I'm really not much of a country music fan, but I do like Garth and have always thought that this was a great song. I try to make a point of telling my husband every day that I love him. So, I must say that originally, I only thought of him when I listened to this song. But after watching the Seven, it just naturally brought to mind a Buck-JD situation. Hope you all enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it.
| If Tomorrow Never Comes
(K. Blazy/G. Brooks)
'Cause I've lost loved ones in my life
The seven had been on the trail for five days now, and fuses were running a little short.
Buck Wilmington was, of course, the first to explode.
"JD," Buck growled, "how many times do you have to be told something?"
JD was obviously hurt by Buck's biting criticism. He refused to look the larger man in the eyes, shifting his gaze instead to his own feet.
"Well?" Buck continued, towering over the much smaller JD. "Im waitin'."
"I don't know what you want me to say," JD Dunne said, still not looking at Buck.
"I want you to say that you'll start to use your head for somethin' besides a hatrack, and maybe next time, we won't have to have this little discussion. You gotta grow up, JD. Are you ever gonna learn, boy?" Buck exclaimed as he stalked off.
JD looked up in time to see Buck stomping away. He looked around to see how many of the others in the group of peace keepers had been present for his latest in a long string of tongue-lashings by his supposed best friend, Buck.
Naturally, all had been present and listening. Just JD's luck.
JD was maybe all of 19 years old, looked more like 16, traveling with six other men all older and wiser than he. He knew that, but it didn't make him feel any better about what had happened.
Chris Larabee, the unofficial leader of the little group, walked up to JD and put his hand on the boy's shoulder.
"Bucks just hot and tired, JD, and, crabby," Chris said softly to the kid.
Chris was a loner, could be real mean, if he had a mind to, but he had a soft spot for the kid. All of the men did. Chris always seemed to have more patience for JD, seeing as how he was so much younger than the rest of the group. He always tried to be gentle with the kid, which wasn't easy for a man who had suffered the loss that Chris had. Larabee knew JD was young, inexperienced, and sometimes just downright scared about growing up.
"He'll be feeling better when we get back to Four Corners. It's been a long, hard ride for all of us." Chris finished.
JD looked up at Chris, with tears welling up in his huge grey-hazel eyes. "I guess he'll never think of me as anything but a stupid kid. It seems that I can't please him for the life of me."
"Buck just cares about you so much, JD, that when these little episode occur, it scares the crap out of him," Chris explained. "I must admit, I was a little shaky myself when I saw the stunt you were pulling. Did it ever occur to you that you could get hurt?"
"Honest, Chris, I wasn't trying to scare anyone. I was just trying to have a little fun. I never thought Id fall."
"Well, you might want to consider that possibility next time you feel like showing off some sort of horse riding stunt that you saw in a circus back east. You'll break your fool neck." With that said, Chris turned and walked away.
JD was left to contemplate what had happened. He guessed it probably looked a lot scarier than it was. He had done it before, and never fallen off. But today, of course, in front of God and everybody, he slipped, and hit the ground hard, splitting his lip open and spraining his wrist. And, of course, Buck had gotten angry about the whole incident.
Chris had gone off to find Buck. He knew he'd be off somewhere by himself, trying to figure out a way for JD to possibly live to see his next birthday. Since JD had joined the group of men about a year ago, Buck had officially appointed himself JD's mother hen.
Chris came upon Buck a few hundred yards from the others. He was sitting on a fallen tree, staring up at the clouds.
"Hey, Buck," Chris called as he approached. "Safe to come near you, or will you bite my head off, too?"
"Funny." Buck frowned. "You know I'd never live through it if I did."
"The kids going to be OK, Buck," Chris assured. "So, give it a rest, will 'ya? We've got another full day's ride before we get to Four Corners, and the guys are a little tired of the beratings you've been giving JD for the last couple of days. How about layin' off the kid?"
"Chris.that fool kid has no idea, and I mean, NO IDEA, of how to take care of himself." Buck was gesturing wildly with his hands. "He has some of the foolest notions of what constitutes a good idea. How do you think he's managed to live to be 19?"
"Well," Chris said as he sat down next to Buck "They say the lord watches out for fools and children. Which do you think JD is?"
"How about a foolish child? God must be watchin' out for him double. That, or he's the luckiest damn kid this side of the Mississippi." Buck smiled.
"Sounds about right," Chris agreed.
The two had a few chuckles about some of JD's previous escapades and near misses, then rose to go back to the others.
"So, you'll talk to him then? He's dragging pretty low," Chris said. "Probably off somewhere crying 'bout now."
"Not tonight. I'll make up with him tomorrow. Let him stew over it tonight. Might do him some good. What's the hurry?" Buck smiled.
Buck wished he had made up with JD right away, that very moment. Because before the night was over, Buck was afraid he may never get the chance.
The men were sitting down to dinner. Buck had found himself a spot, and he noticed rather ashamedly that JD made sure he picked the spot that was the farthest possible from Buck.
Buck hated thinking of how his outburst had hurt JD, but wanted to let the harsh words work on the boy overnight. He'd apologize at breakfast tomorrow and everything would be back to normal.
"Alright, you in the camp. Guns on the ground and hands in the air."
"What the...?" Chris sputtered.
Three men walked slowly into the camp. As they came into the range of the campfire, it became apparent that each man was bigger and meaner looking than the one before him.
They each held a rifle on the group. They looked cautiously around as if they were counting.
"Seven. That's all there is, right?" one asked the other.
"Yeah. Seven. We got em all."
"Mind telling us what this is all about" Chris said through his gritted teeth. He had that look on his face that meant someone was going to feel a lot worse in a few minutes.
"Just you never mind," one of the men said. "When its time for you to know anything, well tell you."
The group moved around a little, trying to figure out just what was going on, who these three men were, and what they wanted with them.
"Don't y'all be moving around. Let's get some rope and tie them up. Can't take no chances with the likes of them."
One of the men went to his horse and brought back some rope. He proceeded to tie everyone's hands behind their back. He tied them real tight, so tight it hurt.
When he got to JD he laughed. "This one here's hardly worth tying up. But I guess I'd better. Damn. He's nothin' but a stupid kid!"
JD hung his head, ashamed of the man's comments.
"Don't pay him no mind, JD," Josiah Sanchez comforted, seeing the hurt on the boy's face and in his eyes. Those big hazel eyes you can read like a book. Josiah thought. "He's just runnin' on at the mouth, boy. Shake it off."
"It's OK. Just sounds like something Buck would say, anyway. I guess even these guys know I'm a disappointment," JD said in a voice that sounded years younger than usual.
Buck felt like someone had kicked him in the gut. My God. Poor kid's going through something like this, and feels that it's no different than the way I treat him?
The man doing the tying had noticed that JD seemed hurt by his remarks, and continued to belittle the boy, not letting up, like a dog with a bone.
"These here grown men let the likes of you ride with them? You ain't worth the food it would take to keep you alive. Why, I've seen school girls bigger 'an you, you little runt."
JD's head hung a little lower after each remark.
JD, Buck thought to himself, don't let them get to you, boy.
The leader of the three men walked up to Vin Tanner and stood eye to eye with him.
"So, you want to know what this is about, huh? Well, you remember a little incident in Kansas 'bout three years ago involving a man that you brought in for murder? Name of .Willard?"
"Sure do," Vin said. "Real piece of slime, that one was."
Vin got his face slapped for that one.
"Well. he's our brother. We all swore we'd get even one day, and imagine our delight when we noticed you and your friends here passin' through Groverton yesterday."
"So," Vin said. "Youve got me. You don't need the others. They had nothing to do with your brother."
"Yeah, but sometimes it hurts more to see a friend get messed up than it is to be messed up yourself." The large man had an evil grin on his face that worried Vin to no end.
The man walked around, looking at the group, sizing each man up and down, when finally, his eyes came to rest on JD.
"Seems to me that there's probably one amongst you that would be pretty damn easy to mess up, and might make the rest of you feel pretty bad in the process."
Vin was beginning to panic now he knew exactly what the man meant.
"Leave him alone. He's just a kid. You got a problem with me, you take it up with me!" Vin yelled as he saw the man walk up to JD and lead him away from them.
"Oh. I'll leave him alone alright. Alone from the rest of you. He's coming with us."
The man was yanking the boy in the opposite direction, but JD managed to turn and shoot a pitiful, scared look to the others. Poor kid was terrified, and justifiably so.
Buck began to lash out at anything he could.
"There's no way in hell that boy's leaving with the likes of you!" Buck screamed.
"Don't exactly look like any of you could do much about it."
Nathan pleaded, "Look mister, don't do this. He's just a kid. Don't do this, please."
"Get the boy on a horse. We're leaving."
The one that had teased JD grabbed him by the collar and shoved him to the ground.
"Get ready, little boy, you're coming with us."
"No," JD said, trying unsuccessfully to sound mean, while looking up at the man from the ground.
The man kicked JD hard in the ribs and the boy rolled up like a ball.
"Don't ever make me tell you anything twice, again, boy."
"LEAVE HIM ALONE!!!" Buck screamed.
The man reached down and pulled JD up off the ground and slapped him hard in the face. Again. And again.
"I could get to like this," the man laughed.
"Get him on a horse," the biggest man said. "We got plenty of time to have fun with him along the way. Don't want to go killing him right off. Takes all the fun out of knowing how its eating at the rest of them worrying about the kid."
The boy could barely sit straight on the horse, so they tied his hands to the horn on the saddle.
And then they were gone. The three dangerous men, and JD Dunne rode off in a cloud of dust.
The rest of the group cussed a string of obscenities and began to scatter, trying to get themselves free of their bonds.
"Are you ever gonna' learn, boy?"
Buck kept hearing the last words he had said to the kid over and over in his head.
He was going to make up with the boy tomorrow.
What if tomorrow never came for JD?
"Are you ever gonna' learn, boy?"
The words kept haunting Buck as he tried to find something, anything, to cut the ropes off his hands. The men had taken all of Nathan's knives, most of their guns, and run the horses off.
Luckily, Ezra still had his small derringer hidden in his coat sleeve, and Vin and Josiah both had an extra gun in their boots that the Willard's had not taken time to find.
First order of business, after they had managed to free themselves of the ropes, was to try and round up the horses.
Two hours later, the group was ready to ride.
"Are you ever gonna learn, boy?"
While they were tracking the Willards, Buck kept hearing his own words come back to bite him in the ass. He began thinking of all the unkind remarks he had made to the boy on the trip.
Why did he say all those things? He told himself that he was just trying to teach the boy... that it was all for his own good.
But, maybe there were a lot of things Buck himself needed to learn, as well. Like how to tell someone how he really felt about them before it was too late.
The Willard brothers were making good time. They were not slowing down for anything, certainly not a little thing like the boy they held captive.
JD's head was pounding, it hurt to breathe, and he was afraid the men were going to kill him.
He asked if they could please stop for a few minutes, and he paid dearly for it. The largest of the Willard men had slapped the boy so hard that he would have fallen off the horse, if he hadn't been tied on.
When it seemed like they had been riding for days, the men finally stopped. They began to unsaddle their horses and make camp for the night.
The meanest of the bunch - and it was hard to tell by this point - came towards JD with one of Nathan's largest knives. JD figured he was a goner, but the man used the knife to cut the ropes. After JD's hands were free, the man pushed him off the other side of the horse, and JD hit the ground hard.
"Get up, you runt," the man yelled. "If'n you don't, I'll make sure you never get up again."
JD began to drag himself up off the ground, but obviously he was not moving fast enough to please the man, because he kicked JD hard in the gut. JD felt all the wind go out his lungs, and gasped for air. Before he could get any air, the man kicked him again, only harder than before.
While JD was writhing on the ground, the man rolled him over on his stomach, twisted his arms behind his back and retied his hands. He pushed the kid's face in the dirt, and kicked him in the back as he was leaving.
As he lay on the ground, trying to breathe, JD began to wheeze. Apparently, that irritated the men, because one came over and put a gag around his mouth. Before heading back to the campfire, the man kicked JD hard, just for being there, the boy guessed.
JD no longer cared.
He was past caring.
He was dying.
One of the vicious blows to JD's mid-section had punctured a lung, and JD was not breathing well at all.
It was evening when JD felt someone yanking him up by his arms that were still tied behind his back.
"Come on!!! You are the most useless person I've ever seen. Why do they put up with the likes of you?"
JD didn't have the strength to care what they said to him anymore. He was having a hard time just concentrating on breathing. It took so much effort just to breathe that he was exhausting himself more and more with every breath.
JD began to think about the others. He wondered if they were coming after him yet, and if they were, would he still be alive when they arrived? He began to smile to himself as a picture came into his mind of Buck, arriving too late, yelling at him for not dying right.
The Willards were eating their dinner. JD couldn't believe it, but the actually offered him some food and water. The boy knew there was no way he would be able to keep any food down, but he was grateful for the water.
JD took a couple of sips of the water and began vomiting right away. This infuriated the men. One of them came over to JD and slapped him hard in the face.
JD was tired of being hit, and tired of being kicked, and tired of trying to breathe.
"Put him on the horse, were leaving," the biggest brother said.
"NO!! Im not going." JD said. What could he possibly have to lose?
The man reached down and yanked JD up off the ground. "What did you say, you little sawed-off runt?" The man snarled at the kid, no more than an inch from his face.
"Im not going. You can kill me now, but I ain't going." There. He'd said it. And the boy really meant it, too.
"You little punk. I'll kill you when I'm ready to kill you. Ain't for you to decide." He then punched JD in the face with the full force of his fist and the kid passed out.
"Alright, you in the camp. Guns on the ground and hands in the air."
"What the...," the Willards exclaimed.
Vin, Chris, Buck, Josiah, Nathan and Ezra made their way out into the open.
"Just a little something we heard somewhere," Vin said to the Willards.
The oldest and biggest Willard reached over and pulled JD's limp body up off of the ground, wrapped his telegraph pole sized arm around JD's neck and used his other hand to pull the boy's head back by his hair.
"I'll snap this kids neck like a toothpick. I swear I will. We're leaving here, with the boy, or he dies right now," the man threatened.
Buck had another option to discuss with the Willards.
"The boy comes with us, or you die right now. End of story."
Chris had what he thought was an even better idea. "The boy comes with us AND you die right now."
Vin, the sharpshooter of the bunch, pulled the hammer back on his gun, and waited to see how this was going to play out.
"Can you take him, Vin, before he can hurt JD?" Chris asked.
"Sure as hell can" Vin smiled.
"Now wait a minute," the Willard man said. "Surely, we can make a deal for this poor injured boy."
"Like hell we will," Buck seethed as he approached the man. Willard began to retreat and released JD's limp body, which would have crumpled to the ground if Buck had not been there to prevent it.
Buck grabbed the kid before he hit the ground, and scooped him up in his arms, holding him as close as possible. The boy was barely breathing.
Nathan couldn't believe how bad the kid looked. JD's face had taken on a grayish hue. "My God, what did they do to him in the five hours they had him?"
Nathan could hear the boy wheezing every time he would take a breath, which were few and much too far between.
"I think he's got some broken ribs poking into his lungs. That's why he can't breath," Nathan decided.
"What can you do for him, Nathan?" Buck pleaded. "Please. There's got to be something!!!"
"Get him sittin' upright, Buck. At least that'll make it a little easier for him to breathe."
Buck propped JD up against his chest and stroked the boy's hair to let him know his old friend Buck was there.
"C'mon, kid. You don't wanna be checkin' out on us now. You got your way. Chris let you ride with us. You're one of the few people in this world's got Chris Larabee wrapped around his finger that's for damn sure. C'mon, kid, you got us all worried sick, now, so c'mon, just open your eyes for 'ole Buck, OK?"
The teen's long lashes started to flutter. "Buck???"
"Yeah, kid, it's Buck." The older man smiled. "You had me right scared there, boy."
"Yeah, I'm here, JD."
"God, Buck, it hurts. I can't breathe."
"You just stay calm, kid. Nathan's gonna fix 'ya right up."
"OK." The kid trusted Buck completely to make everything right.
Nathan continued to work on the boy as the others made camp. They made sure the Willards were tightly confined and would take turns guarding them.
"How's the kid?" Vin asked Chris as he knelt to pour himself a cup of coffee after coming off a guard shift.
"Nathan says if he makes it through the night, he should be OK," Chris said softly. "Can 'ya believe that? Talkin' about the kid, and usin' words like 'makin' it through the night'. I swear to God, Vin, if that boy don't make it, I'm blowin' them Willards away."
"I doubt you'd have to take care of them all by yourself," Vin assured his friend.
"Guess I'll go see if I can relieve Buck," Vin said.
"Don't bother, Vin." Chris said. "I've tried many times. He won't leave the kid. Can't say as I blame him. He's the best with the kid, keepin' him calm and all. Calmer he is, the easier it is for him to breathe. And, the calmer the kid is, the calmer Buck is, if you know what I mean?"
"Yeah," Vin trailed off.
"Sothis Willard guy, he still in prison?" Chris asked.
"Last I heard," Vin answered. "Guess his brothers'll be joinin' him real soon."
"Maybe," Chris started. "That depends"
"Try to get some rest, Chris. Long day ahead tomorrow. Getting' JD home ain't gonna be easy."
"Yeah, guess not." Chris agreed.
When morning came, things seemed to be changing, for the better.
Chris walked over to check on JD and found the boy asleep in Buck's arms.
"Hey, Buck, how's he doin'?" Chris whispered as he affectionately pushed the boy's hair from his eyes.
"Nathan seems to think he's breathin' a little better." Buck answered quietly, not wanting to wake the kid.
"You get any rest at all last night, Buck?"
"I can do that anytime, Chris," Buck said.
JD began to stir.
"Hey, kid, you gave us a pretty rough time last night," Chris said, placing his hand on the teen's face.
"Sorry," the kid yawned.
"Got nothin' to be sorry for, JD. Just good seein' you're doin' better, kid," Chris said as he walked off.
"You really had me scared, JD." Buck said softly. "I was afraid I wouldn't get a chance to tell you I was sorry about the things I said to 'ya. I shouldn't have talked to you like that, and I'm sorry, JD."
"Yeah, Buck, sure you are," JD said, his breath hitching between words.
"Really, I am, JD. Don't you believe me, boy?" Buck asked.
"I guess," was all the boy could get out.
"Well, you rest while I go and check on us some breakfast," Buck said, as he carefully leaned the boy against a large boulder to take his place in supporting him.
"Not hungry," JD said.
"Well, you gotta eat, boy. Don't argue with me." And Buck left.
JD squirmed a little to try to get more comfortable, as Josiah walked up.
"Need some help there, JD?"
"No, I'm fine."
"You don't look too fine to me, son. Let me help you get situated." The large man said, kneeling down to help the boy.
"OK, thanks." The kid gave in.
"No need to thank me, son. A man should always be of service to his fellow man. It's in the good book, 'ya know." Josiah said with a wink.
Josiah sat with JD until Buck returned.
"Mornin', Josiah. He's lookin' a lot better, don't 'ya think?" Buck seemed real pleased with the progress the boy had made.
"Yes, Brother Buck, I'd say our innocent here is greatly improved," Josiah said.
"Well, I don't know how innocent he is, but I think he's lookin' real good," Buck smiled.
"Here, JD. I brought you some breakfast."
"I told you, didn't want any."
"Now, JD, don't go pullin' that crap on me. You gotta eat." Buck insisted.
"I said no," the boy said, weakly pushing the plate away.
Nathan walked up on the argument.
"Leave him be, Buck. If'n he don't want it, he don't have to eat it."
"Now, Nathan, ain't you the one always after him to eat and keep up his strength?" Buck queried.
Nathan pulled Buck aside, so JD could not hear.
Nathan laid it all on the line for Buck. "I just want to get him home. I don't want him all riled up. You get him riled up and he ain't gonna be able to breathe at all, got it? Just leave him be, and don't upset him, whatever you do. He's got to stay calm or his breathin's gonna get a lot worse."
Buck heeded the healer's advice.
"OK, Nathan. I'll keep him calm. Don't worry."
Buck returned to the kid. "Well, I guess Josiah can eat two breakfasts, right, Josiah?"
Josiah quickly caught on to where Buck was heading.
"Sure can. Be happy to eat that for 'ya, JD."
"Thanks, Josiah. I just ain't hungry," JD said.
The kid's breathing seemed to be getting more labored and painful for him, so Buck got behind him like before, which seemed to help some.
"Thanks, Buck," was all the kid could say.
"Sure, kid. Take it easy, just sit quiet. I know that's hard for you, but try it for once," Buck teased.
Vin walked over to check on the kid.
"Hey, JD. How 'ya doin', kid?"
"I'm fine," JD smiled at the tracker.
"Chris wants to get movin' soon. Think you're up to it, kid?"
"OK then. You want to ride with me, kid?" Vin asked. "Sure would be glad for your company."
"Sure." JD seemed excited. He always liked Vin. Vin didn't seem to judge JD as much as the others. Never criticized the boy much, just sort of let him be.
"Ahhh... Vin..." Buck stammered. "I think the kid better ride with me. I know what to do so's he can breathe easier."
"Well, Buck, I'd think you could show anyone how to do it, right?" Vin asked, smiling at the kid.
"I just don't think it's too good an idea... kid better ride with me," Buck said.
"Oh, c'mon, Buck," Vin stared.
"Never mind, Vin. Buck's gonna have a cow," JD said angrily, or as angrily as he could in his condition.
"Sure, kid. We know how he can be, right?" Vin winked at the kid and walked away.
"I want 'ya to ride with me, buddy. OK?" Buck asked the kid.
"Sure, whatever," JD replied quietly.
"Don't sound to happy, JD. You mad at me, kid?" Buck worried.
"No, Buck, just feel like crap," JD said tiredly.
"OK, kid. You'll be feelin' better real soon." Buck promised.
"Good." JD never doubted what Buck told him.
Buck got on his horse and Josiah lifted JD up to him.
"Ready, kid?" Buck asked.
"Sure," was all he said.
Buck and the kid made the trip to town fairly silently. JD because it hurt too much to breathe and talk, and Buck partly because he didn't want the kid feeling like he had to converse with him, and partly because he still felt like the boy was angry with him.
As they approached town, Buck finally broke the silence.
"JD, my boy, we've made it."
"Good. Let me down," JD snapped, short of breath.
Josiah helped the boy down and prepared to carry him to Nathan's little upstairs clinic.
"Put me down, Josiah. I can walk," JD said firmly. It was obvious the boy was upset, but at who, and about what, no one was really sure.
Chris approached Buck. "What's with the kid?"
"Hell if I know, Chris. He's been in a real mood ever since we got goin' today." Buck replied.
Nathan walked up to JD and placed his arm around the kid's shoulder.
"'Cmon, JD. I want you to get up to my place. We need to bind those ribs again. And you need to rest. This trip's likely been a little much for 'ya."
"I'm fine, Nathan. Just leave me alone, OK? I can do this myself." The kid was completely winded, but insisted on making the trip up the stairs on his own.
Nathan backed off, not wanting to rile the boy. His breathing was bad enough, without him getting upset.
JD started up the steps. He'd made it about half way up when he started to sway and tumbled backwards
Tumbled backwards into the waiting arms of Buck Wilmington.
"I got 'ya, kid. Don't worry, old Buck's got 'ya. Ain't nothin' more gonna happen to 'ya," he promised.
"Buck? Buck?? I tried. I really tried to make it without 'ya, Buck. But I can't," the kid said, breathless.
"Why would 'ya need to do that, kid?" Buck didn't understand.
"'Cause you said I needed to grow up, Buck." the boy whispered.
"Don't you know by now, kid, I don't know nothin' 'bout nothin'?" Buck said sheepishly. "Just don't you never mind 'bout any of that now. You need me, and I sure as hell need you."
And Buck carried the boy into Nathan's, knowing that whatever came tomorrow or any other day at least the kid knew how he felt.
Comments and creative criticism greatly appreciated at: firstname.lastname@example.org