Seeking and Finding Wisdom
Characters: Chris and JD
Summary: JD has some questions and Chris has the answers
Notes: This was written for Andrew's birthday. Thank you to Tae for the beta, Dunne's Darlins for advise, and Blackraptor for hoursing the story.
Chris Larabee, yawned and stretched as he got up from his easy chair and clicked off the news. Soot looked up and thumped his tail at his master. Chris reached down and scratched the large, loving and loyal Black Lab behind the ears.
As usual the animal padded after him as he did a last walk through the house before retiring for the night. As expected, nothing was out of order. They ended at the mudroom, where he let the dog out for one last trip outside. Whe n he stepped out to enjoy the crisp air and sounds of the night, he saw the light was on in the barn.
Funny, he hadn't been out there since early this evening, so he hadn't left it on. Turning towards the driveway, he saw a familiar motorcycle there. All of the men on his team had sought, and usually found, refuge at one time or another in the horses they kept out here, and in the solitude of the barn.
Taking a deep breath, he headed out to the barn. Hopefully, whatever fresh new trouble was hitting the group would blow over quickly with no ill effects, but somehow that never seemed to be the way with this group. Soot, having done what he needed to, followed Chris out to the barn.
"JD?" Chris asked, stepping into the light. Funny, JD was the one least apt to head out here. In time of distress and confusion he usually turned to Buck. Hopefully they had not had a falling out of some kind.
"Hey, Chris, sorry, didn't mean to bother you," the younger man was busy brushing, and basically fussing, over his mare. She was standing tied in her stall enjoying the attention of her owner.
"Didn't, something eating you?"
"Na, just needed to do some thinking."
Chris nodded and leaned against the open door. "Good place for it."
JD looked at the blonde, Chris might not utter more than a handful of words in a day, but he could say more with an expression or a gesture than anyone else the computer tech knew. Chris was not going to ask for or push JD to confide in him, but if he wanted help, or just someone to listen he was there.
"I... I've been think about Casey a lot lately," JD began.
Chris crossed over to the tack room, pulled out a folding chair and sat down to listen. If the kid was having romantic troubles, they might be a while.
"I can't seem to stop thinking about her. I love being with her, even when we aren't really doing anything. We spend almost every minute we can together."
Chris gave a half grin, "I take it that you two's vacation went well?" He knew the couple had gone to Mexico with two other couples. JD had been talking about it for weeks.
JD blushed, "Yeah, it was great. It, it got me thinking, I mean she and I've been seeing each other for over a year. I... I've been wondering about maybe getting her a ring."
Chris looked at him. The team called him a kid, although at twenty three he was a man, and he had proven himself time and time again to be the equal of any other man on the team. JD just had such a boyish look to him that sometimes it was easy to forget that he was not a kid. He was admittedly still young and very excitable, but when everything was hitting the fan, he was as solid and dependable as they came. He had grown up a lot in the two years since he had joined the team. So, why did it seem so strange that JD was thinking about getting married? Was it because none of the rest of them were? He and Buck had been too busy raising hell to even think about getting married that young.
"It's a big step, JD," Chris stated. At least he wasn't making light of the seriousness of it.
"I know, that's why I want to make certain that I'm ready before I take it. If I screw it up, I'll be losing one of my best friends, outside of the team and you're family not friends. I mean, I think I'm ready, but, how can I be sure? I don't even know anyone that's married to ask them what it's like!"
Chris smiled at him, he was just being so...so... so totally JD! "Come on in the house, if we're going to be having this kind of conversation I need a drink and a comfortable chair."
Big, dark eyes blinked at him. Okay, he knew one person who had been married, but that didn't count since Chris never, ever, talked about his family. He didn't think JD was asking ... but he was offering and he would not have offered if he wasn't willing to help him sort this out. "I never thought .. I mean I know you were ... thanks, Chris."
The blonde clasped his friend on the shoulder and squeezed, before heading in. The team kid was growing up, it would seem.
Chris looked at the picture of Sarah that sat on the mantel and smiled. She would have liked JD, hell, she probably would have adopted him as a kid brother. He would've liked her, too. He gave her a nod as he poured himself a whiskey.
JD joined him in the den. A cat in a room full of starving dogs would look more relaxed than he did. Chris held up the bottle in offer. JD wasn't a big drinker, but tonight had been a night of surprises.
JD swallowed and shook his head.
"Beer?" Chris offered.
"Yeah, I'd like that, thanks."
Chris gave Soot the sign to get a beer and the retriever happily headed to the kitchen. Ever since Chris found out that Soot could open the fridge, beer retrieval was his job. Weekends he really got a work out, but the big dog loved it.
Chris sat in his chair with his drink,=2 0while JD settled on the love seat with his beer. Funny they had worked together for a little over two years, and yet Chris could rarely remember being one on one with JD, he wasn't certain if they had ever been alone at the house before.
"How, how did you know that you were ready to get married?" JD didn't know how to start so he just blurted it out, breaking the silence.
"I didn't, I'm not certain there is a way to be totally sure," Chris answered honestly. He was a private man and his past, especially the parts of it involving Sarah and Adam, were the most private. If he was going to give JD the answers he was looking for, though, he would need to share those parts of his life.
JD took a swallow of his beer and looked at a picture of a smiling Sarah and a laughing Chris with Adam sitting on his shoulders laughing, too. There was no question that Chris had been happy in his marriage.
"JD, every marriage is different and the way it works or doesn't work is different. You have to find what works for you," Chris said. He had noticed the picture JD was looking at. It was one of his favorites of them from a trip to the beach with Adam.
"So, there's no way of knowing if you should get married or not?" JD sighed. He was right back where he had started.
Chris took a deep breath. "I know what worked for me and Sarah; it might not work for you and Casey."
"It would give me an idea, at least."
Chris swallowed another sip. How had he and Sarah done it? What could he possibly tell JD that might help him decide if he should get married or not? He leaned back in the chair. If he closed his eyes he could see all over again the day he had asked Sarah to marry him. "I knew that I was madly and passionately in love with her and that the Navy was transferring me to another base. I didn't want to leave her behind, so I asked her to marry me and she said yes."
"How did you know she was the right one for you? For all you knew the perfect woman for you might have been at the new base," JD asked. Normally it was a question he would not have dared to ask, but tonight, well, somehow tonight was different.
"I didn't. I supposed it helped that I was twenty eight by then. Sarah was only a year younger. We were both old enough that we knew what we wanted and were looking to settle down. I didn't know if Sarah was "the one". But I had been in and out of enough relationships with enough other women to know that what I felt for her was different. I knew we had something special and that I loved her. Based on that, I made a decision to marry her."
JD was sat back quietly. Chris was nothing if not decisive, when he made20a decision he stood by it. "So, even if you had met a woman even better than Sarah at your new base it wouldn't have mattered."
Chris gave his half smile. "Nope. I had already made a choice to love and marry Sarah and she had said yes. I had made a commitment to her and to our relationship."
"You choose to love her? You had to make yourself love her?" JD was confused.
"JD, trust me, that warm and fuzzy love feeling is not something to build a marriage on. There'll be plenty of times that the last thing you will be feeling for one another will be love. Love is a decision and an action first, then it's a feeling. The feelings might be what causes you to make that decision, but you do have to make it," Chris informed him.
JD worried his lip as he thought about that. He knew that even when you loved someone you didn't feel love for them all the time. There were times that you disagreed or they had done something you didn't like, you still loved them, you just weren't feeling it right then.
Chris watched JD take a swig of his beer and could have sworn that a light bulb came on over his head like in a cartoon.
"You had made you choice, so it didn't matter if you met someone better than Sarah, because they would not have been an option for you,0 JD said slowly. He wasn't sure he was saying it right, but he figured out what Chris was getting at.
Chris nodded. "I was totally committed to my marriage, so, Sarah was the only woman I thought about like that."
"Because you had made a decision to love and commit yourself to Sarah."
"My commitment was to my marriage first and Sarah second," Chris reiterated.
"There was a difference?" JD sputtered, totally confused.
Chris snorted. "JD, when you commit to a person and they've pissed you off it's not hard to walk away. If Sarah and I had made each other our first commitment we would have walked out by the end of the first year. We committed ourselves to our marriage and to making that work. It's a lot harder to walk out on a marriage than it is to walk out on a person that you're mad at."
"Commitment," JD nodded and swallowed.
"It's the foundation, if that's not there, then you are not ready to get married," Chris informed him20in his no-nonsense boss tone. JD had to get that a solid commitment was needed.
Silence fell as Chris took a sip of his drink and JD stared at the wall, deep in thought.
Soot sighed and stretched out on the rug. Bed was evidently not happening.
"What do you think marriage is like?" Chris asked, leaning back.
"Huhh?" JD looked at him.
"Being married, what does it look like to you?" Chris reworded the question.
It was obvious JD's brain was working, he had on his deep thought look, but for once there were no words.
"Are you thinking room-mates with sex privileges, or down and dirty; good, bad and unspeakably ugly; there when everything hits the fan?" Chris asked.
"My dad wanted the first kind, left right after I was born. I'd never do that," JD vowed.
"It's easy to say JD, it's a lot harder to do. There are a lot of times when it's a whole lot easier to walk away then to stay in a marriage and work out the problems," Chris warned him.
"Did you and Sarah ever think about breaking up?"
"No, we agreed when we got married that divorce was not going to be an option. Homicide yes, divorce no. I remember one argument that we got into, Sarah stormed out. She didn't have anywhere to go, though, so ended up on the roof in tears. She was so frustrated and angry she was shaking, and crying."
"What did you do?" JD asked quietly.
"Gave her a little time and went up after her. She had calmed down a bit by then. We agreed to HALT after that. I think it scared us both," Chris answered.
"A friend had told us that when one or both of you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired is not the time to have a difficult conversation or make a major decision. If things were getting heated or we knew a touchy subject had to be talked about, we were allowed to call a HALT and schedule a time later," Chris explained, passing on one of the best things he had been told.
"I thought you were never supposed to go to bed angry," JD was confused.
"Never go to bed without addressing that there is a problem that needs to be talked about and without acknowledging what you're both feeling. But if waiting until the next day means that you've both cooled down and are rested and feeling calmer then it's usually worth the wait."
The young man nodded, it made sense, he knew when he was tired he was not at his most logical or agreeable.
"One of the deals Sarah and I had was that I got a day after returning from a mission to just relax, then she could bring out her list of things that had to be taken care of. When I was with SWAT it was an hour when I got home. Since I'm an early riser I tended to take care of Adam until I left for work so she got some extra sleep. It helped us both get what we needed."
"How did you know what she needed, though? Some things are obvious, but a lot of times I don't have any idea what Casey is needing from me," JD pleaded. This was something he had never been able to figure out.
"When I came home and Sarah pretty much threw Adam at me and told she would be back in a half hour, I got a clue that she needed more sleep or more time for herself," Chris smirked. It had been a memorable homecoming. But the resulting hour more sleep every morning and Chris taking Adam Saturday mornings so she could get a break had been all for the good. He had loved those times with his son, and Sarah had gotten the breaks she needed from full time motherhood.
JD laughed. He could imagine how surprised Chris must have been to some home to that. Well, he sort of could. Buck was always saying that he was a different man back then.
"We learned early on that neither one of us were telepathic, so if something was wrong or one of us needed something from the other one, we had to speak up," Chris said, taking another sip of his whiskey. "I came home from a mission once and it was obvious Sarah was upset, but she wouldn't say what about. All she would say was that she'd work it out and not to worry."
"Casey says that sometimes too. Says not to worry about it when she's obviously upset and miserable," JD commiserated.
"Sometimes it might be something you can't do anything about. A couple of times when Sarah told me not to worry it was because she was upset by something her dad had done or that wasn't going right at her job. Other times it was something I had or hadn't done. The key is honest communications. Always be open and share what's going on. You tend to get out of your marriage what you put into it, so put your best into it. And whatever you do, don't lie, that way you'll never have to doubt each other."
"What was she so upset about that she wouldn't talk to you?" JD asked hesitantly.
Chris smiled. "She had found out she was pregnant while I was gone. She was excited about the baby, but was wanting to be more settled instead of moving whenever the Navy decided to transfer me. She knew I liked being a SEAL so didn't want to ask me to quit, but she was really feeling the need to put down permanent roots."
"How did you guys work that out? I mean, that would be more serious than not agreeing on where to go on vacation," JD choked.
"She had told me that she was pregnant and I asked if that was what had been upsetting her. As far I knew she had always wanted kids. She started crying and told me the problem. She was shocked when I agreed with her. We d ecided that it might be better if I left the Navy and we started looking and talking about other jobs I could do. Police work was something we could both agree on, so that was what I ended up doing."
"Sarah didn't worry about you? You were a SWAT team commander!" JD was floored.
"Of course she did. JD, Casey is going to worry about you. Accept that, because it won't change. Appreciate and understand that some days will be worse than others for her. This is one point, JD, that you have got to have worked out if you get married. Is she expecting or wanting you to leave the ATF? How does she feel about you being in the ATF? Law enforcement, especially on a federal level, is a huge strain on a marriage, so talk about it," Chris advised.
"Casey already doesn't like me being in the ATF," JD sighed.
"That's something to pay attention to, JD. You both need to look at what you are wanting out of life and what your goals are. Sarah had worked for as long as I had known her. It never occurred to me that she wanted to be a housewife and mother. When she was pregnant I was trying to figure out how to ask if she would be open to staying home with him; when she told me we needed to look at the budget because she wasn't planning on teaching anymore once Adam was born. I had always been told only a sexist expected his wife to stay home with kids, so I had never asked her," Chris grinned. Sarah had been all set for a fight about it and instead was soundly kissed.
JD nodded thoughtfully, and covered a yawn.
"Head upstairs and get some sleep, JD. You don't have to figure this all out tonight," Chris instructed.
JD hauled himself out of the chair. "Thanks, Chris."
Chris just smiled and headed off to check the house before turning in, himself. The memories didn't hurt like they had before he had found his new family.
JD was unusually quiet the next morning as the two men ate breakfast and saddled up their horses for a ride.
"How did you and Sarah meet?" JD asked as he mounted.
Chris tightened his cinch and swung into his saddle.
"Buck and I had come back from a mission and were at a bar. Sarah was a teacher and working part time as a waitress over the summer. She was working that night and a couple of the men got out of line and was harassing her and making grabs at her when she passed. No one was doing anything, so Buck and I did. We told them to leave her alone. They did it again and she ended up wearing the pitchers of beer she w as taking to a table. I never could stand to see Sarah crying and she was. Next thing we knew Buck and I were taking on about half the bar, it seemed like," Chris smiled. Those had been some wild and crazy times.
JD laughed. "You two met at a brawl?"
"Not really, we exchanged names when she was nice enough to give Buck and I a ride back to the bar and our car after she came to the station and pressed assault charges against the men that had been giving her trouble," Chris answered with a smirk.
JD nearly fell off his horse. "I would never be able to face a woman again after something like that."
"I figured it was a good sign when I found a piece of paper in my pocket with her number and a request to call her."
"You didn't know she had put it there?" JD gapped.
"Not until I was emptying my pockets and found it," Chris grinned. He had called her immediately. Laughing, she had asked what took him so long. They had talked for an hour before conceding that they did have to get a few hours sleep before the next day started. He had loved her laugh; the worst day was still good if he could make her laugh.
"How long had you dated before you got married?"
"Sixteen weeks. Everyone thought we were nuts and it would never last."
JD stared at him. "As in four months?"
Chris nodded. It had been fast, but with his imminent transfer, they had not had time for a long, leisurely courtship. Both had tried and failed at long distance relationships. "I got my transfer orders and told her about it. We both found we had the same idea that we would get married sooner or later so opted for sooner so she could come with me."
Silence fell as they rode on. JD had the zoned look he could get when deep in thought.
"What do you miss the most about her?" the younger man asked as they began heading for home. Somehow this seemed the weekend for asking questions he would never have dared any other time.
Chris went silent as the horses nimbly picked their way down a steep hill.
JD took a deep breath and let it out. Maybe he had pushed too far.
"There's nothing about her that I don't miss every hour of every day. I think it's her friendship I miss the most. She was my best friend. We talked about and shared everything. If you do decide to marry Casey, always be her friend first, JD."
"Casey's my best friend, too, well next to all of you, but like I said, you're family."
"Probably the only advice my father gave me that was worth listening to was not to marry a woman you can live with. Marry one that you can't and don't want to live without."
"I guess you did that," JD said carefully. He had heard Buck talk about Chris's death wish on losing his family.
"Yeah, I did," Chris agreed quietly. He still hated living without Sarah, but thanks to six friends, it was getting easier.
JD swallowed "Were you ever sorry you got married?"
Chris smiled, "No. The best part of every day was waking up next to her, the best part of night was going to sleep with her."
JD hesitated for a moment before his next question. "If you knew what was going to happen, would you still have gotten married?"
"Yes, the short time we had was worth what followed," Chris answered with no hesitation.
A week later the morning meeting was wrapping up and the agents were filing out to face the day.
The blonde looked up from the file in front of him to see JD.
"I just wanted to thank you for helping me sort stuff out. It really helped," JD told him shyly.
"We need to start planning a bachelor party?"
"No, I decided I'm really not ready yet," JD said, a little embarrassed.
"It'll happen when it happens, JD. I nearly decided to get married at your age once, too. I still thank God I changed my mind."
"She was that bad?" JD stared.
"I was dating Ella when I was your age," Chris replied with a hard smile.
JD sat heavily in a chair.
Chris smirked, and squeezed his shoulder as he left the room.