Good Days, Bad Days
by Sue M.
Characters: JD, Vin, Ezra
Ratings/Warnings: Some bad language
Disclaimer: Just playing. I know I can't keep `em but if I could they'd be on season 10 by now!
Thanks as always to dear Phyllis whose patience and sense of humor know no bounds! (Which is just as well for me!)
Thanks to Mog for ATF
Thanks to Nancy and the guys for archiving this for me.
Happy Birthday Andy!
"Left, Buck, go left! Vin, where are you?" Chris' voice was urgent but controlled. His team was scattered around the deserted mall, hot on the heels of one Archie Spinoza, small time drug-dealer but more importantly, brother to Oswald Spinoza, gun-runner, drug-dealer and, the man to go to for illicit alcohol these days.
An off-duty member of the DPD spotted the man and knew Larabee and his team was keen to talk to him. In less than ten minutes the mall had been locked down and every person leaving, security checked. An extreme measure under normal circumstances, but this was far from normal. Oswald had recently taken great pleasure inflicting serious injuries on, who he believed to be, one Edward Stanton, AKA Team Seven's very own Ezra Standish. And while Ezra was being beaten mercilessly, JD Dunne, Team Seven's resident whiz-kid and Mensa-card carrying communications expert, had been held by two of Spinoza's goons to watch the horror, the young agent suffering a few good slaps for his 'association' with Stanton.
The mental torture JD had suffered while watching one of his closest friends being beaten unconscious right before his eyes however...that was another matter, and for once, Chris Larabee had been grateful the kid looked so young, he felt it had likely saved him from a similar fate to Ezra.
Lately, the young agent had decided there were no more 'gray' days, it was either black, or white, bad or good...that day had most definitely been a bad day. So now to restore balance. They needed a good day, they needed Oswald Spinoza, and the team figured his brother would be a good place to start. There was certainly enough on him to warrant pulling him in for questioning, and if his brother should come up in conversation... well...Team Seven were never ones to waste an opportunity.
+ + + + + + +
Spinoza was still in the mall, that much they knew...him and two of his men...and the team had patiently waited for them to break cover, which they eventually did. Buck and Josiah were eagerly dragging a struggling Archie toward their team leader, while Vin and Nathan were manhandling a rather burly thug and heading in the same direction. Chris scanned the area, one goon and one agent to go. He was just about to use his mic when, in the distance, heading toward the escalators from the ground floor to the upper levels, the second thug was attempting to ascend the 'down' escalator, JD hot in pursuit. Noting the direction Chris was looking, the other agents turned to see their youngest sprinting across the mall to take the escalator two steps at a time.
Having difficulty running against the flow, the thug turned and kicked out at the young agent causing him to duck. As he returned to an upright position, JD tried to swipe at the swinging leg but missed. Realizing he was now returning to ground level, the man kicked out again then vaulted over the handrails to land on the 'up' stairway. Recovering, JD did likewise and lunged at the man, only to watch him climb a little higher.
Chris was rapidly moving in to assist when he froze to the spot, vaguely aware of a cry from Buck, and touched his throat mic.
"Holy shit...we need paramedics in here...NOW!"
+ + + + + + +
Gun lowered, JD peeked around the corner.
The guy he was chasing was heading for the escalators. What the fuck was the point of that? It was only a matter of time before he was cornered. With a heavy sigh, Dunne slipped his hand behind his back to re-holster his weapon and took off in pursuit.
JD was fast and he closed the gap between them easily, taking the stairs two at a time before realizing he was fighting a losing battle, as the escalator was traveling in the opposite direction to which they were running. Ducking at the leg swinging toward him, JD attempted to grab onto it, cursing as he just missed. Dodging another lunge, the easterner followed after the goon, leaping over the handrails to land onto the upward stairs, catching his balance as the new direction unsteadied him slightly.
The next occurrence could only be described as an act of madness as, when standing almost at the top of the stairs, the thug launched himself at the smaller man. Only JD's quick thinking prevented the guy from taking him along, as the heavier body hurtled to the floor below. Unfortunately, it was not enough to prevent the now unbalanced youth from tumbling down the unforgiving metal staircase, landing with a thud at the bottom as he hit the hard floor full force. JD didn't know if anything was broken, but he did know he was now in a world of hurt.
Just as the youth was deciding whether to try and move, a familiar voice was speaking while a strong hand rested on his chest.
"Whatever you do, JD...do not move." Chris called over to his EMT.
"Cou...couldn't if I wan...wanted...to, " Dunne gasped out to the blond frowning down at him, the pain starting to kick in.
Successfully handing over their captives to waiting officers, the rest of the team were now around their youngest. Buck soothed, trying hard to ignore the blood running freely from the top of his partner's face from a cut somewhere on JD's scalp, as Nathan slowly and carefully checked every part of the youth's body. Vin joined them from the direction of the other downed man, jerking his head toward the thug as he looked at Chris.
"That guy's dead, neck broke, I reckon."
Larabee nodded, turning back sharply as JD hissed at Nathan's touch somewhere tender.
"Sorry, JD," Nathan said sincerely, but still continued checking.
When the paramedics arrived, Nathan presented his assessment handover to one of them as the other moved to JD, stepping to one side as he did so.
Buck was reluctant to move, crying out suddenly and drawing their attention back to the boy on the floor.
+ + + + + + +
JD's head was pounding and he was having trouble focusing. He yelped as Nathan touched his lower back, vaguely aware Buck was holding him as Nathan conducted his examination, before moving away. The pain was almost too much to bear, JD's muzzy head finally allowing the darkness to win. As his eyes flickered closed, the last thing he heard was Buck calling out his name.
With more urgency now, the paramedics soon had the youth on a backboard and in a neck brace and in minutes were on their way to the hospital, Buck in tow. Chris watched them go, promising to be right there. He couldn't help but wonder whether JD would consider this to be a good day, or a bad day.
+ + + + + + +
"Well...I see you couldn't bear to be separated from me, nephew."
JD could hear the words, but they made no sense. Buck's however, did.
"Easy, kid. Doc says you might feel a little dizzy for a day or two. Here, take a sip on this."
Feeling a straw pressed to his lips, the youth gratefully sucked up the cool water. "Th...thanks."
Buck smiled, even though he wasn't sure JD could see him yet, but he felt sure the boy would hear the smile in his voice.
"Good boy, just rest now."
As JD drifted off to sleep, Buck frowned at the southerner sitting up in the next bed.
"Hell, Standish, he's gonna be confused enough with a head injury, don't go makin' it more complicated. "
"My apologies, Buck, I was just so relieved to see him conscious I attempted a quip. I concur; it was not in the best of taste."
Buck nodded, slowly, "Especially as he still has trouble falling asleep without seeing you being beaten to a pulp."
Ezra's handsome but bruised and swollen face reflected deep sadness. "I was remiss in my judgment on this case, Buck, I fear my poor appraisal of Spinoza resulted in our misfortune; we could so easily have been led to our executions."
"You nearly were."
Two pairs of eyes turned toward a drowsy JD. Buck scolded, "Kid, you're supposed to be resting."
"I'm in bed, aren't I?" He yawned. "Ezra, how are you doing, today?" JD had succeeded in turning his head toward the undercover agent's bed.
Standish forced a smile, "Never better my young friend, never better."
"For what it's worth," the boy sighed, "It was kinda neat being your nephew for a while."
This time Ezra's smile was real, "Well...thank you, I must agree, I too enjoyed our time together."
Buck grinned. He loved how JD's down-to-earth sincerity could warm you through to your soul. His smile faded however as a teary youth looked at him.
"Buck...you wouldn't lie to me, would you?" The tears were flowing freely and Buck was feeling a little nervous. He gently brushed them away.
"No, of course not. What is it, son?"
JD gulped and sniffed in an effort to compose himself. "I...I can't feel anything...have I done something bad?"
Chris and Vin were just walking into the room as a misty eyed Wilmington was answering.
"Aw, hell no...You did hit your back and it's caused some swelling and bruising to your kidneys, but the doc says bed rest and pills will sort that out. Got a heap of cuts and bruises, so you'll be mighty stiff for a while, but you're a little numb right now 'coz you're pretty doped up. You're on real strong painkillers, kid, that's all... okay?"
Chris moved closer.
"Straight up, JD...how you didn't break something is a freakin' miracle. Got a nice scalp injury under those bandages, though."
A small smile graced the youth's battered face for a moment, then with a sigh, JD went back to sleep.
Seeing Buck was moved by the conversation, Chris squeezed his old friend's shoulder. The brunet turned to face him.
"Poor kid thought he was paralyzed," he sniffed.
Chris nodded, "Well, he's not...so with Archie about ready to do some talking, and Ezra recovering nicely...I'd call this a good day."
+ + + + + + +
JD had only been back in full service for a week when Chris received the request. As he approached the bullpen, he seriously considered dropping a tranquilizer into Buck's coffee. A phone call to Travis pleading his case had no effect...show time.
+ + + + + + +
Chris stood firm in front of his oldest friend, as they squared off in the middle of the bullpen. "No. Calm down, Buck."
"Calm down, he says," he looked around at the others as they sat at their desks, his hands pointing toward the blond, "CALM DOWN! What part of 'just got out of the hospital' does Travis not understand?"
"I got out weeks ago, Buck," JD reminded.
"You just...just...just... sit and be quiet, I'm trying to make a serious point, here," Buck stammered as his anger mounted.
Seeing JD about to react, Vin stood to distract him. "He'll be with me, Bucklin."
Buck huffed, stepping toward an unmoving Tanner. "Oh and that's supposed to make me feel better?" He looked back at Chris, changing direction yet again.
"Let me pass. I want to speak to Travis."
"Not gonna happen, pard, so unless you're prepared to walk right through me, I suggest you sit down and take a deep breath." Chris' glare was a clear message that Buck was going to lose this argument.
JD was positively bouncing in his seat. Josiah's strong, steady hand squeezed the boy's shoulder as he moved to stand behind him.
"Buck, come on now, son...you surely know Travis and Chris would not have insisted unless there was a seriously good reason."
Buck sighed, "What, you too now, preacher?"
"Actually," Nathan cut in, "I agree with Buck, JD may have returned to full duties, but at least if he's here we can watch out for him, it was quite a serious injury."
Wilmington nodded enthusiastically, "Yes...yes...you see, at last, someone talkin' sense."
Exasperated, JD looked at Vin, "Can you believe this, why don't we just get Ezra on the phone and ask him his opinion, too?"
Buck shook his head and stepped back toward Larabee.
For the longest time the two men stared at each other, but just before JD was about to lose it, Buck stepped back and dropped down into his chair, his shoulders slumping in defeat.
Chris relaxed and watched as JD got up from his seat and walked toward the brunet. Crouching down in front of him, the youth grinned as he gently patted his knee.
"It's just two days, Buck...it'll be fine...me, Vin, Team 6...two days...and we'll be back, okay?"
Buck raised his head to look at his young roommate. He knew he was overreacting, but then none of the others had been with JD on a 24/7 basis to see the pain he had gone through. He sighed.
Talk about a jinx word.
+ + + + + + +
JD looked out at the ocean, he'd forgotten how beautiful it was. He turned to the Texan, lying on his bed and looking for all the world as if he was asleep.
"We should get the guys to take a vacation," the youth suggested.
Tanner nodded, "Yeah, that should send Buck's blood pressure through the roof, all of us on vacation."
Dunne grinned, "Yeah, don't really have a lot of luck with vacations, do we?"
"Funny," Vin drawled, "never considered you to be a master of understatement. "
JD laughed, "Never considered you to be the type to take English lessons from Ezra, either."
They both laughed as Vin tossed a pillow at the younger man. A knock on the door put them on alert.
"It's Taggert." JD checked the spy hole and let in the leader of team six.
"We were gonna go down to the bar for some drinks and a game of pool, but our guy says this meeting's been moved to early tomorrow morning so we need to sleep and meet in the lobby at 0600. JD, did you get a chance to read over the paperwork?"
JD nodded, "Yeah, not a problem, I know the system and I can bluff my way through; it'll be like a walk in the park."
Taggert relaxed, "I really appreciate this, guys. To have one agent go down with the flu is bad enough, but two. Vin, you're up high, just as with your own team, okay?"
Taggert touched JD on the shoulder. "I know you just got off sick leave, kid...I'm sorry we had to call on you, but I know you're a quick study, and I needed to move fast."
JD smiled, "Alan, if I was anything less than a hundred percent, Chris wouldn't allow me away from my desk."
Taggert indicated his understanding and turned to leave. As he reached their room door, he turned back.
"Tell Buck and Chris I owe 'em a beer."
The two agents grinned. "I think it's gonna take more than that," Tanner remarked.
+ + + + + + +
Vin stirred, something had disturbed his sleep. He gave himself a moment to get his bearings, realizing JD was mumbling and thrashing in his bed.
+ + + + + + +
JD was trapped in a bad dream, once again re-living Ezra's horrific beating. 'Stanton' was looking at Oswald Spinoza as he exited his car.
"Why do you think they called this meeting, Ezra?" JD was curious.
"Hopefully to move the sale forward," Standish speculated, "But I must confess, this sudden turn of events has thrown me, somewhat."
Ezra flashed a huge smile and walked toward the man, his hand extended, trying hard to ignore the four large men accompanying him. His gesture was ignored, JD swallowed, something felt...'off'.
"Oswald, you have us at a disadvantage, we were not expecting to meet with you so soon." Despite the nerves attacking his stomach, Ezra tried not to show alarm as two of the goons each took one of JD's arms while a third stood just in front of the boy.
"What...what's going on here? Kindly release my nephew."
Spinoza looked Ezra up and down. "A little bird tells me you're trying to screw with me."
Genuinely surprised, Ezra blinked and answered. "E...excuse me? I have no idea what you are talking about."
Standish breathed in sharply as the third thug lifted his arm and viciously back-handed JD, almost taking the youth off his feet.
"Dear, Lord," Ezra called out, "Why are you attacking my nephew?"
"I'll ask you again," Oswald sneered, "What is your connection to the ATF?"
"I...I...what are you suggesting? NO!"
Another brutal backhand caused JD's knees to weaken and he hung limply between the two men, desperately trying to clear his head.
"I must protest," Ezra reasoned, "Whatever problem you have with me, my nephew is merely assisting me in a technical capacity while his parents cruise the Caribbean, please..." he pleaded with Spinoza,
"...allow him to leave, I'll answer whatever you require."
Oswald thought for a moment and nodded to his men. Two of the thugs walked toward Ezra while the third easily gripped the smaller man to keep him upright.
"Quite right, I think you make a valid point." He gestured to the two men and they each took Ezra's arms. The fourth goon joined them and stood in front of the undercover agent.
"I don't know why you met with Agent Josiah Sanchez who apparently is currently with the ATF, and frankly now, I don't particularly care, the deal, Mister Stanton is off." He pulled his arm back and drove a fist into Standish's abdomen. JD screamed in protest as Spinoza punched twice more to Ezra's face, satisfied as the blood flowed freely. He then walked over to a distressed Dunne and pulled the easterner's hair, lifting his head to face the direction of the attack.
Spinoza leaned right in to the youth's bleeding face.
"Be warned, young man, this is what this business you so casually allowed yourself to become embroiled in is all about."
+ + + + + + +
The first blow to JD's face was so fast and hard he barely realized what had happened, until the pain kicked in. The second hit caused him to see stars. He was barely getting his bearings when he saw Ezra take three vicious blows and he remembered hearing his voice screaming out in protest. His head drooped in despair, only to be yanked back by his hair to face the spectacle. From there it was all he could do not to throw up as Ezra took hit after hit after hit, blood flying as the southerner was kept upright to receive the blows. The sobbing young agent called out, pleading.
"Please...please, you're killing him...please...STOP! "
+ + + + + + +
Vin was shaking him. "Kid...JD, wake up...c'mon now, you're having a bad dream...JD!"
Dunne jerked from his sleep and sat bolt upright, clearly not knowing where he was.
Tanner sat on JD's bed and clicked on the lamp. "Hey...it's me, Vin...you okay?"
The Texan frowned at his dazed roommate, wondering what Buck would do at a time like this. Then it became obvious, and despite it being mostly alien to him, Vin pulled the younger man close and rubbed his back.
JD instinctively leaned in to the offered comfort, then after several long moments, pulled back.
The Texan smiled shyly, "Yeah, and if you ever tell anyone I just did that...I'm gonna have ta shoot ya."
A semblance of a smile flickered on the youth's lips. "It'll be our little secret." JD's face dropped, "I'm so sorry."
"No need to be gettin' all worked up, it was just a dream, is all."
Dunne looked at him. "I keep wondering..." he picked at the bedclothes, "...if I'd called out we were ATF...they might have stopped hitting him."
Suddenly clued in, Vin shook his head. "No...we already talked about this...they'da shot ya dead. As it stood, Ezra was a pain in Spinoza's butt and you were just his dumb kid nephew. Chris was right, Ezra was right...you did right. Now, we gotta get up in four hours...ya ready to go back to sleep?"
Dunne nodded, "Sure, I'm sorry I woke you."
"No problem, 'night kid."
JD sighed, "'Night Vin."
+ + + + + + +
Vin got comfortable as he checked out the area from his high vantage point. He couldn't help smiling as he watched JD setting up the 'merchandise' while casually chatting to Team Six's undercover man.
+ + + + + + +
"Y'know, Dunne?" Matt Shipman said, "Until recently I thought of you as just a hot-shot, glory-seeking piss-ant."
JD chuckled, "Don't hold back none, will you, Matt."
Shipman grinned, "I said used to. I have a lot of respect for Larabee and the guys you work with. I've watched you progressing nicely, kid. You fell in with the right men."
"Thanks," Dunne smiled, thinking fondly for a moment. "They are pretty special." His earpiece crackled and the two men looked at each other as they heard, 'You're up.'
+ + + + + + +
"Let me put your mind at ease, Mister Parkman, I broke through the firewall on this baby in seconds. The one it has now...was designed by me, no-one is gonna break through this, you have my word."
Shipman was impressed, even if he didn't show it. "So...as my young technical whiz here demonstrated, this is a premium system, now...do we have a deal?"
Parkman nodded, "We do." He looked at JD, "Son, I could use someone like you on my team, if you ever consider a career move, call me." He handed JD a card, just as the call of 'ATF - FREEZE!' went up.
Parkman was furious and launched himself at the young man, just as one of two thugs went for Matt. The second thug joined his boss and laid into JD, kicking at the agent's ribs and stomach, ensuring the youth was in no position to retaliate.
+ + + + + + +
Vin had got off a few warning shots, but the assisting Texas Rangers had it pretty well covered. When he saw JD go down, he instantly slid down his ropes and raced to assist his friend. With other agents occupied with Parkman's other men, Vin flew at the goon kicking out at JD and they rolled several yards, each man attempting to hit out at the other. After knocking Shipman unconscious, the second thug followed after the first and hauled Tanner to his feet. Parkman decided at that point to make a run for it. As the second thug held the Texan, the first man punched viciously at exposed ribs.
Gasping with the pain, JD struggled to his feet. Seeing Vin being pounded, he instantly forgot his own aches and ran at the men, jumping on the thug beating on Tanner and clinging to his back as the man tried to throw him off, JD eventually slipping down, to barely hold onto him around his waist. Vin recovered slightly and kicked back at the knees of the man holding him, securing his release to the satisfying sound of a snapping bone. Spinning, Vin started punching out the guy, only stopping when somehow the big man recovered and hurled himself at Tanner, knocking him off his feet.
JD's heavy finally managed to grab at his persistent assailant and the two overbalanced, falling to the floor. As the four men wrestled in a heap on the dusty floor, reinforcements finally arrived and hauled the goons off to jail along with their captured boss. Soon after that, JD, Vin and Matt were on their way to Galveston County General.
+ + + + + + +
Nursing his aching ribs as he once more looked out from their hotel room window at the ocean, or more precisely, the Gulf of Mexico, JD turned to answer his ringing cell, glancing at the sleeping sharpshooter as he picked up the phone.
"Hey Buck. Yeah, it went well...got 'em all. We'll be heading back on the 12.30 flight from Galveston tomorrow. No!..." he worried he might have sounded too urgent, "...no...Vin's jeep is at the airport, we'll head straight for the CDC from there. 'K...see ya tomorrow...." he laughed softly "...yeah...it's a good day."
"Did Bucklin figure it out?" Vin was looking at him now. JD eased himself down on his own bed and popped two pills.
"Nah...got that to look forward to tomorrow."
Vin laughed, "That we have, 'night kid."
+ + + + + + +
The two men stood outside JD's apartment door, pausing for a moment before they went in.
"So, how we gonna play this, JD?" Tanner wondered.
"I can't lie, Vin...Buck'll know as soon as I walk in the door. I just hope he won't pounce on me before the guys go home."
Tanner nodded, "So we say nothing unless they say something to us?"
"I reckon that'd be best, don't you?"
Vin agreed. He had no doubt Chris and Buck would spot they were injured even before they'd fully walked into the room; it was likely the other guys would figure it out, too.
+ + + + + + +
"'Bout time!" Buck hollered as JD and Vin walked into the CDC.
"Welcome home, boys," Josiah smiled, taking their bags and guiding them to the sofa. Grateful for the respite, the two younger men sat down, their secret out as soon as they each refused a beer. Chris and Buck looked at each other as the refusals confirmed their fears after watching the two walk to the sofa.
'Pain meds,' their eyes silently agreed.
Several hours, four pizzas and lots of good conversation later, the team dispersed to head home. Chris followed Vin into the kitchen as he went to put his plate in the dishwasher. The blond leaned against the sink until Tanner looked at him.
The Texan smirked; at least Chris had waited until the guys had gone.
"Let's jest say...I'll live."
Larabee pursed his lips, then nodded. "JD?"
Vin was nodding now..."Yep, he'll live too."
Chris considered that for a moment or two. "Vin...no bullshit?"
Tanner turned to his friend and smiled. "It hurts some, gonna need a few days to recover, but no...no bullshit, we'll be fine."
+ + + + + + +
Buck leaned against the doorframe as he watched his roommate shuffle around his bedroom.
"Where are they?"
The youth tried to straighten and looked at him. "Huh?"
"Pain meds, JD...where are they?"
Busted. JD sighed and pointed. "Duffle bag."
Buck fished out the bottle and after reading the label, tapped out two pills and handed them over with a glass of water.
"Holy crap, kid. What happened to being careful? You just got out of the hospital, for cryin' out loud."
"'M' sorry. For what it's worth, they jumped us first."
The look of pain on JD's face choked Buck. Instantly melting, he helped JD as he painfully crawled into bed. The youth sighed.
The brunet spoke softly. "Get some sleep, we'll talk in the morning." He leaned in, as the youth's heavy eyelids closed. "Missed ya, squirt."
+ + + + + + +
Tanner and Larabee were just about to leave. Buck gestured to the sofa and recliner.
"You're welcome to crash here tonight, guys."
Vin touched his sides and shook his head. "Nah, best if I sleep in my own bed, thanks. Chris is gonna drop me home, okay if I leave my jeep here?"
Buck nodded, "Sure thing, junior. Get some rest."
With a nod goodbye from each man, they left and Buck sighed as he stood alone in his living room. Making a decision, he picked up the spare pillows and comforter from the hall closet and settled on the recliner for the night, content to remain close to his injured roommate, just in case he should need him.
+ + + + + + +
Buck had stayed home with JD the first day, clearly wanting to talk to him as Vin had warned him, when he came to collect his jeep, about JD's nightmare. He took the younger man some toast and coffee, perching on the edge of the bed to watch his best friend eat.
Halfway through his breakfast, JD eyed Buck suspiciously. "Spit it out, Buck...what is it?"
The brunet forced a grin. "No foolin' you, huh? Now don't be mad at Vin, you know he only wants to do right by you...but he mentioned to me you'd had a nightmare while you were away."
JD's face dropped.
"C'mon, son," Buck squeezed his blanketed knee, "We had an agreement, no more secrets, right?"
Dunne sighed, "I know, it's just...God, Buck, I feel so pathetic having them...no one else does."
Wilmington shook his head. "That's where you're wrong. We all do, it's an outlet for us in a bizarre kinda way, for you too...stops ya from going crazy. It's how your mind deals with it, kid, stops you from bottling it all up."
"But I hate it," he choked, "I don't want to constantly see someone I care about being beaten over and over, or bleeding out...I just want to... sleep."
"You know as well as I do...it gets easier," Buck assured. "Now...ya got me all day...what shall we do?"
JD grinned at the gesture, pausing for a moment. "Could go for some John Wayne right about now."
Buck nodded, slapping JD's leg as he got up from the bed. "Good choice. I'll just go to the store and pick us up some DVD's. "
Now JD was nodding. "That's a great idea, Buck."
+ + + + + + +
The next morning, Buck had reluctantly set out for work. JD passed by the phone several times, finally sitting next to it. With a deep sigh, JD dialed.
"Ezra? Hi...sorry to call you on your first day back...what? What day is it? Oh yeah...third day back...sorry. No...nothing's wrong...just wondering... just wanted to know how you are."
He listened for a while, his smile growing. "That's great...could we maybe...talk sometime? NO...no, really, nothing's wrong...I just wanted to...yeah, you got it. Okay...thanks, let me know, okay...bye."
Feeling better about taking a small step toward moving forward, JD set about making the most of his day, tomorrow he wanted to get back to work.
+ + + + + + +
Everyone in the bullpen had realized who Ezra was talking to. Vin had gone in to work to complete and submit their report before heading back home and, like Buck, was hovering. Standish replaced the handset and smiled to himself, eventually looking to his inquisitive teammates.
"I believe JD and I will be having a little talk soon." He nodded to Buck. "Thank you, Buck, it's much appreciated."
The brunet nodded as Vin and the others smiled. "Figured you both needed to put some demons behind you."
The southerner agreed. "Indeed...it will be good to move on."
+ + + + + + +
Despite assurances from Chris that he wasn't needed urgently at that time, JD was anxious to return to work, deciding on a late start and an early finish for his first day, mainly to put in his contribution to his and Vin's report. His ribs still ached a little, but he was full of nervous energy and was keen to be doing something more useful than unclogging drains.
He groaned when he looked at the gas gauge as he started up his bike.
"I can't believe I'm almost out of gas...Vin would cuff me one for that." The Texan's voice bounced around in his head.
'Never let her pass the red line, kid...you'll stir up the sludge in yer tank.'
"Well, I haven't quite hit the red line, Vin...though I've cut it pretty close," he admitted to himself, heading out for the nearest gas station. Maybe if he bought the Texan a Twinkie he wouldn't rip into him too much...hmm...best get one for Buck, too.
+ + + + + + +
Two shots were fired, and two women screamed, as a man in the gas station called out.
"Just stay down and no one gets hurt!"
JD kept his head down, as he dove for cover, taking the two ladies next to him, with him, the items he was about to purchase scattering across the floor. His hand went into his pocket and he pressed a button on his cell, all the while watching the anxious gunman and pulling the frightened women in closer as the man fired again.
"I said...STAY DOWN!"
JD swallowed. 'Sure hope I hit redial or those shots just went to dead air. God, if I get through this...Chris is gonna kill me!'
+ + + + + + +
Buck looked at his watch. He had expected JD to be there by now and wondered if he should call the youth. His cell rang and he grinned on seeing the caller ID, but as he answered it, everyone noted him jump and stare at the phone in disbelief, holding it back to his ear, his pallor causing concern as the others gathered around.
Vin stuck his head around the door to Larabee's office. "I think you should get out here, cowboy."
By the time they were at Buck's side, Ezra had already started tracking JD's cell signal. Buck covered the phone with his hand and spoke softly.
"Kid's phone is open...there was a gunshot and a guy yelling...women crying. I heard JD whisper once, I think to reassure them. Ezra's trying to pinpoint him now."
Larabee's face became serious. "Why is he not at home?"
Vin held the blond's gaze, "Kid wanted to get back into routine. He's fine to sit around here doing paperwork...just like I am."
"Except he's not here...is he? And I thought you were heading home, Tanner?" Chris pointed out.
"I have it!" Ezra called. "Units are on their way, it's a gas station just off West Colfax.
"Let's go," Larabee said, despite the team already moving out.
+ + + + + + +
JD couldn't believe his luck. He stared at the gunman, trying not to make eye contact for now.
'I should have just stayed in bed...I could have stayed in bed...Chris said I wasn't needed today.
'But oh no...I got up...like a good little agent and started out for work as always. Go ahead Buck, I said...I'll meet you there...I'll take my bike...
'BIG mistake, JD...good one.'
He felt the woman next to him shaking.
"Take it easy, ma'am...it's not us he's interested in, we just need to stay calm."
JD raised his hand, "Sorry, man...ladies are a little spooked, okay? Just talkin' to them...nothing more."
"Well don't," the gunman ordered, waving the gun around, "I'll say when you can talk."
"Understood, " JD called back, lying back down on the floor.
A few minutes later, Dunne tried again.
"Sir...excuse me...do you think we could at least sit up? It's kinda uncomfortable here on the floor."
"No...now shut up!"
And JD saw it...that look...that could only be one thing...the guy was high. Now he considered his options. This would make the guy jumpy and unpredictable... so not the best time to reveal he was an ATF agent. On the up side...if they were there long enough...this man would get tired...yep...he decided to wait this out...unless things changed...JD sighed, 'C'mon guys, I could really use your help right about now.'
The piercing sound of sirens approaching did nothing to bolster JD's confidence, further substantiated as the gunman freaked out at the arriving cops. He stalked over to the three on the floor and went to grab one of the women but JD made himself the obvious target as he moved into the man's sightline. He was hauled to his feet and a gun put to his head as the man screamed out to the cops outside.
"You come any closer and I start taking out hostages...starting with this one!"
JD was oblivious to the threat, he had made eye contact with his team, Chris giving a slight nod. JD carefully pointed a finger to his pocket and Buck nodded, holding his phone as he did so. Suddenly, he didn't feel so alone.
+ + + + + + +
Team Seven arrived within minutes of the local PD and was instantly informed a SWAT team was on their way. Chris wasn't sure if he was relieved or disappointed. Relieved a crack force had been called in, as protocol demanded, and disappointed the control to get his junior agent and the other hostages to safety had been taken out of his hands. Vin pointed out JD's bike parked at the pumps so there was no doubt their youngest was in there.
Larabee sensed the team tense and he followed their stares toward the store window. JD was being held at gunpoint, but he looked fine and was indicating to his phone. Chris was satisfied...for now. He turned to Vin, who all the while had been nursing his rifle.
"I want you to remain on standby for now, Vin...let's cover all eventualities. "
+ + + + + + +
An hour had passed and the gunman had allowed his hostages to sit up. The man was looking tired. There had been some light conversation but nothing much. Once or twice, the man had raged as his frustration grew, terrifying the women and causing JD to consider drawing his weapon. Thankfully, each time, the gunman calmed down and the easterner relaxed, content to allow the authorities outside to deal with it. All attempts at communication from outside had been ignored as the man withdrew further into himself. Hoping he was reading the signs right, Dunne decided it was time to step it up.
"I'm JD...you got a name?"
The man ignored him, at first, then he sank wearily down to sit on the floor, still pointing the gun at them.
"Stan," he slurred.
"Stan," JD continued, "I'd be willing to sit this out with you if you'd like to let the ladies leave."
"NO! You all stay!"
JD sighed inwardly...he decided to keep Stan talking.
+ + + + + + +
Chris and the team stood shoulder to shoulder with the OIC Eric Puller as his tech expert tried to boost the sound from the phone in JD's pocket.
"He's a good kid, Eric," Chris assured, "He's learned a lot and won't react unless he's one hundred percent certain he can, of that I have no doubt."
Eric nodded, "He's doing great, Chris...I'm not worried about him...I am concerned about the gunman's mental state, however," he answered honestly, looking up briefly as a call came over the system.
"I have a shot."
"Hold position," Puller ordered, still hoping this could be resolved without bloodshed. He relaxed slightly as the conversation in the store was suitably cleaned up and was now coming more clearly over the speakers.
Buck grunted at JD's offer to stay with the gunman alone. Josiah smiled.
"He's doing a good job, Buck...everything by the book."
"Fuck the book...I want him out of there...I want them all out of there."
Chris almost grinned at Puller's 'well duh!' expression, while straining to hear what was being said over the speaker. He turned briefly to Tanner.
"Stand down, Vin, I think we're gonna win this one."
+ + + + + + +
"You married, Stan? Any kids?" JD asked, hoping the man would fall asleep before he ran out of things to ask him. The two women looked at him incredulously; the youth winked and hoped he looked more confident than he felt.
Stan sighed, finally answering. "Divorced. She cheated on me...took my kid with her...and took me for every penny I had."
Not sure if he was doing the right thing, JD continued. "Do you get to see your child much?"
Stan sighed again, sorrow in his voice. "No...the...the bitch moved to Canada...can't afford ta get to Canada...BITCH! "
The girls jumped. JD pressed on.
"That's harsh, Stan...no one deserves that. I'm sorry."
"Yeah...well...s'life, huh?" he slurred.
Dunne felt confident this would be over soon, the guy was fading fast.
"Yeah...sometimes life sucks," JD agreed, noting the gun barrel slowly drooping. 'C'mon, man, nearly over.'
+ + + + + + +
Puller was watching through binoculars, regular confirmation coming through that his man had a shot. Suddenly the OIC jumped, making a tiny noise, then yelled out an order.
Team Seven all jerked as a single shot rang out, followed by shattering glass and high pitched screaming. Puller continued with his orders.
The store was suddenly being stormed by black-clad SWAT agents and all Chris, Buck, Vin, Josiah, Ezra and Nathan could do was watch...and wait.
+ + + + + + +
Convinced it was almost over, JD and the girls were surprised when Stan jerked back to life and angrily raised the gun, aiming directly at the hostages, clearly disorientated. The easterner saw the red dot, then in a split second a shot rang out and Stan's head exploded.
Dunne roared out. "NOOOOOOO!!! "
The women screamed, terrified, only made worse by the sudden arrival of armed men dressed in black, some wearing ski masks. Four men bundled JD face down on the floor and started patting him down.
"No...he's with us...he was trying to help us," one woman sobbed as the girls were led away.
Despite desperate attempts to explain who he was, JD was hauled unceremoniously outside to be searched again.
+ + + + + + +
Larabee watched as a pale and shaken JD was manhandled from the store and pushed over the hood of a squad car to be searched. He stormed forward.
"That's enough! This is my agent and I don't expect my men to suffer this kind of treatment!"
"Just following protocol, sir," The SWAT officer reminded as he continued searching the young man pinned down. "You know the drill."
Buck had reached them and pulled the officer away from his best friend.
"Yeah, well, you look to be enjoying it a little too much."
For a moment or two, the three men glared at each other, finally the officer released the youth, handing back his gun. One look at JD told Larabee and Wilmington JD had not taken the sniper shot decision well, and they were curious as to where Dunne's eyes were focused.
+ + + + + + +
JD saw Vin cradling his M24 and headed toward him. Seeing JD approaching, the Texan began to smile, so was not prepared for the two-handed shove to his chest by the junior agent. Vin touched the spot where JD's hands had impacted, his jaw dropped open in shock.
"Why? Why, Tanner? I know you were getting my transmission. I had it under control, why did you shoot?"
Vin had to think for a moment, his left hand quickly grasping at JD's to prevent another nudge.
"I...I didn't, it wasn't me. Chris told me to stand down, so I did. Calm down."
The quick flick of the Texan's eyes was all JD needed, as he spun on his heels and approached the SWAT marksman. Before he could reach him, the OIC stepped in his path.
"Back down, agent, this was my call and I felt it was the right thing to do. Go home son, you've had a bad day."
Alarm bells were ringing for Team Seven as their youngest's stance remained unwavering.
"Bad day, he says...BAD DAY! That doesn't even begin to describe what I think of this BULLSHIT! I had it under control. The guy was high and almost out of it. I kept you informed...WHY DIDN'T YOU ACT ON IT?" JD was pointing back toward the store. "If that had been anyone else in there you'd have held back...I've been with my team for over a year...how long are you idiots gonna think of me as a rookie? THIS FUCKING SUCKS!"
Officer in charge, Eric Puller, had reached his limits. "Get out of my face, agent...I was in charge here, my call, my decision...now BACK OFF OR I'LL HAVE YOUR BADGE."
Team Seven were as close as they dared get, cringing at the last words expressed by Puller. Buck's heart sank at the threat; he knew JD and feared what the next words would be from the young agent.
"JD." Buck warned, holding the youth's shoulder.
Dunne shrugged the unwelcome hand off, spinning furiously and pointing.
"No...stay out of this." He turned back to Puller, reaching into his back jeans pocket and removed his badge. He tossed it at Puller, then removed his gun from the holster on the back of his belt, under his jacket, where he had only just put it, released the ammo clip and slammed both of them into Eric's chest.
"You want my badge, sir? You're FUCKING WELCOME TO IT!"
JD turned toward his bike which had been parked next to the pumps the whole time, fishing in his pocket for his keys. Chris grabbed his arm as he barged through his teammates.
"Go back to the office, I'll be there directly."
The easterner glared as he pulled away. "Are you deaf? I quit...you don't get to order me around anymore."
Buck angrily grabbed JD's other arm. "That's enough! Chris did everything he could to go along with you; you got no right talkin' to him like that."
JD jerked his arm away and stared at his best friend, fury in his eyes as he desperately tried to disguise the deep sorrow and pain he felt.
"Well, it wasn't enough," Dunne snarled, "I still got to watch a near- unconscious man get his head blown open."
With one last look to his teammates, JD straddled his bike, jammed on his helmet, pressed down on the starter and roared away, desperately trying to ignore the ache in his ribs. The team felt helpless as they watched him go. Larabee's knuckles were white, his fists clenched.
"Damnit, JD," he whispered to himself.
He felt a presence and turned. Eric offered Chris the badge and gun.
"Reckon he'll need these when he's calmed down some."
Chris nodded and took them. "Thanks."
Puller sighed. "I had to make a decision, Chris..."
Larabee nodded. "It was your call...don't worry, he's a good man and a good agent, he'll come around."
As the blond watched Puller go back to the scene, Chris sighed.
"What say we call it a day and head out to my place...see if we can work this out, somehow?" He prepared to inform Travis of his decision.
The team nodded and geared up to leave. Buck approached Vin.
"Vin...he...JD didn't mean nothing..."
Tanner nodded. "I know, Buck...don't mean me an' him won't be doin' some talkin' though."
Wilmington agreed. This would take a lot of talking out.
+ + + + + + +
JD could feel his tension lessening the more distance he put between himself and the gas station, his heart, however, was another matter.
In a moment of madness, he had thrown away everything he ever wanted, hurt the people he cared about more than life itself. He sighed heavily...who was he kidding with this crazy display of anger? It sure as hell wasn't himself. While his mind drifted and he considered the safest place to do a u-turn, JD totally missed the approach from behind of an eighteen wheeler until it blasted its air horn to warn him it was there.
Between the side draft as the huge truck passed him and the violent jerk caused by his shock at the sound of the air horn, the bike swerved violently and suddenly JD was off the road and careering down a small steep embankment at high speed, the bike finally going over and throwing the young agent over the handlebars, to land with a thump on the grass-covered ground.
Dizzy and winded, JD pulled off his helmet and, as he lay on his stomach, propping himself up on his elbows, he looked toward his bike to search for damage, but before he could process any information, the pain from his aching head and body caught up with him and he passed out.
+ + + + + + +
As Buck dialed his cell yet again, Chris looked toward the corral, sighing to himself as he watched his old friend pacing.
"Kid's probably got it switched off," Vin said, pointing toward Buck as he walked up to the blond and handed him a beer.
Chris flipped open JD's badge wallet and ran his thumb across the gold symbol, lost in memories of a just-turned twenty year-old and his first weeks with the team. To get his badge away from him then, would to have meant to pry it from the kid's cold, dead hands. Larabee shuddered at that thought and swigged his beer. Josiah joined them.
"We have APBs out on him, but so far, no sightings."
"Someone keeping an eye on the loft?" Chris asked, taking another swig of beer. Josiah nodded.
"Called in a few favors, if he turns up there, we'll know."
Chris nodded his approval. Ezra had walked over to join Buck at the corral.
"I assume you are having no luck in contacting our youngest?" he asked.
Buck shook his head, finally placing the cell in his pocket as he leaned on the corral fence to watch the horses. He rested his chin on his clasped hands.
"Buck...JD is having a really bad day. I am unsure how I would react to something like this. Witnesses from the store said he had performed an outstanding undertaking in keeping the gunman calm, and confirmed the man had appeared to have ingested drugs and was on the verge of collapse before he was shot. JD had kept us informed of the situation at all times and was confident he had done all he could to end the situation well. If Chris had been the OIC...it may have ended... differently. The young man has deep and passionate feelings, my friend, and we wouldn't want him any other way."
Buck nodded but didn't turn to look at the southerner. "Aww, I know that...and yes...I love the way he feels so strongly about things he believes in, I just wish sometimes..." He trailed off as words escaped him.
Standish nodded and remained supportively next to Buck, the two men standing in relative silence as they pondered the situation.
+ + + + + + +
Dunne realized the groaning he had heard was coming from him. Slowly, he pushed himself up, soon realizing everything appeared to be working...his ribs ached like hell, but nothing seemed to be broken...he prayed his bike would be in a similar condition. He fished out his cell and groaned again. His precious BlackBerry was blank...clearly damaged. Pushing it back into his pocket, he grunted to his feet, gasping a little as his ribs pinched, then walked over to his bike, lifting it upright as he winced again with the pain in his sides and chest.
Slowly and painfully he pushed the bike up the embankment and onto the side of the road, resting against it to catch his breath. Putting on his helmet, he sat astride the bike, turned the key and pushed the starter, whooping as it roared to life. Seeing the road was clear, he did a u-turn and decided to find a payphone. He needed to talk to Buck or Chris.
Getting voicemail from the CDC, JD sighed. If Buck wasn't home, he had best head for Chris'. It was going to be dark in a few hours and Chris was nearest as his place was out of town. Besides, he owed the man an apology...well, the whole team, actually. He secretly hoped Buck was with Chris...of course, the whole team could be at the Saloon.
An hour later he was coming up to the turn off to Larabee's ranch, stopping as he turned in to the long approach road. He stared toward the distant buildings, suddenly feeling very unsure of himself. He had just attacked one of the men he most admired in the world, what if Chris wouldn't see him?
"Suck it up, Dunne...you'll never find out sitting here."
He continued on his way.
+ + + + + + +
Six despondent men were sitting nursing their drinks. They had felt sure someone would have seen JD by now. Chris was beginning to second- guess himself. Maybe he should have allowed the team to go look for the kid; at least it would have stopped Buck from slowly unraveling. As the sun began to set and the porch lights kicked in, the blond pinched his nose between thumb and finger, looking up in surprise as Vin let out a soft laugh. Just before Buck could comment, Vin pointed toward the highway.
Five men turned toward where the Texan was pointing and instantly heard the unmistakable sound of a motorbike engine. Buck looked up toward Heaven.
"Thank you, God...I owe you one."
The team sat quietly and emotionless as JD pulled up next to Vin's jeep and took off his helmet, ruffling his hair to restore it to it's usual untidiness. Wordlessly, while they waited for him to speak, they watched him walk toward them, take a seat on the bench next to Buck and cover his face as he rested his elbows on his knees.
+ + + + + + +
As JD pulled in, his heart thumped to see all six of his friends' vehicles parked next to each other. He didn't look across directly, but he had caught a glimpse of his friends and they were looking his way.
"Aw shit...what the hell do I say to them?"
Trying to remain calm, he walked, head down, to the porch and took a seat amongst them, covering his face for a moment as he gathered his thoughts. He could feel Buck's tension as he sat there quietly gathering the courage to speak. Finally he looked up, addressing them all, but looking to Chris at the end of his sentence.
"I really fucked up this time, didn't I?"
They couldn't help themselves as soft laughs were released. Chris however remained somber.
"I can't think of a better occasion when that word has been used so appropriately. "
JD groaned and pushed his fingers through his hair. "I'm so sorry," he whispered.
Chris stood and crooked a finger at him. "Walk with me."
Trying not to show his pain as he stood, the easterner followed his hero into the gloom as they stepped off the porch. The pair stopped at the corral. JD dropped his head as he felt the full force of Larabee's glare.
"Look at me."
Dunne raised his eyes, expecting to still see anger, instead Chris' eyes were soft and kind.
"What the fuck was that all about back there at the gas station?"
JD could feel his throat thickening...NO... he was NOT going to break down, not here, not in front of Chris Larabee.
"Wh...which part?" he asked, nervously.
"Well, let's start with the part where you questioned my hearing."
JD caught a nervous giggle then noticed Chris had that kick-ass smile of his in place.
"Chris...I'm sorry...you didn't deserve it...I was so pumped up...I..."
The blond halted him. "Save it...there are five men back there who'd like to hear this too, in fact, I'm guessing Buck's chewing his way through his beer bottle wondering just what I'm saying to you. Before we go back, know this, those men have always been there for you... I've always been there for you. Don't you ever make them feel like they did wrong, like that again. We lived through every second of that hold-up with you, we knew you were doing good in there. Puller saw the man raise his gun...he did what any OIC would have done...he removed the threat. It had nothing to do with a lack of trust in you. Do you understand?"
JD swallowed. "Yes sir."
Chris smiled and placed a hand on the back of the youth's neck. "That said...we all felt for you, and understood your pain. Don't dismiss the people who care about you so easily, it's not how we work and you know it." He paused for a moment and made eye contact with the youth. "Did you know he killed the cashier?"
Dunne gasped. "No," he whispered.
Larabee squeezed JD's neck a little tighter. "Well, he did."
JD felt the whole day catching up with him. Sensing the moment, Chris pulled his youngest agent toward him and guided him back to the porch. The two men re-took their seats and again they waited for a now shocked JD to speak.
"I'm real sorry, guys." Dunne was looking absently past them as he was transported back to the images inside the gas station. "I had him... he had practically talked himself to sleep, then he jerked and raised his gun...it wasn't intentional, I don't think he knew where he was...the next thing...there was this crack and...and..." Dunne swallowed hard, "...his head...exploded... and...and the two women were screaming...then there was all this shouting and yelling and being ordered face down..." He once again covered his face, desperately trying not to crack, feeling Buck's comforting hand on his shoulder.
JD sat back and finally looked at everyone. "I'm really sorry. I was so unprofessional today. Vin, I need to talk to you sometime soon...privately."
Tanner nodded. JD looked at Chris.
"I'll go talk to Travis tomorrow...it's the least I can do after all the faith he's put in me."
Larabee smiled. "No need...he knows, and he's already agreed I hand these back." Chris stood and handed over Dunne's badge and gun.
The easterner's jaw dropped open. He never thought he'd see them again.
Buck chuckled and slapped the smaller man on the back causing JD to jolt forward and squeak in pain as his aching ribs complained of the movement, all color draining from the youth's face as he gasped for air.
Everyone moved forward in surprise. Nathan knelt in front of the youth.
"JD...is it your ribs?"
Dunne stretched out his hand and held onto Jackson's shoulder, his eyes squeezed tightly shut as he recovered. He blew out a shaky breath, finally opening his eyes to look at Nathan.
"I'm fine, Nate...just need a minute."
Curious, Vin got up and walked into the house, returning to the porch with a flashlight. He indicated to Larabee with his head and the two headed off toward their vehicles. When they reached JD's bike, Vin scanned it with the beam, pointing.
"That wasn't there earlier. I reckon he came off his bike, noticed his jeans were torn."
Chris agreed, crouching down to where Vin was pointing. "There's dirt and grass jammed in here, not to mention an indentation."
They returned to the group on the porch. JD knew by the look from the two men where he would soon be heading, and for once...he wouldn't argue.
Nathan finished his examination. "Were you unconscious at any time?"
Chris watched Buck rise to his feet, looking to Vin.
"Would you go, too?" he asked. Tanner nodded.
Standish stood, "May I accompany you?" The question was rhetorical as the four headed for Ezra's Jag.
+ + + + + + +
JD lay alone in his hospital room, cursing the decision to keep him in overnight, but too bone-weary to fight it. Buck and Vin had gone to get coffee, but it had likely been an excuse to allow JD and Ezra to talk. It had become clear that both men were still berating themselves for the other's mistreatment during their undercover assignment together and the southerner returned from the bathroom to take a seat next to the bed.
"Ezra, I hardly think you can compare what happened to you as the same as what I went through. All I could do was watch. I really believed Spinoza intended to kill you. I kept thinking I should tell them who we were."
Standish smiled thinly, "While I kept thinking that if I were to lose consciousness they could turn their attentions to you. I have gone over this in my mind many times, JD, I am now, finally convinced we did everything right, our only misfortune being that someone saw me rendezvous with Josiah. I wanted to assure you that, should we ever have the opportunity to work alongside each other again...I would have no hesitation." JD smiled. He was glad he and Ezra had finally cleared the air to put their ordeal behind them. He turned to the door as it opened, smiling wearily as Vin and Buck walked in. As Buck handed out the coffees, the Texan sat in a chair beside the bed, noting the younger man was close to sleep.
"How ya doin'?"
"Oh, I'm fine...meds are kicking in...you okay?"
Tanner chuckled, "Yeah, kid, all good here."
There was an awkward pause. Sensing the moment, Buck and Ezra left. Finally, JD spoke, mindful he was growing more tired by the second as he looked at Tanner.
"Vin, before I'm out of it here...about earlier...I have no excuse for what I said to you. I'm truly sorry I flew at you like that...I...I saw the rifle and..." he sighed. "I won't blame you if you can't forgive me, I just wanted you to know...you are one of the most amazing people I've ever met, both personally and professionally. " He yawned.
"Our friendship has meant a lot to me. Thanks for everything you've done for me and taught me, I'll value it, always."
Vin grinned at the now, near-comatose youth. "Ah hell, kid, I can't stay mad at you. I'll admit, I was pretty shocked and real disappointed, at first, but I know what you went through...an' I understand. I appreciate the words, kid let's just forget it an' move on, okay?"
JD nodded sleepily and attempted a smile. "That'd be great...thanks. " Happy he'd cleared the air, seconds later, he was asleep.
+ + + + + + +
A few weeks later and the team was back to full strength. They all decided that, while there were always good and bad days, black and white...there really could be gray days...days when no one came out on top, but no one lost out, either.
And they could live with that.