Traffic School by the Neon Gang


Editors' Note: The original version of this story first appeared in the Mag 7 zine, Let's Ride #13, published by Neon RainBow Press, Cinda Gillilan and Jody Norman, editors. When we all decided to post the stories that have appeared in the issues of Let's Ride that are more than two years old, we opted to use a generic pen name because, while Kacey Tucker and Nina Talbot are the primary authors of this story, they had so much help from the other folks writing for the press that it just made sense to consider the story to be written by the Neon RainBow Press Collective! Resistance was futile. So, thanks to the whole Neon Gang – Dori Adams, Sierra Chaves, Dana Ely, Michelle Fortado, Patricia Grace, Deyna Greywolf, Dani Martin, Erica Michaels, Karson Raine, Nina Talbot, Kacey Tucker, Rebecca Wright, and Lorin and Mary Fallon Zane. Story lasted edited 7-29-2008. Art by Shiloh

"JD, we're gonna be late." The ladies' man squirmed in his seat and folded his arms across his chest, his bottom lip beginning to protrude.

"I'll get you to the dentist's office in plenty of time," JD replied. "Besides, no one wants to go to the dentist."

"I do."

Why? the younger man thought. He drew in a deep breath, counted to five, and asked, "Why?" Buck's lower lip crept out another centimeter, making him look like he was all of six years old. "We'll make it, Buck."

"Not at this speed we won't."

JD checked the speedometer. He was already going 78. He pressed slightly, the needle shifting to 80. A burst of siren and a red and blue light flashed in his rearview mirror.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

JD sat in the stark waiting room and tried not to scowl at the receptionist behind the nearby desk. A ticket. A freakin' ticket! he fumed. The absolute first ticket he'd ever gotten and it was a freakin' seventy-five dollar ticket!

His eyes narrowed and the receptionist hastily scooped up several files and disappeared into the back to deposit them – as far away from the smoldering agent as she could get.

JD tugged the slip of paper free from his shirt pocket and read it over again. Seventy-five dollars…

It wasn't that he couldn't afford it, damn it, it was the principle of the thing… He read the last paragraph again.

Traffic school.

He could avoid paying the fine and have the ticket removed from his record if he attended an eight-hour session of traffic school. JD cringed. The term reminded him of the staff development classes he was forced to attend… Boring, boring, boring. Not to mention humiliating, time wasting, and stupid.

Still, traffic school was better than paying seventy-five dollars, or having the blemish on his otherwise perfect driving record.

But traffic school?

He tried to whisper the words, but they stalled on the tip of his tongue like the bitter taste of an aspirin that refused to go down.

He'd have a talk with Buck. If the others got wind of this, he'd never hear the end of it. And it was all Buck's fault anyway.

He rubbed at the tip of his nose, the antiseptic and fluoride smells starting to annoy him. In the back somewhere the drill started and JD clamped his teeth together as a shiver caused him to squirm in the chair.

He hated dentists.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Buck bounced out the door and leaned against the counter. Behind it, a young, tall, tanned, blond, blue-eyed angel in medical scrubs smiled at the man – showing off perfect white teeth. JD bristled. No wonder Buck had wanted to see the dentist.

"So, we'll see you again next week for a cleaning, Mr. Wilmington."

"Now, Doc, I told ya, ya need to call me Buck."

"And don't forget to floss… Buck."

"Oh, don't you worry none, I won't," he promised with an adoring gaze through his eyelashes.

The dentist handed Buck's file to the receptionist as he joined her behind the desk. "We'll need to see Mr. Wilmington next week for a cleaning, and I want to check number seven."

"Right," the young man said, scribbling on the file and then flipping his appointment calendar open.

"And this… is for you," she added, reaching under the counter and handing Buck a lime green lollipop.

JD stood and stalked over to join the older man. "Repeat business?" he half-growled at the dentist.

She flashed him another perfect smile. "They're sugar-free."

"They're really good, too," Buck told him as he stripped off the plastic wrap and stuck the treat into his mouth.

"Would you like to try one?" she asked JD.

"No. Thank you," he replied.

"How's Friday the twenty-fourth? At three o'clock?" the receptionist asked.

"Okay," Buck said, his gaze lingering on the dentist's snug-fitting blouse.

The receptionist filled out one of the small business cards with the appointment information and handed it to Buck, who pushed it into the pocket of his jeans.

"Thank ya, darlin'," he said to the dentist.

"Any time," she replied, turning and leaving.

"We'll see you on the twenty-fourth," the receptionist said, his gaze shifting between Buck, who was mooning after the dentist, and JD, who was staring daggers at his roommate.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Vin Tanner checked his watch and swore softly under his breath. He was going to be late. He'd dropped Buck off to get his teeth cleaned, and the receptionist had assured him it would take at least an hour. He'd been sure he could get over to the gun shop and back before he was done, but the new sales clerk had gotten him going on the advantages of the new Glock and the time had just slipped away.

If he forced Buck to wait he'd be mad at him on the entire trip back to the ladies' man's apartment.

Vin pressed harder on the accelerator, edging the needle slightly over 80. The immediate squawk of a siren caused him to jump.

Ah, hell…

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Buck was reading a magazine when Vin stalked into the dentist's office.

"Hay, Junior," he said, tossing the magazine back onto the tattered stack scattered across the coffee table and pushing himself off the couch. "Find anything at the gun shop?"

Vin's mood lightened slightly. "Yeah."

"Great. I'm ready." Buck headed for the door, smiling at the pretty brunette receptionist who was seated behind the desk today. "See ya in six months, darlin'."

"Right," the woman replied. "And don't forget to floss."

"I won't!"

Vin led the way to his Jeep and opened the door for the ladies' man.

Walking around to the driver's side, Tanner contemplated his options – paying the fine or attending a day of traffic school. If he paid for the ticket there was a good chance Chris would find out. That left traffic school. He sighed inwardly. Well, it couldn't be that bad. All he had to do was find a way to get to the class without Chris finding out where he was going…

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Vin poked at his keyboard, watching Larabee's office from the corner of his eye. Chris was supposed to be heading to a meeting with Travis and the other team leaders, and if he didn't hurry he was going to be late, which meant the sniper was going to be late, too.

JD popped up from his desk and stalked to Larabee's door. "Uh, Chris, you're, uh, gonna be late for that meeting if you don't, uh, get up there…"

Vin's eyes rounded. JD was acting strange, although the sniper wasn't at all sure how he knew that, or just what it was he was basing the observation on. Not that it mattered. He had to find a way to sneak out and get to class on time.

Chris stopped in the doorway to his office and stared at the youngest of the agents. "Something wrong, JD?"

"Uh, no…"

Chris frowned, clearly not believing Dunne, but he didn't have time to worry about it, either. Shaking his head, he left.

Vin finished off the last of the report he'd been working on and saved it, then pushed to his feet. "I'm goin' t' run an errand," he said. "I have m' cell if anythin' comes up."

Buck grinned at him from his desk. "Hot date?"

Vin's lips twisted into a smile. "Nope."

"Could you pick up some burgers for lunch on the way back?" Josiah asked, pouring himself another cup of coffee.

"Ain't sure I'll be back in time, but I'll see what I can do."

"When will you be back?" JD asked as innocently as he could. This was exactly the break he needed to get away and take that traffic class!

Vin thought for a moment. "Should be back before y'all head out. Call me if anythin' comes up."

"No problem," Nathan replied.

Vin nodded and left.

JD waited anxiously until he heard the elevator bell, then said, "Uh, I think I'm going to, uh, run an errand or two, too," he announced.

"JD," Buck chided. "You know you're not—"

"Buck, what Chris doesn't know won't hurt me."

The ladies' man shook his head. "All right, but don't say I didn't warn you when Chris chews you another one."

"I don't expect him to hear about it," was JD's retort.

"And when will you be back?" Ezra asked the computer expert.

"Before Vin, I hope."

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

JD pulled into the parking lot and crept along at the posted five miles per hour speed limit until he found an open spot. How many people were taking this class anyway?

Climbing out, he grabbed his cell phone off the dash and locked the door. He paused for a moment, staring at his reflection. Why the hell was he embarrassed? It wasn't like people didn't get tickets all the time... But he didn't get tickets! Seven years of driving, and no tickets – until now. He forced himself to march over to the building and enter.

There were at least sixty other people there, crowded into the collection of old desks that looked like they had been built for someone in junior high. He hadn't taken two steps when a grating voice crackled from behind him.

"You the instructor, sonny?"

JD turned to find a small, elderly woman with silver-grey hair and pale blue eyes. He smiled at her. "Uh, no, ma'am, I'm—"

"Well then, what are you doing, standing here in everybody's way? Move it!"

JD jumped. The pleasant country grandmother image shattered, replaced by retired drill instructor. He stepped aside to allow her to pass.

She clucked as she started past him, then paused and glowered at him. "You look like you should have known better, sonny."

Spotting an open spot in a far corner, JD excused himself and quickly made his way over, trying to avoid stepping on toes and bumping any of the desks that had cups of McDonald's coffee sitting on them. He squeezed into the seat, wishing he could simply disappear.

The large clock on the far wall ticked off the minutes, and JD sank lower in his chair. With two minutes to go, and no sign of their instructor, JD heard the door open. Hoping it was whoever was going to get this show on the road, he sat up straight and looked out across the sea of heads to see Vin entering.

How the hell did he find me? JD moaned silently. There must be trouble… "Vin?" he called.

Tanner froze in the doorway. How in the hell…? "JD?" he questioned, glancing around.

JD rose halfway out of his chair and motioned the sniper over, trying to ignore the stares from the others in the room. Vin maneuvered through the gauntlet until he reached his teammate. "Vin, how—?"

"What's going on?" Vin interrupted.

"Going on?" JD questioned.

"What are you doing here?" the sniper growled.

"What—?" JD's eyes narrowed and a smile tugged at his lips. "What are you doing here?"

"I asked you first."

"He got a ticket, just like you did, sonny. Now, both of you, sit down," the old woman snapped at the pair.

Both men turned to stare, but the malevolent expression on her wrinkled face stalled any retort either man might have made. Vin walked over and lifted an empty desk over his head and carried it back to a space near JD's seat. Wedging it in, Tanner squeezed into the too-small seat and nodded at the old woman.

"Think she's originally from Pasadena?" JD whispered.

"Be my bet," Vin replied.

They sat in silence as another ten minutes passed, then Vin leaned over until his shoulder pressed up against JD's. "What did they nail you for?"

He felt JD suck in a deep breath. "Never mind," the younger man grumbled.

"Y' made a habit 'a this sort of thing?"

"No, I don't make a habit of speeding." JD stopped and glared at the sniper. "This was my first ticket."

"Ha!" the old woman sounded off. "I've heard that one before, sonny."

"It's the truth," JD defended.

Vin grinned. "And y' couldn't fix it?"

JD shifted his attention back to Vin. "I don't get tickets fixed."

"Well, if I'd thought y' could've fixed mine, I would've asked ya."

JD's eyebrows rose slightly. "And what exactly did you do?"

Vin shrugged. "Was in a hurry t' pick Buck up from the dentist."

JD snorted.


"I was in a hurry to get him to the dentist."

The two men chuckled.

"Maybe the both of you should have been in more of a hurry to keep him away from the candy," the old woman criticized.

Vin and JD exchanged glances. It was going to be a long day…