledge that each of us are blessed with six guardian angels and that there is no greater gift than the offer of one man to always be prepared to lay down his life for his brother."
They each looked around at each other, nodding then drinking. JD held Ezra's gaze for a little longer, the look reciprocated.
Just before the aimed projectile hit him, JD added,
"Hey Ez, you still owe me a pizza!"