Disclaimer: Just playing. I know I can't keep `em damnit!
Thanks to Mog for ATF
Main Characters: JD, Buck, OC
Ratings/Warnings: Inspired by, and loosely based on, a real and recent personal loss.
Summary: Occasionally, achieving a personal goal is in the hands of Fate, but Fate's not always willing to comply.
JD Dunne fiddled with his tie as he looked around. The church was full, actually, more than full; folk attending the funeral had spilled out onto the church steps and the sidewalk below, and were listening to the service via speakers. Not that he was surprised; Mrs. O'Leary was a very popular lady, loved by family, friends, and neighbors alike. JD hoped that somehow, someway, she could see all this, and realize how much she would be missed.
A warm hand curled around his wrist and JD turned his head to the side and smiled up at roommate, teammate and surrogate brother Buck Wilmington. Man, JD pondered to himself, no wonder the ladies liked Buck so much. He looked great in just about anything, and especially a black suit, and had received numerous admiring looks already. However, like JD and everyone else in and around the church, he was here to pay his respects and so, apart from pleasantries, Buck's focus was on the service and JD.
JD loved the man for many reasons, but especially for stuff like that. Buck had somehow figured out JD's anxiety over attending a Catholic funeral, and soon learned why. This was JD's first of such a service since his mom's and, as expected, it was dredging up a multitude of bitter memories. Mix that up with the genuine loss of a special friend, and JD's emotions were far too raw and close to the surface than he would like.
So despite equally feeling the loss of Mrs. O'Leary, Buck had been running interference for JD, especially when asked if it was true he and JD were at the hospital when she passed away.
They had called in with some flowers to visit with her after finishing work, only to find the immediate family at her bedside and distraught.
It was painfully clear JD didn't want to stay, but the family had clung to them both, and made it impossible for compassionate souls such as theirs to leave. And so as they had stood there, with Father Riley performing the Last Rites, they watched, and cried, as Mrs. Fiona O'Leary took her last breath.
Recalling those final, painful, raspy gasps, and the throbbing pulse point on her neck coming to a stop, JD bowed his head. He swiped at a tear and the hand around his wrist gave a squeeze. Something caught JD's eye and his gaze moved to Buck's leg just as another tear hit the dark fabric of the man's pants. With his wrist still held by Buck, JD lifted his hand and patted his friend's knee, eliciting another squeeze from the brunet. Buck was struggling too, and JD wasn't in the least bit surprised.
They stood to sing the final hymn and the pallbearers prepared to take Fiona's white coffin out of the church for the final leg of its journey the Crematorium. Only close family and friends were going there, the rest would move on to the Wake. Buck and JD had yet to decide if they would attend. Irish Wakes were long, boozy affairs, a true celebration of the deceased's life; but they had work tomorrow. Maybe they'd stop by for a drink and a bite to eat, just out of respect. The last thing either man wanted to do was offend the family, or fail to honor Fiona's memory.
JD stared at the flower-adorned coffin, and memories of his first meeting with the woman flooded his mind.
ELEVEN MONTHS PRIOR
Inside their apartment and balancing six large pizza boxes and several cartons of leftover Chinese food, JD stared at a grinning Buck. "Where'd you say the chute is?"
Buck pointed to his new housemate and gestured. "Out the door, right, then left and stop when you reach the sign that says `Trash Chute'."
JD made a face, then huffed when Buck added the bathroom waste basket to his stack.
"Off you go, little buddy. Don't get lost, now." Buck cackled at what he was sure were mumbled curses, and hurried to oblige on hearing a disgruntled `get the freakin' door, Buck!'
At the hatch lid to the chute, JD set down his boxes and pulled on the handle. He noted the stiff spring mechanism and figured he would struggle to hold it open and feed multiple items down there, and was proved right as the handle shot from his grip when the taut coil snapped the hatch lid back with urgency.
Cautiously pulling on the handle again, he picked up the first pizza box.
"Not down there, dear."
The youth turned his head to see a lady, probably in her late sixties, standing close by with a trash bag in her hand.
"'Scuse me, ma'am?"
"The chute isn't wide enough for a box that big. You have to take them directly to the dumpster."
JD narrowed his eyes figuring Buck already knew this. "Right, thanks ma'am, I'll do that."
"Huh? I mean "
She held out her hand. "My name's Fiona, Fiona O'Leary. I live at 72."
JD flashed a huge smile and while having no idea his youthful grin had instantly endeared him to her, he wiped his hand on his jeans to shake hers. "Oh, hi, I'm JD, JD Dunne; I live at 77."
The woman frowned. "Did Buck move out?"
"No ma'am, I moved in. I'm living with him."
She smiled. "Oh! You're a couple, how lovely."
JD's eyes widened. "NO! No..." he stammered. "...Just real good friends and workmates, that's all."
Fiona giggled. JD noted she had a sweet, girly giggle that lit up her face. "I'm so sorry, dear. That'll teach me for assuming." She eyed him up and down. "Workmates, you say? Buck's a police officer, surely "
JD nodded. "Yep, me too " He grinned again. " Long story." He extended his hand. "You want me to pop that bag in the chute for you?"
"Actually, if you could hold the hatch open, I'd be mighty grateful. The spring is rather vicious."
JD chuckled. "Uh, yeah, I had noticed."
Left with just the pizza boxes, JD picked them up and decided he'd hit the nearby stairs for some exercise. "Nice meeting you, ma'am, uh, I mean, Fiona."
"Nice meeting you too, JD Dunne." She smiled as she went to move away. "JD, don't be a stranger, call in for some cake sometime, Buck too. Maybe you can share that `long story' with me. I'd love to hear it."
JD nodded. "Sure, thanks I'd like that."
JD snapped out of his daydream at Buck's whispered words. "Yeah, sorry. Was just "
Buck nodded. "I know, me too. Was thinking on that day I came home and saw her door open "
EIGHT MONTHS PRIOR
Exiting the elevator to their apartment floor, Buck looked up and down the hallway as he always did before entering his home. Just as he was about to move off, he stopped and looked back toward apartment 72. Venturing forward, he realized what had caught his attention was the open door to Fiona's home. With a gentle push to the door as he stepped inside the apartment, Buck called out.
"Fiona, you in here?"
Not receiving a reply, Buck moved down her hallway and toward the living room. "Fiona, honey? You okay?" He poked his head into the living room, and caught sight of the lady herself sitting on her couch. The only prior warning of trouble was the look she gave him moments before Buck's head exploded with pain. Hitting the wood floor hard, he looked dazedly up at the blurry face staring down at him, before he was disarmed, and dragged across the floor by his jacket collar to lay at Fiona's feet.
After parking up his bike, JD keyed into the building and paused at the elevators. It had been a pretty quiet day in work, so he decided to jog up the six flights of stairs to the apartment, a ritual he tried to follow at least once a week. Pleased he had barely broken sweat when he reached the top floor, floor seven, JD went to walk back toward the apartment when he too noticed Fiona's door ajar. Approaching the open door, he was about to repeat the exact same actions and call as Buck when he heard a strange man's voice from within, followed by Fiona's.
"You're a cop? Fuck!"
"Young man, there is no need for that kind of language."
"Shut up! Shit, this was s'posed to be an in and out job. How hard can it be to rob one old lady?"
"Excuse me, dear; while I may not be getting any younger, I'm far from elderly. Why is it you young people call everyone over thirty `old'? Now, let me get help for Mister Wilmington, he's bleeding."
"I said, shut up! I need to think. Don't you move, cop, I got your gun, and I'll use it."
JD took a deep breath. Fiona was being robbed, possibly by a man in his late teens to late twenties, and Buck was down and unarmed. The guy had seemed to be talking to him, so JD had to assume his friend and partner was awake. Taking quiet steps back outside, JD dialed 9-1-1, identified himself, and then gave a quick appraisal of the situation, including that there was an officer down. He then dialed Chris, but before he could speak, he heard the agitated gunman make more threats and decided he needed to go back in. JD slipped the open phone into his pocket, then flipped open his ID wallet and hung it from his waistband so his badge was on display. He reached around his back for his gun, and crept back inside.
With his gun poised, and his back to the wall so he could see through the semi-open door to the living room, JD eased along the hallway. His gaze met Buck's and Fiona's, and he gave a reassuring smile, or at least hoped he had; he was feeling a little nervous right now. The young agent froze when the gunman, with his back to the hallway, stepped in front of the door and yelled at his hostages.
"Where's the money, old woman?"
"In the bank where it should be," she replied, calmly.
"Not much besides my wedding ring, I was never one for material things."
The gunman waggled his outstretched fingers. "Give."
Fiona hid her hand. "No, it's all I have from my husband."
"You either give it to me, or I'll shoot the damned finger off your hand."
"Calm down, pal," Buck soothed. "You're scaring the lady."
"He so is not, Buck Wilmington. It will take more than a pipsqueak like him to scare me."
The banter had achieved its purpose. Now in the room, JD pushed the muzzle of his Colt into the man's neck, just behind an ear, causing the exasperated robber to freeze.
"Federal Agent. You wanna hand me that gun, or do I get to shoot you for hurting my friends?"
The man's hand relaxed and JD took the Glock. He passed it to Buck before tossing the guy onto the floor. "Kiss the boards pal. If you so much as fart, I'll shoot - starting with your knees."
"JD, really!" Fiona scolded.
JD grinned, but his focus remained on his captive as he checked on his friends. "You okay, Fiona?"
"Yes dear, thank you."
"How bad, Buck?"
"I'm doing good, Kid; just a scratch, is all."
Noise drew their attention and DPD officers entering the apartment hollered out warnings for no one to move. JD was disarmed, but his exposed badge quickly posed him as no threat. He gestured to the man lying face down on the floor, and then moved to squat next to Buck. He tenderly took the man's face in his hands and examined the oozing cut.
"I thought you said it wasn't bad?"
"Nothing an aspirin and a band-aid won't fix, Kid."
"We'll see what a trip to the ER determines, Buck."
Buck rolled his eyes at Nathan's words, and grinned as Chris and Vin also approached. "You just missed all the fun, Stud."
Chris winked at JD. "Not yet, Pard, I get to watch you squirm in the Emergency Department."
Standing, JD chuckled and then grinned at the playful punch to his arm from Vin. Switching places with Nathan, JD moved to perch on the arm of the sofa and took Fiona's hand in his. "How are you doing?"
"I'm alright, son," she assured. "I should know better than to leave my door open when I take out the trash."
"You sure got some spunk, lady," Buck said as a newly arrived paramedic took over Nathan's ministrations.
"I learned early on that you get nowhere in life being a wallflower. As a Catholic and one of nine children, it was be heard, or miss out."
After the service, and on the sidewalk outside the church, Buck draped his arm around JD's shoulders while they watched the horse- drawn hearse and accompanying funeral cars pull away.
JD sighed. "I'm sure gonna miss her."
Buck mirrored him. "Yeah."
The pair glanced across the street and smiled at five men leaning against their parked vehicles, while watching and waiting. With mutual nods, Buck and JD crossed the street to join them.
Later, in the Saloon, those same five men listened as the two roommates shared anecdotes about their absent friend and neighbor.
"We had no idea she had ovarian cancer," JD rounded, softly.
Buck nodded. "We helped all we could when the meds stopped working and she insisted on being in her own home. We shopped for her, cleaned for her "
Ezra raised an eyebrow at the word `cleaned'.
"We did, so," Buck assured.
" Took out the trash," JD added with a sad smile.
"Yeah," Buck nodded. "Despite everything she was always smiling. She had a quick sense of humor, and one hell of a giggle."
Leaning forward, JD rested his elbows on the table and toyed with his soda. Absently running a finger through the condensation on the outside of the frosty bottle, he swallowed against the fast-rising emotion.
"She fought so hard to stay. Her one wish was to make it to Spring. She said springtime was her favorite time of year." He stared out at the snow-laden sky before welling eyes looked at his gathered friends. "She was so close."
There was a long pause before Chris raised his beer. "Let's drink to friends, absent, and present."
The six men emulated his actions and Josiah spoke. "May God's arms embrace and shield each and every one of us, wherever they and we may be."
Several miles outside of Denver, and in a corner of the St. Simeon Catholic Cemetery, the first hint of Spring emerged in the guise of a fluttering butterfly; and as one solitary ray of warm sunshine broke through the gathering clouds to land soft as a kiss on a fresh plot; what sounded like a giggle, drifted on the breeze.