I wrote a story called Chosen and was encouraged to write a prequel, Nightmares. Some bright spark then suggested the prequel needed closure, and so now there is this one! So in order...Nightmares: Banishing Demons: Chosen.
Ratings/Warnings: Some strong language
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
My grateful thanks, as always, to Phyllis, who is so much more to me than my beta.
Buck watched from the door to JD's room, as his roommate slept soundly. It had been three days and nights since JD's meeting with Doctor Elizabeth Jarvis, and, although he was still having nightmares, they were becoming less and less frequent. For days before the visit, Buck had been begged by his roommate to not tell Larabee about the nightmares, for fear of being seen as weak. Buck smiled at that thought, poor clueless kid; he had no idea how worried Chris and the others were for him.
What had transpired from the session with the therapist had shaken the team to its core, the realisation that, despite them surviving the bust, one of their own was suffering over it, and in such a way that they had been unable to help him directly.
Buck crept back to his own room, but once there, found he was unable to settle, the events of that day flooding his mind. He found himself going over it again.
Warehouse district, four weeks ago
"Buck, would you just shut the hell up and place your mic nearer your throat. All I'm getting is the stand-up comic's favorite 'Man with a faulty mic' routine." JD instructed.
The team snickered as Wilmington adjusted said mic.
"Better?" he spoke, directing his voice into it.
"Much. See? Was that so hard?" JD replied into the team earpieces.
"You are SO gonna cook supper for that remark, kid." Buck promised.
"Can the chatter," Larabee growled, "Time to focus."
Chris bit his lip to catch a smirk as a soft laugh could be heard in his ear.
JD did his check, "Vin?"
"Here, John Dunne."
JD chuckled, "Nathan?"
"I hear ya."
"Ezra?" No answer. "Ezra?"
"Please refrain from shouting, JD. I am not deaf, merely preparing."
"So that's a yes," JD smiled, "Chris?"
"Loud and clear, JD."
"Oh, very funny, like we haven't what? Ok, ok, yes." Buck ducked Larabee's glare.
"Thanks guys, standby."
Chris looked at his team, focusing on Ezra.
"Not that I doubt your abilities, Ezra, but does any one else feel uncomfortable about this operation? I can't explain it, but, something just seems wrong somehow."
They all nodded.
"Graves did seem a little too enthusiastic to go ahead with this deal. Are you suggesting we call it off?" Ezra asked.
The blond pursed his lips and spoke into his mic. "JD, what are the cameras showing?"
"You just read my mind. I see one large white van and one Ford Explorer to my right and your left, but they've been here since we arrived and as yet, there's been no activity."
Chris processed the information and with the added 'gut' feeling, based on years of experience, he went to make an announcement when static hit his earpiece. All the agents tapped their ears instinctively.
"JD JD? Are you receiving?"
The static had been replaced by silence. Buck shot a look to his boss and oldest friend.
"Damn. Find some cover. When the time is right, I'll give the signal for either one or all of us to return to the surveillance van, but for now, let's get the hell "
Gunshots sounded and they all dove for cover. Chris knew Tanner was in position, but with no radio link he couldn't be sure what the sharpshooter could see. That question was answered within seconds by shots from up high, followed eventually by the sound of squealing tires.
After ten minutes of silence, Vin appeared where the team were taking cover.
"I think it's clear. The Ford pulled off, but the white van is still there."
Chris nodded, "Let's go check it out. Where the hell is JD?"
Team Seven kept their weapons drawn and cocked as they approached the surveillance van cautiously. Larabee frowned as he noticed the doors open.
Directing the agents into positions with quick looks and nods of his head, Chris prepared to look into the Van. His team stood ready, legs slightly apart, guns held in a locked position just in front of their bodies, pointing to the van and a covering position for their leader, as Chris held his gun to his body then spun around in front of the open doors, his gun now pointing into the van. A few seconds later his body relaxed and he uncocked his gun.
"Stand down, it's empty." The blond scanned the van from side to side. He noticed the radio equipment fouled and JD's headset on the floor. With a discarded pen he picked them up, balancing them over the pen as he examined the item... the blood he found suggested they had possibly been ripped from the young tech's head.
"Should we check out the other van?" Vin asked.
Chris nodded and again, with caution, they headed for the second van, repeating their previous procedure, only this time, they had closed doors to negotiate.
Chris stood poised, gun at the ready and nodded to Buck and Josiah as they slipped back the bolt and simultaneously pulled at the back doors.
Chris knew who the huddled form on the floor of the van was instantly, and putting his gun on safety, he jumped up and approached the curled up body, closely followed by Buck.
The blond carefully turned the body over, unsure if the youth was injured.
"JD, can you hear me? It's Chris. JD?" He peeled back the tape from the agent's mouth and finally got a reaction.
JD's one eye flew open, his other was swollen and closed, and he gasped as Buck and Chris came clearly into view. He started muttering something as his feet scrabbled to gain purchase on the floor and as Larabee pulled the young agent into a sitting position and worked his bonds free, JD grabbed at Buck's shirt to pull himself close to the man as he appeared in front of him. He began sobbing into his roommate's chest, and repeating, "You're not dead not dead."
Present day, Buck's bedroom
Buck closed his eyes and sighed at the image in his head. He remembered the team had assumed he had been referring to the gunfire. He shuddered as he also remembered JD's scream of pain as Buck had unknowingly tugged on his injured left shoulder.
The ladies' man climbed out of bed and slouched to the kitchen to make a milky drink, checking in on JD as he passed his room. He hoped the drink would help him sleep.
Instead, as the last of the milk drained from the cup, he found himself remembering what JD had said to them after his session with Liz. They had all returned to the CDC and were still there right through until the following day.
Three days ago
The journey back to the CDC was eerily quiet as each man reflected on the afternoon's events, each in turn, glancing across at the sleeping younger man, the only one making a sound, as soft sobs hitched his breathing.
Chris pulled the vehicle to a halt and four got out and made their way into the apartment, leaving Buck and Chris to rouse JD and bring him in.
Buck tapped JD's cheek lightly, calling to him as he did so. His free hand remained on his roommate's left arm, mindful that it was still a little stiff, but wanting him to feel the support as his senses returned.
Sleepy hazel eyes peeked open, opening wider as they focused on the two men. JD's face dropped as his face colored with embarrassment. Chris gently lifted his chin.
"C'mon, kid, no more secrets, we start again, from here. Ok?"
JD nodded slowly, "I'm so sor " his chin trembled as his throat worked overtime to swallow the sobs that were rising.
"And no more regrets," Wilmington admonished, determined to prevent his friend from putting his guard back up.
By the time the trio had arrived at the apartment, chairs had been arranged in a circle and drinks were ready and waiting on the coffee table. The other four men of Team Seven were sitting patiently and smiled as they caught sight of their friends.
Buck leaned in to JD, "You still ok to do this?"
The youth nodded and took a seat, Chris and Buck following. For a few minutes, JD's eyes remained firmly fixed to the floor, unaware of the nervous glances passing between his teammates. Eventually, he blew out a short breath and looked up.
Chris spoke. "You said someone punched you, can you start from there?"
A quick nod.
"I was listening to Chris having doubts about the bust when I thought I saw movement from around the van. Before I could even begin to analyze it, I remember being vaguely aware of a noise and then air on my face. I didn't even see the fist coming. He grabbed my shirt and yanked me forward, out of the van and my headset ripped off my head." He absently touched the spot just above his right ear where the earpiece had scraped his head.
"Some guy punched me in the stomach and as I bent over, the guy holding me pulled my head up by my hair so the one that had just punched me could cover my mouth with tape. As they threw me into the other van one of 'em kneeled on my back and pulled my arms back to tape my wrists, then they slammed and locked the doors."
JD had started to shake so Buck picked up a drink and offered it to him. The youth accepted gratefully, sipping twice then returning it to the table.
The rest of the men were hardly moving, almost afraid that if they did it might put him off his stride. They waited patiently for him to continue, noticing he had now clasped his hands and was resting them on his knees.
"At first," he resumed, "it was quiet, but then I heard one of them say, 'let's do this, or Graves will be pissed.' I remembered thinking, 'what do what?'"
The clasped hands were now white at the knuckles. Buck squeezed his friend's arm for reassurance.
JD unclasped his hands and started to push his hair back from his face.
"He he said, 'no one, no one lives, not even the kid. We got the drop on them, so let's do it.' I can remember feeling sick, I I didn't know what to do. How could I warn you? I couldn't even get out of the van."
The young agent's breaths were more rapid now, but a determined look was in his eyes and he gently shook his head when Buck looked to be offering him the chance to stop.
Inhaling and exhaling quickly for composure, he continued, "I somehow got to my feet and tried to scream through the tape while banging against the inside of the van. After a few seconds, I realized they had gone and I started to panic, these guys were gonna shoot you down in cold blood and I was powerless to stop them." For the first time, with eyes brimming with tears, JD looked at them all.
"All I could see in my mind was each of you falling dead, and me stuck in some damn stupid van while you bled to death. And then the shooting started I know then, I was really throwing myself around but I don't remember much else until you found me."
Finally, JD started sobbing, and said softly "But worst of all, I kept thinking that I might end up alone, forever knowing I did nothing, how fucking pathetic was that?"
A torrent of emotion was released and Buck could no longer stand it as he dropped down in front of the youth he considered a brother and pulled him in close, clinging tightly as the boy was once more reduced to sobs.
Team Seven looked around at each other then sat back in their chairs gulping their drinks. Phase one complete, not that they really knew what phase two would be, or even how many phases there would be. They just knew this would move them forward; they would make sure of it. JD and his roommate rose to their feet and the youth excused himself.
As they waited for JD to use the bathroom, the six men spoke for the first time.
"So it seems his nightmares are his guilt over what he considers selfish thoughts?" Nathan asked.
"I think that's what he is focusing on, but I BELIEVE his real demon was that he was about to lose the people he cared for more than even his own life. Banging around in that van they could just as easily have opened the doors and shot him. THAT'S what he needs to remember, he was prepared to sacrifice what little chance he had left, in order to try to save us, his family."
They all looked at Josiah and nodded, each man reflecting on how he would have felt had he been in the same position. The feelings in the pits of their stomachs said it all.
+ + + + + + +
As the sun rose the next morning, Chris had already filled AD Travis in on the recent events, and had cleared the day as a rest day for his team. JD had been reluctant to go to bed so they all just talked, from everything from sports to women and eventually back to work. Despite his obvious weariness, JD looked a little brighter and was becoming more animated in his conversation.
The seven men enjoyed a take-out breakfast out on the deck and were about to consider their options when they realized a voice was missing from the conversation. A quick glance at the couch was all the explanation needed, as they observed their youngest sprawled out on his stomach, snoring softly. A quick discussion determined that Chris and Josiah would stay and the others would go home for a shower and a change of clothes, returning later so that the ones remaining could leave to do the same. There was no real reason for any of them to stay, but somehow, the events of the past two days had made them realize just how close they had come to death, and somehow their being together just seemed right.
Several hours later, while the three men were enjoying a card game, JD started talking. Moving to the sofa, they could see he was soaked with sweat and he began to thrash a little as he shouted. Josiah halted Buck's advance toward the couch.
"May I, brother?"
Buck nodded and stepped back next to Chris. Both men watched as the large gentle man sat cross-legged on the floor next to JD's head and started stroking the boy's thick dark damp hair as he spoke softly into his ear. A few minutes later, JD was still again and once more, sleeping soundly.
"How did you do that?" Buck wanted to know.
Josiah smiled, "I simply told him that we were all here, and all safe. I said our names and what we were doing and that we were waiting for him to finish sleeping before we all take a walk in the local park."
"Well," Chris commented, "It seems to have worked."
"We shall see, the real proof is in what he says when he wakes up."
The two men looked at the profiler questioningly, and found themselves almost wishing JD awake to see what would happen.
By the time the others had returned, Josiah and Chris had decided they would stay on to wait for JD to wake. Vin, Ezra and Nathan were intrigued by what they had been told and found themselves curious too.
JD stretched, long and hard to ease the sleep from his body, looking around the room to work out where he was. He smiled to himself as he caught sight of his teammates sitting around the table playing a card game. Buck had spotted that his roommate was awake, and was walking toward the sofa.
"'Morning, sunshine, or should I say, 'good afternoon'?"
JD chuckled, "Sorry, I guess I must've been real tired."
Buck looked to Josiah and the big man approached as JD sat upright, and stood, turning to face the others.
"Did you dream, John Dunne?"
The youth pursed his lips, thinking. A small smile crossed his face,
"Actually, I recall dreaming we all went to the park and were throwing a football around." He laughed softly, shrugging his shoulders, and excused himself to use the bathroom.
Buck couldn't help but hug the profiler, slapping him on the back.
"That was truly amazing," Buck beamed.
"A little trick I picked up when I was in 'Nam, we had a lot of youngsters there, seeing things kids of that age shouldn't be seeing. Night terrors were common, when one night this little Vietnamese guy whispered something into one boy's ear. He hardly ever had bad dreams again."
Josiah couldn't help but laugh as he approached the table.
"Of course, you realize we'll have to go to the park, now."
Ezra looked horrified, "May I suggest we ignore that last remark, gentlemen."
JD appeared from the corridor to the bathroom. Vin winked at the others,
"Hey kid, shall we go to the park, then? I could do with some fresh air."
The youth beamed, "Cool, I'll go get a football."
"What about your shoulder?" Buck called.
"It should be fine!" came the muffled reply as the youth disappeared into his bedroom.
Vin just chuckled as Ezra glared.
"Mister Tanner, consider yourself a dead man." He suddenly realized what he had said as he saw the looks from the others.
"My apologies that was a most untimely remark."
Vin slapped Ezra on the back as he passed him to get to his jacket, "Never mind Ez, consider this little excursion your punishment." They all laughed as Vin caught the football right above Ezra's head as JD tossed it to him. In seconds, the sharpshooter was pushing JD out through the door with softly muttered threats of ass- whooping as they were closely followed by the rest of Team Seven.
Buck couldn't help but smile as the memory of that moment lingered, but the moment was short-lived as a cry from JD's room drew his attention.
He walked purposefully in and, taking a deep breath, sat next to his friend's bed and gently carded through the boy's hair.
"Hey, li'l bro, just relax Buck's here and you're safe and warm in your own bed. In fact, all the guys are in bed, snoring their little hearts out, so shouldn't you be doin' the same?"
Buck's smile lit up his face as he felt the younger man begin to relax until he eventually settled into a deep sleep.
"Oh yeah," Buck whispered, "All better now, little brother, all better now."