Disclaimer: Just playing. I know I can't keep 'em but if I could they'd be on season 10 by now!
Alternate Universe MCAT
To Sherry for the MCAT/AU and for her advice and encouragement.
To Wendy and Jan for their kindness.
To Jo (Bountyhunter'slady), for the wonderful collage.
Thanks also to Casey and Phyllis for their expertise and advice.
"Go ahead! I promise we'll be fine." JD gave a friendly push toward Buck as the big man looked back at his three little rascals.
Vin slapped the younger man on the shoulder.
"This is great JD. . .I'll fill you in when we get back. With Max out of town I wasn't sure how we were gonna hold this meeting." The Texan chuckled, "You're a brave man, taking this bunch on for two hours."
Dunne grinned, "Hell, Vin, Lilah and Daisy aren't exactly the shy, retiring type; I think I can handle six kids for two hours. 'Sides, I got all this pent-up energy I need to get rid of since Casey, Nettie and the girls left for France."
"Be good, squirt. . .oh, and you too, kids!" Buck called playfully.
JD shook his head, "Oh ha ha. . ." he mocked. . ."Look at me. . .I'm cracking up here!"
As his brothers left for the admin meeting with Travis and Chris, JD turned to the children left in his care.
"Okay," he grinned, clapping his hands together, "Who's ready to play some games?"
A deafening chorus of "Me! Me!" had the young man laughing.
+ + +
Arriving with barely minutes to spare, Vin and Buck walked in to the conference room and quickly took their seats.
"Glad you could join us," Chris remarked, his lips pursed to hide his mild amusement.
"He made a funny," Buck joked, "It can't be Wednesday already, can it?"
Before the chuckles around the table could escalate, Chris coughed.
"Alright, alright. . .settle down." He looked at Vin. "JD babysitting? "
Tanner nodded. "Yup. . .told him we'd bail him out in two hours."
Larabee grunted his approval. "Best get to it then."
+ + +
Jason and Andi had chosen a DVD to watch, and now all the kids were settled on bean bags and cushions around the TV, each of them hot, sweaty and tired from an hour of romping with their uncle. JD had been everything from a patient for the 'doctors' to a horse for the 'racing jockeys' and was now in the kitchen, a little warm and gulping down a glass of water. As he poured some juice for the kids, he rolled his shoulders slightly as he felt a twinge.
"Uncle JD. . .you're gonna miss the best bit!" Caleb called
Dunne, grinned, "I'm coming," he called back, "Just getting ya'll a drink and some cookies---unless, of course, you don't want any?" he teased.
"YEAH!" came the resounding answer. The young man laughed to himself and lifting the tray of drinks and cookies, turned to go back to the living room.
A wave of nausea swept over him and he gasped, surprised at the suddenness of it. Just as it subsided, a pain sliced through his back, sharp enough to take his breath away, but a second pain proved too much and the tray crashed to the floor as the edges of his vision started closing in, dark and quiet.
"Oh God. . ."
He toppled forward, landing hard on the floor, unable to save himself as the pain paralyzed him. While his body convulsed, all rational thought fled, and he gave in to the darkness.
+ + +
The meeting concluded earlier than expected, and as Chris packed up his paperwork he looked at the men as they finished their coffees, his eyes resting on Buck.
"So how the hell did you talk JD into looking after the kids?"
Buck grinned as he drained his plastic cup and tossed it into the trash, raising his arms in triumph as if he had scored a basket.
"He jumped at the chance. Nettie, Casey and the girls have only been gone four days, and he's going stir crazy." Buck laughed, "Hell, you'd think after everything, he'd be glad of the peace and quiet. He may have two kids now, but he's still our JD. . .still got more energy than the Energizer bunny on speed. He should have gone with them, but he wouldn't, felt like he had too much to do here. . .and now he's bored!"
"She's so brave taking two little girls half-way around the world," Travis commented, "Florida would have been so much easier."
Buck nodded, "Yeah, but Casey fell in love with Paris after JD took her there and between wanting to go back and them having a Disneyland. . . well. . .she couldn't resist when JD suggested it to her," he informed them, "I think JD felt they deserved a special holiday, especially Nettie." The brunet sighed. "Stupid kid. . .he should have gone. . ."
Vin's cell rang and he glanced at the display before he answered it, smirking as JD's home number came up. He waved his phone in the air.
"I think this may be a call for the cavalry!" he grinned, pushing his thumb to the keypad to answer.
"Hey, JD, how. . .Jason?"
All eyes turned to the Texan as he stood, his face slipping from amusement to concern.
"Slow down, son. . .okay...okay. .." He looked at the others, alarm on his face now.
"Good. . .you did good, son. . .okay, do this for me; can you see him breathing? Good, good, now, go get Sarah and wait for the ambulance. We're coming, okay. . .? We're on our way. Jason. . .I'm proud of you."
As he was talking, the brothers were sprinting toward the elevators, knowing Vin would fill them in as soon as he could.
Finally as they rode down to the garage Tanner snapped his phone shut.
"There's been an accident. . ."
+ + +
The loud crash caused the children to turn from the TV momentarily. All but Jason resumed viewing, a little tired and totally engrossed in their film.
The little boy trotted out to the kitchen to see what had happened, and found his uncle face-down and apparently asleep on the floor, surrounded by plastic beakers, cookies and spilled juice.
"Ooh. . .Uncle JD. . .Aunt Casey's gonna be mad."
As he reached the prone figure, he sat cross-legged next to him and tapped JD on the shoulder.
"'Scuse me. . .are you sleepin'?" He pulled his uncle's eyelid up to check, surprised at the way his uncle's eye was up into the lid.
"Eeww. . .does that hurt, Uncle JD. . ." He then touched the cut to the young agent's brow where he had crashed to the floor.
"Does this hurt?" he whispered.
When JD didn't answer, Jason guessed his uncle was not about to wake up anytime soon, so he got up and ran to the kitchen phone.
"I gotta call an ambulance. . .that' s what Daddy said. . .yes. . .I gotta dial 911."
Despite the operator's plea to the little boy to stay on the phone, Jason hung up and speed-dialed his Dad.
"No. . .it's me. . .yeah. Dad, Uncle JD's lying asleep on the floor and his head is cut and his eye is stuck right up and. . .what? Oh, sorry. . .Dad, I can't wake him up, he looks sick, like Uncle Chris did at the cabin. . . okay, just a minute."
Jason placed his hand next to JD's nose and mouth and felt a tickle against it.
"Yes. . .I can feel him breathe. . .ok. . .I'll go wait for the ambulance. . .hurry Dad!"
Jason beamed with pride; his Dad had said he was proud of him. He kissed his uncle on his head.
"You have a nice sleep," he said as he patted JD on the shoulder, "I'm gonna go get Caleb to stay with you and then wait with Sarah for Dad and the ambulance. . . help's comin'."
+ + +
By the time they were close to JD's home, Chris had called Kelli, Barbara and Inez who, with the babies, were shopping, then the security gate guards to alert them to the imminent arrival of an ambulance.
They arrived minutes after the ambulance. Vin hugged Jason and Sarah, told them to wait for him with the other children, then ran to the kitchen and scooped up Caleb, one eye on his unconscious brother, while praising the boy in his arms. He returned to the other children, fussing them all but not overly concerning them with the activities in the kitchen. Seeing the children in safe hands, Buck went on to where JD lay.
"Oh dear God. . .kid."
Chris came up behind Buck and put his hand on his oldest friend's shoulder.
"You go in the ambulance; we'll handle the kids. I'll call the others and follow you. Now there's nothing you can do here, so go give the girls and Caleb a hug."
"There's one thing. . ." Wilmington insisted and bent down next to JD's ear.
"I don't know what's happened here kid, but it's gonna be okay. . .d'ya hear? I'm here. . .we're all here, JD. . .hang in there."
Satisfied for now, Buck got up and proceeded to the sitting room and his children. A few minutes later he was holding his youngest brother's hand as the ambulance sped away.
+ + +
Pacing was infinitely better than doing nothing, but Buck finally dropped into a chair as fear and weariness overtook him.
He had stayed with JD as long as the medical staff would allow, but after two separate alarms and resuscitations were performed on the young man he had been less than politely asked to step out.
Buck massaged his face and rubbed his hands over his eyes, partly for comfort and partly to block out the outside world in a vain attempt to pretend this was not happening. The door to the waiting room opened, causing him to look up. He practically launched himself at Larabee, squeezing the man tightly.
Chris returned the hug, recognizing the despair and fearing the worse. As Buck recovered a little, Chris guided him to a seat and crouched in front of him.
"Talk to me."
Buck took a few breaths to steady himself.
"Sorry," he whispered.
"Stop apologizing and talk to me," the blond pushed.
Their eyes met, the brunet looking around at Nathan, Josiah, Ezra and Vin, and was for a moment transported back to their ATF days, when it had just been them. . .the ironically nicknamed 'Magnificent Seven', except he was only gazing at five faces, instead of six.
"He. . .it's bad. They can't stabilize him. . .they're talking surgery."
"For a fall in the kitchen?" Vin asked, surprised.
Buck frowned then realized what he had left out, "Oh no, no...oh God!"
Chris grasped his brother's wrists, his heart thudding. "Buck. . .what the fuck is it?"
"The bullet. . ." the brunet swallowed, ". . .in his back, it. . .moved."
Ezra stepped forward. "But the doctor said. . ."
"Yes, I believe I did."
They all turned to see a familiar face.
"I should have also said these things are not one hundred percent guaranteed. At the moment the bullet, which has only moved a fraction, is causing paralysis and respiratory failure. He's holding his own, but JD must undergo an operation immediately. " The doctor frowned, his tone almost scolding. "Being slammed against a wall recently can't have helped, either."
Doctor Gilford looked around at the circle of anxious faces, and sighed slightly.
"We need to remove the bullet."
"Now just hold on there, doc. . ." Buck approached the surgeon. "You said before that if you did that, he could die."
"Buck." The man spoke softly, "Buck, guys. . .he is dying. We either take a chance and do this, or. . .we let him go."
The silence in the room was absolute, then all jumped as Buck leapt to his feet.
"NO! NO! No way. . .tell him, Chris. . .no way. . .that boy's as ornery as a mule! Hell, three hours ago I left him laughing, an--and--joking- - and. . ." Buck struggled to catch his breath; Chris sat him down and rubbed his back.
"Chris, I can't get hold of Casey." The doctor addressed the blond.
Larabee was struggling himself now, as were the rest of the team.
"Sh. . .she's traveling. . .Europe. . . oh my God. . .she's thousands of miles away. . ."
Dr. Gilford sighed; he knew how difficult this was for the brothers, but JD's condition couldn't wait for his wife's return. "I need consent. . .now."
Chris straightened, "You have it."
With a nod the doctor was gone. For a long moment no one moved.
"This can't be happening. . .how can this be happening?" Buck's anguish cut into the atmosphere in the room. No one knew what to say.
A bustle of noise drew the men's attention to Dr Gilford and four other men.
"This is Doctor Veehap, Vascular surgeon, Doctor Reynolds, Neurosurgeon, Doctor Kade, Thoracic and you already know Doctor Shaplan, Trauma. These doctors are heading the team that will perform this operation. They are some of the best in the country; JD's in good hands."
Each man had nodded as his name was announced but the MCAT agents were too shocked to acknowledge them all.
"He's coming through now, I'll give you a minute, then we must get him into surgery."
Literally as Doctor Gilford finished his sentence, JD's bed was rolling toward them, the young agent lying on his stomach as a portable ventilator breathed for him. Each man touched their brother both for comfort and reassurance, leaning in to offer words of comfort to him also. Buck stroked JD's hair and lowered his head, his lips lightly touching the top of the dark hair.
"Don't you dare leave me. . .leave us. . .or Goddamnit boy, I'll come in after you and haul yer ass back out," he whispered as he clung desperately to the cold hand where it rested by the young man's face. With a heavy heart, Wilmington released JD into the care of his medical team and watched until the elevator doors closed.
It was only then he dropped into a chair, buried his face, and wept.
+ + +
Kelli replaced the receiver. They had all returned to the Tanner home while they tried to get hold of Nettie and Casey.
"That was Josiah, there's still no news."
"Three hours," Barbara sighed, "That can't be good, can it?"
"It's a very delicate operation; I guess it can't be rushed. Any luck with Casey?"
Barbara shook her head, "Not yet, either her cell's not on or isn't picking up, and apparently they went to the firework display so they won't be back for a few hours. The hotel assures me they'll ask her to call us the minute she's back. Poor kid."
Kelli nodded and looked into the living room at the children huddled together there. Despite every attempt to protect them from the events of the day, they had clearly picked up on the atmosphere and were subdued.
"Come on," the redhead gestured, "Let's go sit with the kids while we wait for news."
+ + +
Buck was in a world of his own, reminiscing and smiling to himself as he remembered the day Lilah and Daisy were born, here in this hospital. . .Chris and Kelli were also still in hospital and Buck was in an arm and leg caste.
"They're here. . .two beautiful, healthy baby girls."
Buck swept the young man up with his good arm and hugged him tightly.
"Ha! You're a daddy. . .my little brother's a daddy."
He looked through teary eyes at the young man in front of him, crying for joy.
"Oh my God, kid. . .you're a father."
JD beamed, "I know. . .how cool is that?"
Vin was next to him now and squeezing his shoulder, "Way cool, kid."
The new father reached up and clasped the hand on his shoulder.
"Will you tell Chris and let him know I'll be up to see him later?"
"How's Casey?" Josiah asked.
"She's real tired but she's fine. I got to go back. . .don't go away."
JD rushed back to Casey's room.
"Don't go away," Buck laughed, "Yeah. . .like that's gonna happen anytime soon!"
They were congratulating themselves when the nurse approached them.
"Excuse me. . .but you can go in now."
The five men all went quiet, then, encouraged by their ladies, as one, moved toward the room JD had disappeared into, the extended family allowing the men a moment before they joined them.
They all grinned widely. Casey was propped up in the bed, tired but smiling. JD was sat next to her, his arm draped across her shoulders as he proudly looked down at the two tiny pink bundles in her arms.
JD looked up at them, smiling through tear-filled eyes.
"Guys, I'd like you to meet Lilah and Daisy." He looked back at the babies, "Girls, these are your uncles."
The men gathered around the mother's bed.
Buck kissed Casey on the forehead, "Well done, li'l mother; ya done good."
Casey beamed up at them, then turned back to JD as he took one of the bundles and walked over to Buck.
"Would you like to hold Lilah Rose?"
The two brothers' eyes met, a moment of understanding between them, Lilah Rose. . .Buck's mother's name. JD grinned and nodded.
Buck beamed through the tears that disappeared into his moustache.
"Ha. . .what else would I do with a beautiful lady but keep her safe in my arms?" He took gentle hold of the yawning infant in his good arm as he gently kissed her forehead and smiled at her.
"Welcome to the family li'l darlin; I'm your Uncle Buck and I'm gonna love you and your sister with all my heart."
+ + +
Buck swiped away at the tears as he looked again at his watch; seven hours gone. This was a nightmare.
The doors of the surgical waiting room slid open. Doctor Shaplan and Doctor Gilford approached the waiting agents who all stood.
"Well," Doctor Gilford began, "The bullet's been successfully removed, we just have to wait now."
"Wait for what?" Vin wanted to know.
"I'm guessing he's still not breathing on his own," Nathan said.
The doctors nodded confirmation. Gilford continued, "Correct. It's too early to know for sure, but I'm hopeful we'll see some improvement in the next twenty-four hours."
"There's a but. . .right?" Chris asked, and was answered by another nod.
"If he survives, the next step will be to test for paralysis."
Buck groaned. This was unreal.
+ + +
The pretty, petite brown-haired girl looked frail and exhausted. Leaving the twins with Nettie in Paris, Casey had traveled non-stop to be with the man that was her life. Buck watched her as she stroked her husband's hair and whispered softly to him.
Buck's mind drifted to the church. All the guys were there except Chris. Josiah, Nathan and Ezra were sitting directly behind JD, Buck and Vin. JD had wanted Buck as Best Man, but also had always been close to Vin as the two youngest on the team. It had been decided that the two men would both be Best Man. They now flanked the youngest, all three dressed in black trousers and tails, white shirts, gray waistcoats and gray striped cravats. JD blew out a nervous breath.
"Easy, kid. . .you'll start Vin off again." Buck grinned.
"She's late. . .maybe she changed her mind," said a worried JD.
"It's fashionable for a bride to be a little late on her wedding day, JD," Ezra informed in a whisper as he leaned toward the three standing men.
"Let it go, kid. . .it's just the way of it," Vin reassured him.
Pachelbel's Canon in D Minor started up and the congregation rose. JD, Buck and Vin turned, JD's grin broadening as a vision in white satin floated down the aisle, delicately clinging to the arm of a proud and smiling Chris. The two lovers grinned at each other as Casey reached the three men and she chuckled, along with the rest of the congregation as JD said not too quietly,
"Wow, Casey. . .you look. . .beautiful. "
Buck remembered his tears as the pair said their vows and the elation as he heard them pronounced 'Husband and Wife' and took their first nervous steps into marriage.
Images of the two dancing their first dance together as a married couple and JD nodding to the band who quickly switched to a rendition of Captain and Tennille's 'Love Will Keep Us Together', filled the brunet's mind. As he remembered the two giggling together when the young groom swung his bride around, alarms sounded in Buck's head.
Only the alarms were real and JD's monitors were flashing wildly. Before they could react Casey and Buck were ushered to the back of the room where the rest of the family was now also standing as the medical team went into action. Buck gathered the tiny girl in his arms and buried his face in her hair as he screwed up his eyes and prayed. Hands on his arms and shoulders squeezed, soothed, and he held Casey tighter as if attempting to pass the comfort on, only relaxing his hold when he heard Casey gasp and pull from his grip.
He opened his eyes and couldn't help the smile that lit his handsome face as he watched a pair of hazel eyes blink open and gaze sleepily at the woman at his bedside, a shaky hand reaching up to touch her face. Casey looked at Buck through her tears and held out her hand to him. Buck clasped it and joined her at JD's side.
The two brothers looked at each other as Buck held out his hand to JD, laughing softly with the others as JD gently gripped it and whispered, "My damn foot's itching."
+ + +
A few days later, and early evening found Buck in a familiar position, sitting at the side of a hospital bed, watching his youngest brother breathing as he slept. He barely heard the door opening as his thoughts were trapped in a downward spiral of guilt.
He turned sharply as a hand touched his shoulder.
"Bucklin, you about ready to leave?"
"Just me," Vin answered gently. "Figured it was 'bout time you headed home. Casey's on her way."
Without looking up Buck nodded. "A few more minutes, okay?"
Tanner pulled up a chair. "Ya wanna talk about it?"
Silence, then Buck sighed and turned toward the younger man.
"All the shit we just lived through, bombs, knives, bullets. . .it took a bullet fired a year ago to almost bring us down."
Vin nodded, "Yeah, I know what you mean. But look at it like this. . .we beat the odds, again, only this time we went one better. This time, JD gets to put the shooting behind him for good, no more fear, no more pain. Now stop beatin' yerself up about all this; no one saw it coming, and the only upshot is Chris is still considerin' whether to rip into him fer not admittin' he was in pain."
The two seated men looked toward the bed and chuckled as a pair of wide hazel eyes stared back at them. Vin stood and leaned in.
"Take it like a man, kid. . .and learn from it. Ya don't get ta keep things from your brothers unless you're prepared to accept the consequences. "
"Spoken by a man who follows that particular code to the letter, huh?" JD grinned.
Buck stood also, and touched his hand to JD's head. "Smartass."
"You better believe it," Dunne rasped. "Now go home and see your families."
Just before they could object, Casey walked in, smiling at the three men.
"You still here? JD, for the love of God, let these guys go home."
As JD sputtered his protest the two men laughed. Vin squeezed JD's arm. "See ya tomorrow, kid." He kissed Casey on the cheek and walked out.
Buck leaned in closer and whispered in JD's ear, "Good to have you back, little bother."
JD grinned, holding the man's gaze for a moment. "Good to be back." He raised his voice a little. "Now go."
Wilmington nodded and turned toward Casey. He picked her up and twirled the giggling young woman around.
"'Bye, little darlin'; take good care of our little trouble magnet."
"'Night boys." She turned to her husband and kissed him lightly on the lips. "Now, what's this I hear about you not eating much today, John Daniel Dunne?"
+ + +
Five days later, and JD was getting restless. He desperately wanted to go home but he knew it was way too early. Still, if he could get that window open and reach out to the down pipe. . .
"Don't even go there, Dunne."
JD was jogged from his musings by his pretty wife and two wriggling girls. He kissed all three and snuggled his daughters close to him. The two happily returned the cuddle.
"I'm so sorry about the holiday," JD finally said.
"So you should be", Casey mock-scolded, "But you can make it up to me."
Casey produced a wallet that contained open airline tickets and hotel accommodation details.
"Well, the doctor said that you won't be able to travel anytime soon, but when you are, I'm going to book us a little break to Paris...whenever you're ready."
Just as JD was absorbing the information, Casey leaned in and kissed her husband, gently at first then more passionately as her need was aroused. She eventually broke away and bent to kiss the girls who now dozed in their father's arms.
"Are we gonna go to Disneyland?" he asked, a little breathlessly, smiling at the now rather seductive expression on her face.
"Nettie's having the girls. It'll just be us, a five-star hotel and Paris. . ." Casey's eyes darkened, ". . .and honey, I'm gonna show you the sights."
JD choked back a laugh for fear of disturbing the girls. "Casey Dunne. . ."
He looked at this beautiful woman in front of him and sighed deeply, his expression changing to one of adoration.
"I love you so much."
Casey smiled and sat beside him, taking his hand with her left hand, while gently touching his face and head and stroking back his hair with her right.
"Good, because I love you too, now lie back and get some rest while you can."
JD relaxed back and before long, three of the most important people in Casey's life were sleeping soundly. As she watched them, she silently thanked God for allowing them more time together, realizing that despite everything, her life was good. . .crazy at times, and rarely calm, but she wouldn't change any of it.