Disclaimer: Just playing. I know I can't keep 'em damnit!
Universe: Brothers Larabee
Ratings/Warnings: Some bad language
Summary: Bad weather causes mayhem at the Double L
Thanks to Phyllis for allowing me to play in her sandbox.
Alone in the house, and waiting on the return of their youngest from town, Buck had taken to pacing. Despite a howling wind, the unmistakable sound of JD's bike coming up the drive saw Buck heave a sigh of relief. The weather news was not good and the thought of JD out in high winds and driving rain on a motorcycle had the brunet geared up to go looking for him, if need be. Jogging over to the garage, he smiled, as he entered, at his seemingly unscathed, youngest brother.
"Y'alright there, Squirt?"
Pushing cold fingers through his helmet-mussed hair, and squeezing out the soaked ends, JD shivered, but managed a grin. "Whoo! Pretty rough, huh?"
Buck grinned back. "Naw we've had worse. C'mon, let's get you in and dried off."
With an eager nod, JD laid his helmet on the seat of his bike and walked toward Buck, smiling at the comforting arm that encircled his shoulders when he reached him.
JD shuddered. "Could just go for some hot chocolate, too."
Buck squeezed his brother's shoulder. "Oh I reckon we could just about manage that," he smiled. Opening the garage's side door, they both looked out at the swirling rain, nodded to each other and made a run for the house.
Once inside, JD headed straight for the mudroom. There, he shrugged off his soaked denim jacket and hung it on a coat peg. Toeing off his sneakers, he walked into the living room and stood facing the roaring log fire. JD sighed happily as the warmth slowly penetrated his cold body. He pulled an unseen face as a fluffy towel landed on his head, successfully covering it. He tugged it off and turned to grin at his approaching brother.
"What?" Buck feigned innocence. "Just thought I'd bring you something to dry your hair." While JD towel dried the soaked black tendrils, Buck set the two mugs of hot chocolate down on the coffee table, and grinned at the youth when he re-surfaced with his hair sticking up every which way.
"Nice look," Buck laughed, you should keep it."
Watching Buck take a seat, JD chuckled as he spied his unruly mop in the mirror by the coat stand. Ruffling it into place, he tossed the wet towel back toward Buck, catching him perfectly in the face.
"Just need to change my jeans," he grinned, ducking as the towel came straight back at him. It sailed over his head to land on the floor just ahead. "What?" he asked, mimicking Buck's earlier words with a similar look of innocence. JD crossed the room and, snatching up the towel, hopped up the stairs to his room, depositing the towel in the laundry hamper on the way.
Five minutes later, the pair was on the sofa in front of the hearth, and sipping their drinks. JD's hands were finally getting warm. He looked around.
"Where is everyone?"
Buck drained his mug and set it back down. "Nathan's still working at the hospital. The others went over to help Nettie. It sounded like her barn roof was lifting in the high winds. Not sure they can do anything, but they had to try. Chris worries about her since Casey moved out." He smiled at JD. "Chris also insisted one of us stay here to see you were safely home "
JD ducked shyly. It still thrilled him to have someone other than his mom gave a damn about whether he was safe or not. His brow slowly knitted into a frown, Buck pre- empted the inevitable question.
"It's got nothing to do with Chris thinking that you wouldn't be it's just his way. He's a big ol' papa bear where family's concerned likes to know everyone's where they should be. I called him from the kitchen as I made the hot chocolate. He told me it may take a few more hours more to ensure Nettie's ranch is secure."
JD gave Buck a grateful look. He idolized Chris and hated to think the man had any kind of doubts about him. Or for that matter, any of his brothers. They all seemed so much more 'worldly wise' than him and JD looked up to them all with undisguised hero worship.
Buck smiled at the expression on JD's face. At first, none of the six other brothers could comprehend such innocence, one or two even wondering if it was an act, or some sort of defensive technique. They soon realized that, what you saw with JD was exactly what you got.
JD had brought out something deeply buried in all of them. His desperation for the family to bond and his obvious affection for them drove them all to ensure success. Though, even after the first rocky weeks, it became evident that the bond was already there, forged from a love, protectiveness and companionship the brothers had all needed they just hadn't realized it until they met.
They were just getting comfortable when a large crash from outside drew both men's attention. Buck groaned and pushed himself to his feet. "Aww hell " He glanced out of the window. "Damn, the barn door's flown open. Sure hope its hinges aren't damaged." Heading to the mudroom he grabbed his rain jacket and put his boots on. JD hastily followed. In less than a minute, the pair was outside and checking for damage.
While Buck examined the door, JD checked on his donkey, Toby and the horses. They were a little spooked by the wind, and with the door flapping open, but JD's presence and soothing words calmed them. He walked back to Buck, shouting a little over the blustery howl.
"Anything I can do?"
Buck bobbed his head. "I need my Phillips head screwdriver. It's back at the house in the utility room."
Nodding his understanding, JD headed outside to cross the yard. Halfway to the house, a large cracking noise caused him to turn sharply toward the sound. He grunted when something flying through the air glanced a heavy blow to the side of his head. He didn't feel the drop to the sodden grass, and laid there face down and unmoving while the storm raged on around him.
Unaware of the unfolding scene, Buck silently celebrated when he realized he could safely secure the door for now, and fix it properly when the storm petered out. Doing so, he turned to head back to the house and save JD a wasted trip. His blood froze in his veins when he spotted the prone form on the ground and ran toward it. Despite shouting JD's name at the top of his voice, his anguished cry was lost on the wind. Skidding to a halt next to his brother, Buck groaned on seeing the head wound that was sending rivulets of blood down the unconscious youth's face.
Relieved at the steady pulse in JD's cold, wet neck, the brunet turned him gently to get a good grip and move him out of the rain. Buck was so focussed, he was totally unprepared for the airborne branch hurtling on the wind toward him. The impact to his shoulder and neck sent a wave of pain through Buck's head and back, causing the big man to fall to the ground unconscious, right next to his little brother.
After handing out a selection of tea, coffee, and hot chocolate, Nettie took a seat in the old rocking chair in the corner of her kitchen and sipped her chosen brew. She looked around at the four bedraggled brothers, and a smile curled her lips.
"I'm much obliged to ya'll. You've saved me a lot of expense."
Chris sat back on the kitchen chair, his mug warming his chilled hands. "Least we could do, Nettie, you baled Dad out enough times over the years."
The woman huffed. "It's what good neighbors do, son. Now, I know I've only had a couple of days away, but how are things with you all?"
Vin leaned forward, resting his forearms on the kitchen table. "Real good, Nettie. For my part, I'm enjoyin' the foreman position."
"He's a natural," Chris smiled. Vin shyly ducked the compliment, missing the pride reflected in Chris's eyes.
"And you?" she addressed her question at Ezra. "Have you been finding ways to duck out of menial labor?"
The southerner gave her a wink. "Why, of course." They all laughed.
The oldest brother looked at Nettie, a big grin on his face. "I've never been better, thank you for asking."
Nettie eyed the man, wondering if there was more to that statement, but happily let it go, for now.
"You heard from Casey?" Vin asked.
Nettie nodded. "She calls coupla times a week. Girl's doing fine. The transfer was the right thing to do. Does JD ever ask after her?"
"Not so much these days," Chris answered. The pair hadn't exactly parted on the best of terms. Chris believed that bothered JD more than him actually missing her in any way. JD hated unresolved conflict.
Nettie nodded her understanding, deciding not to share that Casey asked after JD every time she called. She couldn't blame the boy for his behavior, Nettie hadn't quite forgiven her niece herself for the way she had treated JD.
"Where are JD and Buck?" she inquired.
"Buck stayed behind to check JD got back from town safely. He called earlier to say the kid was home," Chris informed. His eyebrows rose when Nettie chuckled.
"I don't know who's worse, Christopher Larabee you, or Bucklin."
Chris huffed. "Buck "
Nettie just stared at him. "Yes, dear of course."
Vin stood to look out of the window. "Reckon the storm's dyin' down some."
Josiah rose to join him. Glancing out into the leaf-strewn yard, he draped an arm over Vin's shoulder. "You anxious to get home, too, Vincent?"
Vin shrugged, not wishing to admit that he was. Ever since JD and Buck's names were mentioned, an odd feeling churned in his gut. Glancing at Chris, he figured the blond was feeling it too.
"Are we waiting on the weather improving in order to leave?" Ezra asked.
"Nope, I reckon they're waiting on me." Nettie stood, collecting up the empty mugs. "Go on home, boys, I'll be more than fine, now thanks to you."
Chris chewed on the inside of his cheek. "Nettie "
"Go home, Christopher " she patted his arm. "Go see how those two boys are doing."
"With a grateful nod, all four stood to find their rain coats. Before heading out, Chris dialed his cell, concerned at the lack of response from either Buck's or JD's cells, or the house phone.
"They're probably checkin' on the horses," Vin suggested. "You know the wind spooks 'em likely their phones got left behind in the house."
With a final look to each other, the four headed for the Ram.
The lack of wind noise disoriented Buck for a moment. Icy rain pounded his back and face, which brought him around to slowly gain his bearings. He grunted in pain when his shoulder protested his first move. Pushing to get up, Buck's hand slid along the grass and stopped against something wet and still. He turned his aching head to see JD lying there, unmoving.
"Oh shit Kid KID! JD hey " Buck tapped his brother's cheek but got no response. Quickly realizing JD was cold, Buck shivered he wasn't feeling too warm himself. Ignoring his own pain, the bedraggled brunet struggled to his knees, but his aching shoulder was having none of it, and sent bolts of agony through his neck,back and shoulders. Disregarding the throbbing, Buck one-handedly hauled the smaller man up and awkwardly dragged the limp form to the house. Struggling inside, he deposited JD on the sofa, and tried again, without success, to rouse him.
Looking wearily around, Buck shrugged out of his coat, but before he could do more, his head spun and the brunet dropped down hard to his knees before spiralling into unconsciousness.
Chris stood just in front of his truck, staring at the fallen tree in the road as if by sheer will he could move it. He turned to the others. "Gonna have to take the long way 'round." With one final glare at the tree blocking their route home, Chris got back in the truck, made a U- turn and raced off.
"Head back to Nettie's," Vin urged.
"What?" Chris asked.
"I'll grab an ATV and ride home. Won't take as long as the other way round."
Despite having no known reason to rush home, Chris agreed and was soon turning back into Nettie's drive. In less than five minutes, he and Vin were riding out on both of Nettie's ATVs. With the desire to get home increasing ten-fold, they instructed Ezra and Josiah to continue on, and to keep trying to get hold of Buck and JD and also to call Nathan.
At Four Corners Memorial, Nathan was halfway through his shift. It was a busy evening, full of incidents and injuries caused by the storm. The worst had been an unfortunate man on his way home from work, crushed in his vehicle by a falling tree. Hearing his name being paged, he moved wearily to the nearest phone.
"Hey Ezra." The doctor listened. "I haven't had a chance to call the house, yet. Why do you think there's a problem? They haven't answered once? But " he nodded. Ezra said Chris and Vin had showed concern and that alone was enough to set alarm bells of his own ringing. "I'll see if I can get off early, but it's been pretty crazy around here this evening. Thanks for keeping me up to speed."
Replacing the handset, Nathan went in search of the Chief of Medicine.
Raising a shaky hand to his head, JD groaned, loudly. He could barely move his stiff, cold limbs, and his head felt like a dozen brain freezes hitting all at once. He moved his hand away from his hair on feeling the stickiness there. He may not be able to think too clearly, but the redness of his tacky fingers registering through unfocused eyes, coupled with the pain, told him all he needed to know.
He couldn't figure out what had happened, or how he came to be on the sofa, in the living room, but he did know Buck should be here, somewhere. JD went to call out again, but his stomach was now protesting even the smallest movement and he just turned in time to retch on the floor. Shaking like a newborn foal from the effort, the youth was almost passed out when he saw Buck lying on the floor a few feet away.
"Buck? Buck HEY!"
Ooh, bad move. Shouting was not the way to go, and again his stomach punished him for it. JD so wanted to give in to the agony, but he needed to see why Buck wasn't answering him. Sliding awkwardly off the sofa, he rested on his hands and knees for a moment. His body shook with the exertion, and his head pounded in time with his rapid heartbeat. Undeterred, he moved forward, but his traitorous arms gave out and sent him to the floor with a crunch. Licking at the coppery tang to the inside of his lip, JD figured slithering along the floor to be a safer option. He reached Buck in seconds, only to pass out as soon as his hand settled on his brother's lower back.
Something called to him. Buck couldn't so much hear it as sense it. A slight weight on his back was all it took to bring the brunet around, to then instantly see a mop of wet, dark hair just to one side of him. Reaching out, Buck rested his hand on the head, relieved to hear a soft moan.
"Yeah, Kid hold on."
Gritting his teeth, the bigger man pushed up into a sitting position and rested back against the sofa. Before pain controlled his actions, he grabbed JD's jacket and hauled the moaning youth to his side.
Unable to tolerate sitting up, the boy rested his head on Buck's thigh, barely noticing the cold, soaked denim of his brother's jeans as he lay there, panting. He was so cold and tired and hurting. JD just wanted to sleep.
Buck was ready to stop fighting the pain, but years of Nathan's warnings and coaching reminded Buck that head injuries were dangerous and now he had to find a way to keep them both awake. He wasn't aware he'd groaned until he heard JD's raspy voice.
"Buck you hurt?"
"Not so bad, kid. How are you feeling?"
Buck had to laugh, despite the fire igniting in his shoulder. "Good analogy."
"You sound like...Ezra "
"What can I tell you? The guy's habits rub off once in a while." Buck swallowed against his dry throat. "JD you have to try and stay awake, son Nathan'll be mad if you don't."
"Not sure I can Buck "
"Sure you can." He rested his hand back on JD's head, grimacing as he felt the stickiness and matted hair. "How did it go at Rosie's today?"
JD shifted slightly. "Okay pretty quiet had loads of Tamales left over."
"How many d'you eat?"
"Not many "
Buck laughed, softly. "You aiming to beat Tanner's record?"
"I can beat Vin's record. "
"Sure you can."
"What did you hurt?"
Buck winced. "Just my shoulder, Kid."
Buck could hear the fear in the boy's voice. "I swear mind you, I think I got hit by a flying Redwood "
"Buck " JD chuckled, then moaned at a little too much movement for his pounding headache. Swallowing the rising nausea, he quietly let go of the agony to the find pain- free blackness that had been taunting him.
"I kid you not," Buck joked. He became aware that the hot head under his hand wasn't moving. "JD?" Buck sighed, relaxing back against the sofa. "Damn." Minutes later he was out of it, too.
Ezra cursed as the GPS sent him onto highways he was unfamiliar with. He glanced at Josiah. The man was tight-lipped, his face lined with worry. Why were they all so anxious when they had no reason to believe there was anything wrong?
"We will probably find them ensconced on the recliners in the TV room supping on beers and sprinkling chips all over themselves and anything within four feet," Ezra stated, finally turning onto a road he recognized.
"I pray you're right," Josiah sighed, but the image of the urgency with which Chris and Vin rode off from Nettie's, made Josiah doubt that, somehow. The pair continued their journey in silence.
Nathan raced for his car, blipping the lock well before he reached it. He had been calling home for the last hour but no one answered. He knew Buck was there, and he'd called Inez to confirm their youngest had left Rosie's so also knew that JD was due there.
So where the hell were they?
Nathan desperately wanted to believe the pair was still out with the horses, but thinking back on his conversation with Ezra; they were with the horses for over two hours? He shook himself, and tore out of the hospital parking lot. He signaled to head toward home, grateful the wind had died down. It was hazardous enough driving in heavy, icy rain, without high winds, too. The doctor checked his watch, barring any problems with the roads, he'd be home within the hour.
Despite the driving rain and heavy ground, Chris and Vin rode for home at breakneck speed. They dodged trees and branches as if operating on some internal radar.
Chris had always relied on his gut instinct, a sense that had increased ten-fold since the three became seven. And it appeared Vin was a man of similar character, which, while it didn't make this journey any easier, it eased Chris's mind to know he wasn't risking his and his brother's lives on some crazy notion.
Vin kept his head down, while considering exactly when he'd begun to embrace this little family of theirs. He'd always been a loner but, in truth, something changed in him the day the seven met. Something so profound he knew he wanted to get to know the men he now called 'brother' and keep them safe.
With that thought, he hunkered down and rode faster.
Chris barely had time to switch off the ATV's ignition before he was running for the door to the Double L homestead. Vin was right behind him, neither man missing the debris- strewn yard on their way in. Throwing open the heavy wooden door, Chris groaned at the sight within and hurried toward the two unconscious forms. Vin circled around and, with a nod, he took JD while Chris tried to rouse Buck.
"Chris, he's freezin'," Vin informed as he ran gentle hands over JD's body in search of less obvious injuries.
"Buck's not much better," the blond answered, tapping Buck's face as he spoke. He was rewarded with a flutter of eyelashes and a soft groan.
"Easy, big guy I got ya."
"JD " the name came out as a whisper, but Chris heard it.
"Vin's with him. We need to get you out of these wet clothes."
Anticipating Larabee's next words, Vin settled JD down and ran for the stairs, bounding up them two at a time to reach the linen closet. He returned with four large blankets. Stripping the injured pair, Chris and Vin wrapped them both in two blankets each, and held both men close to get them warm.
Tanner looked down at his dazed brother. "Hey, kid how you doin' there?"
"C cold "
"I know "
"Buck Buck's hurt, Vin."
"I got him, JD." Chris's voice instantly reassured the younger man, but had Buck jerking in his older brother's arms.
"JD? Chris he's hurt the kid's hurt "
"I know, Buck, take it easy, man so are you." Chris glanced at Vin, and was just about to hand Buck over to go call for an ambulance when, to his relief, he heard a vehicle pull up. Josiah and Ezra entered the house and, on seeing the blanketed forms of their brothers, Sanchez instantly dialed for help.
Buck wouldn't settle causing Chris to become frustrated, as the brunet's mumblings would set JD off, making the pair more and more agitated.
"Allow me," Ezra offered and helped Vin move himself and JD next to Buck. The move settled the injured pair instantly. By the time the two had drunk a little water Nathan had arrived and instantly set to work.
After checking JD's eyes, he irrigated his head wound and bandaged it, explaining it needed more, but the gash had stopped bleeding and he felt it best to leave it at that, for now. There was no doubt JD was concussed, as was Buck, whose examination took a little longer. After explaining what he needed to do to Buck, Nathan turned to his anxious brothers.
"His shoulder's dislocated. He's not going to enjoy this, but I'm gonna put it back now, before he goes to the hospital." He nodded to Josiah who took over from Chris and braced himself and Buck for the maneuver.
After explaining again to Buck, Nathan took a position. "You ready, Buck?"
"Yeah, just do it." The brunet clamped his mouth shut in preparation for the inevitable agony, howling out at the top of his lungs as Nathan rotated and popped the limb back in. Despite a gallant effort, Buck passed out just after Nathan was successful.
"JD, quit it!"
Vin held fast as JD snapped awake on hearing Buck's anguished cry.
"He's okay, Kid just gettin' some treatment, is all."
"Wh what the hell kinda treatment makes a man yell like that?"
Vin had to smile. "I'll tell you later, rest easy, now."
Just managing to raise his head enough to see Buck resting, and with a soft sigh, JD stopped fighting, closed his eyes and drifted in and out.
Concerned Buck had possibly taken a blow to the neck, also, Nathan fitted a support collar as a precaution. Once the ambulance arrived, the pair was good to go.
Josiah was now holding onto Buck and, having taken to pacing, Chris spun on hearing an approaching siren. "About fucking time!"
"Well said," Ezra approved, gathering up the wet clothing to toss into the mudroom. They would likely be gone some time.
THREE DAYS LATER
With Buck dozing on the recliner and JD happily ensconced on the sofa in the main room, the pair were slowly recovering from their ordeal. With both on strong painkillers and Buck also on a course of anti-inflammatory pills, they hadn't been awake much on their first days home, but were getting more and more alert as time went by.
The five brothers joined the 'invalids' for the afternoon, enjoying some gentle conversation and light refreshments. Nettie brought in a cake tin.
JD's and Vin's eyes lit up. "Is it chocolate?" they asked, together.
"It is," she confirmed, flipping off the lid and taking out the pre-cut slices to give to each brother.
"There are three pieces left. Vincent Tanner, you make sure Buck and JD get the other two," she warned.
"Yes ma'am," he mumbled through a mouthful of cake.
"Right, well I'll be leaving, now." She pointed a finger at Buck and JD. "You two rest up!"
"...We will," they chorused.
Chris stood and walked her to the door. "None of this is your fault, Nettie."
"Not directly, no." She sighed, "but I can't help feeling a little responsible that you all being with me delayed their discovery and treatment.. However, what's done is done all that's left is to spoil 'em a little."
"Oh they'll love that," Chris grinned, glancing back at the pair.
With a nod, Nettie walked out to the garage to drive home. Chris surveyed the debris-strewn yard. That would be their next big job but not today. Closing the door, he turned to rejoin his family, shaking his head at the debate raging as to whether Vin really needed to have his extra piece of cake right that minute.
Chris stole a look at JD's bandaged head and Buck's strapped shoulder, trying to decide if they really were okay. Their relaxed laughter at Nathan, Ezra, and Josiah's attempts at keeping the cake tin away from a loudly protesting Vin, suggested they were and Chris relaxed. Once more taking his seat with the others, he smiled as he watched Buck's hand slowly move to rest on JD's arm. Yep, they were fine.
While Chris couldn't deny that life on the Double L was never uneventful he lived in hope.