Not Himself

by Sue M

Disclaimer: Just playing. I know I can't keep 'em but if I could they'd be on season 10 by now!

Ratings/Warnings: Some bad language

Thanks to Mog for the ATF/AU

My thanks to my dear Phyllis. . .bless you.

Gift fic for Angie.

"Are you serious?" Nathan asked of his team leader.

"Why wouldn't I be?" Larabee inquired, frowning at his EMT.

"Him in a confined space is as much as a body can take, but me and him? And you can't even say for how long?"

"Nathan, are you saying you can't work alone with JD?"

"I can't keep that boy down when he's been working out at the gym for two hours, how am I s'posed to control him in a closed environment? He's gonna drive us both crazy."

Larabee sighed, looking around the deserted bullpen, "Nathan, firstly, I have no choice, Ezra and Vin are still helping out in Atlanta and Buck, Josiah and myself are still in court. When we're all done, this case will be our priority and I need this warehouse staked out in advance so we know what we're dealing with. That leaves you and JD. Now I have every confidence in our junior agent, but if you have doubts. . ."

Before Nathan could answer that his doubts were not in JD's professionalism but in the boy's inability to sit still for any set amount of time, a noise came from behind and both men turned to see JD looking uncomfortably at them.

"S. . .sorry, I didn't realize you were having a meeting, I'll come back later," and with that JD swept out of the room quickly.

"Damn," both men said together, then looked at each other. Chris spoke first,

"This is not a good start, Nathan, we've all got our faults. I just wasn't aware some of those faults had become a problem for anyone."

Nathan sighed and felt thoroughly ashamed of what had just happened.

"Hell Chris, you know how much I care about the kid, about all of you, I just don't see this working. JD needs Buck to sit on him, or Vin to calm him down, or Ezra to entertain him, or Josiah to guide him, or you to teach him. . ."

Nathan stopped dead.

"Oh God, it's just me. Apart from patching him up every five minutes, we have no connection."

"Nathan, you're over thinking this. I can tell you I've observed JD totally focused and I've rarely seen anyone more up to the job in hand. As he gets older he's going to be an exceptional asset to this department, and we'll all have helped to get him there, including you. Excuse me."

As he finished, Chris decided to go and find JD. Nathan followed him out with his eyes then slumped into a chair. He had not meant to be unkind to the youth, but he was surely entitled to express his concerns.

He sighed and shook his head, Chris was right, he had jumped to conclusions. He vowed to make it up to his friend. . .his friend; would the younger man still call him that after what the boy had just heard him say?

+ + + + + + +

Chris pushed open the door to the roof. He glanced around, finally catching sight of the young man as he stood looking out over the city. The blond walked toward him, calling, so as not to startle him. JD turned to see who was speaking, then sighing, turned back to the view.

"Am I really that bad?" he asked.

Chris placed his hand on the young man's shoulder, "Of course not. Nathan just doesn't want to be stuck with this stake-out, and he's looking for excuses."

"Picked a good one, didn't he?" JD turned sad eyes to his team leader. "Look, Chris, maybe someone from one of the other teams can sit with him, I don't mind. There are plenty of things I can research for this assignment to give us a head start."

"JD, you have to know, there isn't one of us who wouldn't be proud to work alongside you, Nathan included. Sometimes we say things we don't really mean, and I believe that's what just happened here."

JD shook his head, "Or maybe he's afraid I'm the one person who could get him killed, because that's really what it comes down to, isn't it? Trust, believing your partner will do right by you. . .to not screw up."

Chris could feel the hurt in JD's words. . .this was the type of thinking that created doubt, the very thing that could get an agent killed. The leader of Team Seven felt shock tactics were in order.

"JD, I promise you, if I'm wrong about the two of you working together, I will offer you both a transfer off the team."

JD looked stunned.

"But I believe I won't be doing that any time soon, so snap your jaw shut and go do some work."

He guided the young man toward the door, hoping he wouldn't live to regret his words.

+ + + + + + +

Two days later, as Nathan entered the barren, crumbling room, he couldn't help but be impressed. JD was without a doubt one of, if not the best, in his field. Several digital and electronic paraphernalia were set out, recording every movement and every sound from the warehouse opposite. The last few days had been an enjoyable experience, though a little strained due to the recent unresolved issue. Nathan had desperately wanted to talk to JD about that day, but it never seemed to be the right time. JD grinned as he saw the EMT arrive.

"Pretty quiet today," the youth offered.

"But. . .?" Nathan pushed.

"I reckon there's something happening tonight, it all seems to be heading that way, but I don't have any proof. Do you think we should call Chris?"

"Nah, maybe if it all kicks off, but other than that, we should wait."

JD nodded and looked at the bag Nathan was carrying. "Food?" he hoped.

Jackson chuckled, "Don't you ever quit eating?"

JD was foraging in the bag, "What did my mom say? I don't eat to live, I live to eat!"

Nathan shook his head then looked around the room, wrinkling his nose, "What's all this here dust in the air?"

Looking up from the bag for a moment, the youth gave a sheepish grin.

"Erm, I did some exploring. . .I think I unsettled a few pipes and stuff."

The EMT shook his head, "Well don't, it's oppressive enough in here as it is, without kicking up all this dust. Right, I have to go for a while, I'll be back in an hour or so."

"You're going, again, Nathan? Was it something I said?" JD asked, sarcastically.

Nathan looked as if he were about to speak, then changed his mind and headed for the door.

Taking a big bite of his sandwich, JD shrugged and resumed his position at the window.

+ + + + + + +

The activity at the warehouse that evening was interesting but despite JD's thoughts to the contrary, Nathan was of the opinion it was not newsworthy so the two agents just sat it out together. Nathan noticed JD had started fidgeting.

"You got ants in your pants, boy?"


"You can't keep still, are you in pain?"

"My stomach's hurting a bit, but I'm fine."

"Well, you sure don't seem fine."

"Shut the hell up, Nathan, I said, I'm FINE!"

The younger man was on his feet, adjusting the equipment, and then looking out of the window with binoculars.

Nathan was shocked, but soon rallied, "I was just asking, is all."

JD turned to him almost dismissively, "Well, don't. Don't feel you have to pretend on my account, just drop it."

"I wasn't. . ." Nathan stuttered, watching the youth push his hair back out of his eyes.

"Are you still talking? What do I have to do, Nathan. . .leave the room?" JD returned to his seat.

Nathan's mouth snapped shut as he looked at the young agent for a moment. He decided to let it pass for now.

+ + + + + + +

Ten minutes later and JD was again pacing, checking equipment and pacing some more. The EMT was getting weary of the constant movement.

"Will you please just sit down?"

JD glowered at his companion, "I'll do what I damn-well please, now leave me the hell alone, I'm trying to concentrate here."

Jackson stood abruptly, "Where the hell do you get off talkin' to me like that? I won't tolerate it kid, so just simmer down, you're driving me crazy."

"I'm driving you crazy, well let me tell you, Mister 'high and mighty thinks he's so fucking important' EMT, it'll be a cold day in hell before I give a shit about hurting YOUR feelings, so stick that where the sun don't shine!"

Nathan was reeling from the unexpected verbal attack, but he soon rallied, "Yeah, well, think on this, college boy, the feeling's mutual, and don't expect me to save your whiney little ass any time soon, either!"

JD feigned hurt, "Oh. . . oh no. . .Nathan's not gonna patch me up any more. . . what am I to do. . .GO TO A REAL DOCTOR, THAT'S WHAT!"

Before he'd realized what he was doing, Nathan punched JD hard in the face, knocking the boy clean off his feet. As soon as he saw what he had done, he instantly went to help his friend up, but JD was on his feet and charging the man's midriff, sending them both crashing to the floor. They had been wrestling for a half a minute or so when Chris, Buck and Josiah walked in, Chris yelled,

"What the hell. . .?"

Buck grabbed JD as Josiah pulled at Nathan, setting both men onto their feet but holding them both firmly. Nathan started to compose himself, but JD was hysterical, writhing and kicking and yelling like a madman. Buck squeezed his best friend tighter and put his mouth next to JD's ear.

"JD calm down, boy, stop it now. . .what the hell is wrong with you?"

Breathing heavily as he gulped in air, JD slowly calmed down and wiped at the blood coming from his nose. Chris approached Nathan, glaring at him.

"Do you wanna tell me what just happened here?"

Also breathing heavily, Nathan shrugged, "I have no idea, the kid just went nuts."

"You punched me in the face, you bastard," JD cursed.

"Is this true?" Larabee wanted to know.

Jackson nodded, "Yes, but he . . .aww never mind."

Chris walked over to JD, "Agent Dunne, do you wish to file assault charges against Agent Jackson?"

Still breathing hard and with misty eyes, JD looked hard at Jackson for a moment, then dropped his head down as he shook it, his hair falling down over his face as he did so.

"Right, well we came to collect you as this particular assignment has been put on hold. Word is, the expected 'shipment' is no longer arriving, and all suspects appear to have gone into hiding, but Travis' source is unclear and refuses to confirm either way. Vin and Ezra are back, and are waiting for us in the Saloon. . . but I think, under the circumstances, you two had best go home and cool off."

+ + + + + + +

The men of Team Seven packed up all the equipment. Josiah and Chris went on to meet up with Vin and Ezra while Nathan went home to Rain and Buck drove JD home.

"I don't need a babysitter, Buck, just drop me off and go back to the Saloon, I'll be fine, I just need to sleep."

Buck looked across at his roommate as JD dabbed at his nose with some tissues, he did indeed look exhausted.

"It's no trouble taking you home son, and I wasn't really in the mood for a beer anyhow. Hell I hardly seen you all week, how about we get a movie and. . ."

"NO! I told you, I'm tired, okay?"

Buck nodded and they drove home in silence.

+ + + + + + +

Nathan crashed in to his apartment and threw down his keys, sitting down heavily on the sofa.

Rain breezed in, "And a very good evening to you too. I thought you would be out all night?"

"Yeah, well, things change, especially when you least expect it."

She sat down next to her man and handed him an open beer.

"What's happened?"

"The assignment's been put on hold, for now."

"And. . .?"

Nathan sighed and kissed his wife on the lips, "Can't hide anything from you, can I?"

"No, so tell."

Nathan stood and paced a little, and Rain frowned. She knew her man, and this was a worrying set of movements, but she waited patiently.

"I hit JD in the face this evening."

Rain gasped, "Why?"

"He was being an arrogant prick, he deserved it."

"Nathan Jackson, you take that back. I love that boy, he's one of the sweetest, kindest human beings I've ever met, what did you do to upset him?"

Nathan looked down, "He overheard me telling Chris I had doubts about us working together." He looked at Rain, "I didn't really mean it though. I just know how hyper he can get, I just wasn't sure I could handle it."

"Oh, and of course you're so perfect to work with."

"I know, God if I could take that moment back. . .but then tonight, he just went nuts on me, hurling abuse, angry. I don't know why, but he's just not himself."

"Could he be ill?"

Nathan stopped pacing and stared at Rain. "Ill? You know, come to think of it, he said his stomach hurt. I'll check it out tomorrow, if he'll let me near him."

"Or if Buck will." Rain added.

+ + + + + + +

Back at the Saloon, Larabee was brooding.

"Would it help to share your thoughts?" Ezra asked.

Chris looked at Josiah, who nodded.

"Nathan punched JD in the face this evening," Chris started.

Tanner and Standish sat up straight, "What?"

Josiah continued, "When we arrived to tell them to stand down, they were rolling around on the floor like they were auditioning for WWF. JD was furious."

"Well, why wouldn't he be? He had just been punched in the face," Ezra reminded.

"You think there's more to it. . ." Vin addressed Chris.

Chris nodded and shared what had happened in the office earlier that week.

"I'm going to call a conference in the morning and get to the bottom of this."

The men nodded. The team often squabbled, but they never came to blows. This definitely needed sorting out.

+ + + + + + +

Buck sighed as he watched his roommate slumped on the sofa. He had heard the youth throwing up earlier and figured it was nerves.

"Talk to me, kid. I want to help."

"Nothing to talk about, the guy's a dickhead."

"And why has this happened now?"

JD turned to his partner as he rose to his feet, wincing and holding his stomach with the movement. "Drop it Buck. . .nothing to see here."

"JD. . ."

"I said, DROP IT!"

And with those angry words, JD stormed off to his room, slamming the door behind him.

Buck was shocked, and hadn't missed the pain in his friend's face. He vowed they would work at getting to the bottom of this tomorrow.

+ + + + + + +

As JD wretched, this time in the bathroom on Team Seven's floor, but also twice previously in his own bathroom, he wondered if he might feel better if his aching head could also get flushed away. He was expected in the conference room, but as he shakily cleaned himself up, he seriously contemplated sneaking out the back door unnoticed so that he could lay down somewhere cool. Realizing Chris would probably shoot him for insubordination, he straightened himself up and headed for his meeting.

Six men sat in conference room one, the air thick with tension. Nathan fiddled with the collar of his open-necked shirt as he tried not to look directly at Buck. Buck was not even trying to be subtle as he stared out the EMT, only stopping when the glare from Larabee become too much.

JD finally slouched in, closing the door to the conference room, and slumped wearily down into the seat nearest to it. The black shadows under his eyes were stark in contrast to his pale, weary features, and Nathan couldn't help mentally assessing the young man as they waited for Chris to kick off the proceedings.

Chris looked despondently at his sullen team; this was a first for him. Oh, he had patched up arguments before, but this time the fighting had gone beyond verbal and entered new territory. This time, he might actually have to consider letting one of them go. He tapped the table slightly to draw their attention.

"Clearly there's a lot of anger and pain around this table at the moment, so who'd like to go first?" Chris started.

No one moved.


JD huffed.

"Care to share, JD?" the blond tried.

The youth kept his eyes focused on a spot on the table and simply shrugged.

"I'll ask again, Nathan?"

"I can't say I'm proud of what happened yesterday, guys, I even believe it's mostly my fault it started. . ."

"You got that right. . ."

Chris frowned. "JD, do you have something to say?"

"To him," he jerked his chin toward Nathan, regretting the movement as his head pounded, "No, to the rest of you, I apologize, and I'll be out of here by day's end."

Buck sat bolt upright, alarm on his face, mirrored by the others in the room. Nathan swallowed, and addressed the youth.

"JD, this is crazy, we've got to talk, kid, work this out. . ."

The young agent rose noisily and unsteadily to his feet, "NO, that's where you're wrong. I can't work alongside someone who doesn't feel comfortable working with me, and this is the easiest option." He looked at Larabee seeing nothing but a blurry image, "Are we done now?"

Chris stood, "No, we are not done Agent, so sit the hell down."

The pain in JD's head was almost unbearable, he could hardly focus on what was being said, he just felt so angry and confused and all he wanted to do was get out of there and as far away as possible. He started backing toward the door.

"Well I am, so BACK OFF!" JD yelled at the sea of swirling disjointed bodies and faces.

Nathan was on his feet, along with the rest of the team, "JD, are you okay? Let me take a look at you, son."

JD was desperately reaching behind his back for the door handle, but found something else instead, and drawing his service weapon from its belt holder, he brought it around and pointed it at the now anxious group of men, his hand shaking.

"Now, I said I'm leaving, so BACK THE HELL OFF!"

Buck was on his feet and had started advancing toward his best friend, desperately trying to quell the fear in his gut.

"JD, son, something's wrong here, boy? Now, give me the gun and let me help you."

Words and images were mixing together as JD desperately tried to make sense of it all. He pivoted slightly and pointed his gun at Buck as Josiah and Vin started edging around the back of him.

"Stop right there, mister, I. . .I don't want to hurt you, but if you don't freeze I'm gonna have to." The youth's breathing was now difficult and his chest was heaving with the strain of trying to keep up with his aching lungs, something none of the men missed.

He was also sweating and in the split second he took to swipe his sleeve against his forehead, Vin and Josiah grabbed his arms and Vin took the gun.

Buck was instantly in front of his friend and put his arms supportively around the youth's waist.

Terrified hazel eyes locked momentarily with blue, recognition finally flashing over the youth's face as JD stammered,

"B. . .Buck. . .wha. . .what' s wrong with m. . .me?"

JD's head flopped hard into Wilmington's chest and moments later the young man's body went limp as he passed out, the suddenness of it taking both men to the floor.

Nathan was right there and while Buck cradled him, the medic took the boy's pulse. After around ten seconds he looked to the other men, all clearly worried.

"His pulse is racing and his breathing's rapid and shallow, we need to call an ambulance, now."

+ + + + + + +

Having followed the ambulance to the hospital, the men of Team Seven arrived just minutes behind Buck and JD.

Buck was pacing just outside the ER doors and was visibly relieved to see his friends.

The ladies' man approached Larabee but found he couldn't bring himself to speak. Chris put a comforting arm on his oldest friend's elbow and guided him to a seat. The others followed suit.

"He. . .he's not going to be in trouble for drawing his weapon in a Federal building is he?" Buck asked, more to break the silence than to pose a serious question.

Chris snorted.

Josiah coughed, "Did any of you see that incident? I don't believe I was aware of such an occurrence."

They all nodded, Buck sighed. "Good, 'coz, you know. . .he would never have shot us. . .shot me. . .you know that, don't you?"

Chris chewed at the inside of his cheek. "Buck, in all honesty, I can't be sure of that. He didn't seem to know you for a moment, there. None of this is making sense, he sure as hell wasn't, but I'd rather not dwell on it for now and just focus on events in hand."

Another collective nod. The silent vigil resumed until eventually Nathan could stand it no longer.

"Do y'all think it had to do with the difficulties between me and him?"

The answer was a row of blank faces. No one knew what to make of it, although it did seem to link in with the work-pairing of Nathan and JD in the last week.

"I wondered if he was sick. . .well, actually, Rain did." Nathan continued. "She said him verbally attacking me was totally out of character and maybe he was sick."

Buck sat forward slightly. "He's actually been sick. I heard him last night and this morning and I'm sure I've heard him other times, recently, too. Now I'm wondering if that's why he took so long to get to the meeting this morning."

"Do you mean physically sick, Buck?" Vin wanted to know. Buck nodded.

"Well it can't be food poisoning. He'd be sick, sure, but it wouldn't make him crazy," Nathan added.

Buck stood and started to approach the EMT.

"He's not crazy."

Nathan stood to meet him halfway, "No. . .no, I'm sorry, figure of speech. . . I'm sorry Buck. . .I didn't mean. . ."

Chris growled, "SIT! That's enough. This has been tough enough as it is, without us starting in on each other too."

The ER doors swung open, causing the men to start.Doctor Ben Foster approached them.

"Are you gentlemen with John Dunne?"

They all stood and nodded; Chris stepped forward, extending his hand.

"My name is Larabee; I'm a Federal agent with Denver ATF. Agent Dunne is under my command, and these are his teammates."

Foster shook the offered hand, but his face remained serious.

"Initial tests have shown this young man has been exposed to lead. . .he has lead poisoning."

The men of Team Seven were taken by surprise and muttered to themselves. Buck stepped forward.

"H. . .how. . .? When. . .?"

"I can only speculate at this point but his condition suggests it may have been recently, and ingested from the air as well as transdermally. "

They all looked at Nathan.

"Through the skin," he explained.

"We're in the process of stabilizing him at the moment, and then we have to begin a process called chelation. This is the intravenous use of drugs such as EDTA to bind the metal in the bloodstream and flush out the toxins via the urine. It will take two infusions a day over five days and during this time we would prefer to sedate him. He is very sick at the moment but I'm hopeful we have caught it in time to eradicate it."

Foster paused for a moment while the shocked group absorbed the information.

"It's imperative we find out how this happened, the building or item must be isolated. We also have to find out if anyone else has been exposed as they will need to take an oral medication, assuming their exposure was not as great."

With a nod, he returned to the ER with a promise to return to answer any questions they may have.

Buck sat down hard in the chair he had recently occupied and ran a shaky hand through his hair.

"This is unreal. . .he's always with us, how can this have happened?"

No one knew what to say as they re-took their seats, they were as shocked and clueless as Buck. A noise from Nathan drew their attention.

"The warehouse."

"Excuse me?" Chris inquired.

Nathan looked a little embarrassed, "The stakeout. . .I err. . .left JD there on several occasions while I ran a few errands, food, drinks. . .fresh air. . ." He said the last words in a hushed voice, choosing not to look at the others just yet.

"I'm guessing there must have been lead in the air, the sills, and the floor, everywhere. One day, just before it all kicked off between us, I brought us some sandwiches and the air in the room was stifling. JD admitted he'd been pulling at some pipe work while looking around. . ."

Larabee held up his hand, "I've heard enough, Josiah, arrange for a team to go in and check the place out. Vin, go get the doctor back out here so we can fill him in. Ezra, find out as much as you can about the building. Let's move it!"

+ + + + + + +

Buck watched the steady rise and fall of his partner's chest, his hand resting lightly on top of the youth's arm, as JD lay quietly in his bed in the semi-dark room. The boy's pallor was grayish white, his eyes black; the only sounds were the machines and oxygen, while the IV clicked intermittently. Wilmington knew it might be five whole days before he could actually speak to him, he just hoped JD knew he was there.

Buck turned and looked to the door as Chris entered with two cups of coffee and sat down next to him. They sipped their drinks without speaking for a while, comfortable with the silence. Buck looked at Chris.

"Have the others gone home?"

The blond nodded, "Yeah, finally. It's best they get some rest while they can."

Buck bobbed his head in agreement.

"Sure hope this treatment works," Buck sighed.

"They said it would, Buck. . .don't get upset over it. He'll be good to go in no time."

"Do you think he'll be. . .you know. . .our JD again?"

Chris laughed, "Hell, I hope so. . .I was just getting used to him."

Buck scowled, "It's no laughing matter Chris, I'm serious, here."

Chris relaxed a little, "I know y'are, pard. . .and I can laugh because I have absolute faith he will be our JD!"

The two men relaxed back into an easy silence.

+ + + + + + +

Day four and the doctor felt it was time to allow JD to wake up. The six men of Team Seven hovered close to the door of JD's room while the doctor adjusted his medication. An hour later, small movements from the bed alerted the men to the youth's state of consciousness. It wasn't long before sleepy hazel eyes peeked out from under long dark eyelashes. JD focused on the one closest to him.


Buck leaned in.

"Hey kid. . .good to see ya."

"W. . .where've I been?"

Wilmington laughed, as did the rest of the team.

"Down a long dark tunnel, my friend, but I hope you're almost out the other side, now." Buck offered the youth some water which he sipped gratefully.

JD snorted, "You're nuts, d'ya know that? Where's Nathan?"

The EMT moved closer to the bed for JD to get a look at him.

"I'm here, JD. How are you?"

"I'll let you know. Nate. . .I dreamt we had a fight. . .did we really fight or was I just dreaming?"

Nathan winced slightly, "Don't you worry none, JD. . .get some rest and we'll talk later."

JD nodded, "'K. . .would hate to think we had a fight. . ." The youth yawned and drifted off to sleep.

Jackson sighed and looked around, "He's not gonna forget this, is he?"

Chris nodded, "I guess not, but at least this time he'll be in control."

+ + + + + + +

JD had been home for two days after his ten day stay in hospital. Despite being reasonably upbeat there were often moments where he seemed distraught, but whenever Buck tried to address it, JD would simply shrug it off.

On the third day home, Team Seven were gathered at the CDC for a little R & R.

They all enjoyed the poker, the basketball game on TV and the impromptu game of 'guess the meat' as some of Buck's snacks looked decidedly dodgy. He called them 'heathens' for passing, on the greasy Polish sausage.

On a return trip from the kitchen there was a loud crash as the Pepsi JD had been drinking slipped from his fingers. Buck was at his side in a matter of moments, thinking the young man was feeling ill. JD put his hand out to prevent his roommate from coming any closer, but the look of horror, fear and disgust on JD's face alerted the men to a serious problem. He stared at his teammates, unable to put his thoughts into words. Finally he found his voice.

"D. . .did I. . .I pull a gun on you all?"

Chris stepped forward, "What makes you think that, son?"

JD backed away slightly, fighting with the image in his head. "I see me holding a gun and. . .and you're all in front of me. . .no. . .some of you. . ." He looked at Buck, "Oh God. . .did I point my gun at you?"

Chris was almost there.

"Try to relax, JD, you've been through a tough time, you're bound to be confused for a while."

The young agent looked directly at his boss and froze him in his tracks. This man had never lied to JD. He asked again.

"Chris. . .did I. . .pull a gun?"

Larabee sighed, "Yes," he nodded, "But you weren't yourself, kid. Please don't get all bent out of shape about something you had no control over."

JD was shaking now, but had been so focused on Chris he had missed Vin coming up behind him. The boy jumped as he felt a hand on his shoulder then relaxed a little, feeling a little foolish.

"Why don't we all sit down?" Vin asked, and soon the seven men were once again sitting around the living room.

JD was visibly shaken by the sudden memory and rested his head in his hands, desperately trying to compose himself and gather his thoughts.

Nathan crouched in front of him, forcing the youth to eventually look up.

"Let it come naturally. It will you know, you just need to give yourself some time,"

"I don't need time," JD assured, "I recall almost everything. . .not so much the words, but certainly the actions." JD took a sip of water Buck had brought in for him and sat back against the sofa. He started to relax as the initial anxiety drained away. He looked once more at Jackson. "Why were we fighting Nathan?"

Nathan sighed, "I really don't recall the exact reason," he straightened up and took the seat next to JD, holding the young man's gaze, "But all I do know is that I want us to put it behind us. . .move on. Do you think we can?"

Dunne looked his friend in the eyes and visibly relaxed as his shoulders dropped and a small smile emerged.

"Yeah. . .I'd like that, Nate, I don't like dwelling on the thought that we might have been fighting."

Jackson grinned, his relief evident, "Good 'coz Rain wants you to come over for supper and I wasn't sure what to tell her. You know how she is when she gets an idea in her head."

JD chuckled, "Hell yeah. . .wouldn't want to get her all riled up about it," the youth looked around the group, a lot happier than he had been for most of the day. He looked back to Nathan. "When would she like me to come over?"

Nathan looked around, taking his cue from the others. Chris nodded; he was more than prepared to help Nathan put this right.

"Well, the guys have a meeting set up with Travis tomorrow and we don't all need to be there, so. . .is tomorrow okay?"

"Cool, thanks. . .oh, that's okay isn't it Buck?"

Wilmington couldn't help smiling with relief to see normality creeping back.

"You bet, kid. Hitch a ride with Nathan and I'll come pick you up when we're done with Travis."

With matters resolved for now, the team focused on the TV and, much to Buck's delight, women's volleyball.

+ + + + + + +

The next evening, Rain had pulled out all the stops with large helpings of Cajun chicken and spicy rice and Alabama Mud Pie to finish. JD sat back heavily in his chair and sighed.

"Wow Rain that was awesome, thank you."

Rain came up to him from behind and bent over, squeezing the young man tightly.

"You're welcome, sweetie. It's good to see you eating again. Can I get you anything else?"

"Aw no thanks, I'm stuffed." He gave a return squeeze to her arm.

JD adored Rain, she was like he imagined a big sister to be, sweet, kind, thoughtful and funny. He often told Nathan how lucky he considered him to be to have found her.

As the pretty doctor walked back to the kitchen, JD watched her until she disappeared. He turned to Nathan.

"You two are so right for each other, you know."

Nathan grinned, "Mmm hmm. . . I can't disagree with you there. What time's Buck picking you up?"

"About an hour, is that okay?"

Nathan nodded, "Yeah sure. . .you know, you can stay the night if you'd like, the spare room's ready for ya. I'm sure Chris won't mind me coming in a little late tomorrow. I can drop you home on the way to work."

"Oh go on, honey," Rain added as she returned with some coffee, "We can talk until late; we haven't had a good chat for ages."

JD grinned, "Okay, if you're sure. I'll call Buck."

+ + + + + + +

The three friends talked until two in the morning, jumping from healthcare, to horses, to cars to work to computers and back to healthcare. They laughed at JD's jokes, although Nathan argued it was the wine and abandoned a game of Twister for fear of disturbing the neighbors with their squealing.

As JD prepared to go to bed, Rain knocked at his door and entered on hearing his answer.

"Do you need anything, honey?"

"No I'm good thanks. Rain?"

She walked toward him.


"Thank you, I think Nathan and me needed this. I love you guys, and I would have hated not seeing you if we hadn't been able to sit and work things out."

Rain pulled JD close and they hugged.

"JD, I knew something had to be seriously wrong the other week," She pulled back to look at him. "Nathan is a very lucky man to have found such wonderful people to spend most of his time with, and you are one of the kindest, sweetest young men I've ever met. There was no way I was going to let you two fall apart. You can come here any time you want; you and the others are always welcome. Now, I have work at ten tomorrow so I should get some sleep." She kissed his cheek, "Goodnight, sweetie."

JD grinned, "Good night, Rain."

As the young agent settled down in the bed he dialed his cell.

"G'night, Buck."

+ + + + + + +

"Nathan still not in yet?" Buck called as he entered the bullpen.

Chris came to the door of his office, shaking his head.

"No, he's going to drop JD home first then come in. I figured it would be for the best."

Buck nodded as the other men came in with coffee and pastries. The ladies' man chuckled.

"They must have had a good night, the little shit called to wish me goodnight at two this morning."

"I'll bet you weren't asleep," Vin guessed.

Buck grinned, "Oh no. . .me and Petra were certainly not sleeping."

They laughed and started to dive into the pastries. Chris' phone rang and he went back to his office to answer it.

"Larabee. JD? What. . .? Slow down, kid. . .you're where. . .? What! What were you. . .was that gunfire? JD. . .JD!"

The blond's sudden entrance to the outer office caused the men to stare.

"We need to move. JD just called, for reason's known only to Nathan and himself, they went over to the warehouse they staked out the other week and as he talked I could hear gunfire."

The men were on their way out in seconds.

+ + + + + + +

JD looked out of the window of the explorer as Nathan took several diversions to avoid heavy traffic and eventually realized how close they now were to the warehouse they had been watching.

"Nate, can we make a slight detour?"

Jackson frowned, "Why?"

"Just wanted to check something out."

Nathan nodded and signaled to change lanes. Five minutes later they were pulling up outside the warehouse.

Stepping out of the car, Dunne stared at the building for a moment then looked back at the EMT.

"Do you have a spare gun?"

"Why? JD you're not on active duty, you can't have a gun yet. What is it?"

"Remember I had a hunch about this place? Look around Nate, there's signs of activity here. I bet no one's watched this place since we packed up."

"I think Travis was unsure of his source."

"Well, I think his source was right, something's been going on here. Shall we take a look?"

Before Nathan could answer, JD was moving toward the building.

"JD. . .JD! Damn it!"

The young agent pulled at the small door next to the huge rolling doors to the storage area inside. It was open and he cautiously peered inside. Just as he was about to step fully in, Nathan squeezed his arm.

"We should call this in, who knows what we'll find in here."

"Okay, but let's get over to those cases first, then we may have something concrete to warrant calling in."

Nathan shook his head and followed after his young friend. As they reached the crates, Nathan hissed.

"Buck and Chris are gonna kill me, JD. You're still officially on sick leave for goodness sake." He frowned as he watched JD open one of the cases, noticing the young man's huge grin.

"Pay dirt!" JD pulled out his cell and dialed while Nathan searched through the crate, whistling at the site of automatic weapons wrapped in bubble-wrap.

"Chris, it's JD. . . now listen, don't get mad, but me and Nate stopped off at the warehouse we cased a few weeks ago. . .the warehouse. . .anyway, I think it's full of guns. . .what the. . .? SHIT!"

Gunfire erupted around them as bullets sailed over their heads, causing both men to drop to the ground.

Nathan drew his gun and put his hand protectively on his unarmed teammate's back.


+ + + + + + +

Chris was cursing a blue fit. He did NOT like driving a pool car, but he felt it was for the best to follow procedure on this occasion as they were likely riding into a gun battle. The last thing he wanted was Travis on his back for requests for reimbursements for vehicle damage. That said, his Ram was a part of him and he was now sure he would have been at the warehouse by now had he taken it.

Buck and Vin were close behind. Vin had seriously considered passing his team leader but decided against it. Vin made the car twist and turn to avoid traffic and turn corners at speeds not in the least recommended. The wail of their sirens finally penetrated the traffic noise and drivers started to move out of the way.

"Yeah. . .about time, you morons!" Buck yelled from his window.

Vin ignored the big man's anger, realizing it was ultimately borne of his fear for their teammates' predicament. At least his own mind was occupied with keeping their car on the road and in touch with Larabee as the blond, Josiah and Ezra sped on ahead of them.

Finally they reached the warehouse yard, closely followed by several DPD squad cars. All five men jumped out and stood for a moment. Sporadic gunfire permeated the air and, weapons drawn, they attempted to enter through the same door JD and Nathan had, but now it was locked, as was the large rolling doors. On hearing more gunfire, Buck grabbed Vin's shirt and pulled him back to their car and ordered him in. Buck started the engine and with a quick nod to Tanner, who returned the gesture, he gunned the car straight for the larger door.

+ + + + + + +

Bullets skittered across the ground around JD and Nathan's position as the two men remained pinned helplessly to the spot they had originally been in when the first shots were fired. Nathan tried to look up and as more shots sounded, suddenly gasping and collapsing on top of the younger man.

JD turned and pushed Nathan to one side of him. He stared at his friend's pained expression then frantically searched for the injury, finding blood on Nathan's left shoulder.

"Shit, Nathan. . .are you still with me?"

"Y. . .yes. . .hurts some, b. . .but I think it's not too bad."

JD didn't feel so confident, there was no exit wound and Nathan's pallor was gray.

Taking Nathan's gun, JD pulled the EMT close to him to protect him as much as he could. For the first time, the youth felt fear. With Nathan injured and not yet any sign of help, he accepted they may not get out of this.

Sirens sounded and JD relaxed a little, noticing the gunfire had stopped. He moved a panting Nathan tight against the packing case so he could put his body almost directly over him as he scanned the area. Just as JD noticed movement on a gantry above them and to their right there was another burst of gunfire and he gasped as he felt a pinch to his side. He noticed the blood instantly as a bright red stain blossomed across and up his right side. JD closed his eyes in frustration more than in pain.


A loud crashing noise alarmed him and he dropped down to cover his friend, wondering if this was the beginning of the end.

+ + + + + + +

Chris looked in horror as the brown Toyota pool car raced past him, Josiah and Ezra, and crunched into the huge rolling door. More by luck than judgment the door buckled inwardly as it separated from its frame and the car scraped through.

Despite an agonizing pain in his left leg, Buck pushed open the buckled door on his side and dropped to the floor, rolling as the gunfire started again.

Vin was just about to follow Buck, as his own door was impeded by the now damaged panel they had just crashed through, when his arm stung and he knew instinctively he had been hit by a bullet. Ignoring the pain, he drew his weapon and dropped to where Buck had just landed.

On cue, Chris, Josiah and Ezra clambered in, followed by several DPD officers who broke away from Team Seven to search the opposite side of the warehouse as more and more officers arrived and followed their colleagues. Vin and Buck were already halfway to the packing cases where JD and Nathan were pinned down, although at this point they were unaware of that fact. In desperation, Buck called out.


Feeling dizzy and worried for his now semi-conscious friend, JD was heartened by the sound of his best friend's voice.

"Here. . .Buck, we're here," he called back; relieved that his teammates were close, but the young agent was shocked when a bleeding sharpshooter and a heavily limping ladies' man joined them.

"Oh God. . .what happened?"

"Aww hell kid. . .what happened?" Buck said simultaneously as he caught sight of the two as they huddled on the floor.

Buck gave in to the pain and sat next to the young man he considered a brother. He looked at Nathan and the EMT returned the look.

"It's not too bad, Buck. . .I think. What's wrong with your leg?"

Buck winced, "Busted, I think," he grit his teeth, "Definitely cut up, but it feels busted."

Vin slumped wearily down next to them, his arm bleeding profusely.

"If y'all don't mind. . .I'll just. . ." the Texan passed out.

Chris, Josiah and Ezra joined them. Chris took in the sight.

"What the hell happened here?" he snapped more from concern than anger as he stripped off his shirt and applied pressure to Vin's arm.

Ezra checked on Nathan and Josiah crouched down to help Buck and JD.

JD spoke as he attempted to answer his team leader his speech slurring,

"Well, me and Nathan got hit. . .looks like Vin did too, and Buck's hurt his leg. . .but I don't know how."

Larabee shook his head, "Thank you, Agent Dunne, but it was more of a rhetorical question."

"Oh, right. . .sorry sir," JD drawled."

Chris allowed himself a small smile, "Well, I guess if you're talking you can't be too bad."

He noticed some paramedics entering and beckoned them over as he watched four cuffed men being escorted out of the building. The blond relaxed a little.

"Ezra, start cataloguing everything found here. Josiah, you take one ambulance, I'll take the other."

Each man nodded and within ten minutes six men were on their way to Denver General.

+ + + + + + +

As he lingered in the surgical waiting room, Larabee rubbed a hand over his weary face as he contemplated four agents in the hospital, each having surgery for a bullet wound or a broken limb. That had to be a record, he thought, even for Team Seven.

Ezra and Josiah were sitting either side of him and Chris found himself comforted by their proximity. The three men looked up as Rain slipped into the room, fear marring her pretty face.

Chris rose to greet her and filled her in on events so far. He remained next to her until news of their men was forthcoming.

Within a half-hour of each other Buck, Vin and Nathan were taken to recovery, each man receiving good reports and assurances that in time and with rest they would recover.

Rain went in to Nathan while Josiah and Ezra alternated between Buck and Vin.

Chris strode purposefully out of the waiting room and into the outer corridor, scanning the area until his eyes fell on one of the surgeons he had recently spoken to.

"I'm missing a man. . .how do I find out what's happening?"

With a slight tilt of the head, the surgeon guided Larabee to the nurse's station.

"Nurse, do you have an update on. . ." he looked at Larabee for a clue. Chris answered but directed it to the nurse.

"Dunne. . .John Dunne. He was brought in with. . ."

The nurse nodded, interrupting, "Yes sir, I have him. His surgery went very well, but the doctor was concerned about his temperature. It's currently reading at 104 and due to his recent illness they didn't want to take any chances. He's just being admitted to ICU as we speak. I believe they were going to inform you as soon as he was settled."

Chris groaned inwardly, the nurse caught the look and smiled a little.

"It's standard precautionary measures, sir; he can be monitored more closely there."

Chris nodded his thanks and returned to the rest of his team. On his arrival, he was pleased to see each man awake and talking a little. He moved to each one in turn, ending up between Vin and Buck. The brunet looked at his oldest friend for a few seconds then spoke.


"He's in ICU." Chris winced at the expressions that answered him. "He has a high temperature and the doctors decided he needed to be closely monitored. His recent illness may or may not have complicated things. His surgery went well, so at least that's something."

Buck groaned, mirroring the thoughts of the others. He went to speak.

"No." Chris was determined, "You are going to rest, my friend. I'll go and see how he's doing and then come back and let you know. Then we'll rotate until they decide he can join the rest of you."

Deliberately walking away to avoid the others' thoughts on the matter, Chris headed for ICU.

+ + + + + + +

Chris couldn't help himself as his hand reached out to push away the errant lock of dark hair that always seemed to fall in the youth's eyes, whether he was sitting, lying, standing or walking.

Satisfied the young agent was in reasonable health, he found himself wishing he knew what Buck would say at times like this. He leaned in.

"Hey kid. . .everyone' s doing great, just waiting on you. When you're ready let me know."

Chris sat in the chair next to the bed. . .and waited.

+ + + + + + +

By mid-afternoon the next day, and several 'shift' changes, the three injured and two healthy occupants of room 319 looked up at the door as it bumped open, revealing two porters and a hospital bed, followed by a beaming Ezra. Buck's grin grew wider by the second as he watched his 'little brother' and his bed, roll in next to him.

Ten minutes after he had been settled in, JD's eyes were open and he was looking around at his teammates and Rain, a goofy smile on his face.

Buck leaned over slightly, just managing to grasp the boy's hand.

"Hey, you okay?"

JD nodded slowly, "Sure. . .I'm good, you okay?"

Buck huffed a soft laugh, "Oh yeah, I'm good to go. Ya had us worried there, kiddo."

JD waved his hand, "Nah. . .just bein' careful, is all. . ." After a few seconds JD's brow furrowed and he tried to sit up to look around.

"Are Nathan and Vin okay? Oh. . .hi Rain. . .you okay?"

They all laughed at the youth's drug-induced questioning.

"Hey, kid. . .go back to sleep for a while," Buck ordered.

JD relaxed back into his pillow and sighed, "Okay. . ." and within seconds he was sound asleep.

"So. . .I guess he's okay," Vin stated, causing the others to laugh, then relax, yep, OK was definitely the word of the moment.

+ + + + + + +

Two days later and Vin with his wounded arm and Buck with his broken femur, were already heading to Chris' ranch with Chris and Josiah. Ezra was waiting on JD while Nathan was to remain one more day. He sat gloomily in his bed, watching his young friend finish dressing, JD gingerly pulling his shirt over his bandages. The youth sighed and looked back at the EMT.

"I'm sorry, Nathan."

"Not your fault I have to stay, I'll see y'all tomorrow."

JD approached the bed, standing quietly for a while as he picked at the blankets. He had remembered some of the things he and Nathan had argued about and was eager to address one thing in particular.

"Are you okay?" Nathan asked.

"I'm sorry about going into the warehouse. . .but most of all. . .I'm sorry about what I said to you at the warehouse stake-out."

Nathan frowned, "The warehouse ended up a good call, son. . .although we do look a sorry bunch for it. What about the stake-out?" The EMT was surprised to see wide hazel eyes pooling with large tears.

"You're one of the most amazing people I know. You've put me. . .all of us, back together more times than I can count. I didn't mean what I said, Nathan. . .you would always be my first call if I was sick or injured. . .well, after Buck, I guess."

The light dawning, Jackson extended his good arm and pulled the young agent toward him. They held tight for a few moments, and then Nathan, still holding his friend's arm, pushed JD back a little and looked at him.

"You were sick, JD. I should have known that something was wrong. Rain knew, and she hadn't even seen you. It's been a bad time. . .stupid things were said, none of them meant. What say we put this behind us once and for all, start out fresh?"

JD nodded, "Yeah, I'd like that."

As the two smiled, Ezra and Rain came in to the room with some fruit and drinks.

"Did I hear my name taken in vain?" she grinned.

Dunne turned to her, "Hell, no. . .never in vain."

Rain noticed wet tracks down JD's face but said nothing. She kissed him on the cheek.

"Now git going before Buck throws a hissy fit because you're late. We'll see you tomorrow."

Ezra was now at the young agents' side, packed bag in hand. He gently guided his friend toward the room door, giving a little 'salute' to the Jacksons as the two men finally left.

Rain sat next to her husband, studying his handsome face as he beamed, grateful that the worst was behind them.

"Now," she teased, "I can hand feed you grapes, or kiss away any pain you've been having today."

Nathan bobbed his eyebrows, "Or you could do both!"

+ + + + + + +

One week later and JD and Vin were back at work on light duties. Buck and Nathan were still on sick leave and all were now back in their own homes.

Having assisted Team Four during a bust, Vin and JD working the surveillance van, JD was filling Buck in on the day's events as he served the pizza take-out in the living room.

". . .So Chris says. . ."Don't go and do anything stupid, bub."

Buck laughed, "Aaah, kid, I wish I could have seen that!"

JD sighed, "Yeah, me too, d'ya want a beer?"

"Sure, thanks." Buck adjusted his cast leg for comfort, not missing his roommates' poor attempt at composure. "Let it go, kid. . .no one died."

"But you and Vin. . ."

". . .Lived to fight another day and it was worth every bruise to get you and Nathan out of there," Wilmington reflected on recent events for a moment. "Hell, yeah, worth every bruise."

JD absently rubbed at his bandaged side, "Buck. . ."

". . .Is waiting on his beer. . .JD. . .let it go!"

The younger man nodded and went into the kitchen to fetch his 'big brother' a beer.

While the youth was out of the room, Buck's features drooped for a few moments. He knew they had been lucky, he knew he and Vin could have broken their necks rather than broken through the door that day, and he wondered for a moment whether he could keep doing this day after day. He frowned as the doorbell rang. JD bounded back into the room and walked toward the door, looking through the spy-hole and grinning just before he opened it.

The noisy banter caused Buck to grin as the rest of his surrogate family walked in and promptly made themselves at home.

He laughed as JD and Vin argued over who was healing the fastest, Nathan, Ezra and Josiah were debating the finer points of fast food and it's healing properties and Chris was sitting back in a recliner, his handsome face dimpling with a grin as he surveyed his team, his brothers, giving Buck a look that the brunet thought he would never see from his oldest friend again, contentment.

Could Buck go back to work and do all this again. . .? He took another good long look at his teammates, resting on JD, and nodded to himself. . .

'Hell, yeah!'

The End