Ratings/Warnings: Some bad language
Sequel to JD and Josiah's Big Day Out
Thanks to Mog for the ATF/AU
Thanks to Phyllis for all she does for me.
'Damnit. . .there goes my knee again. . .why does it always shake like that? And now Buck's hand is resting on it. . .I must be pissing him off too. Oh. . .wait, no, he's giving me a squeeze. . .and the look, damn. . .the look. God I've put him through hell this week. . .and the other guys. I can't believe they all came with me today. . .I mean, it's not like I'm gonna know anything for twenty-four hours. . .and it's just a blood test. . .right?
I suppose I've been more than a little concerned about my health recently. . .I haven't really been on top form. . .and normally it wouldn't bother me. . .except, this isn't normal, is it?
I know I'm hurting Buck, distancing myself like I have this week. . . hell, this whole month, I suppose. . .but I don't know how much more emotion I can take, I just want to lock myself away and turn back the clock six weeks. . .pretend like it never happened. But I can't, and that's why I feel like I'm sinking fast, because this is it. . .and nothing can change that fact. . .this is the day I've wished for, and dreaded, all at the same time.
Vin's looking at me now. . .I can't believe how I yelled at him last week. He just automatically went to put his hand on my wound. . .just like I did that day all those weeks ago. . .and I screamed at him to think. The look on his face. . .I thought he was going to deck me. . .and then his hand hovered there, almost defiantly, as if, at that second, it really didn't matter. . .I love him for that. I love them all. . . for standing by me and trying to keep things in perspective. . .after all, nothing's confirmed. . .or even likely to be. . .but for six weeks it's hung over me like a sharpened axe, hanging by a thread. . .just like me. . . while my life is slowly slipping down the toilet. . .and I'm letting it. . .'
'Oh crap. . .here I go. . .shit, I can hardly stand I'm shaking so much. Chris just squeezed my arm. . .hell that hurt. . .in fact, they've all squeezed my arm. . .that's gonna smart in the morning. . .the morning. . .twenty four hours. . .and then I'll. . .we'll know.
. . .I can't believe it's been six weeks. . .. . .'
THREE WEEKS PRIOR
Chris glanced one more time at his watch. 'What the hell did this guy want? Didn't he know how busy they were? The phone call didn't disclose much, just that some guy wanted to talk to him, so where the hell was he?'
He rose from his chair as there was a knock at his office door.
"Come in. . ."
A tall, sandy-haired man walked in and offered his hand.
"Jarrod Brough. . .actually it's Doctor Jarrod Brough. I need to speak with you about one of your agents, and then I need to speak with him."
Larabee frowned and gesturing with his hand, the two men sat.
The peace in the bullpen was shattered as Buck and JD clattered through the door, laden with pastries and coffees.
"She did not. . .I swear, you need glasses, Buck!"
"Kid. . .trust me, I know when a woman is looking at me in a certain way."
"Buck. . .she had a lazy eye; she was looking at the guy next to you."
Josiah, Ezra, Nathan and Vin were now watching and listening with amusement.
Buck set down his burden and approached his roommate.
"Lazy eye? She didn't have no lazy eye."
"Yeah, she did. When she asked me if I was still in college. . .then she was looking at you, but she was talking to me, 'coz I sure as hell don't think you look like a college boy."
Mumbling something to himself, Wilmington glanced across at the Team Leader's office.
"The original man in black got a visitor?"
Josiah nodded but his face reflected something Buck couldn't quite put his finger on. JD's head shot up.
Josiah waved the comment off. "Now John Dunne, there's nothing to suggest. . ."
JD put his milk down; his pallor was as pale as the liquid he was drinking.
"It's been twenty-four hours," he whispered, glancing at Buck.
Buck looked back with concern, they all did. JD discarded his half- eaten doughnut, his appetite gone.
At the end of a day trip with Josiah, JD had been exposed to a man's blood as the man had bled out from a gunshot wound. A mandatory test three weeks after the incident, had taken place the day before, and the results were due today. JD had expected a phone call; if someone had actually come in person. . .it didn't sound good.
Buck snorted, "Hell, boy. . .it could be anyone." He tried changing the subject, "So. . .who wants what here?"
They all turned as Larabee's door opened. The blond looked directly at the easterner.
"JD. . .my office now, please."
JD gulped, 'Aw shit. . .he said 'please' that can't be good.' He thought to himself. The young man trudged into his Team Leader's office and with the briefest of passing glances to the rest of the group, Chris closed the door.
Buck sat down hard and looked at the rest of them, then closed his eyes. "Aw hell."
JD was introduced to Doctor Brough and offered a seat. The doctor explained he had given Larabee a brief overview and asked if JD wanted the blond to remain in the room for the full account, there was no hesitation in the youth's nod. Brough cut to the chase.
"Your blood work has shown an abnormality and I need to do further tests to establish what it might be. We, of course, have some idea but it needs some investigation and I prefer not to speculate at this point." He handed the now shaking agent a card.
"An appointment has been booked for you at this address for three weeks time. I'll see you then, unless you have any questions."
"W. . .why three weeks?"
"It's simply procedure. If I took blood now, the readings would be almost identical to yesterday's. . .it' s just the way it needs to be done. Some of what we took yesterday is already going through several rigorous tests to help us establish the abnormality. "
Chris stood behind his youngest agent, in a supportive, almost protective stance. "So, does this abnormality have a name?"
Brough stood. "For now, all I'm prepared to say is that John is anemic, we'll know exactly why in a few weeks.
This condition can stem from several causes, broken down into three groups, insufficient iron or vitamins available for the bone marrow to make enough blood cells to keep pace with the rate at which they are lost from the circulation; disease, affecting the bone marrow itself so that it does not produce red cells quickly enough to keep up with the rate of loss and lastly, the blood cells themselves may not last long enough to be replaced. We need to find out why this has happened and how severe it is, in other words to establish a cause."
He turned to Dunne, "My cell number's also on the card I gave you, John, feel free to call me if you need to ask me anything."
"Doctor. . ."
The doctor turned back to the young man.
"The guy. . .you know the guy who was shot. . .did. . .did he. . .was he HIV positive?"
"I'm afraid I'm not at liberty to discuss that at this time." He approached JD and squeezed his shoulder, "Try not to worry, we'll know more soon. In the meantime, it might be prudent to take some personal time for a few days, or at least switch to light duties. . . just for now, I'm guessing you've been tiring quickly for some time now, you need to pace yourself."
With a shake of each man's hand, Doctor Brough left.
JD sat in silence. His mind was working overtime and his body was fighting the nausea that was threatening to rise. He had felt more tired recently, but he thought that was more down to work than ill- health. Chris sat in the chair next to him and turned to face the young man.
"It's going to be a long three weeks, but we'll get there. I think you should go home today; actually, you might as well take the rest of the week. I'll take a look at your schedule and work something out for now. Are you going to tell the others?"
"Do you think I should?"
Larabee sighed, "Well, it's your decision, but if you want my opinion, I think you should. They're good men, and they'd want to be there for you."
JD closed his eyes, "Would you. . .tell them? I need to use the bathroom."
The two men stood as Chris nodded his agreement.
Five agents looked up as Larabee's door opened. Buck frowned as he watched JD leave the bullpen, but switched his focus to the approaching blond who proceeded to fill them in.
JD sat quietly in a locked stall. The nausea had subsided, but now he was shaking.
This was like a bad dream and he secretly wished the pinch he was thinking of giving himself would wake him from it, but the longer he sat there, the more real it became. The doctor hadn't ruled out the incident three weeks ago, so he was no closer to easing that worry, either.
He became aware eventually that he had been sitting there for half an hour and thought it best to return. What he hadn't realized was Vin had been waiting silently near the wash basins for the last fifteen minutes. As soon as he heard movement, the sharpshooter returned to the office.
As JD walked back into the office he was met with six concerned looks. Buck and Josiah approached him but stopped just short. JD looked at both of them and, as one, the three stepped forward and clung to each other for a few moments.
Josiah's eyes reflected immense sorrow. He had been with JD that day and felt helpless with this new development. He had also put an arm around Buck, as the big man seemed to need support too at this moment.
Buck squeezed JD hard and whispered assurances in the boy's ear. JD fisted both men's shirts at the back as he gratefully accepted the support, then, just as quickly as they had come together, they pulled apart.
In turn, Ezra and Nathan approached and affirmed their support. Vin threw JD's jacket and cap at him.
"Buck's gotta finish up a few things here, so I get to go home early too. . .if that's ok?"
JD nodded his approval and they were soon in Vin's jeep and heading toward the CDC. The younger of the men looked at his companion. Vin looked across.
"No point in dwelling on it, kid, ya hungry?"
JD shook his head, "Naw. . .d'ya wanna shoot some hoops?"
Vin grinned, "Thought you'd never ask."
JD returned the grin, "Just our secret though. . .right? "
Tanner winked, pleased to see his friend perk up, "Absolutely. "
+ + + + + + +
Two days later, mid-Friday afternoon saw JD doing some computer work at the apartment. He was due to meet the rest of the guys at the Saloon a little later and wanted to take some paperwork with him to assist in a case they were working on.
He walked to the door to answer a knock, smiling as he peered out and unlocked the door.
"Hi," he grinned and gave his beaming girlfriend a kiss on the lips, "What brings you here?"
"I heard you were here. . .thought you might like some company," Casey offered, putting her arms around his waist and kissing him again.
They giggled and made their way into the living room.
"Would you like a drink?" he asked and she nodded as she followed him into the kitchen.
As JD bent over to take some juice from the refrigerator, Casey playfully slapped his bottom.
"Hey. . ." he chuckled. He put down the juice and closed the fridge door, then spun and trapped Casey against the countertop.
"So. . .you still feeling brave now?" he grinned and they laughed as they playfully fought for dominance. Their efforts drew them close and they kissed, the kiss deepening as it became clear Casey had possibly planned her visit more thoughtfully than JD had realized.
Within minutes, they had taken it to the bedroom and dropped to the bed barely sparing a thought for the clothes they were tossing aside. JD was totally engrossed in making this beautiful young woman he adored happy when he suddenly stopped and rolled away onto his back, covering his face with his hand.
Casey's body was screaming for him and she felt the loss instantly. Trembling, she turned to her side and looked at her boyfriend in confusion.
"JD. . .what is it. . .did I do something wrong?" She worried more as she heard a soft sob and watched as JD sat on the edge of the bed and started pulling on his shirt, still sniffing. Casey closed in behind him and embraced him, a little afraid now.
"JD. . .please tell me what's wrong."
He composed himself and turned to her, holding her now quivering body tightly to him. She leaned in gratefully and waited patiently for JD to speak.
"Casey. . .I'm so sorry. This isn't about you. . .it's about me. I. . .I have something I need to tell you."
Two hours later, Casey was driving back to her apartment, her eyes swollen from crying. She'd wished she could have been stronger for him, but it had all been such a shock. His _expression had almost broken her heart. . .he had looked so. . .lost.
She changed her mind and headed for her Aunt Nettie's. . .she needed someone to talk to.
+ + + + + + +
Buck whistled as he closed the door of the apartment.
"Kid. . .hey, kid. . .you in here?"
JD barely looked up from the TV as Buck entered.
"Hey. . .I thought you were meeting up with us."
"Changed my mind."
"You could have called."
"Why? I said I might. . .I changed my mind."
Buck frowned, "Fine. . .just would have been considerate if you'd have cal. . ."
JD jumped to his feet, startling the ladies' man.
"So I didn't feel very considerate tonight. . .so sue me."
"Hey calm down, and don't take that tone with me. . .I was only. . ."
"What tone? Who do you think you are? You're not my father. . .you can't tell me how to and how not to speak."
Buck grabbed his friend's arm.
"Hey. . .I said knock it off. . .!"
JD pulled away.
The ladies' man balked, "Hey. . .this is crazy. What the hell is wrong with you?"
JD glared at him, "Why can't you just let it go once in a while? You're like some freakin' mother hen, following me around, checking up on me. . .I'm not a kid!"
"Then stop acting like one!" Buck growled.
With a final flash of anger, JD stormed away and went into his bedroom.
Wilmington stared after JD and jumped as the bedroom door slammed shut.
Buck hated this; him sat in the living room alone while the kid sat in his room. . .alone.
Their argument had been petty, but had escalated to new heights and now they weren't talking. He sighed and dialed.
An hour later, a knock on the apartment door revealed the rest of Team Seven, hoping to ease the situation. Buck acknowledged them, his relief and gratitude evident in his tense features. After a small debate, Ezra knocked and entered JD's room to be greeted by a sullen junior agent. JD scowled at him.
"Why are you here?" he asked.
"Call it an exercise in bridge-building, " the southerner smiled. After a few minutes JD's shoulders dropped and he maneuvered toward Ezra, who gave him a quick squeeze and gently escorted his friend out to the others.
JD smiled as his eyes met with his friends, and then he turned shyly toward Buck.
"Buck. . .I. . ."
Before he could finish, his roommate was next to him, staring him in the eyes and after a few moments, they hugged briefly. The rest of the team relaxed and made themselves comfortable, dishing out the food they had brought with them.
Several hours later, Larabee watched as his youngest agent staggered to the kitchen for another beer. He sighed inwardly as memories came flooding back of his own once self imposed path to destruction. He, also, had given Buck a hard time while he spiraled slowly downward, and he had watched this young man doing exactly the same thing, as his oldest friend sank deeper and deeper into despair.
He followed the young man into the kitchen.
"Hey, Chrisss. . ."
"JD. . ." He put his hand over the youth's as it clutched at a fresh beer. "Don't you think you've had enough for tonight?"
JD snatched his hand away.
"Ok. . .let me put it another way. . .I think you've had enough for tonight."
"So? You're not my keeper. . .and I didn't ask for your opinion."
Chris released a feral grin, "Because you've had a bad week, I'm gonna ignore that remark," he took the bottle away, "But I'm telling you. . .enough."
JD glared at him, "I told you. . ." he slurred, ". . .I didn't ask for your opinion! You don't own me. . .in fact, you can stick your opinions and your job where the sun don't shine."
The youth first attempted to retrieve the bottle, but when unsuccessful, he took a swing at his boss, which Chris deftly ducked away from, and then barely caught the youth as he spun and slipped to the floor as he passed out.
"Little help here!" Chris called.
Josiah and Buck got there first.
"Aw hell. . ." Buck sighed.
Josiah scooped the limp body up into his arms and took JD into his bedroom, the rest of the team watching in dismay.
Half an hour later he had been stripped and tucked into bed, a trash can sitting on the floor just below his head. Leaving the door ajar, Buck joined the others. The man looked tired and drawn.
"I'm guessing he hasn't eaten much today, " Nathan stated.
Vin pursed his lips, "He ain't eaten hardly anything tonight, either."
"He hasn't eaten much all week," Buck added, shaking his head. "This is so unfair."
Chris sat down next to his long-time friend. "No, it's not fair, but we can't change anything, so we just gotta get him through the next few weeks."
Buck nodded. Ezra spoke.
"May I offer some advice?"
They waited; Ezra knew he didn't really need permission.
"I think he needs to return to active duty. It is clear he is not as well as he should be, but I am convinced his behavior would be less destructive if he was kept busy. . .and where we could watch over him."
Chris nodded, "I agree. Buck, pack some things and come to the ranch for the weekend, anyone else who wants to join us is welcome. We'll do the same next weekend and the weekend after that. It'll give him something to focus on apart from the calendar in the kitchen. Agreed?"
Everyone nodded and set off home to pack a few clothes and set their new plan in motion.
+ + + + + + +
By the second weekend the plan was going well, the only low point being JD's gradual distancing from Buck. Josiah's counseling to the ladies' man suggested the young man was afraid and was desperately trying to spare his best friend any more pain. Buck decided that when Vin and JD got back from their horse ride he would have a talk with him.
JD loved riding, especially now. It helped free his mind of all the fears that were building inside him as each day passed.
A new concern emerged two days ago. JD had started to feel unwell. He was exhausted and lethargic and occasionally, a little breathless and sweating. His appetite was non-existent and he had begun to get paranoid about his health, but he had told no one.
As he and Vin were halfway back to the ranch, a wave of dizziness hit the youth and before he could stop himself, he had toppled to the ground, cracking his head on one of several large rocks lining the trail, as he landed.
It took Vin a few seconds to realize his friend had fallen, turning Peso quickly and vaulting off as he reached the crumpled form.
JD groaned as he flipped himself slowly over and sat up. He touched his hand to his head and pulled it away to see blood.
"Aw hell, kid. . .what happened?" Vin instinctively reached out to touch JD's head when JD screamed out, startling the sharpshooter into leaving his hand frozen in mid-air.
"Vin! For fuck's sake think! Don't touch me!"
For a split second, anger crossed Tanner's face, but on seeing the reaction from the younger man, his features softened as he remained torn as to whether he should apply pressure or not, eventually leaving his hand hovering as if in defiance of the possible danger.
JD looked at his friend and relieved him of the decision. Reaching out with his clean hand, he took Vin's outstretched hand and held it to his own heart.
"Vin. . .I love that you would do this for me, but don't. . .not until we know for sure. . .ok?"
Caught up in the emotion for a moment, Vin soon rallied and patted his friend on the chest with the hand JD was holding. Releasing their grip, Tanner went to Peso and recovered a small medical kit they each carried with them. Choosing an absorbent dressing pad, he guided JD's bloody hand to the pad and encouraged him to apply pressure. As soon as he got the youth comfortable, he rang Chris.
+ + + + + + +
As Tanner brought in the horses, Nathan and Buck sat either side of the young agent as Chris drove them back to the ranch in the Ram. Wearing gloves, Nathan had closed the wound with tape and was confident it was clean and not really in need of a trip to the hospital.
Once back at the ranch, Buck insisted JD retire to bed, to rest. From his bed, JD looked at Buck as he perched on the edge.
Buck grinned, "Nothing to be sorry for. . .just rest now."
"Naw. . .I mean for everything. I've been a total asshole to you, Buck. All I can tell you is. . .oh God. . .it's pathetic really."
Wilmington shifted closer.
"Go on. . .I enjoy a good story."
JD sighed. "I know this whole thing might be nothing, but. . .when I saw Casey cry the other day. . .it reminded me a little of when mom died. Mom was crying because she thought she was hurting me. . .and I was crying because I didn't feel like I was doing enough. We spent our last days together in. . . despair." The boy was whispering now.
"I didn't want us to end up like that, Buck. . .afraid to show. . .we care." JD was fighting sleep now. Nathan had agreed the young agent could sleep, but that they would need to wake him from time to time.
"I know it's not cool for men to say things like this, but. . ." JD swallowed, "I love you, Buck. You gave me a home, friendship, family. . . I couldn't feel closer to you if you really were my brother. I just wanted you to know before. . .you know."
Buck sat closer and pulled his surrogate 'little brother' toward him.
"Ditto, kid. . .It's been a great fifteen months, and it's gonna get better. This is not going to be a problem. . .I just. . .feel it. You'll see."
He looked down to see JD fast asleep. Buck grinned and relaxed a little.
"Yeah. . ." he breathed, "You'll see. . ."
Team Seven had decided to wait out the test results at Buck and JD's apartment. They spent their day filling it with as much activity as possible, ending the evening watching a basketball game on TV. Later, as the men slept, JD crept out onto the deck and looked out over the city.
Until recently, he had never been happier since becoming part of Team Seven, except, of course, for the times spent with his mother.
He marveled at how this hardened group of men had grown so close, cared so much, and taught him so well. He had resigned himself to a life within the police force, of computer programs and office work and had come close to walking away from it all. Then Team Seven came together, his mother died, and he finally knew he wanted to be in the thick of things, but not with just anyone.
He had read up on Chris Larabee and greatly admired the man. . .hell. . .he wanted to BE that man. Chris accepting him was one of the greatest moments of his life, and he cherished and savored every second of it.
He loved Josiah for his strength and wisdom, Nathan for watching out for him, Ezra for keeping him on his toes, Vin for being such a friend and inspiration, Chris for being everything he wanted to be and more, and for caring enough to make him realize the man had a softer side.
And Buck. . .Buck. . .what a guy. A total stranger, who seemingly hated him only fifteen short months ago, yet took him in, gave him a home. . . stability. . .family. He hoped one day he could repay him and show him how much he meant to him. What he hadn't realized was that Buck already knew, as did the others. . .and that's what had made their bond so strong. Misfits. . .finally were finding their place, their destiny.
It was with those thoughts, JD finally drifted off to sleep, oblivious to the soft glide of the patio door and the presence of his six foot three 'big brother' as he covered him with a comforter and then settled down in the chair next to him.
+ + + + + + +
When the phone rang the next day, every man's heart leapt to his throat. Hardly able to pick up the phone for shaking, JD finally answered.
"Yes...? Yes, that's right. . .Oh. . .I see. . .ok. . .thanks. "
Lost in thought, JD was oblivious to the stares. Ezra could stand it no longer.
The easterner's head shot up, "Huh? Oh. . .yeah. . .sorry. "
"Well?" Buck asked.
"Erm. . .he wants me to go there. . .to the clinic, in an hour." JD looked at them all, his eyes full, "That's not good. . .is it?"
Buck pulled him close. "No. . .it's just not clear. Come on. . .let's get down there."
Doctor Brough looked around at the seven men dotted around his office. Dunne had insisted they all be with him when he heard the news. Jarrod focused on JD.
"Well. . ." He handed JD a prescription. "After extensive tests it would appear you have an acute case of anemia. We can find no reason for it except for a severe iron deficiency as opposed to a chronic bone marrow disorder. I see you have been injured several times in the line of duty, and there is a good chance the blood losses you suffered are part of the cause. I'm sure it would have eventually come to light, but as you had to have this blood test, it was discovered early. I am giving you a weekly course of injections for one month and then you will go on to a course of ferrous sulphate for a further three months, at the end of which we will test your blood again to check your hemoglobin levels. Any questions?"
JD swallowed, "I. . .I don't have HIV?"
Jarrod smiled, "No, and, without giving too much away, I had little reason to believe that you would, at least, not from anything recently. However, I couldn't rule out any earlier incident that might have occurred. Now. . .if you gentlemen would excuse us. . .I need to administer this injection in a rather delicate area which I feel would best be done in private."
JD was still in shock, but a smile finally started to creep to his lips. One by one each team member acknowledged the good news, Buck picking his friend up and swinging him around once as he laughed a big deep Buck laugh. Chris approached and stared at the young man for a long while, then finally stepped forward and pulled the young agent toward him in a short tight hug. He pushed him away and held him at arms length.
"God, kid. . .you're starting to make me feel my age. We'll see you in a minute."
With that, the six men left.
That evening, they sat in the Saloon celebrating. JD was not keen to drink, despite assurances that dark beer would be good for him.
JD looked up from the dark concoction, wrinkling his nose, when he noticed all the men looking behind him.
He turned to see Casey standing there.
"Hi, Casey," he said shyly.
"Hello. . .sorry to intrude. . .I was wondering if we could talk?"
"Are you going to join us, Miss Wells?" Ezra asked.
She looked at him apologetically, "Err, no. . .I wondered if we could talk. . .privately? "
JD looked to the others as they gestured for him to go. He followed the young woman to the next booth.
Chris looked at Buck, "You called her. . .didn't you?"
Buck winked, "Ah. . .you know me so well. . .I'm just an old romantic at heart."
They all snuck a look as the two lovers chatted, grinning like idiots, then kissed so passionately, Buck threw his coaster at them, followed by the others.
The two giggled and stood as if to go, but only Casey left.
JD stared longingly after her, sighed and sat back down.
Buck smiled, "So. . .you two ok?"
JD returned the smile, "Yeah. . .I guess this turned out to be a pretty good day, huh?"
They all nodded, no one could argue with that. . .