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.
From an idea by Sheela, Dunne's Darlin's Ideas page
Summary: A good deed goes wrong for Team Seven and its youngest members
The office had gone quiet as the afternoon rolled into early evening. All paperwork was up to speed and Team Seven's latest case had just closed. Larabee looked across the bullpen from his office, content with the relaxed atmosphere.
Buck was reading a newspaper, Nathan a medical journal. Josiah was writing, Ezra was on the phone and Vin and JD seemed absorbed with JD's monitor, chuckling to each other occasionally.
All were oblivious as AD Travis entered and walked into Chris's office. Chris stood and moved forward to shake the man's hand.
"Orin, good to see you. What brings you down here?"
"'Evenin' Chris, I'm looking for volunteers..."
Buck looked up from his paper and spotted Travis talking to Chris.
"Oh, now that can't be good!" he commented. They all looked up at him then followed to where his eyes were focused.
"It's probably nothing, brother." Josiah replied, going back to his writing.
"Oh oh, look out, here they come!" Buck snatched his newspaper back up.
"Gentlemen!" Travis said, walking towards them.
"Sir "and various other mumbling could be heard. They all looked towards him, noticing Chris had followed him out.
"I'm in need of a favor or two," he continued. "I need two volunteers for a charity auction taking place tomorrow night."
"Like an antiques auction?" JD asked.
Travis smiled. "No JD, they will be auctioning men."
JD went a little pale and looked at Buck, mouthing at him the word "men?"
Buck snickered. "Well, I think I could go for a little of that. I could use a good meal with a nice rich lady!" JD looked a little more shocked.
"While I thank you whole-heartedly for that, Buck, as you've helped me out two years running, I think 'fresh meat' would be more appropriate for the occasion."
JD and Vin looked at each other, both attempting to shrink down in their chairs. Travis walked over to them and placed a hand on both their shoulders. "How about it boys?"
Vin jerked his thumb first at JD then himself. "He's too young and I don't wanna!" JD nodded vigorously in agreement. The others sat back and relaxed. Realizing they were off the hook, they started to enjoy themselves at the expense of their two youngest.
"Excellent, that's settled then! Take tomorrow to get yourselves suitable attire and I'll meet you at the Denver Hilton at seven O'clock!" He smiled at them and left.
Chris could barely contain his smile as he looked at the horrified pair in front of him.
JD was still shaking his head. "I...I..."
Vin finished for him,"... don't wanna do this!" he exclaimed.
They all chuckled. "It's good fun," Buck commented, "and you'll get a good night out with a lady, to boot!"
"What if they don't bid for me?" JD asked quietly. Buck walked over and put his hand on his shoulder.
"Are you kiddin' me, a cute li'l stud muffin like you?"
JD put his head down on his desk. Vin just groaned and shook his head.
"And just for good measure," Buck continued, laughing, "we're gonna be there for support."
+ + + + + + +
JD felt like he was choking. Vin didn't look like he was doing any better as he constantly fingered his collar where his dress bow was tied. In truth they both looked stunning in their black tuxes. Ezra was re-adjusting JD's collar for the third time. He'd given up on Vin's as he feared he might lose a few fingers to the sharpshooter had he continued.
"Ezra quit it!" JD barked. He'd had enough and was feeling sick to his stomach.
"A gentleman should..." he broke off, realizing JD's dilemma. "Take a breath son."
"You're up Vin!" Buck called from the stage entrance.
Vin's body stiffened. Chris touched his arm. "You'll be fine."
"Yeah, well if it's so much fun you go on in there!"
Chris laughed softly, moving him forward. As he moved through the curtain huge cheers, whistles cat-calls and applause could be heard. The men laughed.
"The boy's a natural!" Buck stated.
JD sat down hard. "I can't DO this!" he moaned, to himself.
A few minutes later Vin returned, beaming. "Some lady done bid $20,000 for me, the highest tonight!"
JD looked horrified. "Well done Vin. D'ya think she's got any change in her purse left for me?"
They all laughed again. Buck slapped him on the shoulder. "C'mon stud, you're up."
+ + + + + + +
The noise was deafening, or so it seemed, as JD shakily stepped out. He couldn't really make anyone out due to the spotlights, his mind drifting as the auctioneer started the bidding at $100. Nothing much was happening and JD wished the stage would just open up and swallow him when he heard numbers being frantically called. Suddenly a stunningly elegant lady stood. She waited for a slight pause then called $50,000! The room was stunned into silence, turning to see the bidder. The auctioneer looked shocked. "Any advance on $50.000?" A large pause...
His hammer hit the pad. "Sold for $50,000 to the very lovely lady there." JD strained to see her, but couldn't. He was ushered backstage to a group of stunned faces.
"Wha... what just happened there?" Ezra asked.
"Whoa boy, you are HOT!" laughed Buck, slapping him on the shoulder. JD looked at him, put his hands to his mouth and ran for the toilets. "That Tux gotta go back!" Buck yelled after him.
+ + + + + + +
The next day the Federal building was buzzing with the news of the previous night's events. Vin and JD had been allowed a later start due to the late hour the auction had finished. Vin had offered to swing by Buck and JD's apartment to pick JD up. As they made their way through the offices, whenever they came across a "gathering" they were greeted with whoops and/or applause. They had never been so glad to reach their office.
As they entered, five pairs of eyes were on them. Vin's desk was festooned with balloons and red roses. On JD's desk was a single heart-shaped balloon and a beautifully packaged box. Buck was beside himself with anticipation.
"At last! Git over here and open these cards!"
Vin gazed at his desk in amazement. Fingering the attached card he seemed shocked. Eventually he opened it.
"Just a little taster. See you tonight, 7o'clock. I'll send my car around to collect you. Arlena."
Buck howled, Chris chuckled. Vin smiled and shrugged his shoulders. "Guess it's tonight then!"
JD was staring at the box on his desk like it might explode. Buck bobbed his eyebrows at him, gesturing towards the box. "Go on, open it!"
JD read the card.
"Something special for my special man. My car will collect you at eight tonight. Be ready sweetie." Eloise
He gulped then pulled at the gold satin bow. Inside was a bottle of champagne. Wrapped around it was a Rolex watch. JD stared. Buck whistled. The others stepped forward to get a better look. JD looked at Vin then Chris. "This is...crazy!" he said.
Buck had to admit, it did seem a little extreme, but he shook it off. "Hell, she's just being friendly. It's just a gift. A very generous gift, but just a gift."
"I can't accept this," JD stated. "It's too much. I've done nothing to deserve it! The lady already went OTT at the auction. She's got nothing to prove."
"I can see why you're concerned JD," added Chris. "Just take a step back. If you still want to give it back, think about how you can do it without offending her."
JD nodded. That's exactly what he would do.
+ + + + + + +
The car that had collected JD was awesome. He had decided to dress smart/casual, opting for black shoes, socks and trousers, a white long-sleeved shirt and hip-length black corduroy jacket. Now he feared he may be underdressed. As the car pulled up outside the restaurant he felt a little flutter of nerves. He looked at the watch one more time. He'd probably never see the likes of it again, not on his salary. But he knew giving it back was the right thing to do.
He walked into the restaurant and stopped, looking around. It was empty except for the woman who'd bid for him, some staff and a rather sinister man sitting in the corner in the shadows. Eloise waved and smiled at him. He flashed her his best smile and joined her at her table.
"Evenin' ma'am," he said. He handed her a yellow rose. She stood to take it and kissed him gently on the cheek, gesturing for him to sit.
"How sweet, thank you," she smiled. He returned the smile. "I understand your given name is John?" He nodded. "Then that's what I'll call you." JD was about to protest but figured, as it was only for one night, he could live with it.
"I'm sure you must think I'd taken leave of my senses last night, but I had good reason." She pulled out a photo wallet and flipped it open. There were two pictures of a young dark-haired man, not unlike himself. JD looked up at her." My son, JOHN," she emphasized the name. "You remind me so much of him."
"So she didn't fancy me then," JD thought to himself, strangely, a little relieved. "I'm sorry ma'am," he said. "Is he not around at the moment?"
She sighed. "He died last year. He was twenty-four, killed in a car accident." She looked wistfully at JD. "Please, call me Eloise."
JD nodded. "I'm sorry to hear that, Eloise. You must have been devastated. I lost my Mamma eleven months ago. It was awful, she was the only family I had, I felt so lonely."
She took his hand. "Well, there you have it. Two lonely souls out for a night of companionship and conversation. Shall we eat?"
"Before we do, I have to return this." JD held out the Rolex.
Eloise looked crushed. "But, it's for you. I wanted you to have it."
"I'm truly grateful for the gesture, but I really can't. Please don't be offended. It's just how I feel."
She took it from him with a tight smile. "Then the matter's closed. Now, let's eat."
+ + + + + + +
"Hey, Vin, how'd it go last night?" JD asked, sitting at his desk, munching on a doughnut.
"Like dating an octopus!" he huffed taking a seat at his desk. JD giggled, struggling not to spit out his treat. "How 'bout you Kid?"
"Great! We talked for hours, she's so well traveled. I think she really enjoyed herself. I know I did." They both laughed. The rest of the team came out of Chris's office.
"Mornin' children!" Buck called. Vin and JD chose to ignore him. "Late night last night Kid. Anything you wanna share with us?"
JD groaned. He made a grand gesture to speak as if letting on about something then,
The guys laughed. A knock on their door. "Parcel for JD." One of the secretaries handed over a small box. All eyes turned to JD as he took it. It rattled. He put it on his desk and opened it, going pale and backing away. Chris, concerned, stepped forward and peered in. He frowned, picked up the box, and proceeded to dump its contents onto JD's desk.
"Guess she didn't like you returning the watch then," Buck almost whispered. JD swallowed hard, turned and headed out of the office.
Vin stood. "I'll go!"
The roof had become a sort of sanctuary for JD, so Vin knew exactly where to find him, sitting on a bench, head in his hands. Vin sat next to him. "You okay?"
JD shook his head.
"D'ya wanna talk?"
"What's to say? Guess it didn't go as well as I thought." He sighed hard.
"At least that's it now," Vin added. He put his arm on JD's shoulder and the two friends just sat quietly.
Twenty minutes later they went back to the office. As they entered JD's cell phone rang. He answered and looked up, then stared at his phone. A look of horror on his face. "H...how did you get this number?" he stammered
The men looked at him, huge concern showing. JD was pale and shaking slightly. "Okay. Okay. I understand. Yes, I accept your apology. It's not a problem. Thank you for telling me." He snapped his phone shut and closed his eyes for a moment.
"Was that her?" Buck growled. JD opened his eyes to look at Buck and nodded. "And?"
"She said she got a little drunk when she got home last night and smashed up the watch. After she sent it this morning she realized how stupid she'd been and wanted me to know how sorry she was," JD's voice was shaky.
Buck was fuming. "I think maybe we should pay this sick bitch a little visit!"
Chris put his hand on Buck's shoulder. "Easy Buck." He looked at JD. "I think JD's had enough for one day."
Vin looked at Chris locking eyes for a moment, then to JD. "Hey, why don't we hit the gym? Work off some angst!"
Ezra looked at Vin. "Angst? I'm impressed Mr. Tanner."
Vin smiled, and then looked back to JD. "Whaddya say?"
JD looked at Chris, then Buck, then the rest of his friends.
"Sure you don't mind? I could do with getting out of here."
"Go," Chris ordered. We'll see you both tomorrow.
"See ya later Kid," Buck called. JD looked back and nodded and they were gone.
As they climbed into Vin's jeep they were unaware they were being observed. They pulled off, and were followed.
+ + + + + + +
It was getting dark by the time Vin and JD were finished. They exited the building laughing, clearly refreshed, and made their way to Vin's jeep, unaware of their spectator. As they reached the vehicle a car door clinked open. The two friends turned at the sound of footsteps to see Eloise, a slight distance away, pointing a gun at them.
Vin instinctively stepped just in front of JD. "Lady, walk away now and we'll forget this ever happened."
JD was frozen to the spot, not comprehending what was happening. Eloise completely blanked what Vin had said, focusing only on JD. "John, darling, come here to me."
JD snapped out of it. "Wha...what? NO!"
Vin put his hand protectively on JD's chest. "Lady, back off!"
The gun went off, Vin fell.
"VIN!!" JD screamed, dropping to his knees and placing his hand over the wound in Vin's left shoulder.
"Come now John, we have to go!" she moved closer to them.
JD glared tear-filled eyes at her. "Get the hell away, you crazy bitch, you shot my friend." He pulled his towel from his kit bag and pushed it down onto the bleeding wound. Vin moaned, "Easy Vin," JD sobbed, his shaking, free hand reaching for his cell phone.
Suddenly strong arms gripped JD from behind, a foul-smelling cloth covering his mouth and nose. He started to feel dizzy but with every ounce of strength he possessed he lashed out, startling his assailant who dropped him hard onto the concrete below. JD's head hit the ground with a sickening thud.
He desperately tried to push himself up, looking across to Vin as he did so. Rough hands assaulted him again, dragging him to his feet. The cloth was back over his face. This time the combination of chemicals, a strong grip and a head injury were too much for him and he sank into oblivion; his last thoughts were of his injured friend.
"Put him in the car, Leonard, we have to leave. Oh, and Leonard, call 911, I have no desire to see this man die," she pointed to Vin. Her assistant gently laid JD across the back seat of the silver Mercedes. They drove off, leaving an unconscious Vin alone on the floor, his and JD's kit bag and phone next to him.
+ + + + + + +
Chris was pacing, Buck was scared. Once again Team Seven found themselves in a hospital waiting room. Doctor McCavey approached them.
"Good evening gentlemen, I have excellent news. Your colleague is doing well. The wound is not too serious, though he did lose a large amount of blood. He is currently in post-op and asking for someone called Larabee." He gestured towards the hallway and the men left.
As soon as he saw Chris, Vin became agitated. Chris soothed him.
"Easy Vin, easy." Buck looked at Chris pleadingly. Chris continued. "Vin, can you talk? Can you tell us what happened? Where's JD?" With that Vin became more restless. The men looked at each other nervously. Vin gripped Chris's shirt and pulled him closer.
"Ch...Chris. She got him, she got him!"
"C...crazy bitch!" He passed out.
+ + + + + + +
JD was laid out on top of a double bed, unconscious. The room and bedding were pure opulence, gilt décor and satin sheets, pillows and quilt. Eloise sat at his side. His head had been cleaned up and she was stroking her fingers through his hair.
"There, there, my darling, you're safe now."
As if her words and actions were penetrating his subconscious, he mumbled, "Mamma?"
She kissed his forehead. "Yes, darling, Mamma's here."
The door opened. "Madam, I fear this abduction is all over the news, what would you have me do?"
"Stay calm, Leonard. No one is taking my boy from me again."
Leonard sighed, "Yes, of course madam." He left, closing the door behind him. She smiled contentedly at the boy on the bed, her boy.
+ + + + + + +
Chris was a little overwhelmed by the number of police officers and agents willing to help search for their missing team member, many of them off-duty. Travis was coordinating the search, feeling extremely guilty by the turn of events. Team Seven had just returned to the office after visiting Vin, leaving Nathan with him. Buck looked gray, lines marring his handsome face. He couldn't comprehend how things had happened so fast. What had caused this woman to become so unhinged and why was she so obsessed with JD? A voice penetrated his thoughts.
"Sir, they've checked out her town house but came up empty. Apparently she has a place in the mountains, they're heading there now."
Travis looked at Chris. "Do you want in?"
Chris grunted as he and the team headed for the door. "Does shit stink?"
"I'll take that as a yes, then," Travis sighed. "Be careful."
+ + + + + + +
Leonard had packed the Mercedes for a long trip, with specific instructions to leave the back seat clear. He was not a happy man. He had cared for this woman and her family for twenty years, but had not foreseen this horrifying turn of events; despite knowing his employer had become withdrawn since the death of her beloved son. He had felt duty-bound to protect her, serve her, but this was out of control and he now felt powerless to stop it. He sighed knowing this could only end badly and pondering what he should do.
JD had started to come around. He felt dizzy and nauseous and his head throbbed. He knew he should remember something, but what? He looked around him, where the hell was he? He tried moving but his right hand was stuck. He painfully looked around to see his wrist tied to a bedpost. He felt a wave of panic and started pulling at the bonds as he tried to sit up, but was too weak. "Vin! Oh God, Vin!" He started struggling against his bonds yelling for help.
Eloise came rushing into his room. "Oh darling, you're awake!"
JD stared back at her, suddenly feeling very nervous, and his face reflecting his fears. She approached him and stroked his cheek.
"There, there darling, you're safe now. Stay calm and I'll get you a drink."
JD finally regained some composure. "You...you shot Vin! Oh my God you shot Vin! Please tell me you didn't leave him there to bleed to death!" he started to sob.
"The paramedics were alerted John, you're friend will be in safe hands by now."
JD couldn't be sure, so was not comforted by her words, the words of a mad woman.
"Please, please untie me, I need the bathroom," he pleaded.
Her gaze hardened slightly. She cut the rope on his wrist, but before he could re-act she was out of the door and had locked it behind her. Tears still rolling down his face he headed for a door, to his relief it was indeed a bathroom. Before using it he went to the sink and splashed water on his face, looking at himself in the mirror. He looked pale with a nasty purple bruise and scrapes from his left brow down to his cheek bone. He felt miserable and scared. Would he ever see his friends again? Could they ever find him? He leaned his forehead against the mirror. "Help me, Buck!" he sobbed.
After a few minutes he heard a noise in the outer room. He rushed out only to find it empty again. There was, however, a tray of food and drink next to the bed. JD sighed deeply and wandered over to the barred window, wondering how long the bars had been there. He glanced back at the food tray. He wasn't really hungry, but he was thirsty. His head was still throbbing. He patted his pockets. No phone. Had he left it behind? His thoughts turned to Vin and he wrapped his arms around himself. He looked back to the window. Where was this place? If his predicament hadn't been so dire he could have truly appreciated it, the mountains were awesome.
JD wandered back to the bed and sat down, fingering the glass of juice. He was so thirsty, maybe just a sip, it was gone in two gulps. He stood and walked to the door, placing his left ear up against it. Nothing. He scanned the room again, looking for a weapon, escape route, anything to give him some hope. For the first time he noticed how beautiful the room was. Why was Eloise doing this? She appeared to have everything. JD rested his head against the door and sighed, everything except her son. The next time he spoke to her he knew he had to get through, make her see what she was doing. JD blinked his eyes hard. What was wrong with his vision? His head was still throbbing but the nausea was subsiding. Once more he scanned the room blinking hard again; his eyes were still not clearing. Suddenly he looked at the glass on the tray.
He started pounding on the door with his fists, screaming.
"LET ME OUT! PLEASE, LET ME OUT!"
He could feel the panic rising and his strength ebbing. He berated himself as sobs racked his weakening body. Slowly he pushed his back against the door and started to slip to the floor.
"Please," he sobbed as he slipped into unconsciousness, "Buck, help me..."
+ + + + + + +
Team Seven were still a half-hour away from their destination. The tension in the Ram was intense. Vin in the hospital, JD missing. This was supposed to be a quiet week.
Buck's eyes were closed tight, his face grim, fists clenched, his body aching with tension. He felt a strong hand on his shoulder.
"Stay with us Buck," breathed Josiah. "JD's gonna need you."
Buck nodded. "It's just...just not knowing what...." he hung his head.
Josiah tightened his grip. "We'll find him son, hold onto that thought."
Chris floored it, enough was enough and he wanted this over and his team complete. He thought of all they had been through in the last nine months. No way was this going to end because of some rich crazy-woman. Finally, the turn-off was in sight. Not long now.
+ + + + + + +
Leonard had lifted JD back onto the bed. He had bound his feet and was tying JD's hands behind his back. He sighed as he looked down at the boy's handsome slack features and reluctantly placed some tape across his mouth just under his nose. He gently lifted him into his arms and proceeded to carry him out of the room. Within minutes he had exited the front door and was walking towards the Mercedes. Eloise was there to greet him.
"Thank you Leonard, please put him on the back seats."
Leonard met her gaze. "Madam, I must implore you; it's not too late to stop this."
She walked towards him, smiling, extending her hand to his now empty ones.
"Leonard, I can't begin to thank you for all you've done for me, for us," she gestured towards the car. Eloise handed him some documents. "These are the deeds to this house and it now belongs to you. I have left explicit instructions as to what I want done for the townhouse, my bank accounts and my vehicles. I feel several charities should benefit, along with you. Have a good life, my friend."
Leonard's eyes were brimming with tears, he could hardly speak. "Madam, I..."
Eloise put her hand on his arm.
"No words now. I'm finally happy again. I have my son! Goodbye."
With that she got into the driver's seat and pulled away.
Leonard pulled out his cell phone and dialed.
+ + + + + + +
Fog, thick fog. Movement, noise, an engine? Why couldn't he move? Why couldn't he breathe? Wait, don't panic, and use your nose. There, yes air. JD's vision was slowly clearing his breaths were short and fast... he could now tell he was lying in the back of a car, a moving car, but why was he tied? Who was driving?
Suddenly, it hit him like a sledgehammer. His eyes widened in fear as he looked at the driver. Before he could stop himself he was screaming through his gag. Eloise turned slightly, just catching his eye.
"Calm down, my angel. It won't be long now."
JD screamed harder, kicking out at the back of her seat. She pulled over, engine still running, and faced him. She seemed totally calm. Eloise smiled.
"I'm sorry I tied you like this darling, but I feared you would panic and possibly hurt yourself. Soon this will all be over. You'll see, angel, it will all be better soon." She resumed driving, the car's speed increasing steadily.
Chris and the other two squad cars had come to a fork in the road. Both ways would take them to the house. Chris sent the two cars one way and took the other route himself. They had been traveling for ten minutes when a silver Mercedes came hurtling towards them. Chris skewed the Ram wildly, just managing to pull out of the way.
"Shit!" he exclaimed. Ezra leaned forward, his face pale.
"Mr. Larabee, did you happen to see the driver of that vehicle?" All eyes turned to him.
Chris slammed the Ram into reverse and set off in pursuit. "Buckle up!" he yelled. In a few minutes they were alongside the car as it traveled along the centre of the road, pulling almost up to the driver.
"There, in the back, I see him!" Buck was frantically pointing. He and Chris both looked. At that precise moment, JD looked back.
JD's eyes set on the two men. He was terrified, but suddenly he had hope. If anyone could help him, it was these men.
Eloise reacted badly to the intrusion. As if believing she could be heard she screamed at them.
She increased her speed.
Chris was deeply concerned. He didn't want her putting JD in any more danger so he backed off slightly.
"Chris, what are you...?" started Buck.
"I can't risk it, Buck she may lose it." As his words left his mouth, the Mercedes started slewing from left to right. Without warning, it left the road and raced forward through the woods. It was the sickening thud of metal hitting wood that stopped the Mercedes dead.
Buck screamed. "NOOOO!"
+ + + + + + +
JD could feel the car's speed picking up. Chris's Ram dropped from his view. Where did they go? Panic returned more urgently now, but he froze, now was not the time for protest. "Please," he thought, "please don't...." Before he could finish his thoughts the car was twisting, his body slamming against the back of the front passenger seat. A loud bang, he slammed forward again, harder this time, then nothing.
Chris brought the Ram to a screaming halt. All four men jumped out instantly and raced after the Mercedes. They all stopped abruptly as they watched and heard the awful crunching stop the car came to, the horn was blaring. Chris instinctively ran to the driver's door, turning away sharply as bile rose to his throat. He was overcome with nausea and leaned over, resting his hands on his knees as he gulped in air. Buck placed a shaky hand on the stricken man's back which caused Chris to stand up straight and compose himself. He looked directly at Buck's eyes and yelled over the horn, "Don't look!"
"I've called for an ambulance and back-up," Josiah stated joining them. Ezra was pulling at the rear door on the passenger side, but it wasn't budging. He raced around to the other rear door, still no luck.
"The frame appears to be too buckled, I can't get to JD," Ezra shouted.
They all rallied instantly. Josiah had picked up a hefty fallen tree-limb. "Stand back brothers!" He proceeded to swing it at the car's rear window, shattering the glass as it impacted. Buck took off his jacket and covering his hands with it he pushed out any remaining glass. He attempted to climb through but Chris stopped him.
"Let me, I'll fit a little easier," he dropped through onto the back seat.
JD was jammed down behind the passenger seat, the front of his body facing the back of the seat, his head turned slightly sideways. Chris could see blood but couldn't be sure where it was coming from. He put his arm down and under JD's right shoulder realizing he would be able to slide him out. Ezra looked in at him.
"I fear urgency is required Mr. Larabee, the car appears to be alight." That was all the push Chris needed.
He prayed his next actions would not cause JD permanent injury. He pulled JD's body hard towards him, within seconds he was cradling the young agent to his chest. He looked over his left shoulder toward the back window. "Buck, now!" Buck reached his arms through the large gap. Feeling JD's body firmly in his hands he nodded briefly to the two remaining men. Two pairs of arms took positions to pull the boy and his "big brother" safely back out through the window. As Buck and JD were free, Ezra and Josiah reached back in and pulled Chris speedily through. The men turned and started running. Suddenly a huge explosion and fierce heat hit their backs, hurling them forward off their feet. Unhurt, the four conscious men looked back horrified at the car as it became engulfed in flames. They scrambled back even further, shaken.
Buck was cradling JD in his arms; JD's head flopped back over the crook of his elbow. He removed the tape from his mouth, his hands feeling the boy's head looking for injuries. He felt the lump and the thick sticky wetness on the right side of JD's head. Chris and Ezra were checking the rest of his body while untying him. After a few minutes they seemed reasonably satisfied. Buck placed his mouth close to JD's left ear, "JD, can you hear me son?" No response. Buck sighed hard and held him tighter. On hearing the approaching sirens he leaned back in. "Help's on the way JD, just hold on for us now!"
+ + + + + + +
Chris watched Buck climb into the ambulance. As it pulled away, sirens wailing, he turned back to what was left of the car. His stomach lurched. Ezra walked back towards him.
"I'm afraid they have very little to work with," he sighed.
"I have no idea what to think of this." Chris shook his head.
"We may never know," Josiah added. "The local PD is okay if we want to leave."
Chris sighed hard, nodding. "Yeah, I want to leave."
+ + + + + + +
Buck was waiting just outside the ER and was relieved to see Chris and the others arrive. "Nathan says Vin can leave whenever he's ready," Buck said. "He's ready!"
"Are they coming down here? Chris asked.
"Yeah, any minute now," he sighed, looking back towards the ER doors, gesturing with his head. "Looks like he dislocated his shoulder too."
"Did he wake up?" Josiah wanted to know. Buck shook his head. They all looked up as Vin and Nathan entered. Vin, his left arm strapped to his body, nodded to them all, looking with concern towards Buck.
"You okay?" Buck asked him. "Shouldn't you go home and rest?"
"Done all the restin' I need. When can we see him?" Vin's face reflected his anger. Buck shrugged. Vin continued. "They got that bitch in custody?"
Chris walked towards him, his face pale as if suddenly realizing what had transpired. "She didn't make it, she died in the crash!" Before Vin could answer, the ER doors crashed open and a bed complete with JD and various paraphernalia came through. Buck looked to his partner, staring at the pale still form on the bed and then to the doctor, who approached.
"Just going to take him for a CAT scan, shouldn't be long. If you make your way to room 316 we'll be bringing him back there." And he left.
+ + + + + + +
JD was already waking by the time he arrived at his room. The nurse tilted the head of the bed a little. JD tried to smile, but was frustrated as his eyes filled, he couldn't look anyone in the eye.
"You okay?" Buck asked, trying to tilt his chin up. JD resisted, nodding slightly. Vin stepped forward.
JD's head shot up, tears dropping from his brimming eyes. "Vin," he barely whispered. Vin reached out and JD pulled him hard toward him with his free hand. He hugged Vin tight, sobbing hard into Vin's good shoulder. "I thought you were dead," he sobbed.
Vin whispered into his ear, "Ya' can't get rid of me that easily!"
Chris gestured to the other men and they left the room to give them some privacy.
Vin found the embrace oddly comforting. Not normally one for grand gestures this was totally comfortable for him. While in the hospital, his mind had run wild with recent past events and it had driven him to distraction, not knowing what had happened to his young friend. He held on as tight as he dared until, eventually, JD's sobs subsided. Vin finally saw his bruised face. "Ya look a fright!" he smiled.
"Gee, thanks." JD's face went serious. "I'm so sorry!" he spluttered, backhanding away his tears and trying hard to control his emotions.
"''Cause you got hurt tryin' to help me." JD held his gaze.
Vin snorted. "Yeah, like you wouldna' done the same fer me!" Vin looked at the bed. "Mind if I hop up?"
JD shook his head. Vin settled, allowing JD to rest his head on his good right shoulder. He pulled him into a more comfortable position. "Let's git some rest!"
The two friends gently drifted off.
An hour later the five remaining members of Team Seven returned, amused at the sight that greeted them.
"Aaah, now if that ain't a Kodak moment!" Buck snickered.
Vin cocked an eye." Best have no cameras with you; I'm still deadly, even with one arm!"
+ + + + + + +
A week later and six of the seven were in The Saloon. Buck was concerned. "I just can't seem to reach him right now," he moaned.
"It's early days, Buck, he needs more time," Chris answered, sipping his beer.
"It's more than that, Chris, he's shutting me out, he's shutting us all out." He gestured with his empty hand. "Why isn't he here?" He attempted to answer his own question."I'll tell ya why, because he's shutting his friends OUT!" Buck sat back hard, taking a swig from his bottle.
Ezra nodded. "I fear he has become a little withdrawn. Perhaps our attempt to allow him to adjust by himself was misplaced."
Vin stood. "Maybe I should go talk to him; he might open up to one person." Chris gestured for him to wait.
"No. I agree with Buck and Ezra's thinking. We've stepped back too far. We've all come a long way these last nine months, especially personally. We've become," he sighed softly, "like family. I think it's time this one had a family conference." With that, they all stood and left for the "CDC".
+ + + + + + +
JD was idly flicking through TV channels. He was bored, and lonely, but the thought of meeting up with the rest of the Team made his stomach ache. His shoulder was stiff but almost healed, his cuts and bruises fading. He would be back at work in a few days. His stomach ached again. As he heard Buck's key in the door and a cheery "hey!" JD scrambled to his feet to escape to his room, but Buck had anticipated this move and had entered the lounge in double-quick time. "Not leaving us?" Buck called.
JD turned his head to him but did not raise his eyes. 'Us?' he thought. "Er, yeah, just off to bed."
Buck was already alongside him, his hand on his arm. "Don't leave, we wanted to see ya, talk to ya." Buck bent his knees in an attempt to meet JD's eyes.
JD shook his head. "No, no. I...I'm tired, I'll see you tomor..."
Chris was alongside him. "Sit down with us JD, please." JD shook his head again, but Chris stood firm, slowly guiding him to the sofa and pushing him gently down, Buck and Vin flanking him. Chris sat in front on the coffee table, the remaining men pulled chairs around. JD's eyes were firmly fixed on the floor.
"Talk to us, JD," Chris began, "we feel like we're losing you." No response. Chris tried another tactic. "Is that it?" He winked at the others and secretly hoped this would not blow up in his face. "Do you want to leave us?"
Finally JD's eyes met Chris's, showing fear and shock. His head was shaking long before he could speak.
"Nn...no. Why, do you want me to?" JD could feel his heart start to crack, his breathing started accelerating alarmingly. The three men directly next to him each put a hand on him. They could feel him shaking.
"God no!" Chris said, quickly, "but we can't go on like this. Let us help you."
And there it was. Breaking point. Every emotion JD had felt in the last week broke through that very second, much to his dismay. He placed his face in his good hand and howled, taking the six men by surprise. Neither man knew how to proceed, so they just let him get it out, while letting him know they were there for him.
Finally, after several minutes and many tissues, JD's sobs were reduced to soft hiccups. "I'm so sorry," he mumbled.
Josiah leaned in. "I think it's us who should be sorry son, for letting it go this long."
JD looked up at them all for the first time in a week. "So, you don't want me to go?" he asked scrubbing at his face with a soggy tissue.
Chris snickered, handing him another tissue. "Hell no. Now, are you gonna tell us what's been wrong?"
JD swallowed. He'd said these words over in his head so often, yet hadn't been able to say them out loud, not even to Buck. Taking a deep breath he began. "I just felt so stupid."
"How so?" asked Ezra.
"I'm a grown man, well almost, an ATF agent for God's sake."
"And what's that got to do with the price of..."
Chris glared at Buck to shut him up. "Go on, JD."
JD looked at them all. How did they not see it? "I let a woman...an older woman, get the better of me. I could do nothing to stop her. How could I have been so...USELESS?"
There it was out.
Vin jumped in, "The same lady, remember, that shot me. She wasn't alone JD, she had help, plus, she WAS pretty crazy. A dangerous combination."
Chris got serious. He held JD's arm. "The inquest is tomorrow. Just thought you should know."
JD nodded sadly. "I won't be going," he sighed. "I need to move on now." All six men straightened up in their chairs and nodded their agreement, definitely time to move on.
Leonard had been apprehended. With his testimony and the revelations of the inquest, it was revealed that Eloise, a widow, had slowly lost her grip on reality a few months after her son's death. Strong medication and Leonard's support cushioned her for a while but the cracks had been showing. Her fixation on JD had been the final straw. Leonard revealed that despite his best efforts on the day, Eloise had intended to end both hers and JD's lives. After they had driven away, Leonard had contacted the police, an act which helped reduce his prison sentence to four years. The house in the mountains remained legally his. Eloise's death was recorded as "misadventure" and her bequeathed wealth gave comfort to many charities.
Buck watched quietly as his young friend and partner placed flowers on the grave. He couldn't begin to understand why the young man needed to do this. JD'd said something about a nagging in his subconscious and a need for closure. JD paused for a moment and then walked back towards Buck. Both men cracked a huge smile.
"OK?" Buck asked, placing his hand on JD's neck. JD nodded.
"I am now. Thanks."
Buck nodded and both men walked back down the hill and towards five good friends.