Ratings/Warnings: Some bad language, peril of a Minor.
Disclaimer: Just playing. I know I can't keep 'em but if I could they'd be on season 10 by now!
My thanks to Mog for ATF, to K Poffenberger for the LB universe and to all the wonderful authors who have made this AU so special.
Thanks as always to Phyllis for all her help.
In my line of work I've attended several seminars on child abuse, and been horrified at how much trouble and planning sex-offenders will go to to achieve their goal. This is loosely based on an actual event.
"Chris, come on!" Buck yelled from the Ram. JD and Vin were all strapped in and ready to go.
"Come on, Chris/Dad!" the two boys called together.
Chris exited the house, just having tapped in their security code to set the alarm and glared at the three in the car as he struggled with the oversized cooler box.
"It's ok, Buck. . .don't you strain yourself. . .I got it!"
Buck chuckled to himself as Chris placed the box in the back under the covers, walked around and jumped into the driver's seat.
"Glad you could join us, stud," Buck grinned.
Larabee glowered, then softened his look as he turned to the boys.
"All set, guys?"
"YEAH!" they squealed, JD clapping his hands with excitement.
"Well, alright then. . .the zoo. . .here we come!"
He turned back to Buck, "Have Ezra, Nathan and Josiah left yet?"
Buck nodded, "Yep, said they'd meet us outside."
"Dad!" the boys called, impatiently.
"Ok, guys, sorry. Here we go!" Chris called. "Belts on?"
"Have you been to the bathroom?"
"No drinks in the last hour?"
"JD?" Chris looked back at him.
"I's sorry. . .I was thirsty." The five-year-old twisted his hands and lowered his eyes.
Vin tapped his arm, "Aww, JD, Dad told you we's not to drink just before we go."
Buck saw his son looking sad and unbuckled his seat belt, turning to look at his boy.
"Hey. . .it's ok Li'l bit, you didn't do anything wrong, son, we just know now that we might need to stop earlier than we thought. You've both been such good boys and we're gonna have a great day. . .right?"
"Yeah!" they chorused, JD brightening again.
As Buck strapped himself back in, Chris started the engine and slowly rolled down the drive to the highway. He looked at Buck.
"D'ya think we'll get as far as Wal-Mart?"
"Just about," Buck whispered back, and settled in for the duration.
Nathan looked at his watch, "How delayed did he say they'd be?"
"No more than fifteen minutes," Ezra answered, adjusting his suede jacket over his jeans.
"You look a treat, Ezra," Josiah smiled, "But a suede jacket with two small boys?"
"I am prepared to take my chances, Mister Sanchez," Standish grinned but made a mental note to stay back a little when the boys inevitably had ice-cream.
Ten minutes later four familiar figures were approaching the surrogate uncles. JD was atop his father's shoulders and called to the men.
"I's sorry Unca Ezra, Unca Nafan, Unca 'Siah. . .we's late 'cause I had to go pee!"
Everyone in the immediate vicinity turned and laughed at the comment, as did Chris, Vin and the uncles. Buck groaned.
"Li'l Bit. . .you don't need to tell the world your business, boy."
JD looked down over his father's head to see his eyes, gripping the man's face hard to steady himself, which caused some contortion to Buck's features.
"The whole world, DA?" he whispered loudly.
Buck chuckled, "Yes. . .the whole world."
As JD thought on that, he pushed himself back up, poking his father in the eye as he did so.
"Holy cr. . .."
"That's a dollar when we get home, Buck," Vin reminded.
"But I hardly...aw hell, whatever."
"That's TWO dollars, Da!" JD giggled.
"I'd quit while you're ahead, pard," Chris advised.
Buck nodded, pulling JD down from his shoulders and feigning a 'throw' to Josiah, causing the five-year-old to giggle.
"Oh sorry there, Li'l Bit. . .I thought I'd picked up a football by mistake!"
"Silly, Da. . .I's not a football, am I Vin?"
Vin shook his head, "No, but Chris and Buck said if you eat any more you're gonna be a pudding!"
The five-year-old's eyes widened and Chris and Buck screwed up their eyes as they wished the comment away.
"A PUDDIN'?" JD squealed as he lifted his t-shirt up to examine his tummy.
"He was just kidding, weren't you Vin?" Buck urged.
Vin smiled a wicked smile, "No. . .that's what you said the other day after JD ate four pancakes for breakfast."
"A PUDDIN'?" JD repeated.
Josiah swept the young boy up, laughing, and balanced him on his hip as they reached the entrance to the zoo.
"Well, I for one ADORE puddings," he assured, "In fact. . .oh, oh. . .I'm going to have to take a bite. . ."
Snapping his teeth, Josiah pretended to 'eat' his young charge.
"Da, Da. . .help me. . .Unca 'Siah's gonna eat me!"
Laughing together, the seven finally entered the zoo. . . unaware of a pair of eyes following their every move.
Within ten minutes of their visit, JD was asking for food. They all decided to have a corn dog, just to keep them going until lunch. The five men were mesmerized as the two little boys took in the sights, sounds and smells, and saddened as they realized this was most likely the first time the little ones had been to such a place. Each boy dragged their fathers and any uncle they could get hold of from one enclosure to another, Vin asking about each animal, its origins, its habits, its lifespan, while JD squealed with delight at each new attraction, then dropped back and snuggled into his father's legs, as if trying to contemplate the concept of wild animals within feet of him.
It was close to lunchtime, and the zoo was filling with families. The Agents ensured each boy was close to them as they moved through the crowds to find a place to have a picnic lunch.
Chris returned to the parking lot to take a selection of items from the cooler box for their picnic.
On his return, they eagerly consumed all that he had brought and the boys were keen for dessert.
"Da. . .Da!"
Buck looked at his son, "Yes, JD?"
"Can we have ice-cream?"
JD blushed, "Sorry. . .sorry. . .I f'got. . ." he batted his huge dark eyelashes, "Please?"
Vin joined his brother and looked hopefully toward both parents, "Please, Dad, Buck?"
Nathan's eyes twinkled, "I believe Uncle Ezra would like the honor of buying the boys an ice-cream. . .isn' t that right, Ezra?"
Standish looked at Nathan with narrowed eyes, but before he could deny all knowledge, the boys were in front of him, hovering in anticipation. Ezra flashed a huge smile and dug out his wallet.
"Why, I would consider it my pleasure, young gentlemen," and he took each boy by the hand and walked them over to the vendor.
Chris looked at Nathan and Josiah as they chuckled.
"Care to share?"
Josiah coughed, "Something we were talking about while we were waiting for you to arrive, don't you think Ezra looks smart in his nice tan suede, dry-clean only jacket?"
Buck and Chris exchanged looks and started laughing.
"Oh you guys are so bad," Wilmington smirked.
"We do our best," Nathan answered.
As JD enjoyed his treat, Vin was still deciding. Seeing an opportunity due to Ezra's momentary distraction with the older boy, Ed Putchin, a convicted pedophile, moved closer to JD, putting himself between the five-year-old and his family.
"That looks good, I think I'll get me one of those."
JD looked up at him, but continued to lick at the now dripping ice cream.
"Is chocolate your favorite?"
Ezra turned to leave the stand, catching sight of JD as he stepped slightly forward.
"Alright then boys, now we have satisfied your desire for cold, sticky, sweet comestibles, I suggest we return to your fathers."
The boys happily fell into step with Ezra and the three returned to the others.
Putchin grinned, 'As I suspected, no mother with them. . .perfect. It was the mothers that often got in his way, clinging to their offspring and vice-versa, this should be easier than he'd dared hope.
After disposing of their rubbish, the family of seven moved on to the lion enclosure, a huge expansive area designed especially for the large proud creatures. The boys seemed in no hurry to move on, taking in every noise and movement, snarl and tail flick, as if they would be tested on it at a later date. One lion emitted a huge roar, causing JD to jump and clasp his father's hand tightly.
"He can't hurt you, JD," Vin assured, but the five-year-old wasn't convinced.
Buck swept his son up and hugged him.
"Shall we go and see the tigers, now?"
JD nodded, Vin agreed, and they all moved on.
While the boys stood staring at the tigers, Putchin leaned against the barrier around the enclosure and caught JD's eye. As the boy looked at him, Putchin winked. JD grinned then went back to looking at the tigers. As a surge of people joined them, Putchin took his opportunity and 'shuffled' people around him until JD was separated from Buck by a woman and her child.
"Have you seen the snakes?" Putchin asked JD from around another child's body.
JD turned and shook his head, watching the man point.
"They're over there in that building, but. . .I think maybe you're too little to go see them."
JD pouted and walked out a little to check out the building. It wasn't far. He looked back at his family; they looked like they were ready to move.
'I am too, big enough to go look,' JD decided, and as a group of people walked that way, he joined them. Putchin smiled and waited until the boy entered the building then quietly followed.
JD's eyes grew wide as he entered the dark reptile house. Totally absorbed in the objects moving behind the glass, he bounced from tank to tank to see them. He stopped to stare at a python, giggling as he watched the snake's tongue ribbon out and attempted to copy it.
"Da, look!" The little boy turned to share his excitement but realized he was alone.
"Da. . ." he whispered, suddenly nervous, huge tears pooling in his eyes and catching on his eyelashes just before spilling over and dropping to the floor. The main group he had walked in with was long gone and his stomach flip-flopped as his eyes searched the darkness for an ally. Ed Putchin stepped forward, his hand extended.
"Hey, buddy, you look lost. Do you want me to help you find your dad?"
Fear overcoming common sense, JD shakily held out his hand, but as soon as Putchin took it, the child cringed.
"I. . .I"
"Don't fret, here we go, we'll soon find him."
In moments, JD realized the man was going the wrong way and dug his heels in.
"'Scuse me, mister. . .it's this way. . ." He turned his body and pointed, but the man ignored him and continued to pull.
"'SCUSE ME. . .stop. . .please. . . I don't know you, I have to wait or Da will be cross, Da. . .DA!"
That was all the psychopath needed to push him over a delicately balanced edge, and taking one last look around to ensure the coast was clear, he raised his hand and, ignoring the huge tear-filled hazel eyes and the now terrified expression of the small boy in front of him, he punched JD hard in the face.
The little boy's head snapped back, instantly unconscious and Putchin quickly swept him up and held him close to his body, the child's bloody face partly hidden as it rested on the man's shoulder. It now looked for all the world like a father carrying his sleeping child.
Buck looked down at the hand he was holding and realized it was Vin. He turned to his other side, but not seeing his son, he spun full circle.
"JD. . .JD!!"
Chris looked at Buck then glanced around as he watched his best friend spin his head and body.
"What is it?"
"Where's JD. . .guys, is he next to you?"
Ezra, Josiah and Nathan turned, then looked at Buck.
"No," Nathan answered. Ezra and Josiah stepped away from the barrier and turned full circle again, calling for the child.
Vin clung tightly to his father's hand as he released Buck's, his eyes wide, and becoming increasingly frightened as he watched his guardian become more and more frantic.
"JD!! Jesus H Christ, Chris. . . where could he have gone. . .? He was right here."
"Do your cells have signals?" Chris asked his team. They all checked and nodded.
"Ezra, go straight to the main gates and shut this place down, no one leaves unless you say so. Get the local PD here. Josiah, backtrack everywhere we've been, keep in touch."
Both men nodded and left.
"Buck, Vin. . .we need to keep calm. Come on, we'll check out what's up ahead, actually. . .Vin you stay here with me in case JD comes back. . . Buck, Nathan, go ahead. As soon as the police arrive, I'll join you, but hopefully we'll have him by then."
Chris' tone belied the terror creeping into his heart, but he could see Buck needed him to stay focused and knew he would have to push his own feelings back to stay on top of it. He looked at a now tearful Vin.
"Stay calm, son, you know how JD gets distracted. . .just keep looking."
Vin nodded. He didn't want to admit he was scared. . .his Dad needed him. He scanned the area with his eyes in earnest.
Buck was gone in an instant. His heart was in his throat and beating so hard he was amazed he was still able to breathe. He went from one enclosure to another, doubling back to the reptile house.
He spotted a keeper.
"Hey, fella. . .have you seen a dark haired kid about. . .yay high and looking a little lost?" Wilmington placed his hand above the ground, around where he'd guessed JD's height to be.
The man shook his head, "Sorry man, everyone I've seen has been together, you know. . .parents and kids, moms and kids, dads and kids."
Buck blanched, "Any Dads with one kid. . .say, a boy?"
The zoo keeper nodded, "Yep. . . one or two as I recall."
Buck flipped out his wallet, revealing his badge. He pointed to the picture on the other side.
"Do you recognize this face?"
"Not really, sir. . .there was a dark-haired kid asleep on his dad's shoulder. . .I remember thinking how cute. . .and laughing to myself that a kid gets to go to the zoo, and falls asleep, but I couldn't really see his face. He had real dark hair though, figured he must take after his mom. . .his Dad was real fair."
"When was this?"
"Not long ago, I was just starting my shift and coming in here. The place was empty, just people moving on to the next attraction."
Buck swallowed hard and nodded, "Thanks, I'll probably need to talk with you again."
The man nodded back, "I'm not goin' anywhere, I got me a twelve hour shift ahead."
Buck dialed, "Ezra, check if there's a security camera on the south exit from the reptile house. I'm looking for a fair haired guy carrying a dark-haired kid. . .thanks."
He dialed again, "Chris, I got Ezra checking footage of the reptile house exit; I'll explain in a minute, can you ask Josiah to join Ez and screen people leaving the zoo until the police arrive? Thanks."
Despite the terror bubbling close to the surface, Buck was on a mission, and checking his gun, he strode purposefully on, calling his son's name constantly, ignoring the hoarseness in his voice.
Nathan walked over to the penguins, the place they had planned to go to next. He walked every which way around it, searching the tortoise enclosure then on to the giraffes in the vain hope the little boy was exploring. The call from Chris at least gave him an idea of what he was looking for.
Ezra snapped his phone shut, relieved as the sound of wailing sirens reached his ears. As soon as the local PD took control of the screening at the exit, Standish walked over to the security booth, but not before leaving the officers his own personal picture of JD and strict instructions to check every child's face that left, no matter what coloring or gender. He nodded to Josiah as he saw his teammate join the checkpoint, and then focused on his task in hand.
Five minutes later, Ezra pointed at an image on the screen.
"Can you get in closer to this man?"
The guard nodded and zoomed slowly in.
"STOP!" Ezra gasped, he couldn't see the child's face, but he knew JD was wearing similar clothes to the child in the man's arms.
"I need a clearer shot of the man's face."
"I'll try, sir."
Chris was agitated, he wanted. . .NEEDED. . . to be searching too, but he couldn't leave, in case JD came back, and he didn't want to drag Vin around either, especially now that this might be more complicated than they feared. Two officers approached him, closely followed by Buck.
"Sir, what can we do for you?"
"Have you been briefed?" Larabee asked.
"Good." He handed them a picture from his wallet, "This is who you're looking for, and this is my son, Vin. . .he's going to help you."
Vin looked at his father, his throat thick with emotion, "Dad. . ."
Chris crouched down to look his son in the eyes, placing a hand on each of his son's shoulders.
"Do you trust me?"
"Good, I need you to help these men, son, and I need to be able to do my job, both as a parent and an officer of the Law. . .do you understand?"
"Good, boy. The next time you see me, I'll have JD with me, I promise."
"Ok, Dad. . .Dad."
"I love you."
Chris pulled his son into a tight hug, "God, I love you too, boy."
"Find JD, Dad."
Chris pulled away and looked at him, "I will, I swear."
He walked toward Buck. "Well?"
"I can't be sure, the guy in the reptile house wasn't totally sure. . ."
"Buck. . .?
The brunette was crumbling right before Larabee's eyes.
"Someone. . .." Buck swallowed back a sob, "Someone might have him."
Chris pushed his hand through his hair and turned back to one of the officers.
"Do you each have a radio?"
Both officers nodded.
"Good. . . pass one over." The blond spoke into his newly acquired equipment.
"This is Larabee, I want one of you to hand a radio over to Agent Standish now and ask him to use it."
A few seconds passed.
"Ezra . . .we're working on the assumption this is abduction."
"I concur, Mister Larabee, I am currently printing a copy of a suspect as we speak, I suggest we meet."
Chris looked at Buck, watching the man wilt before his eyes; he then looked back at Vin.
"Ok, meet us at the center point signposts. Get copies of that photo distributed by someone. Listen up the rest of you. . .I want a detailed sweep of the whole area, pay particular attention to toilets, storerooms. . .hell, you know the drill. Ezra, tell Josiah to stick with it; then call Nathan and have him meet us."
Buck groaned as Chris quoted checking isolated buildings, as his mind went into overtime with fear for the young boy he loved more than life itself.
Chris squeezed his arm, "I'm assuming you want to pursue this?"
"Until we have him or my legs wear down to bloody stumps trying."
A nod and a quick wink to Vin and the two men left and made their way to the center of the zoo.
Ed Putchin was breathing hard. He was running out of places to go, now realizing his exit from the zoo was blocked. He clung to his prize, unwilling to give him up. He had planned this for months, his need was great, and he was so close. He looked around for a building. Maybe he could finish what he had started, dump the boy and find a way to escape alone. He looked longingly at the unconscious boy's face, tracing the profile with his finger. . .such a pretty little thing. . .
Then he came to a decision. He needed to survive, and this boy may be his only chance. He shifted the dead weight to a more comfortable position and proceeded, formulating a plan as he walked.
Chris looked on impatiently as Ezra jogged toward them.
"Damn." Chris muttered as he took the picture from Standish's shaking hand.
"Yes, damn indeed. I now have security checking movement in the park on camera. If this man is on the move, we will have him." He handed Buck and the recently arrived Nathan a radio each, his own also in his hand
Larabee nodded. "Ok, we split up, Buck, left, Ezra, right. Behind us are the exits and Josiah has those but I want you to backtrack there, Nathan; I'll go straight on."
With a grunt of agreement and each man more than aware of what was required of him, they moved on, guns drawn and for now, pointing downward.
Buck desperately fought the urge to collapse in a heap, sobbing. He didn't think he'd been in this much pain when he'd taken three bullets back two years ago, and he'd ached all over then. But this ache penetrated every pore in his skin, right through to his soul, and he knew instinctively, if he lost JD, he would not survive.
Nathan was starting to consider whether JD might be injured. The little one was the epitome of a loud and healthy five-year-old and the EMT couldn't help but wonder how this man was keeping him quiet. Jackson shook his head to clear the images.
Standish flattened himself against walls and peered around corners in his attempt to spot this man before the man spotted him. Movement in a bush close to him moved the southerner into his attack position, feet apart, knees slightly bent, gun held firmly in front of him.
"Federal Officer, show yourself."
He waited. . .trying to control his breathing. He was just about to call again when a bird flew at his face, causing him to dodge.
"Aaah. . .dear Lord."
Ezra composed himself, blowing noisily outward, "Keep it together, Standish," he admonished to himself.
The radio crackled as Josiah's dulcet tones broke through.
"Sighting. . .just to the west of your starting location, at the penguin enclosure."
Chris answered, "I'm right there. . . get me back-up, now!"
As Chris turned the corner to head toward the penguins, he froze in his tracks and tried desperately to control the shaking now racking his body. Right there, only a few yards in front of him, was the man in the picture, and he was clutching tightly to something so precious to Chris that he would give his life up to the man then and there if he had thought for one moment it would help JD.
"Federal Officer. . .put the child on the ground, step away and put your hands on your head."
Putchin swallowed, "Now wait, mister, I found this kid unconscious, I was bringing him to a first-aid station, only I got a little turned around."
As the man moved, he relaxed his hold on JD and the little dark- haired head lolled back, exposing the blood and the bruising to his face.
Chris stiffened and placed his hand under the butt of his gun to ensure both shaking hands stayed steady and his aim true. He glared at the man before him.
"I'll say again, put the child on the ground, step away and put your hands on your head. Failure to do so will result in me shooting you, on that you have my word."
Putchin shook his head, causing JD's head to drop back even further, exposing the boy's throat and placing him in danger of asphyxiation.
"No way, man. . .if I put this kid down, I got no security. I told you, I found him, I was looking for help."
"This boy's father is right behind you, I would advise you to do as you're told, NOW!"
Buck approached from the rear, a look of pure hatred on his face as he snarled at the man, his gun pointed firmly at the kidnapper.
"Fella, I won't kill you, but I'll hurt you in so many ways, you'll wish you were dead. Now put my son down."
As Ezra and Nathan joined them, their guns also drawn, Putchin sighed hard.
"Wait. . .ok, ok. . .just don't shoot me."
Without any care or consideration, he dumped the tiny body down on the ground and stepped back as he placed his hands on his head.
In the next seconds, Ezra and Chris had him face-down on the ground, Ezra's knee in his back as Chris stood over him.
"You piece of shit."
"I told you, I didn't do nothing, I was trying to help him."
Larabee pulled the man's head up by his hair and looked at him with contempt.
"If you speak again, I'll let my friend here shoot you, because if I do it, your balls will be the first thing I aim for." He dropped Putchin's head back down unceremoniously as police officers joined them and took over.
Oblivious to the others, Buck dropped to his knees, returned his gun to its holster and scooped up the still form, clutching JD to his chest as he assessed the boy's facial injuries.
"Oh, God. . .oh baby, I'm so sorry. . .please be ok." He rocked the little one back and forth, whispering in his ear the whole time. Nathan tried desperately to get a look at the boy. Unable to get his hands fully on the child, he at least succeeded in confirming JD was breathing. Chris crouched down next to them.
"I'll call an ambulance," the blond whispered as he stroked the little boy's hair.
Buck's shout startled the three men.
"I'm taking him."
The men nodded and helped him to his feet, his hold tightening on his boy.
Chris spoke into the radio. "Josiah, we're gonna need an escort to the hospital."
"On it," came the reply.
A squad car, closely followed by Chris' Ram screamed toward Denver General. Nathan was up front with Chris, while Buck sat in back, cradling his son tightly, almost afraid that if he relaxed his grip it would all be a dream and that he would awake to find they were still out there searching.
Vin sat quietly next to Buck and JD, holding his brother's hand and stroking the back of it with his thumb.
"Why won't he wake up, Buck?"
The brunette turned red eyes to his surrogate son, "I don't know, junior, I wish I did, but I don't."
Vin sighed and snuggled in to the pair, understanding that Buck couldn't comfort him right now, and sighing again as he felt Buck's hand touch his head.
Close behind, Ezra and Josiah sped along, their stomachs in knots as they could only imagine what Buck, Chris and Vin were going through. The relief was overwhelming as the noisy entourage arrived at the ER doors, and in seconds were inside and handing over the still child.
Buck was allowed to stay as JD was stripped, placed in a hospital gown and assessed; only moving away when a portable x-ray was called for and returning as soon as it was finished with. Unable to stand it any longer, Chris made an appearance, no one seemed to mind.
Finally, the pediatrician approached the men.
"His x-rays are clear. He has a concussion and there is considerable swelling to his eye and cheekbone, but no fracture. The injury is consistent with a punch to the face and is likely the cause of his concussion. We're going to clean him up and then take him up to the pediatric ward. Is there anything you'd like to ask me?"
"H. . .he will wake up soon. . .won't he?" Buck asked.
"I couldn't say exactly when, but I have high hopes it will be soon. Yes."
Buck stayed with JD while Chris rejoined Vin and the team to tell them the news and to wait until JD was moved.
He was pretty sure he'd been good, so why did his face hurt? He hadn't been on his bike. . .he hadn't been running in the house. JD frowned as he pondered the situation.
Buck caught the movement. "Li'l Bit. . .hey, JD. . .you awake, baby boy?"
Da was calling him, but he seemed so far away, and now, he found one of his eyes was stuck tight. Ok, now he really wanted to know what was going on.
"Da. . .?"
Buck picked up the tiny hand and kissed it, "I'm here, baby. . .Da's here, and Vin and Chris and all your uncles."
JD realized the sound seemed to be coming from underneath his ear and he inhaled, nuzzling in to the familiar smells of deodorant and the fabric softener Mrs. Potter used on their clothes. "Da. . ." he whispered.
An hour later and JD was waking again, only this time he felt different, this time he could feel a warm weight against his back and an arm under his neck with a hand just below his chin. JD bent his head slightly and kissed the hand and giggled a little, expecting Vin to growl at him. Instead the weight snuggled in closer and JD felt a kiss to the crown of his head.
"You kissed me," JD smiled.
"Yeah," Vin whispered, "Because I love you, and I wanted to show you."
JD turned to face his brother, snuggling in to his new position, "You love me? Really? I'm not a puddin'?"
Vin chuckled. "Nah, not really, but even if you were, I'd still love you."
JD sighed, "Good, 'cause I loves you too, and Da, and Chris, and Unca Ezra and Unca Nafan, and Unca 'Siah, and. . ."
Buck leaned in and kissed JD's head, "So pretty much everybody, eh Li'l Bit?"
JD turned and could now see all the listed objects of his affection, but he frowned.
"Don't like the bad man who hitted me."
Buck's face crumbled and he let out a sob.
"I's sorry, Da. . . I didn't mean for you to cry."
Chris moved Buck toward the other men and came in for a long awaited cuddle, scooping the boy up in his arms and sitting him on his lap as he sat on the chair next to the bed.
"Baby, we're so sorry you had such a horrible thing happen to you. You know if any one of us could have stopped it from happening or taken your place, we would have, don't you?"
JD looked up at Chris and touched his face, feeling the man's jaw work as he spoke.
"Oh no. . .I wouldn't like tha' at all. . .he was a bad man, I don't like him to hit you, too."
Chris squeezed JD tightly, "He's never going to hurt anyone again Li'l Bit, I promise."
The men all ached inwardly, knowing the little one would, at some point, have to tell what had happened to him, but they knew they could show him that they would all be there to help him through it.
Buck stepped in and Chris reluctantly gave JD up. The blond sat on the bed and pulled his own son toward him for a hug. Buck cuddled his son as if his own life depended on it.
"Hey, when we get you home, is there anything special we can get for you, anything special you'd like to do?"
Everyone was shocked at his next statement, yet oddly comforted to realize how simple life could be at five years old. No matter how bad Team Seven felt at being helpless to have seen it coming, or stopping it when it happened, or inadequate at preventing the injury to the child, life really was a nice perspective sometimes from a five-year-old's point of view.
"Can we go back to the zoo, Da?"
Buck paled. "Why son?"
JD yawned and snuggled in, "'Cause I didn't get to see the penguins."