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 AU
And thanks to Phyllis for betaing this and for all her help and suggestions. You are my rock, hun.
He instinctively knew life would never be the same again as the coffin, draped in the American flag and dotted with wreaths lay on its stand in front of him. It was only as the flag was folded and handed to him that the full enormity of the situation hit and his knees buckled. He felt strong hands guide him to his seat as the crowd dispersed. He felt so alone.
One week earlier
JD looked at Chris, alarmed.
"What do you mean 'It's all going pear-shaped? Let's go get him then!" The young man was pacing and almost in his team leader's face as his remark was spat out. Larabee narrowed his eyes at his youngest agent then softened his gaze.
"We're doing everything humanly possible to locate him, but he's just disappeared." He put his hands on the boy's shaking shoulders, and softened his tone.
"JD, I'm not going to lie to you, I'm scared, and this is not looking good. It looks like the gang has made him," Chris sighed as he watched the innocent hazel eyes staring back at him widen and mist over, "And him dropping off the radar is not...encouraging."
Chris had said he was scared, and that's all JD could focus on. Larabee didn't do scared. He could feel his chin catching up with the rest of his shaking body and turned away from the senior agent's eyes.
"Right, 'kay," he whispered and left Chris's office to go and hide in the men's room.
Out in the bullpen four pairs of sad, concerned eyes followed the young man through the door, and then looked back in earnest at the man in black leaning heavily against his office door, shaking his head. This was not a good day.
Sometime in the early hours of the morning found JD sleeping fitfully on the couch in the break room, himself and the team unwilling to go home for the night. He awoke with a start as a hand touched his arm and, sitting up, he rubbed his hand across his face and coughed at the dryness in his throat. JD looked into the eyes of his hero and instantly saw something that gripped his heart with fear. He started shaking his head as he rose to his feet, huge tears already falling as he looked at the faces of the other members of Team Seven.
"No," he said shakily, his head still shaking in denial. "NO, NO, GOD CHRIS, PLEASE...NOOO!"
Chris pulled the struggling boy in tightly to his chest and held on for all he was worth as JD flailed, shouted and sobbed until the youth eventually half-collapsed, half-clung to him in heart wrenching grief. Buck was gone, This was definitely not a good day.
JD had insisted everyone go home, the funeral was long over and he just wanted some time alone. He sat on Buck's bed in semi-darkness, clutching the Bronco's football signed by Tatum Bell that he'd gotten Buck for his birthday. As he ran his fingers along the leather, he smiled as he remembered the whoop of joy from his roommate and the bear hug that followed. JD hugged the ball tightly to his chest as he felt the ache in his heart, the tears falling uncontrollably. He felt so selfish, but he couldn't work out how he could go forward from here. The guys and his job had become a huge part of his life, but Buck, well Buck WAS his life, his 'big brother', and they had been practically inseparable, until now. There was a knock at the door and scrubbing away the tears with his hand, he wearily replaced the football on its stand and dragged himself to the door. He peeked out of the spy hole and unlocked the door.
Chris and Vin looked back at him; it was obvious he'd been crying.
"Couldn't do it kid, couldn't leave ya here alone, not tonight," Chris said.
JD sighed and walked back to the living room, leaving the door open for them to enter. He flopped down onto the sofa, pointing to the kitchen.
"There's beer in the fridge if you want." He turned on the TV and started channel surfing to prevent any kind of conversation. Chris sat on the coffee table directly in front of him, blocking his view of the TV. "I wish you'd come stay at the ranch, just for a few days until..." He quickly looked up at Vin who in turn stared at the floor.
JD frowned at them, "Until what?" he asked.
Chris looked at him, "Until you feel ready to be here alone."
"I'm fine, guys," JD sighed, "And I'm already here alone, in case ya hadn't noticed."
Chris sighed, "D'ya mind if we stay over tonight then?"
"Knock yourselves out," he said rising, "I'm going to bed."
+ + + + + + +
Two days later, with JD still on compassionate leave, five of Team Seven were heading to an interrogation room, almost giddy with excitement. The case Buck had been working undercover on was concluding. Thinking Buck was dead and therefore out of the way, the gang had made their move and had been successfully apprehended. The shootout in the warehouse had been hairy, but most ATF agents had come out unscathed. Chris threw open the door of the room to be greeted by a beaming Wilmington. He couldn't help but throw his arms around the big man. The rest of the team laid hands on him uttering their own greetings.
After a minute they all settled down. Buck stood, looking at the smiling faces of his friends.
"I hear I had a good send-off," he commented.
Chris nodded, "Had to look right, we had to win this one, there was too much at stake. We got a lot of guns off the street today," he looked at Buck and saw the torment in the man's face, he knew what was coming.
"How's the kid doin'?" Buck asked, his voice thick with emotion.
"Awful," Chris replied, "But his reaction was needed, Buck, though God knows how we're gonna make this up to him."
Buck shuddered, "I got an awful feeling that we can't. We used him Chris, we needed the gang to believe I was dead and his reaction was the clincher, but I feel so dirty. He's one of the most trusting souls I've ever met, and this is gonna kill him; he already feels we treat him differently."
Buck began pacing, anxiously pushing his fingers through his hair.
"Oh God, what if he leaves, resigns? We shoulda told him, he's been undercover, and he knows how to act a part. Shit, what have we done?"
Chris held Buck by the shoulders and looked around at the rest of the team. "We talked about this, Buck, yeah he can play a part, but this wasn't just about the weapons, your life really was in danger, and this way we got to "kill" you before they did."
His grip on Buck became tighter as his own words brought home to him the agonizing dilemma they had faced to keep Buck safe.
"This is gonna be a long hard road, but we'll make it, he's a good kid, a good friend and a damn good agent, he's not going anywhere, we won't let him. Just gotta ride out the storm is all."
Chris's cell rang.
"Larabee!" He listened then looked at Buck and the team, "Thanks, we'll be right there."
He closed his phone, sighing. He had called his youngest agent's home as soon as he had had word of Buck's return, and asked him to call in to the office.
"JD's here, up in the office," he gestured to the door, looking at his team, "Shall we?"
JD was sitting in his swivel chair, looking back at Buck's desk. He hadn't been to the office since that fateful evening a week ago and he could feel his chest tightening. He spun around on hearing his teammates enter. Chris and Vin stepped forward, Chris spoke.
"JD, there's something you need to know. Before you go off on me, please believe me when I say what we did was for a good reason and I will explain it all to you."
JD frowned deeply, 'what the hell was Chris going on about?' He watched as Nathan, Ezra and Josiah walked over to stand at the back of Buck's chair. He looked back at Chris and Vin, standing as he did so.
The office door creaked open and JD glanced towards it, still wondering what Chris had been referring to. His gaze went back to Chris when he froze, his face draining of all color; he looked sharply back at the door to see Buck standing there. He could feel his heart thumping against his chest and his breathing quickened. His mouth was open as if to speak but no words came out, as he looked between Chris and Vin and Buck. Without realizing it, he was moving toward the door and within seconds he was embracing his roommate with such a force he almost knocked Buck off his feet. Buck returned the hug with as much ferocity as he felt the young man sobbing into his chest and fisting his shirt at the back. The sobs were heartbreaking, overcoming the rest of the team with raw emotion. Then, as suddenly as he had started, JD stopped and pulled away. His expression grew hard. He took a few steps back and without warning threw an enormous right-hook, hitting Buck square on the jaw and sending him sprawling.
"You sick bastard, how could you do that to me?" he yelled.
Working his jaw and shaking his head, Buck stammered his reply.
"Please kid, let me explain...!"
"EXPLAIN? EXPLAIN? What could you possibly say to me that could make this right?" He glared at the others, pure hatred in his face, the gaze landing on Chris. His expression changed to deep hurt which made Chris's heart drop to his stomach. JD took a step toward him.
"You knew! 'Until...' you said to Vin that day at the apartment, until what, until you cracked the case and brought him back from the 'dead'? You did this to me deliberately; do you hate me THAT much?"
Chris started to move forward attempting to explain, but JD was way past listening to explanations. With all the strength he had left, a second right-hook was delivered, rocking Chris but not flooring him. Chris recovered quickly and felt the anger push through him as he took one quick step toward the boy. A hand clutched his shoulder and he turned angrily to see Vin shaking his head slightly. Chris's anger immediately dissipated and he turned to JD again, only to be greeted by an ID wallet flying at his face. He watched as the young agent put his gun down on his desk and headed for the door.
Buck was desperately trying to get to his feet, Chris started after the youth, but halted as JD stopped at the door and turned cold hurt eyes to each agent, finishing with Chris then Buck.
"Fuck you, Fuck all of you. You can all go to hell!" He slammed the door as he left.
Despite chasing after him as soon as they had composed themselves, JD was long gone by the time they reached the garage where their vehicles were parked.
Buck turned anguished eyes to Chris, who in turn cursed as he realized in their haste, he hadn't brought his car keys with him. By the time they got their act together and set off after the young agent, JD was already home.
+ + + + + + +
Clutching his hastily packed duffle bag, JD took one last sad look around his home. With a heavy sigh, he placed his keys on the table next to the door and left.
Twenty minutes later saw the remainder of Team Seven arrive at Buck's apartment. They were in and rooting around when Ezra drew their attention.
"Gentlemen, am I right in thinking that the keys resting on the table there are Mister Dunne's?"
They all looked; Buck walked over and picked them up, clutching them tightly in his hand. He returned to the living room and dropped heavily onto the sofa, placing his head in his hands.
"Oh dear God, what have we done?"
A flurry of activity ensued as each man pulled out his cell phone and dialed, calling friends, cops and anyone that owed them a favor, making JD and his bike one of the hottest properties on the street. They then returned to their own vehicles and proceeded to search everywhere, in the hope he was still in Denver.
JD had been riding around for an hour, but hadn't gotten very far. He spotted a Catholic church in a particularly run down area of Denver and decided to go in. He parked his bike up out of sight, more in fear of it being stolen than being spotted, and pushed open the huge heavy door. He looked around as he moved to the front of the church; memories flooded his tired mind, of days when he was much younger, his mom, and Mass. He instinctively knelt at the altar and made the sign of the cross. After a few minutes he walked half- way back up the center aisle and slid across one of the pews until he reached the wall. He put down his helmet and bag, bent his head and cried.
Team Seven had been searching for several hours without success. They were exhausted and exasperated, neither had they heard from any of the people they had called. They were in despair.
As JD began to compose himself, he felt a hand lightly touch his shoulder. He turned, a little startled and found himself looking into the gray eyes of a priest.
"Good evening young man," he said.
JD offered a weak and watery smile, "Hi," was all he could muster.
"You seem troubled my son," the priest spoke in a soft Irish accent, "Can I help in some way?"
JD looked away, "No sir, I don't want confession thank you," he whispered.
"Let's start again, my name is Father Michael McCardle, and you would be...?"
JD turned back to him, "John Dunne sir, JD Dunne." They shook hands.
"Well JD, you don't have to take confession to tell me your troubles, I'm a good listener you know, and anything you say to me will be just between ourselves."
JD sighed, "I don't know where to begin."
"I can wait," Michael smiled.
Before he'd realized it, JD had told him everything, and was angry at himself for crying again.
"So you feel betrayed?" he asked the young agent.
"Wouldn't you?" he huffed. "I've only recently lost my mother and then they do this. I thought I was going out of my mind."
"You don't think it was necessary to treat you this way then?"
"Hell no," JD blushed "Sorry Father, I could have played a part just as well as them; they never seem to trust me, let me in on the important stuff, they still think I'm a kid. I've taken bullets, beatings, stayed up 'til all hours filing their reports and still they consider me less than an equal. I think it's time to move on, how can I trust them if they don't trust me?"
"It seems you have a dilemma, you feel the need to search your soul, but is your soul your problem? I must assume this awful thing was done for a good reason as your description of these men suggests they are usually honorable."
"So is the question, are they worthy of you, or is it you may feel you are not worthy of them? Am I right in thinking you feel you should leave these people because you are weary of constantly trying to prove yourself to them?"
JD nodded vigorously, "Yes, that's it. I don't know if I want to go on seeking approval, working harder and longer to show I can hack it, I just want some respect."
"Ah, then you feel these men would not miss you if you were no longer around?"
JD frowned; he thought Buck might miss him, and maybe one or two others, but not Chris.
"You seem to be thinking about your friends, so am I also right in thinking there's someone in that group you would REALLY like to show you some respect, maybe a little more than the others?"
That was it in a nutshell. JD never doubted Chris liked him, but he often felt he dismissed him out of hand, and as long as he did that, the others would pretty much follow suit. 'Yep leaving was definitely the best option'; he winced as he felt a slight pain in his chest.
"This Chris," Michael continued, "He doesn't include you in anything then, am I right?"
JD shook his head, "Oh no, I get to go to his ranch with the guys, he gave me a horse y'know, actually, once or twice I've been out there on my own to help him with the horses," he smiled at those memories, they had been good days; Chris was a lot more relaxed at home, and JD had felt totally at ease with him.
"So it must be work then, he doesn't involve you in group decisions, doesn't rely on you for any particular special task or assignment. Doesn't interact with you on the same level as the other men?"
"Well, not as such, but he still thinks I'm a kid."
"He talks down to you, do you mean, or sometimes demonstrates an almost fatherly concern on occasion?" Michael inquired.
JD winced as the pain in his chest flared again. "Erm, yes, I mean no, he doesn't often talk down to me, and I've never had a father, but I guess there are times he kind of...aaaahh!"
JD was clutching at his chest now. "How did you know his name is Chris?" JD asked, suddenly realizing he'd mentioned no names.
"Are you alright, son?" Michael put a hand on his shoulder.
JD was struggling to breathe, "I...I don't...don't..."
Michael smiled; "Maybe this is your body's way of telling you to stay."
JD was confused, and in pain. 'What was he talking about?' He could hear an alarm and beeping noises, then Buck's voice, had he come into the church?
"Don't you leave, JD; I'm not done with you yet!" Buck was shouting.
"Buck?" Where was he? Then he thought he heard Chris.
"Buck, stop it, he's not leaving."
The pain in JD's chest was unbearable and he closed his eyes, desperate to stop it hurting. As he struggled to open his eyes again he could see a face staring into his. 'Why did everything seem white and hazy?'
"JD, son, can you hear me? Hey come on now, you can do it, open those eyes."
JD blinked hard. 'Did he pass out, why was Buck upset? I'm the one that should be upset,' JD was thinking, 'I'll tell HIM.'
"Buck?" 'Whoa, that was pathetic, where did my voice go? Someone's holding onto my hand, let go, my chest hurts.'
"Buck?" Suddenly Buck's face was almost clear. Was this a hospital? Oh God, Buck had died.
JD held out a shaky hand and touched the man's face, desperately trying to focus on the man looking down at him.
"You didn't die?" JD whispered.
Buck chuckled, grasping the offered hand tightly and clutching it to his chest.
"Hell no, thanks to you, li'l brother," Buck's eyes were glistening. "I can't believe you took a bullet for me."
JD was truly confused now.
"Where's Father McCardle? I gotta get my bike," he mumbled.
Chris moved in, "He's out of it Buck, best let him rest." Chris maneuvered so JD could see him. He spoke softly to him.
"I'm proud of you son, you did real good."
With those words, the young agent smiled and drifted back to sleep; he'd get his bike later.
+ + + + + + +
JD's eyes slowly blinked open. Wherever he was, it was dark, with a soft light glowing just to one side of him. He turned his head slightly to his left and saw Buck dozing in a chair. He smiled to himself then stopped, he was mad at Buck, wasn't he? JD swallowed hard but found his throat dry, instantly Chris appeared in front of him, offering him a drink. He drank and blinked his eyes in gratitude, he was definitely mad at Chris, but why? Buck was there now, looking down at him, smiling.
"How ya feelin'?" Buck asked.
JD looked up at him, "Fine," he said weakly, "How did I get here?"
"Do you remember anything?" Chris encouraged.
JD tried to think, "Buck was in trouble, he'd disappeared." JD's eyes widened, "You said he'd died, we had a funeral and everything, but he wasn't dead, you lied to me, why did you have to lie to me...?" the youth was becoming a little agitated. Buck laid steadying hands on him, looking at Chris in confusion.
"Take it easy JD, I'm right here, we didn't tell you I'd died, I think you're confused, son." Buck looked at Chris with concern, Chris nodded and left.
"Think, JD, try and remember, I think you're confused, relax and try and think. You were right, I did disappear, but we all met up at the warehouse for the bust, don't you remember, kid?"
JD screwed up his eyes in concentration but his mind was blank. The door opened and Dr. Jefferies approached, he smiled down at JD, shining a light in his eyes.
"Nice to see you back with us, John. I think it might be best to let you sleep a little longer, though okay? I promise, just for a little while." He twiddled with the IV bag and injected something into his line, nodding to the other agents who had now entered the room; he walked out into the waiting area. The others followed, Buck watched JD's eyes flutter closed and joined them.
Dr. Jefferies spoke, "Clearly he's confused, but it's early days and I'm fairly confident that will change."
"He keeps thinking I died," Buck said, clearly distressed by that thought.
"And that we've lied to him about it," Chris added.
"Indeed," the doctor continued, "Who knows what happens when someone is unconscious? The internal struggles they face on the brink of death, and the memories that get jumbled and twisted? We did come close to losing him at one point, which maybe has something to do with his confusion. Let me leave you with something to ponder. Could his confusion stem from something occurring directly before or around the time of the injury?"
The doctor left, leaving six men standing and staring at each other. Chris gestured for them to sit; Buck looked back into JD's room.
"He's fine for now Buck, sit, we need to think about this."
"It was a hard two days, not knowing where Buck was or if he was well," Josiah started them off.
"Yeah, but once he saw Buck at the warehouse he seemed to relax," Nathan added.
"Well, his reactions were sure okay from where I was, he moved faster than I could even process what was happening," Vin added.
"It has become apparent that when either Mister Dunne or Mister Wilmington is in difficulties, the other seems to be more than poised to intervene. May I ask you Chris; didn't I see you talking to the young man just before all hell broke loose?"
Chris thought hard, yes he did, but what did he say? His head jerked up as he recalled the conversation.
A few days earlier, at the warehouse
"I see him JD, he's fine, now get in position."
"Chris I'm telling you, I saw a man go around those crates, he's got the drop on Buck."
Chris glared, "Agent Dunne, if that was the case, Vin would have spotted him and reported back, now stop acting like a kid and start acting like an agent and get in position!"
"Why does it always come down to my age with you? I know what I saw; maybe Vin's view was blocked. Now whether you like it or not I'm gonna go cover Buck's ass!"
Chris was in no mood for defiance. It had been a tough case with the added, almost unbearable, fear that Buck may not be alive. All he wanted to do was wrap this up.
"JD, I told you, I don't have time for this kid stuff; get back in position or I'll slap you with a disciplinary for disobeying a direct order. Now, DO AS I SAY!"
JD looked back at his leader in disgust and proceeded to a cover position for his roommate.
Chris was seething, but it was time to get moving, JD's ass-chewing would have to wait.
Chris sighed, "He was right, and I refused to acknowledge it. Vin always sees everything and I was convinced that we were clear because he hadn't said otherwise."
"And what happened when he got to YOU?" Ezra asked Buck.
Buck shuddered as he recalled it.
The warehouse, the day of the bust.
JD reached the safety of some crates close to Buck's position. Cradling his gun, he crouched down and hissed Buck's name. His roommate flashed him a huge grin.
"Buck, listen," JD whispered, "Don't argue, but there's someone back there behind you. I've got you covered, get here behind me now!"
Buck knew JD's tone and instantly started to move as directed. Movement behind the other packing cases alerted JD and he immediately started to shift. Within seconds, he was in front of Buck, his body turning as he sighted his target and fired. At the split second Buck's body cleared JD's, the young agent felt an impact to his chest and flew back into the packing crates. The last sounds he heard was Buck yelling and a shot ring out from up high.
Buck shuddered at the memory of holding his partner, as the boy's blood oozed from his motionless body, while all hell broke out around them, agents yelling, Nathan trying to check on them, paramedics wrenching the young man from his blood-soaked hands, Buck sighed.
"That's it, that's all that was said, he did his job, actually more than his job," he bowed his head and his voice went quiet, "He saved my life."
The men looked at each other. Chris nodded slowly, he knew what he had to do.
+ + + + + + +
The sun was streaming in through the window in JD's hospital room two mornings later. The youth's mind seemed much clearer each time he awoke. He had started to remember the incident at the warehouse and although he still couldn't shake the images in his head, he had begun to accept Buck's funeral, and his feelings of betrayal, had been a bizarre dream; his timelines were a little screwed up; what transpired as a week in his dream was in actuality simply a few days, no wonder he had been confused. He could see Chris sitting just to the side of him, smiling. JD returned the smile as the man stood and approached him.
"You okay?" Chris asked. JD nodded.
"Where's Buck? Did he finally go home for some rest?"
Chris nodded, "Yeah, but he and the others will be here soon. I asked them to give us some alone time 'cause I need to speak to you."
JD looked concerned, "Oh God, it's about the warehouse thing isn't it? Okay go ahead, I deserve it."
Chris chuckled and moved in close. "Actually, I wanted to apologize to you." JD looked at him a little confused, Chris continued.
"I have to make decisions, it's what I do. Most of the time I'm right, but once or twice I've been wrong, the other day was one of those times. The thing is, not only was I wrong but I gave you a hard time over it, and your actions undoubtedly saved Buck's life, and despite my pain seeing you lying here injured, for what you did, I'm deeply grateful." He put his hand on top of JD's and gave it a squeeze.
"But my biggest regret was that, if either of the others had said that to me, I would have acted on it immediately, and that is an unforgivable error in judgment on my part. I'm actively encouraging you to write this up exactly how it happened, and swear to you here and now; I will never put you in that position again."
JD chuckled, "Hell, I wish I'd recorded this conversation, I'd put in a greetings card and send it to you once a year for the rest of your life!"
Chris laughed out loud and squeezed his hand again. He then went serious.
"When I thought we might lose you, and when you were so confused, all I could think of was how I could put this right. I'm not sure if I can."
The agent smiled up at his superior, "Y'know? I think maybe that weird dream was in some way tryin' to sort all this out. I guess the bottom line is that...it's sorted," he squeezed back at the hand... of his friend, his hero, and they stared at each other for a moment.
Noise from the waiting room interrupted the moment and they broke contact and looked to the door.
Buck burst through, closely followed by the others.
"Howdy do, boys. So, kid, you're getting' outta here tomorrow! Well I got me some great ideas for you while you recoup..."
Chris halted him, "Hold it Buck, 'cause I made plans too, sit down boys."
They all looked with amused interest as they found seats and the man in black walked around the room.
"Been speaking to Travis and he agrees that this case has had a traumatic affect on all of us, so he's agreed to us taking five days off and I'd like to extend an invitation to you all to the ranch for a little R & R," he looked to JD, "If that's okay with you, kid?"
JD was beaming, "Cool! Thanks Chris." The rest of the team nodded in agreement.
Buck slapped Chris on the back and leaned into him, "Ya ol' softie!" Chris glared back at him which made Buck laugh even harder.
"Just one thing," JD said, "Can we make one quick stop before we leave?"
+ + + + + + +
As Team Seven climbed out of their two vehicles they looked around tentatively at the run-down area. They watched JD curiously as he stiffly and carefully made his way toward the church and walked in, moving to follow him.
The inside of the church was dimly lit and they all blinked to adjust their eyes from the bright sunshine outside. JD spotted a woman half-way down the center aisle of the church and approached her. He looked around in amazement; he had definitely seen this place before.
"Excuse me, ma'am," he said. The woman looked up and answered in a strong Spanish accent, a little alarmed on seeing the seven men.
"Sorry to trouble you," JD continued, "We're ATF agents, can you tell me if there's a Father Michael McCardle here?"
The woman's eyes saddened, "Are you friends of his?" she asked.
"Not exactly," JD offered, "So he is here?"
"Sadly no," she answered, "He died a few weeks ago, a heart attack. Such a shame, he was a wonderful man, he loved his parishioners, he will be sadly missed."
JD staggered back a little at the shock of what she had said. Buck steadied him; his face showing a look of concern, but JD waved him off and turned back to the woman.
"Th...thank you ma'am," he stammered and the seven men turned and left.
"What was that all about?" Buck asked as they stepped back outside.
JD looked at them all, "The priest, the guy I just asked about, he was in my dream," JD looked at Josiah, "How could that be? I never knew him and the guy had died, how...?"
Josiah flashed a huge grin and put a comforting arm around the boy's shoulders, guiding him toward the vehicles.
"Aaah, the mysteries of the Universe son, they truly are a joy to behold!"
JD stared back at the church one final time shaking his head, His mind was full of questions and, truthfully, he was more than a little freaked out by what he'd just heard.
In his dream, Buck had died but in reality he himself had taken a bullet meant for his partner. The Priest had referred to his body telling him he wasn't ready to leave these men. Had he been dying? Was that why he'd met the dead Priest?
He realized the others were staring at him, and looked to his friends and smiled, trying to convey an unconcerned demeanor. They were not fooled.
Buck put his hands on each of JD's shoulders, looking him in the eyes.
"Don't try to make sense of it, son, just mark it down to experience and move on. All I care about," he looked at the others, "All WE care about is that you came back to us, I don't care how or why, ya just did, and that's enough for me."
JD looked to his friends then back to Buck.
"Yeah, I guess you're right, thanks Buck."
Buck chuckled, "Aren't I always right? C'mon, let's go."
JD rolled his eyes and snorted, "I've said this more than once, and I'm going to say it again, you're full of crap, Buck."
Buck laughed hard, pulling the boy toward him as they walked.
"You better believe it boy."