"Cut me open! On purpose!?" JD's eyes were as big as the moon.

"Now settle down, kid. . . How many times Nathan take a bullet out of ya? This ain't no different," Buck said matter-of-factly.

"You ever done this before?" JD thought he could live with the pain, if he didn't have to have this surgery.

The men looked at each other, they would have loved to tell the kid there wasn't anything to worry about, to tell JD Nathan had done this a hundred times, but the truth didn't escape their faces, even Ezra's.

As the young man's face lost all color, he began to question the wisdom of this operation thing.

"No offense, Nathan, but if you ain't done this. . . I don't think it be a good idea. . . "

"Son, he doesn't have a choice. . . he can't wait for a doctor," Chris defended the healer.

"What if he takes out somethin' he ain't suppose to. . . I trust ya' Nathan. . . I do. . . it's just. . . can't we wait. . . . and. . . . . . and get the guy over in Fall Creek or somethin'?" JD really didn't like this.

Buck looked at the kid, "He don't have a choice."

Chris approached the terrified boy in the bed, who looked like he would bolt the minute he got the chance, put both of his hands on each side of the kid's face and told him what everyone else was afraid to.

"If Nathan doesn't do this, you're going to die, JD. Do you understand? We aren't ready to let you go without a fight. And this is how we fight. I know you don't like this, but YOU don't have a choice, got it?" there wasn't any room for argument.

"How ya going to do this? I can't stay still that long, Nathan," the kid's voice didn't hide his apprehension.

Nathan had to use chloroform on JD once to remove a bullet from the kid's shoulder that was in a tricky spot. He hadn't taken it well. Whenever he had to give the kid anything that would make him sleepy he would try to fight the effects. The battle he had with the effects of chloroform alarmed the healer, the kid would struggle going under and recovering from the chloroform seem to take longer than his shoulder healing. He wasn't looking forward to the answering JD.

"Nathan? You gonna use that stuff?"

"I have to. . . there's nothin' else," The boy had gone from terror back to panic.

Buck talked softly to JD, to try and calm him down, but was interrupted by another attack on JD's stomach.

Chris joined the five men at the other end of the room and discussed 'strategy'. They knew Buck was going to have to leave the room, he couldn't handle the kid's struggle with the chloroform, Vin could handle Buck. . . they would wait in the hall. Josiah would hold the book and read from it when Nathan would ask. Ezra 'volunteered' to apply the chloroform, and Chris would try to hold JD still and calm him down.

Nathan went to different drawers and began grabbing the tools he would need. He put them on a small table, looked to the others, and nodded.

Vin went to Buck and touched him on the arm, gently but forcibly. Buck looked up at the tracker and back at the tired kid, "I'll be here when you wake up, I promise."

"You leavin'? Please Buck. . . stay here. . . please. . . I hate this stuff. . . . please," the kid's voice tore through Buck.

"I can't, Vin and I are gonna be in the way. . . .you'll be fine, besides, Chris will be here with you," Buck smiled. As much as the kid wanted him there, he couldn't be there, and he knew it, he didn't even protest when Nathan told him who was doing what.

The two men made their way to the door and could still here the kid's protest to Buck leaving, then muffled sounds and Chris talking calmly to a struggling boy. Buck was about to turn around, but two very strong arms prevented that and escorted him out the door, closing it behind him.

"Easy JD. . . .take some slow breaths," Chris said quietly as he looked at the boy's wide eyes. Chris was trying to get JD's right hand off Ezra's arm that held the drug laced cloth over his mouth, but with one hand holding down the other arm, the leader wasn't strong enough. Nathan moved to JD's hand and managed to pry it from Ezra's arm and held it firmly.

JD tried to move his head from side to side, struggling to get out from underneath the cloth that was suffocating him. If he could just get some good air. . . he would be okay, but he couldn't and after what seemed like hours to the four men he took in a small breath.

After a few more intakes of the chloroform, JD's head began to swim, and his body felt like it weighed a ton. . . but also felt like he was floating. His eyes became heavy and tried to shut. . . but he still fought, moving his head ever so slowly back and forth, still trying to escape.

"Don't fight it, son. Just close your eyes, now ain't the time to fight. Give in. . . we'll be here when you wake up. . . JD! Let it go! NOW!!" Chris didn't want to yell, he knew he was scared, but that's what worked last time. . . and it worked again. . . JD gave in.

"You may proceed, Mr. Jackson," Ezra sighed. The young man's struggles had worn the two men out.

Yes, he wasn't the biggest nineteen year old they had ever seen, but like the horses he loved so much, he had a fight or flight instinct. . . and when he was unable to flee. . . he fought.

Nathan nodded, trying to feel confident, looked at the book Josiah held, and placed the small knife on JD's skin. He was about to make the cut when he began to shake. He stood back up and in a frightened tone said, "I can't."

Josiah's large hand landed on Nathan's back, "Brother Nate. . . you have to, there is no other path to take but the path that leads to death. If this boy dies under your knife, no man here will think less of you, but if you lay that knife back and he dies. . . "

Nathan looked at the others and nodded, this time confident that no matter what. . . he had to try. He placed the knife back to it's destination and proceeded to make the first incision with steady hands.

After consulting the book a few times, and Josiah talking him through the procedure, he stepped back to the small table, and retrieved tools that were familiar to him, a needle and thread, and began to close the incision.

The surgery had taken them two hours, JD had threatened to wake up more than once, and as much as Nathan had hated to, he told Ezra to apply the cloth again.

Nathan put a loose bandage on the wound and stood, placing his hands on his hips, and smiled half heartedly. "Let's hope he doesn't wake up too hard, and let's hope that it doesn't get infected."

Ezra opened the door to the hall. "Is he d. . . ," Buck was cut off by the reply.

"Our young Mr. Dunne, albeit 'not out of the woods', can be counted among the living," Ezra smiled tiredly, not hiding his joy as Buck and Vin entered the room.


"How's he doing?" Buck asked before he even reached JD's bed, concern in his voice and evident on his face.

"Good," Nathan replied, he was exhausted and it showed.

"Brother Nate did good."

Buck nodded as he held onto JD's limp hand, pushing the pesky strand of hair off the boy's too pale face. He let a smile cross his face as he felt the boys forehead, "No fever, that's good, right?" he looked over to Chris for reassurance.

"It went real good, Buck, he's doing fine," Nathan volunteered.

"He's gonna be okay then?"

"Long as there ain't an infection, and he takes it easy for a bit."

"Don't worry 'bout that Nathan. . . I'll make sure he stays off his feet." No one doubted Buck.

"We all will," Chris added. Knowing Buck was always the one to make sure the boy did as he was told, and the others were usually trying to get the boy's 'big brother' to ease up, Chris thought it was important to let Buck know that this time would be different. They would all share in making sure JD didn't over due it. They had experienced something they would never forget, the thought of losing the kid to something they couldn't see had shaken them all, some more than others.

Buck looked at the still kid wondering, as was everyone, how JD would handle waking up. Dealing with the chloroform was hard on the kid last time. He remembered JD waking up, opening his eyes and not being able to focus. He would look at you, but not see you. Buck could just imagine how JD felt.

"Nathan, how'd he do with going to sleep?"

"Well, he fought pretty good, but not too long. . . not like last time."

"So you think he'll do better this time?"

Nathan sadly shook his head and shrugged, "I don't know."

"What do you mean you don't know?" Buck kept his voice down, but the anger was still there.

"He tried waking up a few times Buck, we had to give him more," Chris stated, sensing the healer just wasn't up to getting the third degree.

"Damn it, kid, can't do anything the easy way can ya," he said half hearted.

For hours three men remained in the room keeping a vigil at the young man's bedside, anxiously waiting for him to wake. Josiah had escorted an exhausted Nathan to his bed at Chris's suggestion. And Ezra had went to the cafe to get something for the men to eat, Josiah said he would meet him there after he had taken care of Nathan.

It had been a very long night for the men. The sun had awakened the day but not the boy. They were getting agitated, they each felt it had been too long since the boy had fallen into the drug induced sleep. Every time one decided it was time to get Nathan and let him know, another man would remind them that Nathan said it would be awhile due to the extra applications during the surgery, and they would sit and wait again.

It was mid morning when all three men decided it was definitely time to get Nathan, Vin stood up from his chair and was nearly to the door when a voice halted him.

"Hold up, Vin," Chris didn't finish before Vin made his way back to the bed and in time to see the boy sheriff's eyes begin to open. The three men shared a quick smile.

"Hey kid, how ya feelin?" Buck asked softly, squeezing the boys hand gently hoping to get a response from him.

"Buck?" JD said, coming out less than a whisper.

"Yeah, it's me," he said, stroking the kid's hair and looking at the hazel eyes that appeared to look at nothing, although they were looking right at him.

"Where . . . ." It was said so softly, Buck didn't think a mouse would be able to hear it.

"You're at Nathan's," Buck offered.

"No. . . .you. . . where. . . .you." He didn't seem to be panicked, but his voice although small, didn't hide the fact that he was.


"I'm right here," he said putting his hand on the boy's chest, and was glad to see a weak smile from JD.

"It's just the chloroform, son, remember the last time. . . it won't be so blurry when you wake up again," Chris added, still holding the kid's hand.

"I 'member," JD began to fade again and closed his eyes.

"Get some sleep kid, we'll be here when you wake up again," Vin stated, hoping to add comfort.

JD nodded slowly and went back to the dark quiet place.

The three men looked at each other not hiding their smiles and a sigh of relief.

"Hello? Hello? Anyone here?" Max Conrad yelled at the bottom of the stairs of the clinic that seemed to be deserted.

The men heard the call and Vin quickly made his way to the stairs, he saw the back of a man turning his head back and forth listening, he turned to face where the sound of footsteps had come from.

"You need something, mister?" Vin asked as he made his way down the stairs.

"I was told that there was a doctor here," Conrad explained, Vin noticed he held a handkerchief wrapped around his hand.

"Well, not a doctor, but the closest you're gonna find."

"I cut my hand on some glass. . . I thought I might need some stitches. What do you think?" Conrad took off the handkerchief and showed it to the bounty hunter, making Vin believe that Conrad thought he was the healer. Conrad didn't want to give himself away.

Vin shook his head and smiled, "Sorry, mister, I ain't the one you're lookin' for. Does look pretty deep, though. . . I'll get Nathan for you." Vin motioned for Conrad to follow him and went upstairs.

They made their way past JD's room, Vin had left the door opened by mistake, Conrad noticed the two men sitting, then realized it was Dunne that was in the bed. . . not looking well at all. Conrad had made a good living on observing things quickly, and noticed a great deal while passing by the room.

He knew Larabee and Wilmington looked concerned for the boy. He also saw a few bloodied rags lying in a heap at the foot of the bed. Dunne had been hurt. But how, Conrad thought, but was brought out of his concentration by a knock on a door where the two men had stopped.

The door opened and the healer rubbed his eyes and as he focused on who was at the door, he felt a wave of concern.

"JD okay? He got a fever, is he bleeding. . . is he. . . ," Nathan rambled on quickly not waiting for Vin to answer.

"Slow down Nate. . . he's fine. This guy here. . . ," Vin motioned behind him.


". . . .Conrad needs some stitches in his hand."

"Oh, what happened?"

"Cut myself picking up a glass I dropped," Conrad chuckled, not because it was stupid, but because of the irony of the whole thing. Fate was definitely in his corner, the weak link to the seven was basically defenseless, the time to strike was now. Conrad made a mental note to telegraph Sabin Lewis and tell him his good fortune. . . not only had he found the weakness of the seven, but his plan could start anytime.

"Follow me Mr. Conrad. I only got one room, and someone's already there so you'll have to be quiet." Conrad nodded and followed Nathan out the door and into the room where Dunne was. Conrad was inwardly concerned about Dunne, but not for any reason other than money. If Dunne was dead, the key to the whole operation would no longer exist, and the way these men felt towards Dunne would make them extremely dangerous.

Conrad sat down in a chair at the far end of the room, he watched as Vin walked by him, made his way to the window and leaned against the wall, his eyes never leaving the three men in front of him.

"Doc, can I ask you. . . ," Conrad began, he figured anyone in their right mind would be asking what happened to the young man in bed.

"Nathan. . . You want to know what happened to him?" he asked, tilting his head to indicate the direction.

"Yeah. . . I mean . . . none of my business. . . just. . . .he doesn't look. . . all that good."

"Took his appendix out last night."

Conrad, being an educated man replied, "I thought you said you weren't a doctor. . . who took it out?"

"I did. . . didn't have much of a choice, mister. I have a few books. . . I looked at them," Nathan answered as he saw the question in Conrad's face as to how he knew what to do.

"I see, I guess I'm in perfectly good hands with this minor cut," Conrad amused, he wanted to ask more about Dunne's condition but didn't want to seem too concerned. . . it would bring attention to himself.

In less that five minutes Nathan had cleaned, sewn, and bandaged the man's hand. "That should do it, Mr. Conrad, if it starts to give you any pain or starts to bleed again. . . let me know," Nathan smiled.

"Thank you, Nathan, I appreciate it, here you go." Conrad handed Nathan fifty cents. Nathan wasn't use to getting paid, he was usually fixing up one of the seven, so when he was fixing someone else, he actually enjoyed the 'change of scenery'.

Nathan shook his head and said, "That's okay, Mr. Conrad, I appreciate fixing up a new face instead of the ones I've been fixing." Conrad nodded and thanked him again, both shared a small laugh at the healer's statement.

Nathan turned and went back to the sick room. "He wake up at all?"

"Yeah, 'bout half hour ago. Didn't stay that way for long, though."

"You didn't expect him to stay awake that long did ya, Buck?"

"No. . . I was happy he woke up at all. . . he talked a little bit, too," his voice lifted a little.

"That's better than last time, took him two days to figure out where he was," Chris added, trying to make Buck less concerned.

"Yeah, I know. . . just got a bad feelin' is all."

"What do you mean, he got a fever or something?" Nathan asked.

"No, no. . . it ain't that. . . it's something. . . Hell, I can't explain it. . . just a feeling I got in my gut."

Buck always did have a sixth sense when it came to the kid, the men weren't alarmed but they were concerned for JD. They figured he would get feverish or the drug wasn't done with him. How were they suppose to know the danger had just left the room not three minutes ago?


Conrad made his way out of the clinic and went directly to the telegraph office, timing was of utmost importance. Sabin Lewis would be pleased. Conrad sent the telegram to Little Creek and left to go to the saloon. He figured Lewis would get the telegram and reply promptly. Lewis had told Conrad that after a week of his arrival in Four Corners, he would have someone posted at the telegraph off, so he could respond promptly and quickly.

Promptly and quickly, Conrad thought to himself, the way the whole operation was going to work. Conrad sat at the bar and drank his whiskey, wondering if Lewis's idea was worth losing men over. Sabin Lewis was confident, but he had never run up against men like these. He daydreamed about all the possible scenarios of the outcome of the battle that would follow, the guns firing and the bloodshed, and the dismantling of the Seven.

Sabin Lewis sat behind his large mahogany desk, in front of him was a map with lines and circles. A knock at the door brought Lewis from the daydream he was having.

"Yes?" Lewis answered the knock.

A dust covered man wearing chaps entered through the door, "Just came in Mr. Lewis." The man handed Lewis the telegram and sat down in the chair at the front of the desk.

"Good, good," he mumbled, then looked to the man sitting in front of him. "Conrad was worth the money, Cole, says we need to get a plan and move fast. Cole, we do this, no one can stop us from getting that land." he boasted.

"Yes, sir, Mr. Lewis, I'll get the men ready."

"How long is it gonna take you to be ready to ride?"

"We been ready for a few days, sir. We figured as soon as you got word you'd wanna leave right off."

"That's why I like you, Cole, always thinking. We ride in twenty minutes."

Cole nodded and left to organize his men. In two days they would be in Fall Creek, meeting with Conrad and formulating a plan. Cole and twenty men waited at the stables, all mounted and ready to ride, for Sabin Lewis. Cole looked over the men like he was a general inspecting his troops before battle. They were headed for a battle, a private war, how long it would take didn't matter, the outcome was the only important thing.

"Ready when you are, Mr. Lewis," Cole said, as the man made his way to the group of men.

Lewis mounted his horse and said, "Then what are we waiting for," more an order than a question.

The group of men began to move out in a slow canter, and began their journey to Fall Creek.It won't be long now,thought Lewis, smiling to himself. He didn't have any idea what Conrad had found, all he knew is that time was part of it.


Vin was shaking the young man's shoulder, trying to get a reaction. "Come on, JD, it's been a couple hours. . . open them eyes up," the worry barely present in his voice.

JD didn't move, not even a sound. Nathan had left instructions to get JD to wake up every couple of  hours. It had taken the kid 6 hours to wake up from the first time, and Nathan thought it important to get him awake and stay that way for a bit.

"JD, hey, time to wake up kid. . . ," Vin shook a little harder and was rewarded.

"Who. . . .?" The weak voice tried to ask, eyes still trying hard to open.

"Hey, there, kid. . . Nathan wants you to try an eat somethin'."


"Yeah, its me. . . look at me, JD, wake up."

"I am," he said with his eyes still closed, they weighed a ton.

"Prove it. . . "

"I'm talking ain't I?" it came out slow, still hinting of sleep.

"Ain't good enough kid, get them eyes open."

With a heavy sigh and a lot of effort the eyes began to open, slowly.

"That better?" with as much sarcasm as he could muster. He was so tired, why won't they just let him sleep. Heck, he'd just had an operation a few minutes ago.

"Yeah, Nathan's coming with some broth for ya."

"I ain't hungry."

"Well, guess you have a problem there, son. If you want to get outta that bed in the next few weeks you'd better let us feed ya this," Nathan ordered as he came through the door.

"Weeks? And I don't need anyone feeding me," the sleep was starting to wear off, but Nathan and Vin both knew they had to make it quick. It wouldn't take the kid long to get tired again.

"Here then, if ya can hold the spoon still you can feed yourself," replied the healer. JD glared at Nathan and shook his head in defeat, knowing he didn't have the strength. Vin got behind JD for support, and gently sat him up. He winced a bit as he could feel his stitches fold onto each other.

"Okay? Or you wanna go back down a bit?" Vin asked, noticing the quick intake of air.

"I'm fine, damn it." Vin looked up to the healer, it was just one of the effects the drug had on him, he got agitated easily.

JD looked at the healer and asked the question that they both knew was coming.

"Buck here?"

"Nope, he'll be here later."


"Vin told ya. He needed some sleep, he'll be here later. Now let's get some of this in ya'."

Nathan knew that the kid would shove his hand away, he'd done it all three times he'd woken and ate. He figured how to do this after watching Ezra feed the boy.

Nathan took the spoon and aimed for JD's mouth and the closer he got the hand came and pushed it away. Nathan sighed, for effect, and raised the still empty spoon to its intended target again, with the same reaction.

"Come on, JD, you gotta eat. Mrs. Potter didn't stand around in a hot kitchen cookin' this soup for you to start throwing it on the floor," Nathan's gentle tones reaching the dazed mind of the boy.

JD looked at Nathan and seemed to see him for the first time. Nathan could see the change in the kid's face and smiled. He'd slapped the spoon away a dozen times before, this time had been only three, JD had become aware of what was going on and who was with him.

"Hey, kid you hungry?" Vin acted as though it was the first time he'd been ask.

The boy smiled sheepishly and quietly said, "Kinda, Mrs. Potter made that, right?" JD seemed to point out rather than ask.

"Yup, she did, ready?" Nathan asked. JD nodded and he began to swallow the broth being offered without a fight. The kid ate for a few minutes then Vin could feel JD begin to tire and sent a nod to Nathan.

"Had enough?" JD slowly nodded at Nathan. The healer stood and placed the bowl on a nearby table, and waited for the next round of the emotional storm that came every time the kid had woken. Vin slipped from the back of JD and they eased him carefully back into bed. JD grew silent, as he had done so many times before. His eyes filled as he looked at the two men, taking care of him. All the men knew how hard this was for him, tiring so easily and being as helpless as a new born. Large tears rolled down his cheeks as JD closed his eyes and fell asleep. Vin pushed the boy's hair out of his eyes and wiped away the tears. He let out a small smile and looked at Nathan.

"His color's comin' back a bit, don't ya' think?"

"Yup, He's gettin' better, Vin. Hopefully this won't last to much longer," referring to JD's incapacity.

"Hope not, ya' think he knows what's goin' on?"

"Yeah, I do. He talked a lot more this time. He ate better, too," Nathan smiled.

Vin nodded his head and smiled back. As emotionally draining as it was for JD, the men felt the strain as well. As much as Buck didn't want to leave the kid, he had to admit it was getting harder to see the kid so weak. The group had decided to take shifts in caring for JD, so the stress wouldn't fall squarely on the shoulders of Buck and Nathan.

The hours that made up a day seemed a day in itself, JD began waking on his own, not trying to knock the spoon away as often, and was able to stay awake for more than five minutes. He still didn't talk much, which worried some of the men, one of the things JD was noted for was his ability to ramble. Chris, Vin, and Buck especially were unnerved by his lack of talking. Nathan had tried to reassure them that it was just a combination of the drug and the stress he had been through, which they accepted but didn't like just the same.


Max Conrad entered the saloon in Fall Creek and scanned the room. His eyes fell to a table with two men sharing a bottle, Lewis and Cole. Conrad smiled and made his way to the table, nodded his head, and sat down.

"Mr. Lewis, Cole," he greeted.

"Let's not waste time. What do you have for me? Did you find their weakness or not?"

"Yes, sir, I did," Conrad answered.

"Well, what is it!" Lewis said impatiently.

"Well, it's kind of complicated, but to put it simply. . . "

"Yes, put it simply, Conrad. Please," he added sarcastically.

"Dunne," he did as he was told, and was amused to see the confused look on the men's faces.

"The puny sheriff?" Cole asked.

"He's not as puny as you think, but he's the key, the Seven's weakness."

"What makes you think that?"

"Dunne holds the group together."

"I thought Larabee was the leader?" Lewis questioned.

"Larabee is the leader, but without that kid. . . Look. . . let me give it to you this way," Conrad began, trying to find a way so that his boss would understand. He couldn't put words to the bond that these men shared, so he tried to show them.

"Mr. Lewis, you told me that every chain has a weak link, and the way to break that chain is find the weak link. Dunne is the weak link."

"With all do respect, Max, we're talking about a group of men that have single handedly brought law to a town. If Dunne is as weak as you say. . . "

"Cole, Dunne is far from weak. He's a kid, a very skilled kid."

"Then why is he important to this operation, Conrad?"

"The men count on Dunne in holding up the law and gunfights, but he's still just a kid. . . he's their kid brother, or son that they never had or lost. He is the common bond between these men."

"The weak link in the chain," Lewis finally understood.

The three men boasted a smile, and Lewis began formulating a plan.

"So we get Dunne and entertain him for awhile, cause some trouble for a distraction, and catch the remaining men off guard and eliminate the law. Then we can do what we have to to get the land, sell it to the railroad when they start coming out here and we live fat and happy for the rest of our lives." Lewis satisfaction was short lived.

"Well. . . It isn't going to be easy to get Dunne," Conrad dampened the mood.


"Lets just say he hasn't been riding. He's at a clinic where the healer lives. He got sick."

"Is he going to live?" Lewis wasn't concerned for the boy's health, this was the key to his operation, if he didn't have him, he had nothing.

"Yeah, but he isn't left alone, not yet anyway, if there were only one man with him I don't think that there'd be a problem, but there's always two. Getting him would garner attention, we'd never get ten feet out of that town."

"Well, then I suggest you get back to Four Corners tonight, we'll get there tomorrow and camp somewhere outside of town. When the time is right you can let us know."

Conrad nodded his head, got up from his chair, and headed back to Four Corners.


As the sun rose, so did JD. The heavy feeling was still there, but he didn't feel tired. He opened his eyes and looked around the sunlit room and saw Buck cramped up in a chair sleeping, and Chris was in another more comfortable looking chair, arms crossed in front of his chest with a slight smile trying to escape.

"Mornin'," he said as he got up from his chair and made his way to the chair next to the bed.

"Hi," the kid simply said, still sounding tired, but Chris noticed his eye's were clear and focused.

"How ya feelin?"

"Good, I guess," he questioned himself, looking at the ceiling.

"Well, you look better, you hungry?" Chris's voice even, but he was concerned.

JD shook his head in answer, and looked away, only to find Buck next to him and he jumped slightly.

"Sorry, kid, didn't mean to scare you," he smiled, not hiding his pleasure, the kid was awake.

JD faked a smile and returned his eyes to the ceiling, or down to his hands resting on his blankets. Chris and Buck gave a quick look to each other.

"Chris is goin' to get Nathan, you wanna sit up a bit?" JD nodded and began to sit himself up, with the new strength he'd found, but when he felt a strong hand helping him he stopped and became angry.

"I can do this myself, Buck!" the quiet voice from the last three days was gone. "I ain't a baby, lemme go, okay?!" he continued yelling.

Buck was caught off guard, forgetting that the kid had almost died, and tried to keep his temper in check. Chris and Nathan had come into the room at that moment, both stunned at what they heard. JD got himself sitting up with amazing ease, but looked as if he didn't know what to do next.

The look that Buck gave the two men behind him told Chris he was about to let into the kid, and Nathan knowing that this wasn't the time, motioned for Buck to come with him. Buck hung his head, took a deep breath, a glance at the kid, and went into the hall with Nathan.

Chris made his way to the bed, realizing that JD knew exactly what had been done for him while he'd been in that fog.

"You wanna tell me what that was all about, son?" he said it like the leader he was, but with an understanding tone.

"I don't need no more help," came the reply, eyes staring at the fidgeting hands.

"You couldn't just say that instead of yelling at him?" Chris felt like he was talking to Buck about the kid. . . .not the other way around.

JD looked at Chris. "I ain't been able to do nothin' by myself, but I'm better so now I can."

"He was just trying to help, I would have done the same thing," he said, wondering if JD would have used that tone with him, or accepted the help.

"I'm sorry Chris, it's just. . . I. . . well. . . " Chris chuckled and smiled at the kid.

"I know, it's been rough on everyone, especially you. We weren't so sure you'd remember everything." JD hung his head in embarrassment, but felt reassured with the hand on his shoulder. "No one thinks any less of ya, kid. You had us pretty scared for awhile, and as much as you hate getting taken care of. . . it's what had to be done. You would have done the same for any of us," Chris added with sincerity.

JD looked at Chris and the all to familiar, but much missed, smile crossed his face. "Do me a favor, though," JD pleaded and hung his head.

"Anything with in reason," Meaning anything as long as you don't ask me to get you out of this bed.

"Next time Nathan says I ain't got a choice. . . Let me die." Chris looked at JD stunned, who returned the look with another smile. It took Chris a few minutes to wonder if the kid was serious when he saw the look. . . and he smiled and shook his head.

The kid was back. Buck and Nathan entered the room when they heard the laughter and wondered who had snuck into the room without them seeing. JD stopped laughing immediately and Chris composed himself within seconds.

"What the hell's this, you're yellin' at me one second and laughing your ass off the next. Nathan, how many affedexes this kid got. . . one that hurts and another that makes you act foolish?"

"Appendix, Buck, Appendix," Nathan stated for the twentieth time, shaking his head.

"Yeah, whatever," Buck tried to be angry, but couldn't, he was to happy to see the old JD coming back.


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