Disclaimer: Just playing. I know I can't keep 'em...damnit!
Ratings/Warnings: None - well, if I've got it right, maybe a need for tissues . . .
Thank you to Nancy for hosting my stories :o)
Loosely follows on from a conversation at the end of Appointment at Two-Thirty
Vin Tanner watched in fascination while his friend's knee-bouncing increased as each minute passed. He wondered if it was because JD had been sitting in the examination room at the hospital for the last ten minutes, or because JD had been sitting in the examination room at the hospital for the last ten minutes . . . naked.
Well . . . not totally naked . . . JD did have on a rather fetching blue gown, which the nurse had handed him earlier, and that sported a rather revealing opening in the back. The youth sat back and pushed hair from his face.
"Jeez, this has to be worse than waiting to have teeth pulled."
Vin absently rubbed at his jaw. "I'd have to disagree with you there, Kid."
JD frowned as he looked at him. "You didn't have teeth pulled, yesterday . . . you had fillings."
"Yeah," the Texan nodded, "and that was bad enough."
JD didn't agree, but wouldn't argue. Everyone had their own demons . . . their own fears. There was no logic to it. JD was yet to share one particular demon with his friends. To the easterner, Doctors were portents of doom, the purveyors of bad news; news that, at twelve, he wasn't ready for, at sixteen had wept over, and at eighteen . . . well . . . he'd rather forget when he was eighteen, because by nineteen, he was all alone.
Vin could sense a note of despondency and attempted to ease the tension. "Blue's definitely your color."
"Blue . . . " he pointed to JD's gown, " . . . your color."
JD chuckled which warmed Vin's soul. "Shut up, you goof."
"Just sayin' is all . . . makes your eyes all dark and intense."
JD shook his head. "If you like it so much . . . you wear it."
Vin grinned, "Nah . . . wouldn't want to deprive you or anythin'." He glanced behind JD's back, "Shows off that toned li'l butt of yours nicely."
JD swiped at him and the two started a slapping contest, Vin ending it by grabbing JD around the neck.
"Didn't . . . know . . . you . . . cared . . . " JD grunted as he attempted to break free.
Vin pushed him away, laughing. "Ass envy ain't all it's cracked up to be."
Dunne groaned. "Aahh, please Tanner . . . don't start with the ass jokes."
"Butt . . . butt . . . they' re funny," he cackled.
JD mock-glared. "Next time you go to the dentist, I'm gonna run a cordless drill the whole way there."
"Aw . . . that's just plain mean," Vin moped.
JD sighed. "What's keeping him?" the youth wondered out loud, "I mean, it's not like they weren't expecting me."
"Maybe it's a lady doc," Vin offered.
"You're determined to see if I can outrun you, aren't you?" JD warned
Vin grinned. "No . . . 'cause I know you can't."
JD exhaled. "Yeah, right . . . you keep thinking that, Texan."
"You wanna race?"
JD stood. "Now? Sure . . . let me get my clothes . . . "
Vin pulled him back down onto the chair. "Nice try. We'll set a date . . . once this medical is straightened out."
"Straightened out?" JD stared at his friend and the knee bouncing started again. "What do you mean, straightened out?"
Vin put his hand on JD's bare arm. "Just a figure of speech, Kid, didn't mean nothin'."
"Then don't say stuff like that," JD scowled.
Vin was confused. "Like what? Easy, Kid . . . you're over thinkin' . . . "
JD stood. "Don't assume you know what's on my mind, Tanner."
The two men stared at each other. Vin's expression stayed remarkably calm considering how fast his mind was racing as he tried to understand what was really going on here. He watched JD sit.
"Sorry, Vin . . . you didn't deserve that."
"No problem, Kid," the Texan drawled, but had already decided to discuss it further with his young friend when JD was more relaxed.
Both men looked up to see a female doctor smiling and looking back at them.
JD mumbled under his breath as he stood. "Aww, crap."
Back in Team Seven's bullpen, Buck checked his watch for the umpteenth time, then the time on his cell for good measure, while hoping no one noticed the quick glance to the clock on the wall also.
All eyes turned to Nathan. "I believe you owe me ten bucks, Ezra."
"Indeed." He glowered at Buck. "Mister Wilmington, you're predictability is seriously reducing my cash flow. Kindly expand your hiatus between glances to the various timepieces in this establishment. "
Buck stared, not quite comprehending what was going on. "I what now?"
"Stop watching the clock."
"Oh." Buck sighed, and shifted in his chair. "They're taking a long time, don't you think?"
Josiah stood and crossed to stand next to Buck. "I wouldn't be surprised if they don't stop off on the way back, to eat. Didn't you say JD skipped breakfast this morning?"
"Dumped it would be a more precise description, preacher. What is it with him and doctors? Hell, surely we've seen enough of 'em this last year to get over any phobias by now."
"Injuries are one thing, Buck," Nathan stated as he slid a pen behind his ear. "They're scary, but random. This is pre-planned, gives him time to dwell on it, like Vin with the dentist."
Ezra shook his head. "Oh no . . . that man is totally irrational about visits to the dentist. JD was volunteered to take him on the premise that Vin would not wish to appear weak to the younger man . . . it failed, miserably."
"Kid got him in and out," Buck defended.
"Oh yes," Standish agreed, "But what I'm alluding to is that Vincent's eagerness to evade the appointment was not circumvented by the accompaniment of a younger, impressionable man."
Buck stared . . . then blinked. "Yeah, whatever." He looked up as Chris entered the bullpen from his office.
"Vin called, they're stopping for a late breakfast, seems JD's starved . . . well, that's his excuse, anyway," Chris offered.
Buck smiled broadly. "It must've gone well, then. Thank God."
Chris frowned. "You sound like you were sure it wouldn't. Why?"
"Aww, you know me . . . I worry too much. If I had taken him . . . "
"Well, you didn't, Vin did, and that was deliberate. JD needed a big brother today . . . but someone a little . . . cooler. "
"Hey," Buck grumped, "I can be cool!"
Chris laughed, "Yeah, you keep thinking that, pard."
When JD and Vin arrived back at the office, Buck was instantly on his best friend.
"Buck . . . all I can say is the doc seemed happy. I won't have the results for four working days, so that's Wednesday at the earliest. It was pretty routine, bloods, x-rays . . . you know, the usual. Actually, she was real nice." JD sat at his desk and turned on his computer.
"She?" Buck glared at Larabee, who laughed softly as he leaned against the doorframe of his office. "He gets a lady doc and you send Tanner with him."
JD rolled his eyes. "Hey . . . the last thing I needed was for you to be hitting on my physician, Buck . . . at least Vin stayed out of it and let her concentrate on me."
Buck smiled. "I'll make it up to you, I'll come with you for your results."
JD raised his eyebrows. "Uh, how can I put this? NO!"
Buck looked around his snickering teammates, "No gratitude . . . no gratitude at all."
Dunne looked up to see Larabee beckoning him into his office. As he stood to leave, Buck grabbed his hand.
"You aren't hiding anything from me, are you?"
JD frowned in confusion. "No . . . honest. What's with you Buck? Is something bothering you? You've asked me that three times this week."
The brunet laughed nervously, "Hell, no . . . just checking on you is all."
With a smile, the younger man went on to speak to Chris.
He turned to face the rest of his team. "I know . . . I know. I can't explain . . . it's just little things . . . falling asleep during a movie or a basketball game, leaving food on his plate . . . "
No one wanted to disagree with him, they appreciated Buck knew JD better than anyone, so silently vowed instead to keep their own private vigil.
"Everything okay today, JD?" Chris took a seat and gestured for JD to do likewise.
"Sure Chris . . . just routine. What's with you and Buck today?"
Chris sighed. "Sorry, Kid, I'm taking my cues from your self-appointed minder. However, you will come to me if you have any concerns . . . ?"
"Yeah, sure. Thanks." As JD stood and left, he couldn't help wondering if he'd missed something.
Wednesday morning, and Travis called a briefing. JD raised his hands at the protests from Buck.
"I'm not a Kid, Buck . . . I can go to the doc's office alone, y'know."
As he watched his team head for the conference room, JD resumed silently brooding on why he couldn't get his results over the phone. The doctor who gave JD his medical had requested he meet her today at Denver General. With a shrug of his shoulders, JD grabbed his jacket and left.
At the hospital, and as he shook hands with Doctor Burgess, JD looked at the woman sitting next to her; a lady in her forties, he guessed. His stomach clenched when he took his seat as he suddenly regretted coming alone.
"John, isn't it?" the stranger said.
Dunne nodded, "Yes ma'am but I go by JD."
"JD, my name is Jaclyn Shore, I'm an Oncologist, I . . . "
JD squirmed in his seat. "I know what an Oncologist is ma'am, thank you."
She smiled, knowingly. "I'm sure you do."
JD's eyebrows furrowed, and his knee began to bounce.
The Oncologist opened a folder. "I've been going over your records. Has anyone ever suggested you get annual check-ups?"
"It's a Federal requirement . . . "
"No, I meant in reference to your mother's illness."
JD swallowed. "Uh, no . . . why?"
Doctor Shore leaned forward. "It's advisable when a family member has suffered with cancer; cancer can be hereditary."
Now JD definitely wished he had someone with him. Of course he knew about some cancers being hereditary . . . you didn't live with it for the whole of your teens and not read every piece of information you could get your hands on. He looked at the two doctors as he tried to get his dry mouth to form words. "So . . . what exactly are you saying?"
"Your blood results caused us to check your x-rays again. It appears you have a shadow on your pancreas."
JD paled, but his ATF training instantly kicked him into professional agent mode . . . without even realizing it. He blew out a nervous breath to compose himself. "Wh . . . what does that mean?"
"It means we'd like to take a little look, and perform a biopsy. We'd have to sedate you, then make two small incisions here . . . " she pointed to just below her own ribcage, " . . . then pop a camera in."
Despite the doctor still talking, JD's mind was racing. Memories of his mother took hold; going from one test to another, taking medication, receiving new medication, then more medication. No appetite, some appetite, tiredness, tears, a beautiful woman, wasting away before his eyes while he fought to keep them together and her comfortable . . . and not once did she complain or berate the injustice of it all.
The youth snapped back to the present crisis. "I'm sorry . . . what?"
She smiled to try and ease the youth's concerns. "I was just saying . . . if you're willing, I can admit you now. I'm a firm believer of doing things sooner rather than later."
"Now . . . now?" He tried to stay calm. 'Oh God.'
"JD, don't be alarmed, I know this is scary but I also know you understand the urgency of such things in these cases."
JD took a calming breath, then nodded. "What do you need me to do?"
Doctor Shore smiled. "Just a few forms to fill in, then we can get this over with so that you can go home. Would you like us to contact your family?"
"Uh . . . uh . . . ." 'YES! Shoot . . . they're with Travis . . . what should I do?' he wondered as he tried not to get bogged down in the emotion that was threatening to strip him of his outer calm.
Doctor Burgess spoke. "Should I contact AD Travis while you go with Jaclyn?"
"Uh . . . yeah, sure, you could do that . . . thank you." He figured as soon as Travis knew, the others would too. He didn't really want to worry Buck . . . or Chris . . . he'd be in and out by the time they could get here. Yeah . . . that would be best, he'd see them when this little op-thing was all over.
In an ATF conference room, Buck spoke behind his hand to Vin. "JD's gonna love this assignment."
"Buck," Travis called out, "Care to share?"
"Was just thinking how JD's gonna love this . . . " Buck shared.
Orin's secretary knocked and opened the door. "I'm sorry sir, I have a call on line one for you, she was most insistent, said it was urgent."
The AD nodded, excused himself and picked up, pressing the button for line one.
"Travis. Doctor Burgess, what can I do for you?"
Vin instantly looked up and across at Chris, and then Buck. He knew that name.
"I see," Travis continued, "No, I understand, thank you for letting me know, I'll pass it on to his family." As he replaced the receiver, he looked at Team Seven, focusing on Chris and Buck.
Seconds later, Agents and clerical staff parted like the Red Sea as six men hurried toward their office, picked up keys and jackets, and headed out. Buck was pale and clearly troubled, Chris and Vin's faces were drawn, their lips tight. Josiah's eyes reflected deep concern, while Nathan's mind was racing as he attempted to second-guess the situation. Ezra appeared calm, all for the wideness of his eyes and the fact that he was running, as the others, in earnest.
As they stood silently in the descending elevator on their way to the garage, Buck suddenly slammed his fist against the handrail.
JD could see his reflection in the darkened windows. He couldn't believe how young and lost he looked as he lay on a bed in a white hospital gown. His face revealed fear and sadness as he battled with the thoughts in his head. While he waited for the anesthetist, he mulled over what the doctor had said, and images of his mother filled his mind. Images he had been blocking for some time.
TWO YEARS PRIOR
"Coming, Mom!" He walked from the living room, out into the hallway and into the bathroom. The sight of his mother sitting naked in the tub was nothing new to the teenager, seeing just how much more weight she had seemingly lost from only a few days ago . . . he would never get used to. He leaned over and gently placed his arms under her armpits.
"Ready?" he asked.
"Mmm hmm," she nodded.
JD lifted her carefully and easily and when he was sure she was steady, he reached for the bath towel and wrapped it around her, brushing away a tear from her pale cheek as he did so.
"I'm so sorry, sweetie . . . you shouldn't have to do this . . . "
"Ssshh, now come on, Mom, we agreed . . . no tears . . . right?" He lifted her wrapped body gently out of the tub and placed her on the toweling mat.
She nodded a reply, her misty eyes locking with her son's. "God did a good thing, giving me you."
JD kissed her head as he walked her to her bedroom. 'Yeah, well I'm glad God managed to do one thing good for this family,' he thought, quickly averting his eyes as if he feared his mother could read his mind. Being angry with God was not something he needed to share with his mother right now. 'No, not today', he thought . . . 'I'm not going to let her be upset today.'
He guided his mother into her bedroom and helped her settle on the bed next to the fresh nightdress he'd laid out for her.
"Can you manage while I go make you some tea?" he asked, grinning back at her smile and nod. On reaching the kitchen, a shaking JD leaned over the sink and sobbed. His mom didn't deserve this . . . no one deserved this.
PRESENT DAY . . . DENVER GENERAL
A shuffling noise brought JD back from his recall. Just as he was seriously considering bolting, the anesthesiologist came in.
"Hi . . . JD, isn't it? I'm Brad and I'll be looking after you today. Can you tell me your full name, address, and date of birth, please?"
As he flicked his hair from his eyes, JD nodded to the man and did as asked. "Uh, sir . . . do I really have to go under?"
Brad nodded, "It's for the best. It won't be for long, but there'll be a lot of poking and medical jargon floating around that you don't need to be hearing. Okay, little scratch." He took JD's left hand and swabbed the back of it, sticking him directly after. JD hissed.
"Sorry. You should be nice and sleepy in ten minutes or so, okay? I'll be back soon."
JD tried to relax back into the pillow and ignore the nurse hovering in the background, while really wishing he'd called Buck, now.
With sirens blaring, Team Seven had made it to the hospital in record time. As one, they pushed through the large doors to the ER and stopped at reception, where they were directed to Oncology. There they were met by Doctor Shore. She smiled.
"I'm guessing you're John's family?" She didn't wait to see the nods. "John . . . JD's just had his pre-op jab, you can go in now and speak to him, he'll be too drowsy in a few minutes."
A nurse looked up a little surprised when the six men strode into the room.
JD turned his head toward his teammates and offered a tight smile. "Hey. Wow, that was fast."
"Why the hell didn't you call us?" Buck asked.
JD swallowed. "Aww . . . you know . . . you were with Travis . . . and I . . . I figured I'd be in recovery by the time you all got here, so I let the doc call."
The exasperated brunet looked dumbfounded at the others, and then leaned in. "If you weren't lying there and already half asleep I'd . . . "
With a heavy sigh, Buck took JD's hand. Now, he had no words, he was terrified. JD stared back at him knowingly before he broke the silence, his emotions raw as his guard slowly began to slip now that these six men, so special to him, were here. A tear escaped the corner of his eye to disappear into his hair.
"Mom always said . . . that I took after her . . . don't think she meant this, though," he whispered as he tried not to choke on his words.
The rest of the team shuffled and attempted to get closer. Chris and Vin walked around to the opposite side of the bed, Josiah moved next to Buck, while Ezra and Nathan remained at the foot of the bed, the latter studying his young friend's chart notes.
Buck shook his head. "Shush . . . we're not going there, okay? It's just a look-see, nothing more . . . right?"
JD looked around at the concerned faces, focusing between Buck and Chris, though actually focusing was becoming increasingly difficult. His voice was hushed as he failed to swallow the emotion in his throat.
"This sucks." He struggled to control his wobbling chin. "I'm not ready to die yet, Buck."
Buck closed his eyes for a second before pulling JD's hand to his own heart while softly carding through the youth's hair with his free hand. He became oblivious to the emotions the five other men were experiencing.
"Kid, you're not gonna . . . it's . . . I . . . " Suddenly he pulled the youth close and the two men clung to each other.
Visibly moved, Chris leaned in and squeezed the youth's shoulder. "Be strong, Kid. We're all here for you . . . and we're not going anywhere. We'll be waiting for you when you go to recovery."
As Buck reluctantly placed his best friend and surrogate little brother back down on the bed, JD turned his head and tried to hold Chris's gaze. He nodded, but seconds later found he could no longer keep his eyes open. Realizing JD hadn't fully drifted off. Buck rallied.
"Listen up; Chris got steaks in the freezer with our names on it for this weekend. You focus on that . . . focus on this weekend, okay?"
Buck took the small swallow as a yes. They all moved back as the surgical nurses entered and rolled JD away to theater.
A few hours later, the six men were seated or standing around JD's bed waiting for their youngest teammate to wake up. In the quiet, Buck's mind became mired with the technicalities and urgency of it all and was going over the words the doctor had spoken just prior to them entering JD's room.
Buck snapped out of his musings on hearing Chris's voice. The five men leaned in a little as Buck stood and bent over the youth. He attempted a confident smile.
"I need to tell you this information Squirt, and I'd prefer to do it in one go, okay?"
JD nodded sleepily. "Sure."
He looked at the others and they nodded their support.
"The doc took out a small lump. She needs time to analyze it, so we'll know more soon, but likely not until after the weekend."
"W . . . why so long?" JD asked.
"They have to be certain . . . be sure of their diagnosis . . . do you understand?"
The youth nodded, barely able to keep his eyes open. "Tired . . . sorry."
Buck sighed and resisted the urge to once again push his friend's hair from his face, settling instead for resting his hand on JD's head. "I know. We're all here so you get some rest and we'll talk later. Oh, and the doc said you can come home tomorrow."
With a small smile, JD slipped back to sleep.
"It's only been a couple 'a days, you're not supposed to be doing that!"
Several days later, and from the porch of Chris's home, Buck called out toward the corral where JD and Vin were gently tossing a football back and forth.
The brunet turned toward his long-time friend. "Chris, don't 'Buck' me . . . he just had surgery."
"Hardly major surgery, Buck," Josiah reminded, "Just two tiny incisions and a small lump removed a few days ago." He nodded toward the team's two youngest. "Besides, they're being careful."
Buck wasn't having it. "Well . . . he was anesthetized, and in my book, that's major surgery."
A car turning off the road and rolling up the drive caught their attention. JD paled and froze on the spot as he saw Doctor Jaclyn Shore stepping from the car once it had pulled up. His hand went to his incision site when pain flared up as if in empathy with JD's thoughts.
"Oh God . . . "
He felt Vin's hands on his shoulders. "C'mon, Kid, let's see what she's here for."
As JD stepped onto the porch, he feared his knees would buckle, so he sat down quickly. Jaclyn sat down next to him and addressed them all.
"I'm sorry to disturb your Friday evening. I called at the office but they explained you were here, and the contact numbers you gave me kept going to voicemail."
Buck and Chris cast guilty glances at their phones. They'd wanted the team to be undisturbed, and had switched them off.
Taking JD's hands in hers Jaclyn continued. "I hope you don't mind me coming out here, but I felt the news too important to wait until Monday."
Buck and Chris moved to either side of the youth and the doctor, while Vin, Josiah,
Ezra, and Nathan stood in front of them and had a firsthand view of the tension in the youngster's body.
"JD, I have your results."
All seven friends straightened.
"It was a growth, but the good news is, it was benign." She waited for JD to absorb the information. Her heart ached when a fat tear escaped his glistening eyes and dropped onto his shirt.
"These types of lumps are not uncommon with the pancreas. So, once you've finished the antibiotic course, and your pain's subsided . . . there'll be no more meds, and no more worry . . . just six-monthly check-ups for a while, including when you have your Federal physical." She smiled. "I wanted you to have a good weekend which is why I came out here this evening."
JD threw his arms around her. "Thank you," he breathed.
She patted his back and gave him a squeeze. "You're welcome," she whispered back.
She had barely released him when Buck hauled the smaller man to his feet and held him tightly.
"Didn't I tell you?" he sniffed. He saw the other men approaching, but there was no way he was letting JD go just yet.
Despite the slight pull to his incision, the youth grinned into Buck's shoulder and tightened his hold on the big man. "Yeah . . . yeah, you did."
Eventually, Buck relaxed to allow the others near to pat, hug, laugh or, in Josiah's case, do all of the above. With one hand still on JD's shoulder, Chris turned to Jaclyn.
"We were just about to order pizza, you're welcome to stay and share with us."
The doctor stood. "Thank you, but I have to get home, I promised my son I'd pick up some Chinese take-out tonight, as a treat."
"Is it his birthday?" Ezra wondered.
"No. One year ago today, he was diagnosed with a tumor in one of his testicles. They gave us little hope of success before they removed it." She smiled. "He's been clear for six months now."
"How old is he?" Nathan asked.
Jaclyn's smile softened. "He was twenty three last week." She looked around at them all, and gave JD's arm one final squeeze. "Well . . . goodbye." She nodded to Chris, and then Buck, acknowledging the latter with a wide smile as he mouthed the words, 'thank you.'
While they watched her leave, Buck wrapped his arms around his best friend's chest and rested his chin on the dark head. "Could just go for some Chinese," Buck mumbled.
JD tilted his head back to try to see his partner. "Yeah."
Vin pulled out his cell and pressed a button. Chris laughed. "Trust Tanner to have a Chinese restaurant on speed dial."
Vin grinned, "And the good news is . . . they deliver anywhere." He winked. "Oh hi . . . name's Larabee . . . "
Chris offered a crooked grin. "Guess I'm paying." He looked fondly at JD, and then the rest of his friends, before turning back to Vin. His smile widened. "Make it a big order, I feel like celebrating."