Disclaimer: Just playing. I know I can't keep 'em…damnit!
Thanks to Mog for ATF
Main Characters: JD, OFC
Summary: A lonely plane trip home becomes less so for JD
Loosely based on a true story.
My thanks to Nancy and Blackraptor for giving my stories a home.
Wednesday morning's United flight 509 La Guardia New York, to Denver International Airport, was boarding. JD took his window seat and sighed; in around four and a half hours he would be on home turf, and Christmas could truly begin. The idea made him smile. He'd enjoyed a great two days in NY at a tech conference he'd requested to attend, but now it was over, and he'd begun to realize how much he'd missed home, or more specifically, missed Buck and the guys and the fun of the run up to Christmas.
While in the Big Apple, JD hoped to hit some nightclubs, maybe visit Times Square, but instead spent way too many hours online with other conference attendees - and had a blast. However - JD grinned to himself - he'd Googled some nightclub experiences - just in case Buck asked.
He yawned and got comfortable in his seat. After getting back to his room last night, JD flicked on the news and was mortified to see a report on a fierce gun battle during an earlier ATF raid in Denver. Somehow, JD knew it was his team, and spent three hours trying to get hold of one of them.
Finally, Buck called and set him straight that they were all okay, but JD wasn't convinced, and wouldn't be happy until he saw them all for himself. Despite already being two hours ahead of Denver, and that he had a flight home at 10:30am the next morning, JD and Buck talked until 4:00am East Coast time.
Calls over the intercom from the captain for passengers to take their seats and for flight attendants to close the doors, brought JD's attention to the empty seats next to him. Amazingly, the plane wasn't full, and it looked like he had a ride home in comfort. Within what seemed only moments of looking out of his window in readiness to watch the plane as it reversed, bony fingers wrapped around his wrist. JD jolted and turned to find a tiny, lean, elderly woman seated next to him, and he wondered how in hell she'd done that without him noticing.
"Sorry..." her petit, wrinkled features crinkled in a full smile, and her eloquent, Mexican brogue spoke softly, "...I no want to wake you, but you don't have on your belt."
JD swallowed. He'd been asleep? He smiled. "Thank you, ma'am, I hadn't realized."
"I'm Essie." She extended her slender hand.
A wide, boyish grin lit up the young agent's face as he raised his own hand to take hers. "JD. Pleased to meet, you, Essie."
The pair settled down for take-off. The wide smile never left Essie's face.
"I go home, today. You too?"
JD nodded and sighed, softly. "Yes, ma'am, I'm going home." Saying it sounded so good.
"I visit with my brother. I no see him for many years."
"Yeah? So, he lives in New York?"
"You...you've flown in from London?"
Essie nodded. "Ah yes."
"Si, I am alone, now. Was good to see family. I no see them for a long time."
"I guess you miss them, huh?"
"Ever thought of moving out there?"
"I think, but no go. Maybe one day."
JD tried not to stare, but couldn't help wondering how long this sweet old lady had left to make such long-term plans. His grin broadened, he liked her. "You live in Denver?"
"You go to college here?"
JD smiled, he'd long gotten over folk thinking he was still in college after Chris reminded him he was still young enough to be in college. "No, just visiting."
He watched her fumble around inside her purse and then bring out a bag of peppermints, which she offered to him. JD took one. "Thanks."
"I like peppermints," she stated, simply. "You like peppermints?"
"Sure, prefer chocolate, though." He chuckled at her light laughter.
"Oooh, me too, but bad for waistline. You like to work out?"
JD smiled, firstly at the odd question, and then at the memories of him and Vin, him and Buck, and him and all the guys working out for fun, and for their job. Thinking of the guys caused his eyes to smart, and he blinked, fast. "Sure, a little."
"Ooohhh, you tease old Essie, you are picture of health."
The young agent released a soft sigh-like giggle. "Buck would have something to say about that, I reckon." There was a pause.
"Is Buck your brother?"
It occurred to JD to explain, but somehow he didn't feel the need. "Yeah." He exhaled softly. "Feels like I haven't seen him in weeks." He quickly grinned. "I've only been away two days," he added.
"Just you two?" Essie asked.
"In the apartment, yeah, but there's seven of us altogether."
Essie clasped her hands together. "Seven! You are truly blessed."
They looked at each other and JD slowly nodded. "Yes, ma'am, I am."
As JD walked from the plane and along the jetway toward the departure gate, continuous, crackling sounds assaulted his ears.
He dropped his bag and took off running for cover, but the jetway just seemed to grow longer, and the doorway moved further away. 'Guys, hold on, I'm coming!' JD ran faster, but was still so far away, and the crackles were getting louder. Someone was holding onto him. 'No! Let go, I need to see they're okay! LET ME GO!'
JD jerked and blinked open his eyes. He could still hear the crackling, but he could see now he was still on the airplane, and not on the ground. Spindly arms enfolded him and JD suddenly realized Essie was holding him close. When he sat upright, the woman released him. The youth rubbed his eyes and nervously cleared his throat.
"Uh, sorry." He felt bad if he was the reason behind the concerned look in the jolly old lady's eyes.
"You were calling out..." Essie explained as she patted his arm, "...about your brothers. What worries you so?"
JD glanced around to get his bearings. He could see that the crackling noises he'd heard was actually hundreds of hot turkey sandwich wrappers being opened by passengers, and his heart started to slow. He looked back at the woman, trying to decide whether to share his deepest fears with a total stranger; moments later his mouth had gone its own way.
"I'm a cop - Federal Agent, actually." JD paused to allow for the gasp of surprise - he'd expected it. "The guys I told you about are too, and yesterday they were on a bust - a job - and even though Buck told me last night everything went okay..." He took a shuddering breath.
"...You think he was trying to spare your feelings?"
JD nodded. "Yes, ma'am. After we talked, I couldn't sleep for thinking about it." He blushed. "Sorry about earlier..."
Essie waved off the apology. She pulled down the tray attached to the seat in front of JD and began opening his sandwich. "Here, eat, it will help."
JD wondered if the knot in his stomach that took up residence after his talk with Buck, would let him eat, but he accepted the sandwich being waved under his nose, smiled, and took a bite. The food sat a little heavy, but it helped, and the pair ate in companionable silence for a while.
"Is someone meeting you at the airport?" JD asked, finally.
"Noooo, I take taxi, as always. You?"
"Yeah, Buck's picking me up. Can we drop you home?"
Essie's big smile was back and she reached over to squeeze JD's hand. "I am fine, but I thank you for asking."
"Really, it's no bother..."
Essie chuckled. "I am fine, but perhaps we could walk together to collect our bags?"
"Sure, I'd like that." JD smiled, inwardly, glad now that he'd checked his suitcase. He hadn't planned to, but with his laptop rucksack now classed as a carry-on, he was able to take home some gifts in a bag for the guys - fun stuff, but chosen thoughtfully.
For Vin, he'd bought a Harley Davidson belt buckle. Ezra had Ace of Spade cufflinks, while Josiah's gift was a really neat beaded cross necklace, similar to one the man broke during a recent bust. Nathan was to get a jumbo cigar, for the EMT's secret passion after enjoying a particularly good cookout. Chris's gift was a black chef's apron, printed with wording JD had asked for specially - 'GRILL CHEF - The Man - The Myth - The Legend'.
Buck's gift - well, that had been the toughest, but JD finally settled on what looked like a nice drinking glass. However, when filled, an internal outline of a naked woman became visible. He hoped it wasn't seen as vulgar, though felt sure Buck would see the funny side. In truth, JD believed there was nothing he could give Buck that could convey how much he meant to him, or any of the guys for that matter, so he'd tried to keep choices simple, and fun.
The idea of going home with Buck brought a warmth to his heart, and he turned to Essie. "You have no one to go home to?"
Essie smiled and patted his arm. "Darling, I have enjoyed a long, full, and happy life. Living alone is no something that concerns Essie."
JD didn't know why it bothered him, but it did. "No pets?"
"Dog, cat - canary?"
"Aaahhh." She nodded. "I have my birds."
Essie chuckled and moved her hand in a wide arc through the air. "Nooo, my birds. They come to my garden and I feed..." she leaned in, "...if I can keep the naughty squirrels away first."
JD's grin almost split his face. He really liked this lady. "You know you can get special feeders..." He watched the woman giggle.
"Where is fun in that?"
They were both laughing aloud when the captain announced they were about to make their descent into Denver. They buckled up.
"How come you didn't stay over with your brother for Christmas?" JD asked.
"He asked me same question."
"I have no answer but to say I know when to leave before I'm wanted to."
"Never outstay your welcome, huh?"
She smiled. "Si, something like that."
JD couldn't imagine anyone getting tired of having Essie around. He found himself wondering if he'd ever outstayed his welcome...
"...Are you ever excluded from things your brothers do?"
JD stared at his companion. How could she have known what he was thinking about?" "Uh...no."
She grinned. "Then you have the answer to your question." Her grin widened at his confusion. "You have an expressive face, it betrays your thoughts."
JD's eyebrows rose and he nodded. "Yeah, I get that a lot." A jolt to the plane alerted him to the fact they had landed. He looked out of the window. 'Home'.
On landing, passengers had instantly filled the aisles to retrieve their carry-on bags, so JD and Essie decided to wait. JD's amusement grew as, on leaving the airplane, Essie thanked anyone in proximity, and chatted to each staff member as she did so. They were well behind the rest of their fellow travelers by the time they headed for the bag carousel.
On arrival, they saw their bags disappear around the corner of the belt. Essie's suitcase looked big.
"I'll give you a hand," JD offered.
"Noooo, I carry fine, darling."
JD nodded, "Sure, I know, but I'd like to."
Essie turned. "I get cart, then."
JD faced the carousel and would be glad that Essie wasn't close by, for as he picked up her case he almost took out his shoulder. With a grunt he hoisted the luggage onto the cart, while secretly hoping Essie hadn't noticed the pull he'd now made to a chest muscle on doing so. He inwardly smiled. Buck would have a field day with that...
'Chest muscle? Since when did you get a muscle in your chest, Kid?'
"Thank you, Jayadee," Essie praised. She pointed. "Ooh, your case, it goes round again."
The pair looked at each other and JD smiled. "Well, I guess this is 'goodbye', huh?"
"You take care, Mister Federal Agent."
"I will. You too. I hope you get to London again, soon." He wasn't really surprised when she hugged him, and he gave her a good, but careful squeeze back, before watching her go amid waves to each other.
JD turned back to the carousel and rolled his eyes when his case yet again disappeared around the bend. 'Nuts'.
Laptop rucksack slung over one shoulder, suitcase rolling along on its two wheels, and gift bag clutched in his free hand, JD was soon within reach of the way out to the airport's main lobby. Fifteen feet further on, right before the exit, he saw a large gathering of people and some EMTs, and JD suddenly went cold. He'd instantly recognized a familiar large suitcase just outside the circle, and somewhere inside it, in a horizontal position on the floor, he'd gotten a flash of yellow trousers similar to the pants suit Essie was wearing. He dumped his gear and started running, his heart pounding and eyes already welling up.
The closer he got, the faster his heart rate rose. He felt sick to his stomach.
Suddenly a pair of hands was holding his.
"Jayadee! You are upset."
JD looked at his new and diminutive friend through spilling eyes and he stared between her and the circle of people and pointed. "I...I thought...you..." Tiredness and worry were fast overtaking the young agent.
The pair embraced and Essie patted his back. "Ooohh, noooo, I strong like a horse. That poor man on the floor, not so much, I try to help, but he's not so good." She hugged him tighter, touched that he was so worried about her.
"Federal agents! Move along, please, nothing to see here, let the medical people do their job."
Recognizing Chris's voice, JD looked up. Through his misty gaze, he could see Buck heading toward him. Essie didn't need introductions and gently released her charge into the tall man's care.
JD's arms enfolded his surrogate big brother in perfect time with Buck's embrace. Buck half-chuckled, and half-grunted at the force.
"Ooh, easy there, son got my ribs a little kicked around yesterday."
Buck's words filtered through and JD released his grip, stepped back, and stared at the bruised face he loved. His gaze shifted to see Chris equally bruised, Vin's arm strapped, Ezra's hand bandaged, and Josiah and Nathan appeared pretty banged up, also.
"You...you said..." JD stammered as he stared at Buck.
Buck squeezed JD's shoulder. "I said we were all okay, and we are."
JD made a little squeak to the contrary, as his hand gestured to each of the others. Chris approached.
"We'll be back in the office Monday, Kid, just like you." He could see JD peering beyond him to Vin. "Okay, Tanner took a bullet, but it's not serious." He reached out and waited for JD to look at him. "I promise."
Vin's cheek dimpled in a grin and he nodded his agreement. Ezra raised his bandaged hand.
"An unhappy meeting with a slammed closed briefcase, nothing permanent..." Standish raised an eyebrow and looked at Chris, "of course, a week or two to recuperate would be most welcome."
The others chuckled Chris just stared. "I'm offering you Christmas at the ranch, what more do you need?"
Buck bent his knees to look into JD's eyes. "What d'you say, Kid? You ready for a little team Christmas R&R - Larabee style?"
Suddenly embarrassed, JD tugged on his shirt cuff to scrub at his eyes. "Sounds great," he said, hoarsely. "OH!" JD turned to introduce Essie, but she was gone. He spun around in search of her.
Vin pointed. "The little old lady that was with you just headed off toward a driver holdin' up a name card."
Disappointed, JD stared off toward the exit. He really would have liked to introduce Essie to the guys. Instead, he turned and walked back to where he'd left his bags, grateful that the glass for Buck was well packed.
JD turned to see Buck helping with his gear. He smiled. "Good, but all the better for being home." His grin widened when Buck chuckled and put an arm around his shoulders as they approached the others.
"So, whose gonna tell me what actually happened yesterday?" JD asked.
"I would be happy to fill you in," Ezra offered.
"He asked for what actually happened, Ezra," Vin admonished.
"I object to that implication, Mister Tanner..."
"Aahh, come on, Ezra, you'd take all day anyway," Nathan put in.
"Not to mention having to interpret every other of your sentences," Josiah reminded.
JD's giggle and face-splitting grin caused them all to stop and return the smile. Chris nudged his youngest agent.
"I'll fill you in after we eat," Chris promised.
Buck leaned in and whispered, "and I'll add in all the exciting stuff Chris leaves out."
JD sighed contentedly, his weariness long gone now that he'd seen all six men were alive, and reasonably well. He noted Tanner had dropped back to join him and figured the question in his eyes was enough to prompt the Texan's response.
"Just a crease, nothin' more."
'More than enough', JD thought, but simply nodded.
As the group exited glass doors to head for the elevators to the parking garage, JD spotted Essie getting into an elevator further along. Their gazes met and they exchanged smiles before the car doors closed and she was gone.
'See ya, Essie.'
"You okay, Kid?"
JD turned to Buck and nodded. "Sure." His gaze moved to Larabee as they stepped into the elevator. "So, whatcha gonna be cooking for our Christmas Eve meal, Chris?"
"Uh, steaks, ribs, chicken..."
"Ezra made pizza," Josiah added.
"You made pizza?" JD asked.
Ezra bit back a grin. "I did, despite its desirability being beyond my comprehension, and the considerable pain I was in whilst doing so..."
Five men groaned and taunted the southerner before he continued.
"...but I know how much you enjoy it, Mister Dunne and, after all, this is your homecoming."
"Awesome, thanks guys." Inside Josiah's SUV, JD settled against Buck and looked around at all six men. " Hey, fellas, do I ever outstay my welcome?" There was a pause.
"Well, seein's your askin'..."
"Are you referring to any particular time?"
"I'm not sure I should say."
"That's quite a question, John Dunne."
It went quiet. Chris spoke.
"Doesn't the fact all six of us came down to the airport tell you something, Kid?"
Laughter filled the car and JD was poked, patted and his hair ruffled. He grinned. "Man, it's sure great to be home."
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