Disclaimer: Just playing. I know I can't keep 'em...damnit!
JD Dunne glanced around the deserted office as he idly tapped a pencil on his desk top. He sighed...damnit, his umpteenth that morning. He really didn't mind watching over the office, it wasn't like he had anywhere else...or special to be...unlike his friends and teammates.
It being Veterans Day, meant a large part of the Federal building staff were away for the day, either attending the official parade, like most of Team Seven, or with family, either at home or at some organized event.
But not John Daniel Dunne...Agent in Training.
At the tender age of twenty, and only with the ATF a few months, the most noteworthy thing he had done was almost gotten himself run over when Buck was targeted at a bust two months back.
Hardly anything to write home about, though it did earn him respect from six men he was proud to be working alongside...and a new home. JD smiled. A new home and the friendship of a man that acted more like a brother than a teammate...at home anyway. If a job was on, it was definitely all business.
He let out another sigh, poking himself with the pencil to lift his mood and break the circle of daydreaming and generally feeling sorry for himself...or lonely, JD couldn't decide which...or if it was both.
But one thing was for sure, he didn't begrudge his friends this moment. Each man was highly decorated, brave and true and thoroughly deserving of their accolades...mostly military, though Ezra's was earned while with the FBI.
And one of the reasons JD looked up to these men so much? They were true heroes...they were his heroes...but...he grinned...he'd sass them anyway...wouldn' t want them getting too comfortable with such open adoration! He smiled at the recent exchange between the seven of them...realizing, with some surprise, how a simple comment from him had seen Chris 'Hard Ass' Larabee change his mind on a decision made...him... John Daniel Dunne...and it hadn't even been work related...well, not entirely. JD treated himself to a coke from the fridge in the break room while he reflected.
"Hey, squirt...where you been? Chris wanted to start the briefing ten minutes ago. Lord, boy, you'd better be wearing your steel underdraws, 'cause I reckon the toe of Larabee's boot is about to meet your..."
"Buck!" JD hung up his jacket and walked over to his desk. "Thanks, I get it...I'm late." JD sat at his desk and booted up his computer. He glanced at his staring housemate, eventually staring back. "What?"
"Bike, okay?" Buck asked.
JD flicked his eyes to the rest of his teammates while wondering which of them had just inhaled a sharp intake of breath. He folded his arms across his chest and sat back in his chair.
"Not the bike again...you promised. Damnit, Buck, Vin rides a Harley and no one says a word..."
"You don't know that," Buck pointed out. "'Sides, Vin's experienced..."
JD rolled his eyes, "We all have to start somewhere, Buck. I've wanted a bike ever since..." he chewed his lip. "Just knock it off..." he turned wide eyes to his friend on seeing their teammates, now all taking an interest. "...please," he almost whispered.
"Well, if it's alright with JD, we'll head to conference room one, and start the briefing."
All eyes turned to Chris Larabee as he stood at the entrance to his office, the blond more than aware of one or two soft snickers. JD's eyes went wider as he stood, snatching up his folder.
"Sorry, sir." Head down, JD went to pass his boss.
"Bike okay?" Chris asked, softly.
JD stopped dead, his mouth gaping. "The bike's fine..." he turned to the rest of them, arms wide open. "Okay? For the record...the bike's fine!" He stalked off, mumbling. "What is it with these people and danged bikes?"
Chris's eyes tracked the youth out of the door, to eventually look back at the other grinning agents. "Was it something I said?"
Even more perplexed by the laughter following his remark, Chris and the remaining five men followed JD out of the bullpen and into the conference room.
The meeting concluded, donuts consumed and papers packed away, Chris sat forward in his chair, raising his hand.
"One last thing. I told the Judge to forget about tomorrow. It's business as usual, okay?"
JD's head bobbed up. "What's that about about Veterans' Day?"
Vin looked at him. "There's a big parade an' a commemorative service tomorrow, Judge wanted us to attend."
"'Cause we were all in the services before joining the Force...and/or have been decorated. The mayor asked all Vets to attend this year," Nathan explained.
JD now realized why he hadn't heard about it. These men rarely talked about their past, and the only decorations JD had were pre-degree excellence awards for computer science and technology.
"You're not going?" JD asked.
Chris shook his head.
"But why? It's such a great honor...you guys should be there."
Ezra answered. "I was not in the military, but I am decorated...and apparently that met the Mayor's criteria."
"Why aren't you going?" JD pushed, ignoring the warning looks from Buck.
"Let it go, JD." Chris's tone was calm and low, a deadly combination.
For an instant, the look on JD's face suggested the moment had passed, then he stood. "No...damnit. Veteran's Day...it...I mean...at school and college we treated it with reverence. Father O'Dowd said it was our chance to remember and give thanks to those who died for us in battle. You must've served alongside someone who..."
The youth halted his tirade and looked in alarm at Chris, not missing the blond's pained glance to Buck.
"I said, let it go."
Swallowing, JD gathered up his papers and moved to leave, turning back at the last moment. "For what it's worth...I stopped at Saint Augusta's this morning, to light a candle and pray for those who gave their lives for their country. So you see...my bike's fine!"
The six men watched him leave, Vin finally speaking. "Well, that put us straight."
"Vin..." Chris said, softly.
Josiah leaned forward, his arms resting on the table. "The boy's right...we should be there. I for one have felt the loss of comrades and judging by the expressions on your faces, you all have, too."
"That wasn't the issue," Chris stated, resting back against his chair.
"Maybe it's time, stud...to let go of the pain and celebrate the fact we're still here to tell the tale." Buck suggested.
Chris stared back at him for a long few moments, his expression eventually softening. "But...dress uniform?"
Soft laughs circled the room at Chris' now pained expression. Sighing, he picked up the handset of the phone next to him and dialed.
"Orin...tomorrow... count us in." Chris listened. "Well, he doesn't know it yet, but JD'll be minding the store."
Flopping down at his desk, JD rested his head on it with a thunk. He groaned aloud. He had just offended six of the best friends he could ever have wished for.
"Stupid-stupid- stupid...oww. "
He punctuated each word with a thud of his head to the top of his desk. 'What the hell had gotten into him? How could he say those things to them...those men...those...heroes?' JD had no doubts in his mind of the gallantry each man would have portrayed in battle or in the line of duty, and here he was, telling them their business. JD was rubbing his forehead as the six men quietly re-entered the bullpen. Before they had chance to fully settle, JD stood.
"Guys..." he rubbed his head again, more subconsciously than in pain. "I'm really sorry. I was out of line...I...I'm sorry." He swallowed at the blank expressions and Chris's approach.
'Shit...here it comes...well, I deserve it.' He couldn't prevent the sharp intake of breath as Chris slapped a hand down on his shoulder.
"I'm not going to deny, it did surprise me when you made your point, but...for what it's worth..." Chris tossed JD's words back at him with a twinkle in his eye. "...it was just the kick up the butt we needed. Thank you."
He moved back to his office, turning at the last minute. "Oh...and thanks for volunteering to come in tomorrow and mind the store."
Still in mild shock, but not so much as he hadn't recognized he'd got off lightly, JD quickly sat down and busied himself with his emails. A paperclip landing just in front of him caused JD to look up and catch Buck's wink. JD could see the rest of his teammates smiling back at him, too. With a huge face-splitting grin, the young agent resumed his work, his heart considerably lighter than when he returned to the bullpen. He'd miss the parade tomorrow, but hell, it was worth it.
Fiddling with a small hand-held TV as he sipped on his coke, JD smiled as he reflected on earlier that day. Riding into work with Buck, JD had already seen how dashing his housemate looked in his dress uniform, walking into the office had the boy beaming fit to bust. JD's eyes glistened as they scanned the five men standing in the bullpen, his grin widening as Buck moved to stand with them.
JD wanted to say so much more, but his admiration for them all in their finery took his breath away. "Wow...you guys have so many medals..." He looked to each man, pride in his gaze. "Maybe one day, I..."
Chris stepped forward and cupped the back of JD's neck, his tone deadly serious as he cut in. "While I appreciate the sentiment, I hope you never have to go through what we did to get these." He released a small smile at the look he received; Chris was getting to know that look, plus several others. Green eyes held the gaze of wide hazel orbs.
"And no, it wasn't a stupid comment," Chris reassured, pre-empting the thoughts in the young agent's mind. "Why do you think Buck and me entered the service...or any young man? We saw travel, excitement, danger. What we didn't see was what this day has come to commemorate. Losing good people, people we were close to...having your life changed... sometimes forever."
Keeping eye contact, JD nodded. He licked his lips nervously and as Chris released him, smiled. "Hey...let's get a photo."
Larabee raised and pointed his finger at him. "No photos!"
"Aww, Chris...come on...just one?"
Chris sighed as he heard chuckles behind him. "Turn off 'the look', it won't work."
JD seemed genuinely confused. "Look...what look?"
Chris glared at a grinning Vin, recalling a phone conversation between them the previous night when Chris was considering heading straight for City Hall. "'Stick to your original plan' he says...'meet at work, let the kid see us..." Chris mimicked, much to everyone's amusement. He shook his head. "When did I lose control?"
"You had control?" Buck teased, causing more chuckles to emerge.
Chris turned back to JD. "Just one!"
With a whoop, JD organized them, then snapped off five shots before he was happy. Chris had to agree, as did the others, it was a good photo.
Unofficially, on arriving at City Hall, Team Seven had been greeted warmly by the Mayor. He had heard good things about these men, and was doubly impressed to learn they were decorated veterans. The six friends waited patiently outside the building with the other Veterans, for the official handshakes and the parade to start.
"Aaaahh...the kid would've loved all this," Buck, resplendent in his Seals attire, stated, his voice soft as he glanced around.
"Whilst doing a sterling job, and not even officially old enough to be a Federal agent, when I think boys considerably younger than Mr. Dunne served and died for their country..."
Josiah nodded to Ezra, adjusting his slightly snug, light blue Army uniform as he watched the southerner pull on his black jacket. "Chilling thought, isn't it? It makes me proud to be here to honor them, today."
They all nodded, lost in thought for a moment as they considered Josiah's words. Buck snapped back first, nudging Vin.
"Bow tie, huh? Nice."
Tanner awkwardly fingered his neck attire. "It was a tradition of the 75th Rangers...black tie was always bow ties."
"Traditions are good," Nathan mused, brushing lint from the sleeve of his jacket displaying the Medical Corp insignia, and not attempting to elaborate on his comment.
Buck pondered on that for a second, eventually turning to Chris. "They were good times...right?"
"For the most part," the blond replied, his uniform mirroring that of Buck's and wondering what had prompted that remark. He paused for a few moments, as if considering something. "It took me a long while to reconcile with the bad memories before I could embrace the good ones... but, yeah..." he half smiled, "...there were some truly great times."
"Feeling a little unsettled, brothers?" Josiah had picked up on the odd mood between the six. "Is it the occasion? Or perhaps what wearing the uniform brings to mind?"
Chris's half-smile returned. "That obvious, huh?"
"Embrace it, my friends," Josiah encouraged, "For we are the lucky ones."
Buck's cell rang and, ignoring the glare from Chris, Buck answered it, already grinning at the caller ID.
"Hey, squirt...the Federal building still standing?" Buck's deep laugh reverberated around them. "Now that ain't no way to talk to a Veteran, boy." He laughed again. "Oh, you are so gonna pay for that remark, kid." He nodded, despite JD being unable to see him. "Yeah, just waiting on the Mayor...Chris reckons a couple hours, tops. Just head for the Saloon...we'll meet you there." Buck glanced at his friends. "Nope, just thought we'd have a private gathering...not really up for all that official 'hoo haa'." He grinned. "Later..."
Buck closed his phone. "He reckons he's watching, says to wave," Buck grinned.
"How many fingers?" Vin winked, causing ripples of laughter.
"Now then, Vincent," Josiah teased, pleased to see the mood lifting. "Not on television."
Noting Chris's tone, the men lined up with their fellow Veterans to officially meet and greet the Mayor, before the band-led procession began.
Alone in the office, paperwork done and sipping on a can of coke, JD finally managed to get a decent signal on the TV. Sitting back to wait for the parade to start, he rested his feet on his desk and called Buck to wind him up, after all, that was his job. The call over, he was so absorbed in the pre-parade chatter, he missed the quiet entry into the bullpen.
"Busy, John Dunne?"
Hearing AD Travis's voice, JD was startled, his feet shooting up off the desk, to propel him backwards as his chair crashed over, taking him with it. He scrambled to his feet, awkwardly righting his chair and the fast emptying upturned can of coke as he did so.
"Sir?" he squeaked.
Orin Travis's eyes twinkled as he bit back a grin.
"Are you alright?"
Flushing slightly, JD nodded. "Sir...yes, sir."
"At ease, son," Travis ordered, finally releasing a grin. He pointed to the TV. "Has it started?"
"No sir, but the Mayor's due any minute."
"Have you caught sight of them, yet?"
JD shook his head. "No...the camera's scanned the crowd, but there are so many there..."
Orin nodded, pulling up a chair and gesturing for JD to sit. "I was surprised they attended, Chris seemed adamant earlier in the week that they wouldn't be. Can't help wondering what changed their minds."
JD shrugged he didn't know. "I'm glad they did, though. How come you didn't go, sir?"
"Someone had to be on duty. This year, it was my turn." They sat in amiable silence for a while, Travis smiling as he watched his young agent twitch and fiddle with things on his desk, clearly gearing himself up to say something.
"Sir...why does Chris...uh, Mr. Larabee call you 'Judge'?"
Orin raised an eyebrow. "It goes back to when I was a Federal Judge. I knew Chris back then, when he was an officer with the DPD.
JD nodded. "Sure, of course." Suddenly he sat up, pointing to the screen as the camera ran along the line of Veterans waiting to meet the Mayor.
Travis smiled at the huge grin on JD's face as he spotted his teammates lined up...and made a decision.
"Go to West 14th and Broadway, you'll catch them coming back around the Civic Center Park toward the County Building."
JD turned toward the AD, frowning. "Huh...? I mean, excuse me, sir?"
"It will give you time to watch the parade on its return to City Hall... go...enjoy the downtime...go ahead." Orin grinned, pointing toward JD's desktop. "But I want to see the tape."
Standing and snatching up his digital camera/recorder, JD beamed at his superior, nodding. "Thanks, sir."
Watching JD race off, Orin sighed. "Oh, to be young again."
They wer now on the final leg of the procession, and the six men of Team Seven had to confess, they had enjoyed themselves. The camaraderie and sense of honor had reminded them that, embracing their past was what made them the men they were today. Chris figured he owed JD a coke...or maybe a pizza. His gaze was drawn to a point above the crowds lining the sidewalk, to a lamp post...halfway up it to be exact. He pointed, causing the other five to track to where Chris was looking.
JD had managed to scramble halfway up a lighting pole to get above the heads of the crowd. Seeing his friends heading his way, he started recording, grinning inanely as they marched nearer. The young agent started chuckling as he saw Larabee point his way, laughing harder on seeing the ex-Seal mouth the words `I want that camera'.
Realizing his chuckling was getting caught on tape, JD cursed...then laughed harder on realizing that was now on tape, too. Clinging with one arm, to the post, he waggled his fingers in a cheeky wave, almost losing his grip on the pole as a barrage of rude gestures were aimed at him causing him to laugh hard enough for his body to shake.
"Can't show that to Mr. Travis," he said to himself.
"As you were," Chris ordered to the now animated men. "We are on TV, y'know."
Suddenly the mood changed as they watched JD glance sharply around to look over the throng, flash his ID badge and jump down from the pole into the scattering crowd.
"What now?" Buck muttered, realizing the others were of the same mind, and looking to break formation.
A yell carrying over the crowd caused JD to turn away from the parade and scan the area from his high vantage point. "Oh shit."
He was pretty much hemmed in, so, pulling out his ID he flashed it to the people around him, then jumped down into the space created as they moved back. In seconds, JD was through the crowd and heading for an alley between some stores. He got there just as a man was kicking at someone on the ground.
"Police! Mister, step away...now!"
Before JD could reach behind his back to draw his weapon, something hard impacted with his ribs, causing him to twist and cry out in pain. As he gasped for air, JD could see another man standing behind him, a baseball bat raised to swing again.
His training kicking in, JD lashed out with his foot, pleased with the crunching sound from his assailant's knee and the consequent scream of pain as the bat was dropped and the man crumpled to the ground. Before he could turn back to the first man, a fist rocked the side of his head and JD literally saw stars. He just managed to block another punch, when a familiar Texan drawl sounded real good right about then.
"I can shoot a knuckle off from this range, fella." Vin aimed his gun lower. "So it don't take a genius to imagine what I can do with anythin' slightly bigger'n that."
With a grunt, JD sat down hard on the litter-strewn ground, knowing instinctively he was in good hands as his assailant raised his arms and movement around him confirmed his confidence in his teammates.
Josiah helped the man on the ground who had been initially attacked. Looking in surprise at men in dress uniform milling around him, the victim nodded.
"Th...thank you..." he pointed to the first assailant who was now in the custody of Ezra and Chris. "He...he was mugging me."
Nathan checked him over on seeing a cut above the man's left eye. "Do you hurt anywhere else, sir?"
"Just a little...winded and shook up, I think...thanks. "
The EMT nodded his approval. "Best to get checked out, anyway. And..." he gestured toward JD, "...it's the young man on the ground you should be thanking." With that, Nathan turned his attention to his downed teammate.
"Easy, kid..." Buck helped JD sit up a little, realizing the kid was in considerable pain.
"Where's...my...camera? " JD huffed out.
Vin held it out as he squatted down next to the pair. "Here ya go, kid."
"Hang...on to...it...don't let...Chris get...it..."
Vin grinned. "Oh, don't you worry none...I got your back."
Nodding his gratitude, JD moaned and leaned his head against Buck's chest.
"Shit!" he groaned through the pain.
Buck watched Nathan pull up JD's shirt, the kid hissing as trained fingers examined the bruising. The black agent looked at the youth.
"Guess where we're heading?"
"S...Saloon?" JD gasped, hopefully.
Hearing the siren and seeing the ambulance pull up, Nathan winked. "Yep...first class."
JD groaned again as he watched the paramedics head toward him. "Damnit."
Buck crept around the loft, glancing occasionally at JD as the young agent lay curled up in his comforter on the sofa. The brunet never could figure why the kid preferred it there to the comfort of his own bed.
Finally relaxing on his recliner with a drink and the remote, Buck turned on the TV, keeping the volume low.
"It's okay...I'm not sleeping, Buck."
The tall agent looked at his roommate, concern etched in his features. "You should be, those pills'd put an elephant out. You need anything?"
"Nah...I'm good, thanks." He winced on attempting to sit up, grinning sheepishly at Buck as the big-hearted man was off his chair and helping him in an instant. Taking a few moments to catch his breath, JD nodded.
"Thanks." He watched Buck re-take his seat. "Buck..."
Frowning, Wilmington turned toward JD. "What about yesterday?"
JD sighed, holding his cracked, aching ribs as he did so. "I'm sorry I ruined the parade for you guys. I would have been okay at the hospital until you were done...I..."
"Hey," Buck interrupted. "No sweat...okay? We were pretty much done, anyway." He could see JD was not convinced, deciding to slip into `big brother...senior agent' mode to pull the younger man out of his funk.
"Just one thing...draw your darned weapon before you charge on into a fight next time...okay?"
JD rolled his eyes. "Sir...yes sir..." he huffed. "In my defense...for all I knew, could've been just a couple of kids...or a few drunks fighting..."
Buck grinned at the reaction he had been aiming for. "Whatever...just think on it, some."
The doorbell chimed and Buck looked at JD. "Get that would ya?" Laughing at the one-fingered salute, Buck rose to answer it. "Just kidding," he chuckled.
The noise from the hallway told JD the rest of the Team had arrived. He smiled at them, noting the brown bags and pizza boxes.
"John Daniel," Josiah greeted, flashing him a huge toothy grin.
"Feet," Vin chirped, waiting patiently for JD to pull his feet back a little for him to sit down.
"Injured agent," JD reminded, pointing to himself.
"New boots!" Vin offered, pointing to his feet as he toed off the tan colored footwear, sighing with relief as he did so. The pair glanced at each other and chuckled as Vin sat down and rested JD's stockinged feet on his legs as JD hugged his protesting ribs. Soon they were all sitting around with pieces of pizza and beers, a basketball game on the TV, but no one really watching. Chris watched JD struggle with his pizza slice.
"Not hungry?" he asked.
JD shrugged. "I guess not. Chris..."
"Sorry about yesterday...you know...the parade and all..."
Buck glowered at JD for bringing it up again but the youth just made a face.
"No problem," the blond winked. "That reminds me...got something for you."
The young agent watched Ezra stand and take something large from a bag. JD started laughing, closely followed by the others.
"Oww...don't make me laugh," he hissed, looking down at his chest as Ezra pinned something to it, then stepped back, grinning.
JD looked down at the biggest cardboard medal he had ever seen...well, the only cardboard medal he had ever seen.
"Gee, thanks," he grinned, his tone playfully sarcastic as he looked around the six chuckling agents. He noted Chris reaching for something else, frowning as he was handed a frame.
"This one's for real," the blond winked.
JD stared at the frame, genuinely shocked. "A commendation? How...why... I didn't really do anything?"
"The Mayor disagrees," Chris explained. "He heard about the six of us leaving the parade and went to the hospital to meet up with us and visit with you, but we'd already left. He did meet Mister Green, however."
JD's frown deepened.
"The guy who was bein' mugged," Vin added.
"Anyway," Chris continued, "the Mayor called the Judge this morning... by this afternoon, that," he pointed to the frame, "was on my desk. Travis said the Mayor figured we don't get thanked enough for what we do...and yesterday was all about remembrance and giving thanks...so that's a thank you...from him."
Still mildly shocked, JD grinned. "Wow...cool." He gently hugged the frame to his chest.
"So, I guess we can have that one back," Buck gestured toward the cardboard medal.
JD patted the mock decoration and took a big bite of pizza. "Nah...if you don't mind, I'll hang on to it."
Noting the news was on TV and relaying details of the latest conflict in Iraq, the seven men looked around at each other and settled in for an evening of companionship, truly appreciating they were still around to enjoy it.