"RNLI" Alternate Universe
Disclaimer: Just playing. I know I can't keep `em...damnit!
Thanks to Katy for RNLI
Main Characters: JD, Buck, Rain, Nathan
Summary: Crew Seven and friends count the cost of a local man's temporary insanity.
What would we do without blackraptor? Thank you, Nancy.
Walking through the rear entrance to the Lifeboat Inn, Chris Larabee was hastily ushered aside by his junior crewman and lodger of said establishment, JD Dunne. In truth, none of Chris's team were 'just crewmen', having become exceptionally close since their formation, and JD was nothing like 'just a lodger', more akin to being the Inn's owner, Buck Wilmington's, 'little brother'. Buck was showing his faith in the teenager by involving him more and more with the day to day running of the pub. After all, JD was doing his accounting, he might as well understand where the money was coming from and going to. As a result, Buck recently allotted the alcohol orders to JD, acquainting the boy with the son of a man Buck had known for most of his life, and who inherited the small family brewery when his father, Owen, died.
Chris listened to JD's concerns and agreed to help him. Over the next few weeks, the pair checked the orders from Seth 'Banes Brewery' Banes until evidence was irrefutable, and only one course of action available. Chris, who had returned to the pub for a final discussion on the matter, squeezed JD's shoulder.
"Would you like me to do it?"
With a sad smile, JD shook his head. "Nah, I should, but I'm really grateful for all the help."
Chris returned the smile. "Anytime, Kid. I'm glad you came to me." With a nod, Chris left.
Entering the bar, JD paused for a moment. Buck looked so relaxed this morning; it was a shame to ruin his mood. He finally approached the man that had welcomed him into his home, and who JD loved like a brother.
Buck's grin was warm, and wide. "Hey Squirt. Seth gone already?"
JD nodded and held out his open laptop and a wedge of invoices from Seth's brewery. "I have something you need to see."
Noting the unfamiliar sadness in JD's gaze, Buck nodded and gestured for JD to run him through it.
JD watched Buck for a long while as the man pondered the information produced by the youth. The boy's heart ached as he approached. "Buck…you're a good man, fair, straight as a die…"
Buck smiled at that idiom; it was one his ma had often used.
"…I know, because I know how alike we are, and how we hate to believe anyone we trusted would screw us over."
Sighing Buck stared at the laptop screen, and the invoices in his hands. "But, Seth's been less than honest…right?"
JD nodded. "For a while now. At first I thought I had it wrong, so I asked Chris for advice, and he helped me keep track of the deliveries. Seth's consistently short-changing us by five crates. Buck, I'm sorry."
Buck paused for thought, and then nodded, slowly. "Leave it with me. I'll take tomorrow's delivery." He smiled. "JD…thanks, Kid."
"No problem. It works out well, too. It's Rain's birthday tomorrow, and as we're not rostered for the boat I said I'd hold the fort for Nathan to take her out to lunch."
Buck grinned at the boy. He would do a few shifts a week for Rain at her shop, Aquarius, but obviously this was an extra one, as a favor. Heavy-hearted, Buck watched JD go off to prepare for the day's trade, while he prepared to possibly cut ties with the son of a man he knew from when his ma was alive, and whose business he had employed since buying the Inn.
The next day's delivery, and Seth Banes grinned on seeing Buck at the cellar door and proceeded with the supply. "Hi, Buck. No JD today?"
The brunet shook his head. "No, he has a stint at Rain's today. Besides, there's something I need to talk to you about." Taking the day's invoices, Buck walked amongst the stacked crates and as he counted, lifted them apart one by one. Of the five delivered stacks, in the middle of each pile of three was an empty crate. Now it made sense. Seth's last act after delivering was to collect up the previous delivery's crates, not something JD would necessarily be watching in detail, and must have been moving the empty crate from each of the new piles. With them already counted, he would simply re-stack and re-position the full crates amongst any already there, before leaving with the empty ones. JD had done well to catch on.
Seth swallowed, nervously. "Everything okay, Buck? You look like you lost a fifty and found a fiver."
Despite his anger and deep dismay, Buck eyed the man before him with a heavy heart. He held out the invoices and tapped a pencil against the discrepancy in what he had counted, and what Banes delivered. "Seth, tell me how this makes sense, and if I have this wrong, I'll apologize right here, right now."
The Inn's long-time supplier hung his head. His scam was uncovered and he felt ashamed, while knowing his father must be turning in his grave right now.
"I'm sorry. It got out of hand. I short-changed the order a few times, and thought no one noticed so…" He looked up at Buck. "The bailiffs are beating down my door, Buck. Between Dad's death, the recent recession, and then pubs going under before they've paid me, I'm sinking, fast."
The normally genial landlord shook his head. "That's why you don't screw with your loyal customers. JD might be new, and young, but he's sharp and you were mistaken if you thought you could outsmart him." Buck sighed. He needed to consider his next move. He didn't want any decision to be made while angry. Raising a hand he pointed to the exit. "Don't let the door hit you on the way out."
As a stunned Seth walked to his van, he spied JD crossing the road from the pub to get to Rain's shop and begin his shift. Seth started the van and he watched, through misty eyes, Rain greet and hug JD for the flowers he gave her, before the pair went inside. He stared around his vehicle and recalled the days he would deliver his wares by lorry, and years before that, his father with a horse-drawn dray. Now he only had enough customers and deliveries to warrant the use of a small, white van.
And if, or rather when, he lost Buck's custom, even that vehicle could be considered a luxury. His business and reputation were in tatters. How could it all have gone so badly wrong?
No one would ever know how or why it happened, but as Seth sat there, watching the boy who he believed put the final nail in the lid of his business's coffin, the man revved the engine. He shifted into gear, and suddenly the vehicle raced toward the ornate storefront.
While leaving the pub to head across the narrow street to Aquarius, JD called out a 'see you later!', but never received a reply. Inez was staying in a hotel in Newquay with a visiting friend from Spain and showing her the sights, and JD figured Buck must be busy. He quickly realized why, when he saw the 'Banes Brewery' van parked up outside the pub and close to the cellar doors located in the pavement, just outside the inn.
JD almost went back, but when Rain appeared on the shop's doorstep, he grinned widely and walked toward her. Holding out his hand, he offered her the small bouquet of yellow roses and baby's breath he'd picked up from the market that morning.
Rain squealed with delight and hugged the boy. "Oh, thank you, sweetie. How lovely." She looped her arm around his waist and guided JD inside. "Nathan won't be here for half an hour. How about a hot chocolate and some of my birthday choccies?"
JD grinned. "Wicked, thanks." They had barely got more than several steps inside, when a roaring noise followed by the most horrendous and deafening rumble of masonry dropping and glass shattering, assaulted their ears. But it was the incoming storefront and interior fixtures, and the debris striking their bodies that sent the pair into darkness and ended the horrifying spectacle for them before all went deathly quiet, save for the eerie sound of a car horn frozen in full resonance.
Chris decided to call into the pub to see if he could help with the inevitable fallout from JD's discovery. Finding no one around, he called out, and heard Buck's muffled greeting from the cellar. Walking down the steps, Chris smiled and gave a small wave to his long-time friend.
"Hey pal. Everything okay?"
Buck sighed. "Not really, but I want to thank you for helping JD…err, us…out with Seth."
Chris shrugged. "Anytime, Buck, you know that. What an idiot, huh? So, you done with him?"
Now Buck shrugged. "I don't know. I should be…but me and his daddy go way back."
"Buck, the guy screwed you over."
"Yeah, yeah, I know, but…"
Chris grinned. "You've got a good heart, Wilmington."
The brunet raised his eyebrows. "You mean I'm soft."
"If the shoe fits, pal."
From inside the cellar, the two men felt a vibration. It wasn't uncommon for Cornwall to get tremors, but, despite the similarity, this didn't quite have that feel to it. Buck looked at Chris. "Explosion?"
Chris was already heading out. "Let's go see."
The sight that greeted the pair caused both men to cry out in astonishment. Trying to ignore the rising bile, his weakening legs, and the growing crowd of horrified onlookers, Buck ran toward the crumbled shop front hollering out JD and Rain's names. Chris went straight for the half-buried van. One look inside told him Seth was dead. Seeing Buck about to dive into the fray, Chris grabbed the distraught man.
"Buck, no…NO! It's unstable. If they're alive, you could bring the whole lot down on them."
"What do you mean, if?" Buck hissed.
Their gazes locked. "Come on, big guy…we need to keep our heads. JD and Rain need all the help they can get," Larabee urged displaying a calm he certainly wasn't feeling. They both turned when heavy footsteps reached them, and were relieved to see Josiah Sanchez.
"I've dialed 999. Was anyone in there?" The Catholic Priest eyed the chaotic scene with dismay.
"We think JD and Rain," Chris answered.
"Dear God." Josiah's focus moved up to the flat above the shop where Rain and Nathan lived. "Nathan?"
"Don't know," Chris replied, honestly, and with a fresh spurt of mounting fear. He had considered there might be customers in there, but hadn't thought that Nathan might be, too.
"Is the van empty?" the priest asked. Chris's expression told him all he needed to know. "What can we do?" Josiah queried, appreciating how precarious the situation was right now.
"Wait for the professionals," Chris answered.
Buck rallied and pulled from his grip. "They need more than that." He walked closer. "JD, Rain…can you hear me? Are you hurt? JD…JD!" With no reply his shoulders slumped, his voice raw with anxiety. "Please be okay."
From the deck of his yacht, Vin Tanner watched as fire trucks and ambulances screamed past the harbor. 'Must be nasty', the Welshman thought. He waved when Nathan's car rolled up and the doctor got out.
"Hi Vin. Traffic's backed up. I can't get to the shop. Any idea what's happened?"
The RNLI mechanic shrugged. "Not a clue, mate." Locking up, Vin jumped down onto the jetty and gestured toward the town. "Shall we walk up and find out?"
Nathan nodded. "Don't have much choice."
Soon, the pair was walking past a line of traffic and frustrated drivers. "Gentlemen."
A familiar voice caused them to grin at the occupant of a very smart Range Rover. "Hi Ezra. You caught in this, too?" Nathan more stated than asked.
"It would seem so. Any thoughts as to the cause of this mayhem?"
"Nope, we're heading up to find out. You coming?" Vin asked.
Ezra climbed out of the vehicle, grabbed his jacket and secured the truck. "Might as well. I fear it may be some time before I can drive to my destination."
It took some maneuvering to get through the throng of bystanders, and they soon almost wished they hadn't when Nathan's heart-wrenching cry and race to the scene made the remaining men go cold. Spotting Chris, Buck, and Josiah in the center of things, Ezra and Vin hurried to join them.
Josiah just managed to catch hold of a distraught Nathan before the doctor ran into the devastated building. "Whoa there, brother, this is one time we stay on the sidelines."
Nathan's liquid gaze met Josiah's compassionate one. "Rain?"
"We think she's in there," Josiah said softly. "Possibly JD, too."
The doctor's features crumpled. "Oh dear God…no…"
Father Sanchez held the man in a tight and comforting embrace. "Hold fast, my friend. This is far from an open and shut incident."
It hurt to breathe, hell, it hurt to think, but JD's throat was thick with dust and he needed to cough. He regretted it instantly when a wave of agony went from his toes to his hair follicles.
JD could feel them, thank God…but was pinned fast, and in terrible pain. Something really heavy was on top of him, holding him face down to the floor. But…which floor? Where the hell was this? Cautiously, JD turned his head to the opposite side, and instantly wished he hadn't. 'Oh God…what happened here?' He was staring in horror at the severed, bloody head of a once familiar face, lying on the hood of a battered van. 'Seth?'
Panic welled inside of him as things began to fall into place. He moved his head back to its original position and suddenly remembered he hadn't been alone. Rain, where was Rain?
"Rain!" What was intended as a shout came out as a mere huff of sound. He couldn't take in a big enough breath to project his voice. However, it was enough to alert a man that had been waiting for a sign.
"JD! JD, can you answer me?"
'Buck'. Trying not to let the mounting fear overtake him, the teenager took as deep a breath as he could bear. "Buck…help us…"
The landlord almost wilted at the raspy, but very welcome reply. "Hang on, Kid…help's here."
JD spotted a small hand resting just ahead of him, and then almost cried with relief to see Rain's dusty, rubble covered, prone form thankfully still attached to it. JD figured after seeing Seth, anything might be possible in this mess. He groaned, and unable to withstand the pain in his head any longer, JD just managed to grasp hold of the slack, dust-covered appendage before he passed out. 'Hold on, Rain'.
Buck was beside himself with anxiety, and his friends were faring no better. Hearing JD's hoarse, but audible cry was more than the man could bear and it was instinctive to want to just clamber over the wreckage and find the injured pair. Buck was in no doubt now that they were hurt. All he could hope for was it wasn't seriously…and that more injured people weren't trapped under the rubble.
"Ask him about Rain," Nathan begged.
Buck called again, but got no reply. He turned watery eyes to the doctor. "Sorry, mate." They all looked toward the shop when there was a flurry of activity. Shoring equipment had arrived and was being positioned to hold the building secure for rescuers to go in. The six men could only watch helplessly, while the professionals in this field worked.
A sound from the crowd had Buck look across. A large group of hovering, teenage girls were crying. For a moment, Buck was confused, and then feared they might have friends in the shop, until one girl sobbed JD's name. In a bizarre moment of amusement, Buck caught himself thinking JD had more animal magnetism than he realized…even if it was only with pubescent females.
The moment passed when a call went out that the firefighters and paramedics were set to go. "Oh God, help us…" Buck said, more to himself, but just heard Josiah mumble a reply that he was 'working on it', before the noise and activity from the rescue accelerated.
Chief Fire Officer Malcolm Pettigrew recognized the earnest faces of six men at the head of the crowd. Spying the local constabulary arriving, he beckoned the six crewmates to join them. "Doctor Jackson, any other time I would ask for your professional assistance, but I'm sure you'll understand I won't be today."
Nathan was about to protest, but the way he was trembling, seriously doubted his competence right then. He nodded.
Malcolm continued. "The paramedics are going in to assess any injuries and apply basic first aid before placing protective covers over whoever they find. I'd like to set up a human chain to clear the rubble as fast and safely as possible."
Everyone nodded and lined up. Headed by firefighters, then several police officers, Chris, Buck, Nathan, Josiah, Vin, and Ezra prepared for a tough, but necessary task. With bated breath, they all waited until several firefighters and a paramedic walked clear. They overheard the paramedic give a quick report.
"Man in the van's dead. So far, we've only found two others inside. The female is unconscious and has been intubated. She has a head lac, and is showing signs of internal bleeding. The boy is in and out and has received Nubain, with Entonox. He has a head lac, and shoulder lac. There's heavy rubble over his lower back, hips and legs, but there was a response from the limbs when tested. Neck braces are in place, and we've set up field IVs. My colleague is staying with them."
Pettigrew shook his head. "I can't guarantee his safety; he needs to come out…"
"No, not an option. Let's do this."
Crew Seven heard everything, and their gazes conveyed their admiration for the ambulance crew and the risk the remaining paramedic was taking. They knew it was imperative to keep a responsive casualty talking and comforted that they weren't alone, and if they could, any one of the team would be in there, too. They steeled themselves as the call went out, and soon rubble was practically flying through competent, determined hands.
JD awoke under a heavy canopy and felt the panic rise within him. "Wha…?"
"Easy, son. Almost over."
The unfamiliar voice startled the youth. "Who…you?"
"I'm Sam, and I'm here to help." He placed a mouthpiece to JD's lips. "Suck on this when you feel pain, it'll help." There was a pause while JD took in the gas and air mix. Sam continued. "I know you. You and your friends saved my dad's dog a few months back. He was stuck on some rocks after falling over the sea cliff."
JD's head was too fuzzy and throbbing to answer straight away, but an image came into his mind. "More like a…small horse…" he slurred.
Sam grinned as he gently brushed away dust encrusted bangs. "Yeah, that's Tiny."
JD huffed out a soft laugh. "…Tiny…" While the Entonox sent him into a pain-free, dream-like state, and Sam recalled the day, a vivid image played in his mind.
>>JD stared from the lifeboat cabin toward a span of rocks below the sea cliff. "How did the dog get there?"
Chris looked back at his navigator as he slowed the lifeboat, ready to come to a full stop. "It fell."
"And it's still alive?"
Vin entered the wheelhouse and approached JD from behind, draped an arm over the youth's shoulder and patted his chest.
JD grinned. "Yeah."
Chris nodded his approval. "Let me know if the vet standing by is needed."
Buck, Vin, Ezra, and JD climbed into the inflatable and Buck steered them toward the rocks at the base of the cliff.
A Great Dane was looking hopefully back at them from raised ground a good number of feet above the waterline. On the cliff top, several people were looking down, watching. No doubt one of them was the dog's owner.
"How are we going to do this?" Ezra asked.
Vin picked up a rope and harness. "With these. I reckon two of us with the dog, one in the water and another keeping the boat steady."
Buck nodded his agreement. "Who wants to get wet?"
Ezra wasn't keen if given a choice, but was willing to volunteer. JD jumped in first.
"I don't mind."
Buck grinned at his enthusiasm and nodded to Ezra. "The boat's yours."
Buck slowed and handed over to Ezra, and after checking their lifejackets and, securing the harness and their lines to the inflatable; the three crewmen of the Saint Nicholas were in the water and swimming toward the barking dog.
Buck stopped and looked back at the two behind him. "He's a big bugger. Vin, you and me will lower him down to JD. You okay with that, Kid?"
Treading water, JD spat out seawater and nodded. "Yeah, no problem."
Vin and Buck hauled themselves out of the water, and Vin unhooked the harness and set it down on the rocks. Resting on one knee he patted the dog while checking him over.
"Hey, boy…how are you doing then?" Vin looked at Buck. "I'm no vet, but he seems okay. Ready to do this?"
Buck nodded and called first to JD, and then Ezra. "Stand by, Kid. Ezra…we're going ahead now."
Standish gave a 'thumbs up' and radioed Chris. In less than a minute, the dog was secure in the harness and Vin and Buck were slowly lowering him into the water.
Looking up, JD gulped as the dog came closer. "Bloody hell," he called up to his friends. "That's not a dog, that's a small horse."
The two men laughed, despite the burning strain to the muscles in their arms and backs. They were visibly relieved when the dog hit the water and JD called out.
As Buck and Vin re-entered the water, Ezra took the strain of the secured end of the harness and lines, and while JD held the dog and talked to him as he swam alongside, Standish pulled them along. Swimming faster than JD and the dog could, Vin was back in the inflatable in seconds and assisting Ezra with the ropes. Buck stayed alongside JD and the dog.
"We certainly get the glamorous jobs, don't we?" JD sputtered out.
Buck chuckled and helped the teenager push the dog into the boat as Vin and Ezra pulled. A few seconds later, they were all safely in the inflatable, and aware of clapping and cheering from the cliff top.
Laughing, the lifeboat men waved back at their audience. Buck ruffled JD's wet hair and pointed. "It may not always be glamorous, Squirt, but it's often appreciated."<<
"...Appreciated..." JD mumbled drowsily.
Holding both IV bags in one hand, and assuming JD's comment to be gratitude to himself for being there, Sam cautiously rested his free hand on the boy's head. "You're welcome. Thinking on it, I never did get a chance to say thanks to you boys. After mum died, Tiny was the world to dad. So…thank you."
Hearing the words, JD took out the mouthpiece, blinked open a dusty, bruised eye and tried to smile. "Reckon we're…more than even." He swallowed, dryly. "Rain?"
"This lady?" He noted JD's slow nod. "Comfortable, and you're still holding her hand, so if you can, give it a squeeze from time to time. Help me let her know she's not alone." He frowned when JD coughed hard, and long, and then moaned from the pain and exertion it caused.
"Hey, hang in there; this'll all be over shortly."
No sooner had he spoken, when a combination of dirt falling on their cover, and the first debris being removed from JD's legs and his consequent cries of pain because of it, alerted the helpers to the fact someone was awake and very vocal. They tripled their efforts until a cry of 'stop!' went out.
Dusty, sweaty men straightened aching backs as all eyes turned to two paramedics and several firefighters going back in and scrambling over the wreckage with spinal boards. Only a minute later, JD was secured to one of the boards and being passed out over the rubble. Pettigrew called in to what was left of Aquarius's front.
"Should we continue?"
"No, the rubble on and around the kid was blocking the lady's exit, but we're clear and coming out."
Six men hovered around the backboard moving through them. Buck reached out, but his trembling hand merely hovered over the dirt-caked, bloody features of a boy he loved as family, his disappointment evident that JD was no longer awake. He didn't ask to go with them; he simply followed JD into the first ambulance, and smiled gratefully when Chris learned of Rain's condition, and then joined him.
Movement alerted the rest to the second backboard emerging. Rain's pretty, slack features were masked by dirt and blood. Her raven hair was gray with dust. Nathan took her cold hand in his and wept as they moved into the second ambulance. Josiah turned to Vin and Ezra.
"Follow them in. I'll join you after I've prayed for Seth's soul."
The two men nodded and raced off to Ezra's Range Rover.
Steeling himself, the priest pulled a silk stole from his pocket, placed it around his neck, made the sign of the cross, and walked toward the headless torso jammed in the van's shattered windshield. To allow Father Sanchez privacy to administer the Last Rites, everyone backed away and took a few moments to rest before the difficult tasks of re-checking and securing the building, removing the van and body and clearing up, continued.
On arrival at the hospital, and having asked after JD and learned he was about to go up to a ward, Josiah joined Nathan in the surgical waiting room. He nodded to Ezra and Vin, and smiled when Vin stood and gave first Nathan, then Josiah an arm squeeze before heading out to check on JD.
"Why don't you go see how JD's doing," Nathan softly suggested to Ezra.
"I will, my friend, as soon as I know dear Rain is comfortable. Vin will represent us both with JD, as I him, here."
"How bad?" Josiah asked, taking a seat.
"She responded well to fluids. Just have to wait now." Nathan caught a sob. "Some birthday, hmm?"
Josiah draped an arm around the doctor. "Certainly a memorable one. Chin up, brother, having seen the shop front; I'm just relieved how it turned out."
Ezra nodded his agreement.
Nathan sniffed. "I mean…JD's like a kid brother, you know? I feel bad I can't be there for him too, yet…"
"Nathan, how often have we been torn between visiting more than one injured friend?" Ezra asked. "Once Rain is sleeping, JD will be pleased to see you and hear she is doing well."
"What a mess." The doctor sighed, resting his head in his hands.
Josiah shuddered at recalling the sight of Seth Banes and the bloody rubble where JD and Rain had lain. "Indeed."
They all looked up when a surgeon entered. He smiled. "Your lady's a tough one, Nathan. The procedure went well. She's in post-op, and already waking up."
Three men whooped and embraced, and while Josiah accompanied Nathan into post-op, Ezra went to tell the others the good news.
When the two men approached her bed, Rain was already trying to focus on them. "Oh, baby," Nathan sobbed.
She took his hand. "I'm doing well. How's JD?"
Josiah smiled. "Resting comfortably, and so should you, my dear."
"I missed lunch," she whispered, nuzzling into the man kissing her head.
"I'll make it up to you," Nathan promised.
"We should take JD…"
"Go check on him for me, would you?"
"Soon." He stayed close until she dozed off.
Buck stroked the strapped arm of the youth lying still in the bed before him, Chris, and a recently arrived Vin. Buck swallowed the lump in his throat as he took in the bandages, cuts, and bruises. They were informed there was severe bruising to JD's lower torso, especially his right hip and leg; a laceration along the back of his left shoulder and that he was suffering a concussion. It was a lot to take in, but they also quickly realized it could have been so much worse.
Chris nudged a subdued Buck. "What's on your mind?"
Buck looked at him and Vin. "This is my fault."
"How'd you work that out, Buck?" Vin asked.
The brunet resumed stroking JD's arm, while checking he was definitely asleep. "If I had just told Seth I was thinking about giving him another chance…"
"Knock it off," Chris warned. "That guy dug his own burial plot, Buck. He made conscious choices to what he did, and almost killed people we love and care about in doing so. You keep thinking like that, and how's that going to make JD feel? After all, he figured out the guy was scamming you."
The brunet gave a small nod of acceptance.
Chris concluded. "Neither of you did wrong, and Rain sure as hell didn't, so drop it…okay?"
Vin wasn't fully sure of what was going on, but by Chris's expression, he had no doubt the blond was right.
All eyes turned to the boy in the bed. Buck leaned in and took JD's hand as he smiled at him. "You groaned?"
"Oh, right. Going through the alphabet, are we?"
"Funny…bro…" JD forced open heavy eyelids and paused while his brain caught up with his mouth. "Have you heard anything on Rain? Is…she okay?"
Ezra picked the right moment to walk into the room. His smile to the men looking back at him spoke volumes.
Buck turned back to JD, a genuine grin on his face. "Doing great, just like you." He leaned in further when JD's horror-filled gaze locked with his. "What?"
Buck swallowed, nervously. "What about him?"
"I…" A tear escaped and JD tried to swipe it away, but with one arm strapped, and the other hooked up to an IV, he was having no luck. Buck used his thumb to oblige. "What, Kid?"
"I saw his head," JD whispered.
"He was in the van," Chris began to explain. JD looked across at him.
"His head wasn't."
Not yet fully understanding the circumstances of Banes' death, they could only hope JD had dreamt it. The reality of his words was too unbearable to comprehend.
TWO WEEKS LATER
A solemn group of villagers exited the local crematorium. Seth's death was recorded as accidental. It couldn't be determined if the van's clutch had stuck, therefore hurtling the vehicle out of control and into Aquarius, and so all that was left was to pay off the business's debtors with his insurance, and watch Rain's shop and her and Nathan's home be rebuilt.
Despite the sunshine, JD shivered as they headed back to Chris's Land Rover. Buck draped an arm around the boy's shoulders and walked with him. JD was using an elbow crutch until his bruised hip and leg were less stiff and swollen, but with Buck's help, managed without it for the funeral.
They all smiled to see Nathan waiting for them when they arrived at the pub. Rain went home to her family for her recuperation, and Nathan stayed with her for a week, but his commitments brought him home earlier than his life-partner.
"How's everyone doing?" Nathan asked as the group gathered around him and they exchanged friendly pats and soft punches before going on into the pub.
"Better," Buck replied, watching JD strip off his jacket and tie, and go back to using his crutch. He'd check JD had taken his pills once everyone was settled with food and a drink. With the deceased man having no surviving family, Buck decided to pay for, and hold Seth's wake at the pub.
"How's Rain doing?" JD asked Nathan as he limped back toward them.
"Still a little sore, and missing home, but she'll be back next week."
"Where will you stay?" JD continued, while trying to balance a plate of food with his crutch and strapped arm. He grinned when Vin helped…until the Welshman teasingly feigned eating JD's food. He slapped Tanner's hand away. "We got room here, right, Buck?"
The brunet smiled and nodded. Not much, but they'd make do.
"Nah, we're good, thanks. Josiah arranged temporary accommodation for us for the interim."
The priest raised his glass, nodded, and grinned on hearing his name. Nathan glanced around.
Taking a seat at a table, JD giggled, and Buck mock-swiped at him as he explained.
"Well…she read about the incident…left her friend in Newquay, drove home, smacked me upside the head for not calling her…"
A grinning JD cut in. "Then she visited me and asked after Rain, before Buck insisted she go back and enjoy her friend's visit. She's due back in two days."
"Thought it was quiet," Nathan commented, grinning when they all chuckled.
Deciding he wasn't hungry, JD pushed his plate across the table toward Vin, stood to balance on his crutch, and rolled his aching shoulder. "Nothing personal, guys, but I think I'll go lie down."
Buck also stood. "I'll come up with you. I need to change out of these clothes." He ignored the 'duh, right…' look from JD and the pair left.
From his own seat, Chris watched them go, and then addressed Nathan as he sat down next to him. "How's Rain really doing?"
The doctor sighed. "Physically, good, but she's been having nightmares. They are getting less frequent, though. How about JD?"
"Same," Vin answered from the next table over. "I think the whole business shook him and Buck up pretty bad."
Nathan nodded. "I know what you mean."
In JD's room, and despite being playfully slapped away, Buck grinned and continued to help JD change out of his suit, and into a tee and sweatpants. He ducked down to gain eye contact with the youth. "You'd tell me if you weren't doing okay, wouldn't you?"
"No less than you would," JD assured. The pair chuckled, softly, before JD went deadly serious. "It wasn't our fault," he said, but with less conviction than he would have liked.
Buck nodded, and raised a hand to squeeze the back of JD's neck. "I know, but…well, it's not easy to separate these things sometimes."
"I'll help you if you'll help me," JD promised.
Pulling the teenager in to briefly touch foreheads, Buck nodded. "Deal."
On their way to the bathroom to get JD's pills, the pair walked into Buck's room and glanced out of his window to watch the builders working on Aquarius, and Rain and Nathan's flat above. After a minute or so, Buck gave JD a squeeze.
"Come on. Nettie's bringing Casey over to visit later, so get some rest."
With a nod from JD, they turned their back on the activity across the street and inwardly vowed to focus on making their promises to each other good. They would never forget how a moment of madness destroyed more than a shop front, but no one could turn the clock back. It was time to move forward.
Nevertheless, until recently, Banes was a good friend and as he had no family, both would make sure Seth's final resting place would have a marker by which to remember him, while hoping the gesture would aid the healing process and diffuse the initial resentment held over the concern that Seth's actions were deliberate.
Neither Rain, nor any of the seven friends knew if it would help them to forgive, but figured it was a good place to start.