Disclaimer: Just playing. I know I can't keep 'em . . . damnit!
Thanks to Mog for ATF
Characters: JD, OMC
Ratings/Warnings: Some violence, homosexual references, and bad language
My thanks to Kathy M, and our dearly missed Susan Fulton, for their vigilance. And to blackraptor for giving my stories a home.
Denver's finest watched in awe as the man in black and two of his sidekicks made a beeline for the cells. The visit had been expected. Not that any one of the officers in the holding area of the Denver precinct at that time, would dare say that to the faces of either of the three arrowheads plowing through people and protocol like they were floating dust particles. Hell no, they liked their balls spherical shaped, and right where they were, thank you very much.
Stopping at the desk just outside the cells, Chris Larabee glowered at the officer on duty. "Which room?"
Officer Billson got up from his seat. "S…sir," the man stuttered, "I can't let you…" He swallowed hard at the folded arms, forward leaning stance, and steely glare, and then unlocked the barred entryway. "Interrogation room four, sir." He barely stepped aside fast enough before Special Agents Larabee, Wilmington, and Tanner stomped past him.
Coming to a halt outside room four, Chris instantly pushed open the door. He, Buck and Vin were greeted by two steady stares and one bleary-eyed glance. Ignoring the purple bruise under JD's right eye, he pointed at his agent and then hitched his thumb over his shoulder. "JD…we're leaving."
Detectives Hank Pullen and James Kenner stood. "We're not done here, Larabee. You hotshots got no right barging in here like this."
"Is he under arrest?" Chris asked.
"No, he's a witness…"
"Then you're done. He's been here co-operating, for over twelve hours…he's done for today."
Fury evident in their eyes, Buck and Vin flanked their youngest as he stood. Buck slipped a hand to JD's neck and gave a supportive squeeze, while Vin blocked Pullen's attempt to attach himself to Dunne's arm.
"He was possibly the last person to see Agent Lewis alive," Hank stated, staring at Chris. "If one of your boys was lying dead, would you let your only witness go?"
"I know I wouldn't whine after holding a witness for twelve hours about having to follow procedure," Chris replied. "You know where to find us. We want this murderer just as much as you do. Meanwhile, Agent Dunne's due some much needed rest." With a head gesture from Larabee, Vin, Buck, and JD headed out. Chris looked back at the two agents, and handed them an embossed business card from his shirt pocket.
"Call me anytime," he assured, and then left.
Outside the station house, the four men marched toward Chris's Ram. JD struggled in the foam slippers he had been given to wear when his bloodied sneakers were confiscated as evidence.
Larabee shook his head at JD. "Later." The look he offered suggested concern, not anger, and with JD unable to stay awake once the truck was in motion, the journey to Chris's ranch was in silence.
Arriving at Chris's, and after receiving supportive remarks from his friends, some cream for his eye from Nathan, and an embrace from Buck, JD was urged on to bed, Chris explaining they could talk after he rested. The seasoned agent had already requested a copy of the case notes, and knew JD was too exhausted to think clearly at this point.
Eight hours later, JD wiped the steam from the bathroom mirror and stared at himself. He had been awake for over thirty-eight hours, so sleep came easily; but his dreams had been disturbing, eventually pulling him from his slumber. He smiled when he returned to his room from the bathroom and saw the duffle bag Buck had dropped in to him at some point. Slipping on fresh socks, jeans, tee, and shirt, JD ruffled his damp hair, exited the bedroom, and walked downstairs in his stocking feet.
Finding the house empty, JD stepped out onto the deck and came across all six teammates in various positions around the yard. Wearing only socks, JD decided not to step onto the grass. He waved a hand in greeting, and smiled as Buck approached.
"Not so bad," JD shrugged.
"Coffee?" Ezra asked.
The group gravitated to the seats and benches on the deck. Taking a bench seat and thanking Ezra for his coffee, JD took a long sip, sat back, and sighed. "I'm so sorry."
Sitting forward, Chris stared him straight in the eye. "Why?"
JD shrugged again. "For worrying Buck, being out of touch for so long…" his face dropped. "For not being there for Shaun."
"Do you think there was anything more you could have done to save Agent Lewis's life, John?"
JD glanced at Josiah and sighed, heavily. "No."
Chris patted his knee. "From the top, Agent Dunne."
Comforted when Buck perched next to him and draped an arm over his shoulders, JD began.
SHIFT END – TWO NIGHTS PREVIOUS
"You're not coming to the saloon?" Buck mock pouted at his best friend and housemate, JD Dunne.
JD grinned as he shut down his computers. "I'm sure you'll manage without me," he teased.
"Who'd you say you were meetin'?" Vin asked.
"Shaun Lewis…he's an agent in IT. We kinda got chatting one day, found out there were a few online games we both liked. He called to say he had some news and could I meet him for a drink."
"He not got many friends then?" Buck slipped in with a bob of his brow and a wry smile.
JD nodded. "A bit like you," he shot back. Buck snorted and dismissed the balled up paper Vin tossed at him. JD continued.
"He transferred in just before I came to Denver. He's a nice guy, but computers are his life. I guess I talk his language and we hit it off."
"You've no idea what his news is?" Nathan asked.
JD shook his head. "And I don't know if anyone else is joining us, either," he put in, pre-empting Josiah's question.
"And this is the first time he has invited you to join him in an activity?"
JD snatched up his jacket, glancing back at Ezra. "Uh huh. See y'all later." He winked at his teammates, and leaned in to kiss Buck on the cheek. "'Bye Mom, don't wait up."
The other men laughed as a chuckling junior agent ducked away from Buck's swinging hand.
"I know where you sleep, you little shit!" Buck hollered after him, his grin wide.
Chris's quiet tone stopped the young agent in his tracks. "Yeah, Chris?"
"My place, this weekend. You interested?"
JD beamed. "You really need to ask?" He frowned. "Wait, it's only Thursday, why ask me now?"
"Because I'm asking the others after work. I wanted to give you the same courtesy of time to ponder on it."
JD's grin widened. "Can hardly wait, Bossman."
Watching him leave, Chris smiled and shook his head. He turned to the others. "Let's go."
Sitting on a high stool at a bar, JD glanced around the establishment. It was full of men, and a feeling began to nag at his gut. He smiled at Shaun when he passed him a drink, jumping down off the stool to follow the older man by ten years to a booth. After a minute or so, JD spoke. "Nice place. Can't say I've ever been here before."
Shaun smiled. "I wouldn't think so, you being straight and all." He laughed at JD's face pull, then his awkward attempt to cover it.
"That's your news?" JD asked, recovering. "I mean…I didn't know, but…" he frowned, "did you think I'd mind?"
"No…I figured you'd be cool with it, and I wanted you to know, not many I work with do. But my news is that I've been accepted to work in Washington for the FBI."
JD smiled. "Yeah? Cool. When do you leave?"
"At the end of the month. I, uh…I wanted to ask you…I heard you were at the top of their recruitment list once. Why'd you turn them down?"
Sipping his drink, JD shrugged. "To go straight in at eighteen from MIT, meant working God knows where in some computer division until I was old enough for fieldwork, or in their cyber crime division. I wanted action, as well as technology."
JD chuckled. "Are you kidding me? Larabee's the best and so are the guys around him. They are the action. I'm set."
Shaun nodded. "I envy you."
"You're still so young, and you've found your vocation."
JD pondered on that for a moment, and then grinned. "Can't argue with that." They both laughed. Two men, one in jeans and tee, the other in slacks and polo shirt, leaned into their booth.
"This a private party, or you up for some company?" the one in jeans asked.
Shaun shook his head. "Private, sorry guys."
"What, we not good enough…?"
The man in slacks spoke soothingly. "Mon Cher…they want each other, come with me."
JD looked up at the second man. Smart-casual clothes, around forty, and his accent sounded a little like Ezra's. He noticed a glance between him and Shaun, and realized Shaun was interested. JD stood. "Look, Shaun, I got some friends downtown waiting on me if we were done early. I'll catch up with you tomorrow, yeah?"
Before Lewis could answer, the man in jeans narrowed his eyes. He hadn't missed the look between Shaun and his friend, either. "Hey…what gives?" He snapped. "I thought you were here with me?"
JD touched his shoulder. "Calm down, okay? No need to…oww, shit!" The man's elbow came up to push JD away, catching him on the cheekbone, just under his eye.
JD's assailant glared at his companion and Shaun, his fists rising as his anger built. "I said, what gives, huh?" Suddenly he was spun around and pushed face down on the table with JD's knee in his back.
"Fella, I'll give you that one, now cool it."
The man grunted with the pressure. "Alright, alright. I'm sorry man, okay?"
The southern-accented man leaned in toward Shaun, who nodded, caught a wink from JD, smiled, and the pair left the area.
"Let me up, dude."
"You done yelling at me?" JD asked.
"Yeah, yeah. I'm sorry." When the pressure at his back subsided, the man stood. "Sorry, I don't normally lose it, but I had a feeling that dude was looking for someone better than me, you know?"
JD didn't know, but nodded. "He's not a friend?"
"Nah, picked him up about five minutes before he spotted you two." He extended his hand. "Sorry about your eye."
JD shook the offered hand. "No sweat. See ya." He walked away, tenderly touching his sore eye, and shaking his head. 'See ya? What the hell was that about, Dunne?'
He walked into the bathroom, pulled out a few paper towels, wet them and held them to his eye. The swelling wasn't too bad, but was already going blue. 'Great, how the hell do I explain this?' Several minutes later, he tossed the towels and left.
Outside the bar, JD checked his watch, and wondered if there was still time to join his friends, or whether he should head home. JD felt an odd and sudden chill, and the hairs stood up on the back of his neck. He turned to look behind him, relieved when there was no one there, but something about the alley one building over, drew his attention and he walked to its shadowy entrance. "Hello?"
Still unsure why he was there, JD reached around his back, un-holstered his gun, and holding it in front of him, walked in. "Police! Anyone there? Show yourself!"
His body twisted left and right, and he turned his gun to meet any possible threat as, shadows shrouded the scant overhead lighting. Heart pounding, and breathing rapid, JD continued on, stopping when something underfoot squelched. He squinted down through the gloom to see an ominous dark liquid staining his sneakers. His gaze followed the trail to just a foot or so ahead of him, his jaw dropping open seconds before his stomach rolled, and the rising bile burned his throat.
JD slid forward on the bench, bent forward, and propped up his head. Buck placed a comforting hand on his back. After a few moments, JD waved off the comfort, patted Buck's knee, straightened, and took a breath.
JD nodded at Buck. "Yeah, sorry. Just…" He swallowed. "I just can't believe it, you know? He'd only just left…"
The others nodded. Chris spoke. "So…you may have seen Lewis's murderer."
"I guess so. That's what DPD seem to think. Unless he had an accomplice, or the guy Shaun walked out with is lying dead somewhere, too, I don't see how he couldn't be the one." JD watched Chris dial.
"Detective Pullen, I want my team in on your next briefing…we'd like to assist. Monday at eight? Okay. Liaise with Sanchez for a profile, and make your records, notes, and reports available to my team." He snapped his cell closed. "I know this isn't our jurisdiction," he glanced at JD, "but whether we like it or not…we're involved. It'll take us the weekend to catch up…" Chris smiled as each team member displayed interest.
Sanchez stood. "On it."
Chris raised a hand. "Tomorrow will be fine."
"JD, you ready for this?"
Larabee nodded. "Okay, tomorrow, get to a computer and work your magic. Can you switch everything to the office?"
JD offered a tight smile. "No problem. I just need to access their files."
Sitting back, Chris relaxed. They were cutting their weekend short, but every one of his team considered the occasion worth it.
DPD - MONDAY 8 am, HOMICIDE DIVISION
Team Seven situated themselves at the back of the briefing room, while Detective James Kenner walked the officers in the room through the latest victim's demise. Josiah's profile was submitted. Their suspect was a good-looking male; smartly dressed, of possible southern descent, and in his early forties. However, the bar JD and Lewis had gone to, provided no clear camera shots of the man, so JD's description was all they had to go on.
"It's escalating," Kenner continued. "Last week alone, five homosexual, Caucasian males, were murdered in almost as many days. Each man decapitated and relieved of his manhood, before being stabbed." He drew attention to the whiteboard containing graphic images of the victims, and an added image of the artist's impression garnered from JD's description. "Unwittingly, Agent Dunne has given us our first breakthrough. Agent Sanchez has indicated the man's MO suggests more than just a desire to kill, but likely a need to avenge a person or an act he had no control over." He frowned as JD walked to the whiteboard and glanced at each victim. He twisted each photo left and right until the faces captured in them were lined up at similar angles, and then looked back at his teammates.
"Can anyone else see this?"
Chris straightened from his leaning position. "Good Lord."
Everyone stared at the gory photographs, realization hitting them quickly.
"Is it just me, or do the victims all look kinda…similar?" JD inadvertently shuddered. Losing their heads in the attacks and having them photographed in graphic detail had made the victims' connection difficult. He turned to Pullen. "How old was each man?"
Pullen stepped up. "Between eighteen and thirty. Lewis was the oldest."
"But he didn't look it." Buck acknowledged his team's agreement. "I know he didn't look eighteen, but like the others…"
Pullen stared at the board. "...had dark hair, were all slight, and around 5' 8" - 5' 10."
JD was animated, now, his brow creased in concentration. "The guy he was initially with looked almost the same…but not quite."
Vin flicked through a folder of photos taken from the bar's cameras and passed it forward. "He's dark, but with blond highlights."
"Didn't the footage show that the southerner initiated the contact with JD and Lewis?" Ezra asked. "That he appeared to spot them from the bar just before he and his companion approached them?"
"It could've been either one of us." JD's words were soft, but everyone heard them.
"Explain," Kenner pushed, already understanding, but wanting the others in the room to be aware, also.
Seeing JD struggling with that revelation, Buck stepped in. "Shaun and JD are of similar build and appearance, but Shaun was ten years older."
"But didn't look it," Josiah reminded.
"Then…why Lewis?" a seated officer asked. "What did this man single him out?"
JD spoke, softly. "I'm not gay. I wasn't interested in the guy's advances, but Shaun was." As the officers in the room absorbed the information, JD hoped Shaun would understand why he'd shared his secret.
He stared at Chris, a flash of anticipation in his eyes. "But…I could act as if I was."
Pullen's head snapped from the board to JD. Chris stepped forward. "Not an option at this point. There's plenty to go on before we go down that road."
Others nodded their agreement.
"Chris…" JD's attempt to suggest otherwise halted the instant he saw his leader's glare.
"Was Lewis in a relationship?" Nathan cut in, attempting to avert a disagreement.
"No one seems to think so," Pullen answered. "But his records have been sealed. Apparently, he was transferring out to the FBI. I've requested…"
Scanning the room, JD strode to a computer and started tapping away on its keyboard. The large, wall-mounted monitor switched from crime scene details to a full profile and picture of Agent Shaun Thomas Lewis. The printer fired up and Vin collected the printouts, handing them to Kenner, who stared at JD.
"How did you do that?"
JD shrugged. "It's a gift." Despite the gravity of the situation, his teammates grinned.
"Can what you just did be traced?" Kenner asked, a little alarmed.
JD huffed out a soft laugh, and then sobered. "O-h, you were serious." He shook his head. "No, sir."
Closing in, Chris put a hand on JD's shoulder. "We'll leave it there. If you need us, you know how to reach me." Pullen, Kenner, and Larabee shook hands.
"Appreciate all you've done," Pullen said, sincerely. "I have to remind you, JD is still…"
Chris bobbed his head. "Understood." With nods, Team Seven exited the room. Outside, in the large bullpen, JD halted Chris.
"A key witness," Buck answered. He looked at Chris. "Should we go home…?"
"Wait," JD pleaded. "I know what this guy looks like; I could go in and lure him…"
"No," Chris said firmly. "I'm not ruling it out, but let's give the investigation a chance first." He glanced at Tanner. "Take JD home and stick close." He halted his youngest agent's protests.
"Just for now," he assured. "I want you and Vin to go over that night, any photos, and statements, including your own. Make sure nothing's being missed."
Understanding anything 'being missed' after their team became involved was unlikely, Vin acknowledged the hidden message, and nodded. "C'mon, Kid. Once we're sure there's nothin', you can challenge me to a game of Call of Duty on your PS3." Not giving JD a chance to protest, he dragged the younger man out to his jeep.
Chris turned to Buck and Josiah. "Buck, you've worked homicide, you and Josiah keep at this. Stick around, there's more here - you know it, and I know it. Ezra, Nathan, and me'll go back to the office and start checking out where this guy originates from."
"His accent may be false," Ezra drawled.
Chris nodded. "True, but it's all we've got so far."
Having picked up some pizza on the way to the loft, Vin and JD were past eating and sorting through reports, and well into their video game.
Hoping to find an ally, JD paused the game and looked at Vin. "All this evidence sifting, wouldn't it make more sense if I got dressed up and hit a few bars?"
Tanner shook his head. "Drop it, Kid. Chris said he wouldn't rule it out, but even a small undercover op needs time to plan. This guy's a psycho…he hits fast and hard. Look how quickly Shaun died."
The Texan sighed and squeezed JD's arm. "Let it lie for now…okay?" He watched the younger man nod, begrudgingly. Vin understood JD's frustration, and his need to be doing something positive, but Chris had an agenda, and the team knew when it was right to let Chris do what he did best…lead. Tanner tried to break the tension. "Now…prepare for some sneaky warfare."
Some while later, Vin was relieved to see JD more relaxed, and before they realized, several hours had gone by. Groaning at a virtual life lost, the latter turned to his friend. "Beer, milkshake?"
Tanner pondered the question. "Got chocolate?"
JD grinned. "Uh huh."
Vin picked up the controls to reset the game. "Chocolate milkshake it is, then, thanks."
Nodding, JD stood. "Just have to use the bathroom first…be right back."
In the bathroom, JD leaned on the sink for a while, his head hanging, dark hair veiling his gaze as he fought with his conscience. Finally, he eased open the medicine cabinet and took out a pill bottle. Stuffing it into his jeans pocket, JD closed the cabinet door, and flushed the unused toilet before exiting.
"You'd better've washed your hands, Dunne!"
A preoccupied JD jerked at the call out. He forced a smile and hollered back as he walked into the kitchen. "Hell no. And I'm gonna use a finger on that hand to stir your shake with."
Vin chuckled. "Sounds interestin'. Hurry up, Kid, the game's all set to restart."
Squeezing shake syrup and adding milk into the blender, JD let it mix while he took the bottle of sleeping pills left over from a previous injury, out of his pocket. Hands shaking, he removed one, sealed the bottle before placing it on the worktop, and crushed the pill onto some kitchen paper with the back of a spoon. Stopping the blender, JD poured equal amounts of the shake into two glasses.
"You done yet?"
JD took a shaky breath as he stared at the powder on the paper. He held it over Vin's glass. "Just coming. Get ready for an ass-whooping, Tanner."
At the DPD incident room, Buck and Josiah studied the pictures on the whiteboard. Aside from the victim's decapitation and dismemberment, each body had suffered a frenzied attack from a large knife. Whoever was doing this would be pretty blood spattered after the event. The murders had taken place at night and close to busy establishments, yet somehow the murderer was never seen.
The night Lewis died, JD could only have been minutes behind them leaving, yet there had been no sign of the suspect. That thought caused Buck to shudder. 'Too close, Kid…too damned close'. He turned away from the board when Josiah cleared his throat and pointed to the photo-fit from JD's description, and then to the murdered men's photos.
"There are definite similarities between the victims."
Buck stared at the pictures. "So…is he killing to destroy a memory? Or maybe it has something to do with a sibling…a lover?"
"What if he's not gay?" Josiah put forward. "There's no evidence to suggest sex, or even foreplay took place." Now Buck was pointing.
"Well, with the poor guys' bits separated from their bodies, it's not easy to tell." Buck pursed his lips. "It takes a lot of strength to take off a man's head. And then there's the frenzy in the stabbing afterwards."
Buck nodded. "JD said that, in the bar, the guy was coolness personified…real smooth."
"In that case, it might be unlikely that friends or family would notice any kind of strain. All his anger comes out in the attacks." Josiah sighed. "Finding out what set him off on this killing spree would help considerably."
Buck nodded. "I hate to say it, but baiting this guy to catch him before he kills again may be the only way to go."
That revelation didn't sit well in Buck's gut. "I'm gonna head home and check on the kid."
"I'll get back to the office and see if they've had any breakthroughs."
"Take-out?" Buck asked.
"Splendid idea. We'll see you later."
Ezra stifled a yawn and pushed at his hair with his fingers. 'The South' was a vast area, and when trawling for incidents, nothing helpful to the case had jumped up and bit them in the ass.
Ezra and Chris stared at Nathan, the former replying. "Excuse me?"
"In JD's statement, the point when he thought the man's accent resembled Ezra's…he said he had halted his companion's tirade with the term 'Mon Cher'."
Chris could see Standish's mind processing the information, the agent already tapping instructions into the computer. "One has to admire how JD searches with such ease," Ezra said between frustrating dead-ends.
"We've been coerced into using computers," Nathan replied. "JD was born to it."
"Quite likely," Standish smiled. He looked up. "To coin one of JD's phrases…'bingo'."
Larabee stood over Ezra's shoulder, and read out snatches of the information on the screen. "Eighteen months ago. A reported 'Crime of Passion' in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Alistair Hanson, twenty-two, was stabbed and decapitated in an alley alongside a known gay bar, purportedly by twenty-four-year-old former lover Sherwin Bloom. When questioned, older brother Marcus commented that how his brother chose to live his life was his own business, how he was forced to die, was a very different matter."
A picture of alleged murderer Sherwin Bloom flashed up, prompting a collective 'shit' from all three men as the resemblance to the recent murder victims was obvious. Chris continued summarizing.
"Bloom fled the country while on bail awaiting trial." Larabee frowned. "How the hell did an accused murderer get bail while waiting on a murder trial?"
"Innocent until proven guilty," Nathan reminded.
"His family and attorney are high profile," Ezra pointed out, still reading the text. They all looked up when Josiah entered the office.
"Where's Buck?" Chris asked.
"Gone to check on JD and Vin. I have news."
Chris grinned. "So do we." After a quick briefing, he studied the pictures again. "So…are we to conclude this guy won't stop until he finds and murders Sherwin Bloom?"
"There's a good chance, but, why did he come to Denver?" Nathan asked.
"I believe I can answer that," Ezra cut in. "Paperwork states he hired a P.I. to find Sherwin. There was an unconfirmed sighting in…"
"Don't tell me," Chris interrupted. "Denver."
Reaching for the phone, Larabee called Pullen. The conversation ended with the DPD detective concerned that due to the news coverage declaring Lewis as a Federal Agent, Marcus could go to ground if they didn't find him, or attempt a sting operation soon. Realizing their next step was to talk to JD, the four men of Team Seven headed for the CDC.
Having enjoyed his shake, and while JD was engrossed in an on-screen game task, Vin got up, gathered up their glasses and walked to the kitchen. "Another shake, Kid?"
"Sure, thanks," JD called back, not really registering the request. About ten or so seconds later, a thought struck him and he dropped his controller, leapt over the back of the sofa, and ran toward the kitchen.
Placing the glasses into the dishwasher, Vin reached for two fresh ones. He set them down on the worktop, but his attention was drawn to a powder residue on some kitchen paper. Heart pounding, he snatched up the pill bottle next to it and read the label. Angrily exiting the kitchen, he ran smack bang into JD, and pinned the younger man against the hall wall.
"Have you drugged me?" Vin snarled.
JD shook his head. "No."
"Don't lie!" Tanner roared, his hand slipping dangerously close to JD's throat.
JD couldn't recall the last time Vin had yelled in anger…and never at him. "I…I'm…not…" he gasped out.
Realizing what he was doing, Vin relaxed his grip and pushed the bottle into JD's face. "What the fuck is this then?"
Eyes filling, JD shook his head again. "I'm sorry…I was thinking about doing it…and then sneak out to try and find this guy…" He startled when Vin's iron grip returned. "But I…I…couldn't…I couldn't do it to you…"
Unable to process the information due to his exasperation, Vin changed his grip, spun JD around and frog-marched him into his bedroom. "I can't talk to you right now. You stay in here until I say you can come out…then we'll talk."
Depositing JD onto his bed, Vin quickly ensured the window was secured, then, after glaring at JD, stomped out of the bedroom, slamming the door behind him. Outside the room, Vin leaned back hard against the wall. He closed his eyes on hearing JD's distress inside the room, now furious with himself for reacting in anger, but the very idea JD was considering putting him out had hit Vin hard. JD was like a kid brother to him. He trusted him, just as JD trusted Vin.
JD sat on his bed and watched Vin storm out. He covered his face with his hands and allowed the emotion of the past few days to catch up with him. Exhausted, he lay down on top of the covers and closed his eyes, to eventually fall into an uneasy sleep.
Walking back into the living room, Vin paced while his mind was replaying the confrontation. He kept focusing on one phrase…'I couldn't do it to you…' Tanner glanced back toward JD's room. He sighed, dropped his head and placed his hands on his hips. Of course JD couldn't do it…and hadn't. Vin had reacted to the actual intention, rather than the follow-through. He went to the bathroom to splash cold water on his face, and then moved into the kitchen to make two coffees, intending to go into JD's room and talk things through. On opening the door, it was clear JD was asleep, so Vin left him to it. Buck entered his home, and grinned on seeing Vin with two coffees in his hand and wandering into the living room.
"Perfect timing," he grinned, his smile fading on seeing Vin's expression. "What's wrong?"
Tanner gestured for him to sit. "We need to talk."
When the rest of the team arrived, it was apparent there was an atmosphere in the apartment. Eager to quash it, Chris demanded details. After Vin explained, it was obvious Buck had things on his mind, too.
"Out with it," Chris encouraged.
Buck paced for a moment or two, and then turned to Vin. "JD's had a shit few days and you went for him. I understand that what he was thinking on doing to you was a shock, but he's a good kid, you must know he'd never hurt you."
Tanner chewed his lip. "Sure I realize that, Buck, but right there and then…seeing that he'd set up the drugs…" He sighed.
After a short silence, Josiah seized the moment to heal the rift. "When we learned what had happened to JD the other night, we all felt a mixture of horror and relief…horror for what he'd been exposed to, and relief that after hours of trying to figure out where he was, we discovered he was safely ensconced in DPD headquarters." He pointed to Buck, Chris, and Vin.
"We all wanted to be there for him, but the determination and fury you three held before you set off to bring him home, spoke volumes. Draw on that, Vin. JD told me how 'cool' it was when you three walked into that interrogation room and took control. He was more than ready to go home and forget the horror, if only for a little while, and you guys made sure that happened. He looks up to us all, but he idolizes you three." Josiah paused for effect.
"He's mad at himself for not being able to help Lewis. It's only now sinking in he could just as easily have been the target. He wants to do something to catch this man, and in a moment of madness, with us telling him his idea wasn't feasible, he almost struck out at one of the people he loves…" Josiah wagged a finger.
"Almost…and that's why he is who he is, because he didn't do it." Josiah realized his speech wasn't really necessary, but it had a positive effect on them all.
After a long pause, Chris continued. "Ironically, we came here to tell him his idea might just be what's needed to catch this guy."
Vin rubbed a hand over his face. "Shit. Really? But, this guy works fast."
"We work faster," Ezra smiled.
Buck was turning toward JD's room, something clearly drawing him toward it. Soon, they could all hear JD's cries. Buck sighed and halted their attempt to follow him. "I knew it was coming…it's how he works things outta his system. Give me a minute." They watched Buck disappear into JD's room.
JD was standing in an alley, his sneakers soaked in blood and the bodies of several young men littered on the ground around him. Shaun was standing before him, clearly dead, but talking. "See what I get for a quickie in an alley? You're gonna get him, right? I'd help…but…I don't feel good…" With that, his head rolled off his body.
JD tried to back away, but his feet were stuck in the tacky, bloody goo. "Aaahhh…No…no…no…!"
Still not fully awake, JD was trying to scoot back on the bed toward the headboard, and didn't register Buck's voice for a few moments.
"Hey…JD…hey! Look at me, Kid…it's Buck…look at me…"
JD blinked, owlishly at the man staring at him. A warm hand on his face helped him focus. He rubbed his eyes with the heel of his hand. "Buck…"
The brunet smiled. "Yeah, it's me. Just a bad dream, Squirt. You alright now?" He reached out and snagged a glass of water from JD's bedside table, handing it to his friend.
JD took a sip. "Sorry…" Before he could say more, Vin's silhouette appeared in the doorway. The young tech dropped his gaze. "Vin…I…"
With a pat to JD's cheek, Buck stood and switched places with Tanner, squeezing the Texan's arm as he passed him. Vin perched on the bed and looked back at JD. "Kid…I'm sorry about earlier, you didn't deserve that."
JD looked up and stared at Vin. "Yeah, I did. I don't know what I was thinking, but when I stood in the kitchen with the crushed pill in my hand, it was like a wake-up call. Instead of trying to slip away, I figured I'd try and talk to you again about wanting to trap this guy. I left the powder on the countertop…" He swallowed. "Honest, Vin…I could never hurt you…any of you…"
The Texan raised a hand to squeeze JD's neck. "I know." He left his hand there for a long few moments. "Hey…let's just forget it and move on, okay?"
JD offered a tight smile. "I'd like that." He blushed, hoping what he was about to say wasn't totally off-base. "Brothers fight, right?"
Vin grinned. "You bet."
"When you two are done kissing and making up, the Chinese take-out's arrived, and we have plans to make." Chris glanced into the room at the pair, smiled wryly, and walked away.
The two agents grinned. "Come on," Vin insisted, standing and pulling JD out after him. "Or Buck'll eat all the fried noodles again."
Four nights later, JD felt a distinct déjà vu while seated on a barstool and leaning on the bar, as he had on the night he was with Shaun. This was his third night trawling gay bars, and he was seriously wondering if Marcus Hanson had earmarked a new location and moved on. Grateful that, so far, most people in the bar were in couples or groups, and that he had only been approached a few times, he swirled his whiskey around in its glass, while mindful not to fiddle with the tiny radio mic in his top shirt button. He was about to tap his earwig and speak to his team when a voice purred in his ear.
"Penny for them, Mon Cher."
JD hoped he hadn't reacted badly, and Continued to swish the amber liquid around. He shrugged and hoped his training from Ezra wouldn't desert him. "Not really having much luck tonight." He glanced up at the man standing next to him, his heart beating like a hammer in his chest.
"Or maybe I just haven't seen anything worth getting excited about…until now." JD acknowledged the drink the barman poured for him.
"Have we met before?" Marcus asked, narrowing his eyes.
JD shrugged, praying he hadn't blown it already as he sipped at the fresh drink. "Damned if I know. I'm not real good at faces."
"That make you the 'catcher'?" Hanson breathed into his ear.
Seizing a shudder at the closeness of the hot breath, JD raised an eyebrow and looked at him. "That an offer?"
Hanson grinned. "If you like it rough and up against a wall, Cher, yes."
If the situation hadn't been so dire, JD would have been concerned as to how many copies Buck would threaten to make of this conversation for future torture. He could see Vin and Chris in a booth to his left, and Ezra and Nathan in one to his right. Buck and Josiah were in the surveillance van. Just how many cops were in the bar he had no idea, but guessed there were quite a few. JD's fast mind filed through the earlier briefing Standish had given him, before he licked his lips and smiled.
"My favorite position. Your place or mine?"
"Ah no…I said rough, remember? This will be a night you'll never forget." Hanson snaked an arm around JD's shoulders. A little too snugly for his liking, but he went with it. Stepping outside, Marcus guided JD toward an alley. JD stopped and pointed.
The man laughed. "Why so concerned? Are you a screamer?"
'How the hell do I answer that?' JD wondered. "Sometimes, depends how good it is."
Hanson laughed. "Well Cher, I may have to gag you." He urged the young agent into the alley. Halfway in he pushed JD back against a wall. "Lose the pants. Cher."
'Jesus, this is too fast.' JD's hands moved to his belt. 'Stay with me, guys…' Even though none of this was a surprise, it still shocked him when the man produced a knife. "Hey! A blade? Wait a minute, fella, rough's one thing…" He gasped as Marcus grabbed his hair and slammed his head against the wall.
"My baby brother didn't get a choice, either."
Hearing JD's knife reference - the designated code call - six ATF agents and a dozen DPD officers converged on the alley, their flashlights flooding the gloom and illuminating the terrifying scene.
Pullen hollered. "Police! Marcus Hanson…drop the knife, step away from the wall and put your hands on your head…NOW!"
Startled, Hanson briefly raised the knife to JD's throat, but it was short lived when Dunne's knee came up to meet his groin. As the killer roared, doubled over and went on his knees to the ground, Kenner, Pullen, and several officers hastily moved in. JD was aware of hands on him, but didn't really appreciate he was out of the alley until Nathan shone a light in his eyes.
"Did he hurt you?"
Frowning at the attention, JD watched Marcus being escorted away. He absently rubbed the back of his head. "I banged my head…it's fine."
Seeing blood on JDs fingertips, Nathan turned him around and ran the beam of his flashlight over the bump. He smiled at five concerned faces, brought out a moist wipe and dabbed up some blood. "Nothing serious."
"Told you…" JD agreed, biting back an urge to wince.
Pullen and Kenner approached, all smiles. "Thanks guys, great job. JD…nice one." He checked his watch - 3am. "Go give your statement and report, and then go home." he looked at Chris. "If that's okay."
Larabee nodded. It was time to get the hell away from this place. "Let's return the van. Our vehicles are still at the office garage, anyway."
As they headed for the van, Chris caught JD's gaze. "Good work."
JD smiled, wishing he could feel more proud, but it had simply rounded off a hard week and the loss of an agent…a friend. As if reading JD's mind, Buck draped an arm around the young agent's shoulders, and whispered in his ear.
"Just dwell on the positives, Kid…the negatives will always be there, and they'll eat you up if you let them."
As JD pondered on that, Ezra broke into the easy silence. "So, am I to surmise our next case will be a nice, juicy cartel drugs bust…or a run-in with a violent, gun-running entrepreneur?"
Chris huffed out a soft laugh. "I'll see what I can do."
The banter was light, but it merely masked the sadness of another good man lost. In two days they would pay their respects to Shaun Thomas Lewis, raise a glass or two to absent friends, and maybe take some time to reconnect and reflect before their next case.
And whatever challenge that might bring.
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