Hell in a Hand Basket
by Sue M
My grateful thanks, as always, to Phyllis, who is so much more to me than my beta.
Thanks to Mog for her wonderful AU
This was written in honor of Andrew Kavovit's birthday.
Disclaimer: Just playing. I know I can't keep `em but if I could they'd be on season 10 by now!
"Learn to Fly" by the Foo Fighters blasted their ears as the door to the CDC was opened. Chris winced, Buck laughed,
"Oh, believe me, this is quiet."
The six men made their way toward the kitchen, stopping and laughing as they caught sight of the young agent filling the dishwasher while dancing around, oblivious to his audience.
Buck approached stealthily from behind and put two fingers hard into the youth's back.
"Bang, you're de....whup!"
Feeling the pressure in his back, JD instinctively turned, and using his legs to swipe low and grabbing his 'assailant's' arms, had his attacker on the floor in seconds, poised to punch down hard. He suddenly realized he was staring at a familiar face.
"Shit, Buck, what are you trying to achieve first, me a heart attack, or you a broken back?" The young agent just then became aware of his five other teammates laughing helplessly. JD softened his look, crouching down and balancing on the balls of his feet, he extended his hand. "Need a hand up?"
Buck gratefully accepted the help, grunting as he got to his feet.
"Shoot, kid, that's some move ya got there," Buck complimented as he adjusted his clothing.
JD cast a quick glance at Vin, "Yeah, I've had some good advice recently." The youth reached for the remote and turned off the music. "Why are you here, are y'all done for the day?"
Chris nodded, "Yeah, your cataloguing was the most arduous job that needed to be done, and seeing as you finished that yesterday, the rest was a cinch."
Josiah approached the youth and put his arms around his shoulders, "We are on our way to the Saloon, and wondered if you'd care to join us, John Dunne."
JD chuckled; Josiah was the only person who ever called him by his first name. He furrowed his eyebrows, "Why didn't you just call me?" he asked, the answer becoming evident as Ezra held up JD's cell phone, the screen showing three missed calls.
"I suspect your overly obstreperous music prevented you from hearing your phone, young man."
JD laughed, "Why don't you just say my music's too loud, Ezra." He shrugged his shoulders as he gave a lop-sided grin to his teammates.
"So are ya coming?" Buck asked, working a kink out of his back.
The youth nodded, "Well, seeing as you all went to so much trouble, I guess it's the least, I can do, I'll just get my jacket." As he walked toward his bedroom, he stopped and turned to his teammates, smiling warmly, "Thanks."
Buck looked to the others, "I'm sorry, ok? I have an over-active imagination, but when he didn't answer either phone..."
Chris put his hand on Buck's shoulder,
"Not a problem, Buck, better safe than sorry."
JD was back in seconds, "So why are you all wasting time standing around then?"
Vin grabbed at the dark-haired youth and put him in a gentle head- lock, smiling as a soft chuckle drifted up.
The next day, at the office, taking advantage of JD's trip to the copier, Buck attracted the attention of his fellow agents. Chris joined them and perched on the end of JD's empty desk.
"So, we're all sorted for his birthday?"
Each man nodded. "Indeed. Are you sure the young man in question will want to celebrate in this manner, Mister Wilmington?"
"Hell Ez, it's his twenty-first, we can't just let it go quietly."
"Buck, can I make a suggestion?" Chris asked, receiving a nod.
"Why don't we switch the venue to my place, friends and family only? I think he'd prefer that. And we can get him out there much easier."
Buck grinned widely, "That'd be great, stud. I'm sure he would prefer it, I just didn't like to ask."
"It's settled, then." Chris decided. "Nathan, can Rain sort out the ladies?"
Nathan nodded, "Yeah, sure, she can call Nettie and Casey, do you want her to call Evie Travis?"
"No, I'll see Orin later." Chris turned as JD arrived back at the office. The youth looked at the group.
"Something wrong, guys?"
"Nope," Vin answered, "Just enjoying the down time."
"Well I just pulled this fax off as I was waiting at the copier." He handed Chris a sheet of paper. As Chris read it to himself, his expression changed to one of disgust.
"Trouble?" Josiah asked.
Chris shrugged, "It's a terrorist alert, warning us to be vigilant."
The group mirrored his disgust. A soft voice broke the silence.
They all turned to the voice. Chris got up from the desk and walked toward the youth, squeezing his shoulder as he reached him, "Why ever?"
He continued on to his office and closed the door.
Despite there being three weeks to JD's birthday, preparations were in full swing. The team had decided to tell the youth that there would be a cook-out at Chris' home, and he seemed pleased with the idea. In actuality, the celebration would be a little larger, with a lot more pomp and ceremony than JD expected. Buck could hardly contain himself; he had waited over a year to see this special young man's coming of age and was hoping to pull out all the stops.
As the roommates sat watching TV that evening, the news was full of bomb alerts and disruption to travel and business. Buck occasionally glanced across from his recliner at the young agent sprawled out on the sofa. He had been unusually quiet all evening and the older agent couldn't help noticing the mix of expressions washing over the boy's face. Eventually he could no longer contain himself.
"JD, would you like to talk about it?"
The question was met with a frown, "Talk? What about, Buck?"
"Whatever it is that's making you look like you lost a twenty and found a penny?"
JD sighed and pointed to the TV, "It's just...I mean...ah, hell..."
Wilmington got up from his seat and joined him on the sofa; picking the youth's sock-covered feet up in the air and dropping them back down on to his own legs as he relaxed. He stared the youth out, relieved when he finally got a response.
"I just hate it, the fear, the uncertainty, the disruption," JD's eyes filled, his voice softened, "The injuries and deaths..."
Buck could feel emotion washing over him as he watched his best friend struggling. He felt such affection and compassion for this young man, admiring him as he went from day to day constantly trying to prove himself and adjust to a lifestyle way beyond his years. He was about to speak when the phone rang. Stretching, Buck retrieved the cordless handset from the coffee table,
"Wilmington. Hey, Chris, what's up?"
JD sat up straighter, his eyes fixed on his partner. Buck was frowning.
"Sure, no problem, we'll go straight there tomorrow. Goodnight, Chris."
"What?" JD asked.
"All available units and teams are being put on active alert. Tomorrow, you and me get to spend a day at the mall."
"Uh huh, we'll be pairing up each day." The big man rose to his feet, resting JD's legs back on the sofa. "Perhaps we should get an early night, we need to be there at seven to do a sweep."
The youth nodded, swinging his legs to the floor and stretching. "See ya in the morning, Buck," he called, and headed for his room.
Hearing his name, Buck looked sleepily at the glowing digital display on his nightstand, three thirty-two am.
The big man leapt to his feet and jogged down the stairs to JD's room, driven by the anguish in the voice that had penetrated his sleep.
"Buck!" JD was thrashing around in his bed; Buck approached him gently, shaking his shoulders.
"Hey, kid, you ok? You were yelling."
Hazel eyes popped open as the small-framed body shook and the larger man instinctively pulled him close. Eventually, JD relaxed.
Looking sleepily up into dark blue eyes, he pushed himself onto his elbows.
"Bad dream, sorry."
"No problem, can I help?"
Shaking and sweaty, JD looked at his roommate.
"Ok if we cancel our shopping trip later today?"
"Sure kid, no problem."
JD flipped over and went straight back to sleep, leaving Buck confused and a little shaken. Clearly the boy hadn't been fully awake, as they were indeed going to a shopping mall later that morning, but not to shop.
He remained perched on the bed until he was satisfied his roommate was sleeping peacefully, and then wearily returned to his room.
"Coffee?" Vin asked, offering the steaming mug to Larabee, who took it gratefully.
"I'd forgotten what six am looks like," the blond snorted, sipping the hot liquid.
"Why so early?" Vin was curious as to why his boss was in the office at this time.
"Figured if Buck and JD were up and at 'em, least I could do was be here for them to check in."
Vin nodded. "Do the guys know what's expected? It's not like they had any time to be briefed."
"That's why I sent Buck in first, he's our most knowledgeable agent in explosives, and it's just a sweep and then a monitoring assignment for today. Meanwhile, the rest of us will get some research done on what's needed." Chris couldn't miss the look the sharpshooter sent him, he sighed. He didn't like this either.
At eight thirty, the mall and the officers and agents on duty there were ready for business. They were satisfied the area was clean, now all they had to do was remain observant.
JD tugged on his body armor, he was hot and uncomfortable, and, he observed, extremely conspicuous. Despite the mall being air- conditioned, it was still July, and way too hot for a thick, black, heavy vest. He looked across at Buck, and shaking his head, smiled. That guy could look cool wearing a flame-thrower. He walked toward his partner, and was greeted by a huge grin.
"So, kid, ya ready to start patrolling?"
JD rolled his eyes, "Shit, you make it sound like we're back in uniform."
Buck laughed loudly and grasped the youth by the shoulders, guiding him on to their route for the day, "Oh, kid, those were the days. Me and Chris...I could tell you tales..."
"And I'll hold you to that," the younger man smiled, "But not today, ok?"
Buck nodded, fully understanding the need for concentration."Yeah, another day. Come on, let's do this."
The five remaining men of Team Seven sat quietly in the bullpen, studying their briefing notes. It had yet to become clear as to why this Separatist group was intent in their desire to create mayhem, and they knew all too well that, motivation without an obvious cause lead to unpredictability.
The briefing, however, had been unexpectedly upbeat. There had been nothing more than empty threats and disruption, and more knowledgeable enforcement agencies were satisfied that this latest threat would most likely fizzle out, as many other threats before this had.
Either Buck or JD had checked in each hour on the hour since seven am, and now as the time approached fourteen hundred, Chris was on the verge of calling his two agents in, satisfied they had done all that was needed for today.
Larabee had returned to his office after lunch when Vin burst in through his door.
"Ya gotta come see the TV!" he gasped, and the two men joined the others in the break room.
Buck was stifling a yawn, he was bored. While in no way belittling their assignment, he had become bored with their constant vigil, fully aware that Cherry Creek Shopping Center was more than adequately manned and all he seemed to be finding was the faces of other law enforcement officers, not to mention a larger than usual show of security. He looked across the ground floor, his eyes finally finding his target. He smiled to himself as he observed his young partner, completely immersed in the job in hand. Buck figured they at least deserved a cup of coffee, and started to make his way toward him.
JD's head was aching from constantly scanning the Center, which was unusually quiet for this time of year. He wondered if people were heeding the warnings and staying home. He watched as bins were regularly checked then emptied, and so far no suspicious packages had been left to alert them. His only concern was the number of back- packs adorning shoppers' backs, and hoped that that was all they were. As he scanned, the young agent spied his older partner, smiling to himself as he watched Buck stifle a yawn. The next time the youth looked to that position, he noticed the tall man heading his way.
Suddenly, JD was flying through the air while everything around him became a dark, smoky, litter-filled blur, accompanied by an ear- piercing booming sound. He was vaguely aware of something hitting parts of his body as he traveled, until finally landing with a crunch on the tiled floor of the mall.
For a few moments, everything became eerily silent. The young agent tried to push himself up, but found it impossible, so he just lay there on his stomach. He slowly moved his head to one side, noticing bodies around him, many of them moving, or trying to get up. Suddenly his blood ran cold, as he spotted a familiar face, unmoving and bleeding just a few yards away. He tried to reach out.
Darkness finally claimed him, and he drifted away to the sounds of piercing screams and the unnerving feeling that he had seen this scene somewhere before.
Screaming, who was screaming?
Without opening his eyes, Buck touched his fingers lightly to his head, knowing instinctively he was touching blood. Something at the back of his mind was pulling him and he felt compelled to force his eyes open, 'What was it? No...WHO was it...' His body hurt most everywhere as he continued to struggle with clarifying his thoughts. He moved his head upward slightly to see a familiar dark-haired form lying just across from him.
Spurred on by his partner's inert form, Buck half-crawled, half- dragged himself across to him. On reaching the boy, he placed two fingers at a point near his throat and waited, sighing as he felt a strong pulse. Wincing at the blood in the youth's hair and covering his face, the older agent realized he probably looked no better himself. Finally unable to stay conscious any longer, Buck placed his large hand protectively at the back of JD's neck and blacked out.
Chris, Vin, Ezra, Josiah and Nathan couldn't take their eyes from the TV.
"Where is this?" Chris demanded, staring at the images on the screen.
"I believe the announcer is about to relay that detail to us now," Ezra commented, observing the touch to the announcer's earpiece and the side-title "Breaking News" high to one side of him on the screen.
Chris screwed his eyes tightly closed and felt the bile rise in his throat as "Cherry Creek Shopping Center" and "it's all going to Hell in a hand basket..." came through, it seemed, to him, almost as if shouted repeatedly. Larabee opened his eyes as he felt a hand on his shoulder, noticing the pale faces of his men staring back at him. He nodded, slowly, answering the question in their faces.
"Yes, that's where Buck and JD are." Shakily, he straightened himself.
Choosing an SUV from the ATF pool, the five men headed toward the bombed mall. In forty minutes and several traffic diversions, Team Seven had arrived. Larabee flashed his ID at the officers on the taped perimeter and was waved through, however, due to the sheer volume of emergency vehicles, they soon had to stop and park.
Jogging all the way to the worse hit area, they stopped abruptly, shocked at the scene.
A cleared area was lined with around fifteen to twenty black body bags, some small enough to be a child. Spotting an officer with a clipboard walking along the gruesome line-up, Chris approached.
"Do you have all their names, yet?" he asked, showing his ID.
The officer shook his head, "Most, but not all."
"Any officers or feds?" Larabee pushed.
"Two officers, one security and three feds," came the answer. He looked at the man in black, "What Team?"
Barely able to speak, the blond grunted, "ATF, Seven."
Checking his clipboard the officer eventually looked up. "No sir, none from Seven."
Chris hadn't realized how much he was shaking until Josiah put a comforting arm around him.
"I believe they have everything well in hand, brother. Shall we see who they have recovered for hospitalization?"
Snapping out of his thoughts, Chris nodded and they headed for another area.
Ezra approached several people, eventually finding the person logging ambulance activity. Within minutes, they had found their teammates names and where they had been taken.
"Do you have any idea how serious their injuries were?" Vin asked.
The officer sighed, "Those who have been taken so far were unconscious and have been considered either serious or critical."
Seeing the incident was well covered, Team Seven made their way to Denver General, at least knowing their teammates were alive.
Buck was not normally uncooperative, but all he could see was frenzied activity around his partner's gurney.
"Please, Mister Wilmington, let us help you, you need attention." The nurse was losing her battle to keep him on his bed.
"Darlin' I just want to see how my friend is doin'. Now take your hands off me because I don't want to hurt you as I get up."
Before she could argue, a doctor approached. "Mister Wilmington, if you can't behave then I will be forced to remove you from this room."
Buck relaxed a little, sighing, "Please, I just want to know how my friend is."
Doctor Phipps gave Buck's arm a squeeze, "I DO understand, but although your friend is unconscious, he may be able to hear you, and I don't want him distressed. I can tell you he has a head injury and some glass fragments in his legs and arms. Now, are you going to let us suture your head wound?"
Suddenly aware of the pain returning to his battered body, Buck nodded.
Noise, accompanied by the ER doors opening, drew everyone's attention to the five men entering. Larabee thrust his ID in their faces and, ignoring the medical staff, looked straight at Buck, a small smile of relief evident.
"How are you?" Chris asked.
Buck closed his eyes for a second then nodded slightly. "We're alive, and that's gotta be a freakin' miracle."
He noticed the team looking toward a very bloody and unconscious junior agent, their postures showing they were visibly shaken by the image.
"Looks pretty awful, don't he?" the big man sighed.
Larabee finally acknowledged Doctor Phipps, "How bad is he?"
"Firstly, let me say I don't appreciate the way you barged in here, but I don't have time for arguments so before I kick you out, I will just say, the young man in question is just about to go for x-rays and a CT scan, and then to surgery to remove the glass that has entered parts of his arms and legs. He's already received blood and fluids and now, if you'll excuse me..."
The blond nodded and turned to leave, but just before the team walked through the doors, Chris looked at Buck.
"We'll be right here."
Buck nodded and relaxed onto the bed.
The next day JD was sleeping soundly in his private room, his teammates sitting with him, watching the news reports on a muted TV. Buck was bruised and stitched but considered fit enough to have been discharged.
AD Travis opened the door, drawing the attention of the six agents.
"Buck, good to see you up and about," he turned his head toward JD, "How is he?" Travis asked.
"Better," Chris answered, "Did you want something, sir?"
"Can we talk? All of us?"
Quietly the six men got up and followed Travis outside.
A few minutes later, JD stirred. He looked around, a little surprised to see he was alone, but he figured his friends weren't too far away. Sleepily, his attention switched to the TV. His eyes flew open as images from the bombing were playing wordlessly over and over. He felt panic grip him as he tried to locate the remote.
"Turn it off..." he whispered. Where WAS the damned thing? His breaths were coming in gasps as his search became more and more frenzied, while the images continued playing.
"Please," he begged, "Turn it off." The heavy bandage on his head prevented him from turning his head fully to the side and he became more and more agitated. In a desperate attempt to move he ripped out his IV and sent things on his nightstand clattering. He was sobbing now, trapped by the images on the screen. Someone had actual footage of the moment the bomb went off... and went off... and went off...
"Make it STOP!" He screamed. Well he thought it was a scream, but he wasn't even sure a sound had come out.
On a routine check, Nurse Greene came in.
"Oh good grief!" she squealed, startled at the boy's distress and the blood everywhere from the disconnected IV, and she hit the alarm.
While she attempted to calm the writhing, sobbing agent, doctors and nurses were rushing to answer the alarm.
As Travis was talking, he and the six men with him, found their attention drawn to the sudden frenzied activity around them.
Buck was analyzing the movements in his mind when, as if hit by a bolt of lightening he had turned and was heading back to JD's room. The others caught on instantly and followed.
Panic gripped Wilmington's heart as he arrived at JD's door. He marched past the medical team and scooped up his friend in his arms, ignoring the pumping blood as he talked softly to him.
"Hey, come on now, easy boy, calm down, Buck's here."
The young agent grasped at his friend's clothing, whispering, "Please, Buck, tell them to make it stop."
Buck sought out his roommate's face and pulled it gently from his own chest where JD had buried himself. He looked into the boy's eyes.
Wilmington looked questioningly at him, "What, kid? Make what stop?"
Just a fleeting glance from JD toward the TV sent a chill through Buck as he cradled his friend even tighter.
"Chris," he growled, "Turn the damn TV off."
Chris didn't hesitate and soon the images disappeared. The five men of Team Seven and AD Travis watched their two friends, consumed with guilt at their oversight. The medical team had continued working around Buck and he soon felt the youth go limp in his arms. He placed him gently back down onto the bed as he watched the doctor attending, dispose of a needle. Buck assumed it was a sedative, but made a mental note to ask later. Once the IV had been restored, the doctor addressed the men.
"We'll need to clean all this and the young man up, so if you wouldn't mind stepping out for a while."
"Is everything ok?" Chris asked.
"Well, we will have to monitor for infection where his line came out, but his injuries suffered no extra damage. We might need to keep an eye on his mental state though."
Larabee nodded, satisfied, and the team left the room as requested, Chris placing a supportive hand on Buck's shoulder as the shaken ladies' man was surveying the blood that covered his clothing.
As Buck's stomach lurched, he ran to the washroom just off the corridor and barely reached the stall as his stomach emptied violently. Having followed Wilmington in, Chris rubbed his hand in soothing circles on his friend's back as he desperately tried to keep his focus on helping Buck and not on the earlier scene in the young agent's room.
Five days later found Buck and JD comfortably ensconced at Chris' ranch. The blond had insisted, despite Buck's protests, as he felt his oldest friend was in need of some pampering too.
Both injured men were still sore but recovering, though they still had a slight 'ringing'in their ears. Buck was reasonably comfortable talking about the incident, but JD wouldn't even stay in the same room if the conversation turned to it. Chris decided he would have a quiet chat with his youngest agent and arrange for some counseling sessions.
While in the bathroom on the third morning of their stay JD stared at himself in the mirror over the washbasin. As he closed his eyes, the sounds of the bomb and screams of the injured played in his head and he gripped the edge of the unit firmly. He opened his eyes as he fished something out from his jeans pocket. He stared at the bottle of painkillers, and sighed, unscrewed the cap and removed four. Drawing water from the faucet into a glass, he popped the pills into his mouth and gulped, gagging slightly. Returning the bottle to his front jeans pocket, he left to join the rest of his team on Chris' porch.
Several hours later, the young agent felt decidedly woozy. Chuckling to himself, he rose from his chair and toppled slightly. Buck steadied him.
"Hey, kid, you ok?"
With an exaggerated nod, JD patted his friend on the shoulder, "Shhhu...ure, B...Buck," he hiccupped, "J...just need to peeee."
JD straightened and tottered into the house. Nathan followed him in.
"JD, are you still taking pain medication?"
The youth rubbed his head, "D...Don't think sssso!"
"Ok, let me walk you to the bathroom." Nathan took his friend's arm and guided him, leaving him at the door. "I'll be right here," he called through the door.
"Naw, I'm good Nate...Th...thanks,"
Intending to return and check on the young man in a few minutes, Nathan went back to the others.
After JD had washed up, he again looked in the mirror and watched his eyebrows furrow. Didn't he have to do something? What did Nathan say? Painkillers...The youth patted his pockets, smiling as he located the bottle of pills. Removing the bottle, he popped it open and tapped out two. He frowned as he tried to remember if he'd taken any that day, hell had he taken any the day before? He decided not, and tapped out another six. Downing them all, he returned to his friends.
Nathan looked at the men of Team Seven, his face creased with concern as he rubbed at his eyes.
"When did JD's prescription run out?"
"I got him a new one filled yesterday," Vin admitted.
"Where is it?"
Buck looked at Nathan, "Why the questions?"
"JD told me the other day he wasn't getting any more pills because he felt better." Nathan answered.
"I just picked up the prescription the doc gave him when he left the hospital," Vin added. "He told me he wanted it filled, 'just in case'."
They all turned, relieved as JD returned and sat back in his chair. He had been gone at least ten minutes.
"Are you ok?" Buck checked.
His roommate nodded, but rested his head in his hand as his elbow balanced on the arm of his seat.
"Where are your pills, kid?" Vin pushed.
JD stared at the sharpshooter. The words seemed to be coming out as if in slow motion... and why was Vin's head so big. He was aware of movement around him, but the edges of his vision were turning black and his head felt decidedly detached from his body, as if floating above it.
The others were trying to locate the pills when Josiah grunted, drawing attention to the youth's pocket. In seconds Nathan had the bottle; and was inspecting its contents.
Vin gasped, "There should be more than that, he should have only had two if he decided to take them, his other prescription only finished yesterday, that's why I got him his new one."
"But he said he wasn't going to take any more," Buck insisted.
Chris was on his knees in front of his youngest agent.
"JD, answer me, how many pills have you taken?" JD just stared through him.
"Let's get him on his feet," Nathan ordered, Josiah and Chris instantly lifting the boy up by grasping underneath his arms. As soon as they had, JD's head snapped back and he went limp. As he was lowered to the floor, Buck was tapping his face.
"JD, come on kid...don't do this."
Getting no response and noting JD's shallow breathing, Nathan shouted orders.
"Ezra, call the hospital and tell them we're on our way; guys, we have to move, now!"
The journey to the hospital had been anxious and tense. JD was nestled between Buck and Nathan while Chris drove and Vin sat in the front passenger seat. Ezra and Josiah followed close behind in Ezra's Jag.
As they arrived at the ER doors, a medical team was already waiting for them and JD was in the ER in moments.
Answering questions, filling in forms and pacing took up the first thirty minutes when finally a doctor came to see them.
"We've given him a single shot of Nalaxone which should counteract the Demerol quickly. The pills he's taken are dangerous but shouldn't affect any of his vital organs at this stage. However, the longer he had been left the more he would have deteriorated. He's not out of the woods yet... I'll let you know when you can see him." The doctor turned and returned to JD's cubicle.
The team breathed a sigh of relief and returned to the chairs. Around fifteen minutes later, a nurse arrived and took the six agents to a small side room.
JD was curled up on his side, surrounded by the usual paraphernalia and looking a very young near-21 year old. The nurse gently touched the advancing Buck's arm.
"He's not very well, but he can hear you if you talk to him. He may even wake, but he'll be very drowsy."
Buck nodded his thanks and walked to the side of the bed. His roommate's head was lightly bandaged due to the still healing wound, fading bruises stark against a white pallor.
Nathan sighed and the men turned to him.
"I can't believe I let this happen, I should have known something was wrong, I shoulda watched him more carefully, controlled his meds..."
"I'm the one that picked up his prescription, why didn't I question his change of mind?" Vin added.
"Guys, stop it," Chris flashed a mild glare, "We can all say something to contribute here. We all were there when he said he didn't want any more pills, we all watched him today, hell, he hardly moved. I guess we were all so relieved to see him relaxed today, we overlooked the signs. He's gonna be ok, we need to move on!"
While they were absorbing their leader's words, Buck had already moved toward the bed and was talking to the youth. A faint "uh, huh." Could be heard as a smiling Wilmington straightened and looked back at his friends.
"Is he awake, Buck?" Chris wondered.
"Naw, just drifting in and out, but he understood me, and that's gotta be good, right?"
"What, may I ask, did you say to him?" Ezra enquired.
Buck smiled, "I told him I'd get him a decent birthday present if he promised to stop being an idiot and talk to us."
Team Seven settled down in some chairs for the wait, each man pondering and hoping there was indeed something they could do to help.
Keen to sleep in his own bed, JD talked Buck into returning to their apartment on the youth's release from the hospital. Josiah and Chris had offered to stay over for the first night, despite protests from JD, but Buck had insisted, thinking they could hopefully help shed some light on the recent events.
While the four men sat enjoying some Chinese take-out, Josiah decided to take the direct approach, much to the horror of his friends. He put aside his food and turned toward the young man sat beside him, as he noticed JD had finished.
"May I talk to you about the other day?" he asked, softly.
"What about the other day? I made a stupid mistake, and I paid for it. I'd prefer to drop it." JD was guarded. `Why? Why ask questions right this minute?' He was full of food and tired.
"Oh, I don't doubt for a minute it was a mistake, John Dunne, as do the rest of your friends; what I'd like to address is what you're trying to deal with and why you can't tell anyone."
JD looked horrified. Had Josiah read his thoughts? How did he know something was bothering him?
JD relaxed a little,' the bombing; he was referring to the bombing'.
"This isn't just about the bombing, is it son?"
JD gasped and cast a quick glance at Buck, then quickly hung his head. Realizing Josiah was on to something, Buck and Chris sat forward.
"JD, we can't help you if you don't tell us what's wrong," Chris insisted. Buck placed a hand on the youth's knee,
"C'mon, kid, let go of it."
JD sniffed, "I...I..." he looked back at Josiah, "I think I'm going crazy." He snorted as he desperately fought to control his emotions.
"How so?" Josiah sat at his shoulder now.
With huge tears threatening to drop, JD looked at each man, then at Josiah again.
"The night before the...you know...I had a dream."
Buck nodded, remembering it was more of a nightmare than a dream.
"Go on," Josiah urged.
The boy swallowed hard, and catching a sob in his throat said, "I saw Buck, and people all around me on the ground, injured and bleeding. Buck wasn't moving and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get up to help him." He dropped his head, then with tears staining his face, he finally looked up, "It was the scene I saw the next day, after the bomb went off, I woke up and saw the same scene as the night before. What does it mean, Josiah? I don't want to start having premonitions, I'm scared." He was now clinging to the profiler, "I'm afraid to go to sleep."
Josiah drew the boy in close and held him while he spoke.
"What were you doing before you went to bed?"
"Watching the news on the TV, about the bombings," JD pulled away and looked up at the man, "Why?"
"And did Chris call you just before you turned in, to tell you what you would be doing the next day, and where?"
It was Buck who answered and was now next to the two men.
Josiah smiled and looked at the young man, "So you watched a news item about bombings, and went to bed with information of your assignment at the mall the next day, with Buck, fresh in your head."
JD nodded, relaxing slightly.
"Well, my young friend, I don't think an over-active imagination expressed in your dreams is a reason to think you're crazy, do you?"
For the first time since the incident, a real smile crossed JD's face, "I guess not."
"Excellent, now pass me the noodles, I'm starved."
Chuckling, JD passed the requested food and stood up.
"If ya don't mind, guys, I think I'll hit the hay."
They all muttered their goodnights and the three remaining men relaxed as they finished their food. In the room next to them, the youngest of Team Seven slept long and hard, and peacefully.
The week of JD's birthday saw him return to work on light duty. Buck had gone back the previous week, and was also on light duty. The rest of Team Seven had been assisting with the terror alert, but that had now been stood down due to inactivity.
As the youth's birthday fell on a Wednesday, Larabee had arranged for the team to work on the day, but enjoy a few rest days after, to be able to relax and enjoy the celebration they had planned.
Having enjoyed breakfast in bed from Buck, the roommates arrived at work. Through the day people dropped in on the birthday boy and he left for Chris' that afternoon loaded with cards and gifts and showered in good wishes.
That evening the team enjoyed a private celebration and talked about the cook-out the next day.
As they prepared for bed that evening JD staggered a little, dropping down on the end of Buck's bed, giggling helplessly.
Buck chuckled and as he pulled the youth's feet up to remove his sneakers, JD flopped backward and passed out with a smile on his face. Shaking his head in amusement at the soft snores, Buck finished taking off the footwear and decided he'd leave his friend where he was.
He looked up at a noise at the bedroom door to see the other five men looking in.
"Knew he couldn't take it," Vin whispered.
Buck nodded, "Yep, it's hard work being twenty-one. All sorted for tomorrow, Vin?"
"Yeah, a good long ride so's you get to set everything up here. No problem."
They all said goodnight and Buck checked that JD was comfortable and breathing properly as he too retired from the evening.
Arriving back from their ride, JD looked at Vin.
"How come no one else wanted to come?" JD wondered.
"I think they were a little hung over from last night," Vin chuckled, "But not you, right?"
JD nodded, "Naw I slept like a baby." As they approached the ranch, JD gasped, as Vin grinned.
The whole place was adorned with balloons and a huge birthday banner. As they got closer, JD realized there were more people there than earlier. His grin widened as he spotted Casey and Miss Nettie and Rain. He was surprised to see AD Travis and his wife Evie and was touched they had come.
As he jumped down from his horse, Casey walked toward him and he swept her up in his arms and swung her around as she giggled. Their eyes met and she kissed him, forgetting themselves for a moment as their kiss deepened. A quick cough from Miss Nettie snapped them back to reality as they looked up a little embarrassed. Casey leaned in and whispered something into JD's ear, causing him to chuckle.
"So we all know what Casey's present's gonna be," Wilmington laughed.
"BUCK!" they both yelled. Everyone laughed and they decided to move it along.
By the end of the present-giving, JD had an engraved watch from Ezra, "Because all men should wear an accurate timepiece." But really, JD realized it was because his own had been damaged in the bombing.
Josiah had chipped in with Nathan and Rain and bought him a hand- held computer.
Vin had generously bought season tickets to the Bronco's new season, offering the second one to be used in turn should the rest of the men want to accompany JD to a game.
Orin and Evie Travis had paid for him to take flight lessons which had taken him completely by surprise and caused Buck to comment about his friend causing enough trouble on his feet, let alone in the air.
Chris presented the young man with a silver-barreled, black handled Beretta 92, drawing admiring stares from all teammates and choking JD into silence at the generous gift.
Nettie gave him a silver St. Christopher necklace, explaining it was the patron saint of travelers and drawing another comment from Buck about the flying lessons.
Casey handed him a package which contained a scarf, tie and kilt complete with sporran and belt. JD was amazed as she explained how his name was Celtic and this was the tartan for his 'clan'. JD was thrilled at the connection to his heritage.
Totally overwhelmed by his gifts he noticed Buck approaching him, holding out a set of keys and a letter.
"What's this?" he asked.
Buck coughed, "I guess a day will come when you will want to move out of our little home and make one of your own.
JD looked at Casey, who nodded, "Buck, I have no plans for quite some time yet..."
Buck stopped him "Oh I know, still, I wanted you to have this."
JD looked at the keys and then the letter, "Are you asking me to move out?" JD was feeling nervous.
"Will you just open it?"
The rest of them gathered around, curious as to what was in the letter.
After reading, JD again looked at the keys, "It says they're to my apartment, I already have keys to ...."
He quickly looked at the paper again and with eyes full, he stared at Buck, unable to speak.
So Buck did, "I figured you should have this, I just wanted you to know how much fun I've had since you moved in. You're my best friend, and the little brother I always wanted even though I never even knew it. I thank on high, every day that fate or whatever the hell it was, brought you to us, and I hope we'll be having a lot more fun together."
JD finally choked out a sentence, "Buck, I...this is too generous...I..."
"No it's not, its how I feel."
JD stepped forward and hugged the man tightly. Buck returned the gesture and they remained that way for a while.
"What did you get?" Casey asked.
JD passed her the envelope and she read it. "Oh, Buck," she smiled, turning to the others, "JD now owns half the apartment."
Huge grins broke out all around. Chris approached the two men, still close together.
"I thought this was a party, let's go."
JD waved them off as he stood alone for a moment, watching them walk toward the porch.
He smiled through tears of happiness and looked skywards.
"I don't know how you did it, mom...but thanks."
Still smiling, he walked back toward his family; being twenty-one was going to be a hoot.