Disclaimer: You know the drill ;)
Synopsis: This is my response to the Dunnes Darlins fic challenge. I was asked to write a story for Angie, who asked for a story about wee JD having nightmares. The inspiration for this story was a news story about a woman videotaped as she was beaten by a man.
Characters: JD, Buck, Chris, Vin, Will Lowry
JD was bored. Bored, bored, bored. He had been home for three days with a virus. Normally he loved to be home but this was different. He hadnt felt good enough to do anything but lie on the couch and watch Nickelodeon the last two days, but now he felt a lot better. He still couldnt do anything but watch TV or color or put together a puzzle or send e-mail if Mrs. Potter said it was okay, though. And tomorrow he had to go back to school! Why couldnt he go to school when he was sick and stay home when he felt good?
Grabbing up the remote, he decided to see if there was something better on another channel. Their housekeeper was busy in the mudroom, so he didnt worry about letting her know. Flip flip flip flip flhe stopped, little mouth opening wide as he registered the grainy, black and white video being shown on the news channel. A very big man was punching and kicking a very small woman.
Mama? Tears welled up in wide eyes, little lips trembled. Punching the big red button on the remote to turn it off, he turned over, burrowing himself into the back of the couch. A little hand reached up blindly and snagged the quilt on the back, pulling it down over him. The images of the attack continued to reach into the back of his little mind, pulling long suppressed memories to the foreground. A single whimper escaped before a tiny, balled fist pressed against and into his mouth, blocking any further sounds. He had to be quiet. Mama always told him he needed to be quiet. Shhhhhhh
Several minutes later, Gloria Potter stepped into the great room to check on the little boy; seeing tiny, socked feet peeking out from one end of the quilt. Smiling and shaking her head, she moved to the couch and lifted the quilt up, straightening it up over the little boy and uncovering his head. She tsked to see the perspiration-soaked hair plastered to his head, not knowing that some of the moisture on the little face was tears.
Dinner that night was quiet, but it had been the last few days, so no one noticed. JD spoke when spoken to, pushed his food around on his plate listlessly, and asked to be excused after only a token attempt at eating. Behind him, Buck frowned.
Maybe he should stay home another day.
Itll probably take him a little while to get his appetite back, Chris observed. Unless hes still running a temp, it might be a good thing for him to get back into his normal routine.
Maybe Buck sighed and shook his head. Probably just borrowing trouble.
Vin frowned, trying to figure out why anyone would borrow trouble. All he knew was that his friend was sad, and it wasnt a sad that came from being sick. After several minutes of contemplation, he asked, Dad? Can I be excused?
Surveying the boys plate and seeing that at least half the meal had been eaten, Chris nodded, and then asked You feeling all right? He reached out and brushed his hand over the childs forehead.
Im okay, honest. I just aint he blew out a breath that caused his long bangs to flutter. Im just not hungry any more.
With a smile the big blond said, Okay.
Vin was on a mission. No one knew JD Dunne as well as he did, not even their fathers. He knew that the younger boy wasnt always the cheerful imp the adults had come to know and love. Sometimes he was quiet and sad, sometimes hiding from something. It was something that not even he knew or understood. All that he knew was that whatever it was, gave his adopted little brother nightmares.
JD? He nearly whispered. Entering their bedroom, he looked for the smaller boy. JD?
Im sleepin, Came the muffled response from the lump hidden beneath a pile of blankets and stuffed animals.
No ya aint. Vin didnt worry about his grammar since the adults werent listening. How come yer so sad?
Im sleepin, Was the only answer given, and it didnt change over the course of the next several minutes and several questions.
Finally, giving up his line of questioning, the older child left the room. Leaving the younger child alone, he went to rejoin his father.
That night the nightmares began.
Vin jerked awake, whimpers coming from the bunk below him. Hanging upside down over the edge of the bed, he watched the bed below him. JD had crawled out of the mound hed hidden himself beneath, and was tossing and turning on the mattress. Most of his toys and part of the bedding was strewn over the floor near the bed.
Twisting around and onto the ladder, the little blond scampered down and climbed onto the mattress beside the other child. Reaching out, he frowned when JD flinched and whimpered. Sokay, JD. Yer okay. Wake up, JD. Its only a bad dream.
N-no stop! Dont hurt weave er wone!
Frowning, Tanner said again, JD, yer okay.
The cry was louder and brought heavy footsteps down the hall. Vin turned, looking to see first Buck and then Chris appear in the doorway. As Buck entered the room, having identified the cries as coming from his adopted son, Vin scooted off the bed and hurried over to his own adopted father. As he was lifted into the air and held close by the blond, he whispered, I aint sure whats wrong, Dad. Somethin made him sad, but he wont tell me what. Im sorry.
You dont have a thing to apologize for, Cowboy.
While one father and son stood by, the other father tried to waken his son. JD, cmon son, wake up for me. Cmon, wake up, okay?
Hazel eyes shot open, little body jerking and flying off the bed to be caught in strong arms. Pudgy fingers knotted themselves into jersey material, as the child sought comfort against that broad chest. Little face buried into that same, soft material, tears soaking into it at the same time.
Sh, sh, its okay, Lil Bit. Youre safe. Sh, cmon now, calm down. Sh
Da? The childs voice was muffled against the warm body. Da, is he gone? Is it okay?
Frowning at the strange questions, Wilmington soothed, Its okay, son. Youre safe. Hes gone. Its okay.
After nearly a quarter of an hour with no luck in quieting the child, he said softly, Cmon, how bout you come sleep in my bed? With a small nod as his only response, he carried the small child from the room.
Moving aside to allow his friend to leave the boys bedroom, Chris carried the limp, sleeping body of his own son back into the room and tucked him into bed. Satisfied the Vin was sleeping, he made certain that the blankets were tucked close around the little body. Delivering a kiss to the childs forehead, he slipped out the door, back ot his own room.
Those scenes repeated themselves over and over for the next four evenings. The next four days found them dealing with an increasingly sullen, angry little boy. He was taken to the doctor, but there was no evidence that the virus was still plaguing the child. Frustration became a steady visitor in their household and Sunday found a frazzled, confused Buck Wilmington dropping to his recliner. The regular bedtime routine had been replaced with angry words and arguments.
Dont know whats goin on theres no sign hes sick nothin seems to work damn it! What am I gonna do?
Chris sat quietly, listening to his friend quietly rage against the situation. Finally, taking advantage of a pause, he interjected, Maybe we need to call Lowry.
Dark brows furrowed; then deep blue eyes lit with hope. Yeah, why didnt I think of that? Ill call him tomorrow.
William Lowry, PhD, sighed internally. To the other two people in the room, however, he seemed as calm as ever. With Wilmingtons help, he had been trying to draw JD out of his uncharacteristic silence. The child had continued to be obstinate. At the moment, he was sitting in his chair, little legs sticking straight out. He was waggling his feet back and forth, hazel eyes intent on the laces that danced in the air above the moving sneakers.
JD, son, come on, Buck tried once again. We just want to know whats going on, so we can help you figure out whats causing all these bad thoughts.
He didnt look up; didnt respond to any of their pleas or questions. Instead he simply continued to stare down at his feet.
JD, please Bucks voice quivered with emotion. He felt so helpless and it translated in his mind that he was failing as a father.
As if reading his mind, the mental health specialist said, Whatevers going on has nothing to do with your ability to care for your son, Buck. Look, why dont you go on out to the waiting area for a little while; Id like to talk to JD alone if its okay.
The look on the other mans face said clearly that it wasnt okay, but he only nodded in response. Ill be right outside, he promised, leaning over and kissing his son on the top of his head, before pulling his six foot plus frame out of the chair and exiting the room.
Waiting until the door closed, Dr. Will turned to his tiny client. He saw the physical evidence of what Buck had described earlier on the phone. Dark smudges ringed the dull, hazel eyes. Little shoulders were slumped and the overall presentation of the child was one of depression. Most of his nightmares had ended with cries to let her alone which they seemed in agreement meant JD was dreaming about his mother. Something bad happening to his mother.
Was the child remembering his mothers murder? He would have to tread softly.
Its nice to be quiet sometimes, isnt it?
I think its nice. I think Ill be quiet, now, too.
They sat there for nearly half an hour, which Will decided must be a record for the typically dynamic little boy. He had learned long ago to use the silence as a way of encouraging his clients to speak from the heart.
He began to think that long used technique would fail this time. Then
Did you see on the TV the other day that that bad man?
Bad man? Im not certain, JD. Can you tell me more about the bad man?
Hesitantly, the five-year-old explained. He was hittin and kickin that lady. He was a whole lot bigger than her, and he was he hurted her. He was so mean!
Quickly linking the childs description to a recent news story, Lowry said, Yes, he wasnt nice to that woman at all. He wondered if JD had heard the report that the man had been a member of the police force.
How comes a man would wanna hurt a lady?
How to explain the behavior of an out-of-control adult to a child. Well, sometimes people get angry, and they choose to do something mean
It aint right to hurt a lady, is it? Me and Vin aint sposed to hit girls. Thats what Da and Chris tell us all the time. Unca Siah, Unca Nathan and Unca Ezra, too. They all tell us were sposed to use our words when we get mad angry. Unca Siah says peoples get angry, not mad. But if that man got on TV for hurtin that lady, is there diffrent rules for growed ups?
No, JD, there arent different rules. That man was on television because he was so angry. Seeing the confused look on the childs face, he continued. Many times the media the television shows pictures of people who are doing bad things. How did it make you feel to see that on the TV?
I I felt angry no, sad no, angry I I aint sure.
Well, maybe it made you angry and sad. Could that be it?
Tiny brows furrowed as the child pondered the question. Then he nodded. Yeah, maybe.
JD did it make you think of anything else?
No just sad and angry.
Gently the doctor said, Those are your feelings. What thoughts did you have?
I um just thoughts bout how mean he was bein.
He knew the boy wasnt going to be able to divulge his secret easily, and was glad hed scheduled extra time for this appointment so he could help JD work through whatever was going on.
First came more silence.
Buck paced from one end of the waiting area to the other and back again. His arms were folded tight across his chest and his dark eyes shot sparks into the air. He had given up trying to calm himself down, and was focusing now on not tearing the waiting room apart.
He turned to find one of the office staff April? standing there, holding out a mug of coffee. Managing a strained smile he reached out and took the mug. Thanks, darlin.
Doc will do his best to help JD, you know that. She smiled shyly up at him.
Yeah, I know, he sighed.
You want to talk about it? She motioned toward the chairs lining each side of the room.
He heck, Im not even certain what Id say, hon. But thank you.
What if did that lady have a little boy?
Frowning, the mental health professional said, Im not certain. They didnt mention children in the report.
Is that something youre worried about?
The room became silent once more.
Vin sat on the couch, staring at the television. Ringo and Elvis sat nearby, both dogs watching him expectantly. The routine for boys and dogs on nice days was to run and frolic around the big yard. But today, there was only one boy and, while it was a nice day they were sitting in the greatroom watching television.
Wouldnt you like to go out? Gloria asked from the doorway. Her only response was a shake of the shaggy little head. Well, let me know if you change your mind.
Kay, was the whispered response.
Hesitating at the door, she watched the child with a heavy heart. She knew only too well that he was concerned about JD. That meant hed be quieter than usual until the younger boy was home and hopefully back to his cheerful little self.
She just hoped that happened, and happened soon.
Do you think if she had a little boy would he be sad cause his mama got hurted? Or would he be
Well, what do you think?
Hed be sad, cause she got hurted, I think.
I think so, too.
Maybe hed be angry, too
I think hed be angry hed want to help his mama.
Perhaps. How could he have helped his mama?
JD frowned, trying to put his thoughts into words. He could he could have hitted the bad man. He could have made him leave his mama alone.
Im certain that he would have wanted to help his mama, JD. But, lets look at it realistically. What would have happened if the little boy had tried to hurt the big man?
He couldve hitted the bad man he could have hitted and hitted and hitted til the bad man left his ma alone! He began to punch the cushions on the chair arms on either side of him, then one little thumb found itself popped into his mouth while the other continued to beat the pillow.
Lowry sat patiently waiting while the child gave vent to his anger. JD finally slowed his tirade, little body curling in on itself while he panted and whimpered, too exhausted to do anything more. Moving his chair closer, Will reached out and gently patted one little shoulder. In a compassionate tone he asked, Did that happen to you and your mama, JD?
Reddened, tear stained eyes widened as they looked up at the doctor. Around a comforting thumb he said, I Mama said I wasn to tell. She made me promith I wouldnt tell.
Nothing can hurt your mama now, JD. I think shed be okay with you telling me about it. Are the bad thoughts because of something that happened to your mama?
The five-year-old didnt respond right away. Then, finally, he whispered, Could my Da come back in?
With a gentle smile, Dr. Will said, Sure, Ill call the front desk.
Buck entered the room, shocked to see his son curled up in a chair, obviously worn out from something. Little Bit?
JD looked up at his father, thumb still planted firmly in his mouth. I need to tell you something, Da, and then youll know.
Frowning, the father nodded confusion evident on his face. He moved toward the chair, preparing to pick up the child, but stopped when JD made it clear he didnt want to be held right now. Reluctantly settling in the chair nearby, he looked from the boy to the doctor. Doc?
Rather than answer directly, Will asked, JD, would you like me to start? When a nod was his response, he briefly detailed what they had discussed so far. When he finished he turned to the five-year-old. Did I leave anything out?
Would you like your Da and me to ask questions, or talk about something else, or would you like to tell us what else is on your mind?
The little boy sat up, scrubbing one hand over his tear-stained face, while his thumb remained where it was. Then, finally, he removed it, wiping it against his shirt. He looked up with surprise when Dr. Will handed him a tissue and then a little bottle of juice. Taking a sip, he managed a weak smile, and then began a heart-breaking tale.
When I was real little, even fore I meeted Vin, me and my Ma lived in a little bitty apartment. It only had two rooms, one big room and one little bitty room, and we had to go potty and take showers at the end of the hall.
Ma tried real hard to get monies so we could live someplace else, but it was hard. Ma had a real bad cough and she didnt feel too good sometimes, so she couldnt work sometimes. And then her bosses would get mad no, angry and they would fire her, cause she couldnt work enough.
Sometimes Ma would have a boyfriend. Some of em was real nice. They didnt hit Ma, or get angry cause I was around. Some of em even buyed me things, they buyed Ma things, too. Medicine, food, clothes. One boyfriend even buyed me a stuffed teddy bear but another boyfriend teared it up and throwed it out the window.
Some boyfriends wasnt nice. When they came over, Ma would make me stay in the little room by myself. She made sure I had a sanwich or cookies, and something to drink; and she even had a little bucket that I could use for a potty if I needed to.
The only thing was, I had to stay real, real quiet. Ma always telled me that, no matter what I heard or how scared I got, I had to stay as quiet as a mouse. She telled me that some of the mens she had visit wasnt real nice, but they could give her monies, and she could buy the things we needed sos we could make things nice in our lil partment. But sometimes the mens would hurt her so much that shed cry for a long, long time. And, sometimes she gotted so hurt that she couldnt go to work and sometimes she gotted fired cause the mens would hurt her too much.
And one time one time
Do you want to take a break, JD?
Without looking at the doctor, the tyke shook his head. No, I I wanna tell this now.
Buck reached out, stroking his hand through perspiration soaked, dark hair. Youre doin real good, Lil Bit. But you can stop any time you need to, okay?
Im okay With a deep breath, he continued. One time I I didnt mind my Ma. Im sorry, Da I didnt mean to
Hey, you listen to me, okay? He reached out and cupped a tiny, round, chin. You did the best you could. I know that. You did your best.
Swallowing hard, the boy continued. I looked, Da. My Ma was cryin so so hard. I got so scared, I opened up the door just a little, little bit and peeked out. There was a big man, and he was standin there. My my Ma was all c-curled up ona floor. He did his best to imitate his mothers posture, curling up on the chair, little arms over his head. Holding that pose for a full minute, he sobbed hard before pulling himself back up in the chair.
Buck ached to hold his son and once more reached out. Rubbing the little boys back, he said, Would it help if you sat with me?
JD shook his head, unable to put into words the fact that he feared his father ever wanting to touch him again after hearing the rest of his story. I I wanted to go out there. I wa-wanted to help her. But but
When the child dissolved once more into tears, his father could take it no longer. Scooping the sobbing tyke into his arms, he sat down and began rocking him. Softly he said, Baby boy, you had to be so, so afraid. Its not your fault that your Ma was hurt, and you werent big enough to have helped her. I know you wanted to, and I know youre sad that you didnt. But, sweet boy, you couldnt have made that bad man stop. All that would have happened is that youd have gotten hurt, too. And then your Ma would have been really, really sad.
Between sniffles, JD said, But she sh-she was sad anyway after the bad man went away.
Taking a deep breath, Buck said, Im not sure I can make you understand, son, but it would have been a very different type of sad. If you had gone out there and tried to fight that man, he would have hurt you. Your ma, she would have felt responsible for you responsible for you gettin hurt. That would have made her feel like she hadnt been able to protect you.
But she did, Da! Ma always tected me!
Well sure, of course she did! And even if that meant she got hurt sometimes, her first thought would have been to make sure you were safe.
Frowning up into his fathers face, the little boy asked, Then do you think was she angry cause I didnt tect her?
Cupping his hand around one side of the tykes face, Wilmington said, No, she was never angry at you, JD. Your ma loved you more than anything in the world.
Are you angry, Da? Or dispointed? I-I wasnt brave. The child tried to look away, but the big hand held him in place.
I am not angry with you, Little Bit, and I am certainly not disappointed in you! Youre a very, very, VERY brave young man.
Do you do you still love me?
Of course! JD, I will love you for the rest of my life, and the rest of yours. And for ever after that.
Will Lowry smiled as he watched the healing process begin. JD curled up in his fathers arms, his thumb stayed out of his mouth. Instead, his hand curled into the fabric of the big mans shirt.
Chris and Buck sat on the deck, watching two little boys and two growing dogs romping around the yard. It had been over a month since that moment in Will Lowrys office. Frequent, subsequent visits to the doctor were helping the little boy come to terms with the memories and nightmares from that terrible time.
The nightmares still made an appearance, but with decreasing frequency. The other three members of the household were also armed with knowledge that allowed them to help the traumatized tyke.
Buck smiled as the sound of laughter came to him on the gentle breeze. He turned to see his old friend smiling as well. Never heard anything that sounded so good.
Chris chuckled, seeing the look of bliss on the big mans face. It had been a bumpy ride that took them through temper tantrums, conferences at school and canceled family outings. But it had also been a time of growth. For the two fathers, for all the adults in their circle really, they came to understand that there was more than a precocious boy that brought joy into their life. There was a wounded child beneath, who needed their strength and understanding to deal with his past. For Vin it was a time to exercise even more patience and compassion with his adopted sibling.
And for JD it was a time of healing. He had carried that hidden guilt for far too long, believing himself a bad son for not being able to protect his mother. He was learning to forgive himself and to put that ugly segment of his past into perspective.
The time for contemplation ended, suddenly, as two little boys and two growing dogs flew toward the deck, powered by giggles and yips. Each son bounced into the arms of their father while each dog danced over the wooden deck, excited to be included in the family time.
Buck squeezed JD tight, eliciting a giggle and a grunt from the little boy. Hey, there, Lil Bit, you havin a good time?
Yeah! Me an Vin made up a new game
Let me guess, you run around a lot.
Da! You inrupted me!
Its okay me an Vin made up a new game, He repeated. You have to start all the way down by the barn and then you have to run as fast as you can
Buck continued to listen to his son. His energetic, gregarious child who had stolen his heart with a single look. He nodded and grunted in all the appropriate places, but the boys words blended with those pain-filled words in Will Lowrys office. Do you do you still love me?
March 26, 2007