ATF Alternate Universe

DISCLAIMER: The following is a work of fanfiction based on the CBS television series, The Magnificent Seven. It is in no way intended to infringe on the copyrights of CBS, MGM, The Trilogy Entertainment Group, The Mirisch Corp., or anyone else who may have legal rights to the characters and settings. I don’t own the characters. This story is strictly for entertainment. No monetary gain will be made from it.

Note: Comments and creative criticism greatly appreciated at:

JD Dunne was peeling off his leather jacket as he came through the front door and tossed it on the back of the couch as he passed by. He walked through the kitchen, tossing his keys on the island and headed for his room.

"Excuse me…" Buck called from the recliner…"excuse me!!" The kid never even acknowledged Buck was in the room…or on the planet for that matter. JD seemed to be a million miles away.

"Not now, Buck," JD said quietly, and closed the door to his room.

Buck was worried about the kid ~ it wasn't like the boy to ignore him.

Plus Buck was still curious about where JD had gone this morning. He'd been vague about his plans when Buck suggested they take a ride out to Chris' place. JD always wanted to go out there…the kid loves horses. JD had been hounding Buck about getting out there sometime soon, but told Buck he had to be somewhere else today. The kid never offered to tell Buck 'where' that somewhere was ~ and Buck hadn't asked him.


Buck knocked on JD's door. "Kid…everything OK?"

"I'm…fine, Buck." came the soft reply from the other side.

I'm fine.

The kid's famous line. Now Buck was 'really' worried.

"JD…can I come in…please?" Buck asked. He was worried and he needed to 'see' the kid…make sure he really was 'fine'.

"Yeah…sure…come on in," JD called.

Buck opened the door. The kid was sprawled on the bed, lying on his stomach. He turned his head to see Buck enter and then laid it back down.

"You feel OK, kid?" Buck worried. "You don't look too good."

"I said I was fine…" the boy trailed off. Something was really bothering the kid. Buck could tell…Buck could always tell. It was one of the 'sixth senses' he'd acquired when he took on the role of the kid's 'big brother'.

"C'mon…what's wrong? I know you, kid."

"You don't know everything, Buck…" JD sniffed, taking his hand to wipe his eyes.

"JD…son…tell me what's wrong," Buck soothed, sitting on the bed next to the kid…rubbing his back.

JD sat up on the bed and pulled his knees up to his chest and wrapped his arms around them…tucking himself into a tight little ball. His head was resting on his knees…until he raised it up to face Buck…to face his friend…to face his 'brother'.

"I had to go to the doctor this morning…" JD started…

"Dr. Stewart?" Buck asked…he knew he was the kid's GP.

"No…Dr. Richardson," JD answered.

"Richardson? Don't ring a bell, kid. Who's Dr. Richardson?"

"He's my…oncologist, Buck," JD said, searching the older man's eyes for a reaction…

…and then he saw it…

"Oncologist?? Ain't that…" Buck panicked…

"Cancer…yeah," JD confirmed.

Buck was trembling…"Kid…what you doin' going to a cancer doctor?"

"I have…or had…Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia when I was a kid…" JD chuckled at that word…"OK…when I was younger…fourteen. It was real hard for about three years…but I've been cancer free since I was seventeen."

"And?" Buck was trying to sound so calm…so in control…when in reality he knew he was feeling his heart break in two inside his chest.

"Well…of course I have to get tests done every six months. It's just some blood tests…it's no big deal…until today…" JD's eyes filled as he tried to continue. "They said there were some 'abnormalities' in my blood work…had to have some other tests done…"

"And?"…it was as if that was the only word Buck could remember. He was certain he'd completely forgotten the English language. How could he speak? How could he possibly open his mouth and speak?

So instead…he grabbed the kid and held him…tight. Buck held him so tight he could feel the kid's heart beating. He was afraid to let him go…afraid to even loosen his grip on the boy. JD made no attempt to break the hold, either. He could feel the kid shaking in his arms…and he held him even tighter.

Finally, Buck could feel JD try to pull away. "I ain't ready to let go yet, kid…give me a minute here…this is a lot for old Buck to take in," he whispered in the boy's ear.

"I know…I know," he heard the boy whisper.

Buck finally let go and the kid pulled free.

"So…I guess this explains a lot for you, huh?" JD asked.

"Son…I gotta tell you…I could put what I know about cancer in a thimble and have room to spare. I'm afraid you're just gonna have to walk me through this," Buck said, placing his hand on the kid's neck.

"Oh…OK…" JD just always assumed Buck knew everything. Or if he didn't, he'd bluff his way through it. JD had never heard Buck admit that he didn’t know something.

"Well…" JD started…"like I said…I've been OK since I was seventeen…except for usually being anemic…which is why I'm so pale…and why I can go and go and go…and then suddenly get real tired…real quick. And the 'weight thing'…it eats up all my energy…so I have a hard time keeping my weight up."

"OK…so you're anemic…but that don't mean you've got cancer again…does it?" Buck prayed out loud.

"No…I've been anemic all along…just today…when I got my blood work…they said there was a problem…so I had to go to the lab…and get some more tests run…and now…" JD stopped…looking to Buck…"You OK, Buck?"

How could he be OK??? The kid's using the 'C' word. How could he possibly be OK???

"Sure, kid…I'm OK…go on."

"Well…that's it…except I won't know anything for twenty-four hours. What am I supposed to do for twenty-four hours, Buck?"

Buck pulled the kid back into his arms. "I'm gonna hold on to you so tight, kid…so tight for those twenty-four hours…that there's no way 'anything' can get to 'ya, son…you hear me?"

JD could hear him…but he could hardly answer him…"Buck…I don't wanna die." the kid whispered.

+ + + + + + +

It took some work ~ but Buck had eventually been able to convince JD to get some rest and had left the boy once he had finally fallen asleep.

Buck had walked quietly into the kitchen to call Chris.

"Larabee…talk." came the greeting on the other end.


"What's wrong, Buck?" Chris had known Buck for…forever it seemed…and he could always tell when something was bothering the man.

"It's…it's the kid…"

"Yeah…what's wrong?" Chris was not surprised. When he heard Buck's voice…and the unmistakable worry in it…he knew the next words would be 'it's the kid'.

"Did you know?" Buck asked.

"Know what?" Chris had no idea what Buck was referring to.

"Well…if you have to ask…then I guess you don't know," Buck said.

"Buck…you're not making any sense. Are you at home?" Chris knew he needed to see Buck in person to get to the bottom of whatever was troubling the man so.

"Yeah," Buck said.

"I'll be there as soon as I can get from here to there, Buck," Chris promised.

"Chris…hurry…OK?" Buck pleaded and hung up the phone.

+ + + + + + +

Chris took every short cut he could to get to Buck's.

There was just something in Buck's voice that was making Chris very uneasy. Sure…Buck worried about the kid constantly…but…his voice. Chris couldn't ever remember hearing Buck sound so…so…helpless.

Chris' mind began to race as he got stuck in traffic. He couldn't imagine what the kid had gone and done this time. Knowing JD…it could be anything. And…knowing Buck…he was obviously feeling the usual guilt for not having prevented it or having some sort of control over it.

Chris began to worry…what could it be? Was the kid hurt?…sick?…in trouble? He wished he'd gotten more information from Buck on the phone…but Buck seemed so upset he really didn't want to push him too much until he was there with him.

Since JD had joined the team three years ago, everyone had grown pretty protective of the boy…but none more than Buck.

Buck had become the kid's self-appointed mentor, teacher, mother, father, brother and full-time baby-sitter. The two had gotten off to a rocky start, but from practically day one the two were destined to be friends…no…best friends…no…more than that…'brothers'.

Buck and JD were alike in a lot of ways. Both seemed to live life to it's fullest…and both loved to have a good time. And the two never had a better time than when they were together. Chris smiled…those two together…which was most of the time…usually meant that the other five needed to watch out.

Not that the two don't have their differences. Size wise…JD definitely got the short end of the stick. Buck was at least a good eight inches taller than the boy…but the kid was wiry…and could usually hold his own against his 'big brother'. Not that Buck would ever think of hurting JD…well…he might 'think' of it…but would never follow through.

Buck's a good man…but the kid…God…the kid's got a heart of gold. He'd do anything for the men on the team. Chris knew it was mutual, though…the men would do anything for JD…and it didn't take much from the kid…usually just 'a look'…and they were sunk.

Buck said JD was too gullible for his own good, but Chris knew that it just came with being young. Buck said JD was too soft-hearted, which Chris always found funny…he'd never known anyone more soft-hearted than Buck. 'Course, Buck had managed to toughen up some over the years…at least…until the kid came along.

JD had Buck under his 'spell'. Buck would fuss…and argue…and deny it…but JD did, without a doubt, have Buck wrapped around his little finger.

Not that the other's on the team fared much better. They were all susceptible to the kid's charm…

…and none of them more than Chris, himself.

Finally, Chris found himself at Buck and JD's…and also found himself half-afraid of what he would find.

+ + + + + + +

Buck was grateful that JD didn't wake up before he saw Chris pull up. He needed to talk to someone…before he could go another round with the kid.

Buck met Chris at the door…and when he saw his oldest friend…he lost it.

Chris pulled Buck to him. "Buck…what is it? What's wrong?"

Buck pushed back away from Chris. "I really thought you probably knew…being his boss and all…but…maybe not."

"I have no idea what you're talking about, Buck," Chris said, his oldest friend's expression and words giving him a very bad feeling…and although he was afraid of what the answer would be, he found himself again asking…"What's wrong?"

"Kid's got…no…no…kid had…cancer," Buck's eyes filled…just saying it.

"What?" Chris was shocked. "You think I knew…and didn't tell you? I swear, Buck…this is the first I've heard of it. There's really no reason that I would see the kid's medical history. I mean…he passed the Power Test to join the force back east…that's all I ever saw in his file."

"Well…there's a hell of a lot more to his medical history…that's for damn sure," Buck ranted.

Chris was stunned…and he needed answers…and he needed details…but there was something he needed more…first.

"Where's the kid?" Chris asked.

"He's sleeping."

Chris headed for the kid's room.

"I said…he's sleeping, Chris," Buck called.

Chris heard. He didn't care if he was sleeping or not…he needed to see the kid. He needed to see that he was safe. He needed to see that he was still the same kid he always was. Chris heard the word 'cancer' and horrible pictures came into his head. He needed to see that JD still looked like the same, sweet, innocent kid he saw yesterday…playing with that stupid water pistol at the office.

Had he yelled at him for that? Probably. Chris made a mental note…to never yell at the kid again.

Chris quietly opened the door and could see that the kid was still asleep.

He tiptoed across the room and knelt down at the side of the bed. The kid looked so pale…that seemed to have a whole new meaning now. Chris' could feel his hand begin to quiver as he reached to push the dark hair from the kid's eyes. The hair that was 'always' in the boy's eyes, making him look even younger than he was.

Chris turned to see Buck leaning against the doorway…and realized that Buck was the one who needed him at this moment…and rose and followed his friend out of the room.

Chris placed his arm around Buck leading him towards the living room and then guided his friend to a chair.

"Now…Buck…" Chris started…"tell me…everything."

Buck told Chris everything JD had told him.

Chris leaned back, his head resting on the back of the couch.

"Twenty-four hours???…G*dd*amn…don't doctors think about what they're putting the kid through?" Chris fumed, and then looking to Buck…"And everyone else."

"Kid's real scared, Chris. It's almost…like…he's sure it's back. Like…he's figuring he's gonna die," Buck broke down, remembering holding the boy in his arms. "He told me…'I don't wanna die, Buck.'"

Chris grimaced, imagining how hard that was for Buck. He walked over and sat on the arm of the chair…putting his arm around Buck. He could feel the sobs racking his body…and just waited patiently for him to regain some sort of composure.

"I think maybe we should have the guys come over…I think JD could use a 'guy's night'…what'cha think, Buck?"

"I dunno, Chris," Buck hesitated. "Do we tell them? Or…maybe the kid don't want everyone to know…I probably shouldn't have even told you."

"We don't need to tell them…we just need to get them over here," Chris said. "All we gotta say is…JD needs them…and they'll be here within thirty minutes."

"Yeah…they will…" Buck trailed off. He knew the rest of the team loved the kid as much as he did…"You call 'em, Chris? I don't think I'm up to it."

"Sure." and Chris headed for the kitchen phone.

+ + + + + + +

Buck walked in as Chris was hanging up from talking to Ezra.

"They all coming?" Buck asked.

"What do you think?" Chris smiled. They were all good men. He was proud of each and every one of them. A good team…and good friends.

"Chris…maybe when JD wakes up…maybe you should…"

"Act like I don't know?? Don't worry, Buck…was going to anyway," Chris assured.

"Thanks, Chris," Buck shouldn't have even questioned Chris about it. He knew Chris wouldn't want to upset the kid. But Buck didn't want to risk anything…anything at all…upsetting JD in the next twenty-four hours.

God knows the kid's got enough on his mind…without getting any self-doubts about how the guys feel about him...or about his place on the team. Being the youngest…and the smallest…JD always felt like he had to prove himself to the others.

JD knew the others liked him…but the kid had no idea of the impact he'd had on the team…or that the others practically adored him.

+ + + + + + +

While Buck and Chris were making plans, JD walked into the kitchen.

"Hey, Chris…how 'ya doin'?" JD smiled.

"Well, kid…" Chris said, placing his arm around the boy's shoulder…"if I was doing any better, there'd probably be a law against it."

"This is so weird…Buck and I were talking about coming out to your place this morning…" JD began, and then added, looking to Buck…"but…but I had some other stuff to do…"

"Yeah, Chris…you know JD…he's a real 'man of mystery'…always traipsing off…doing who knows what…never telling his 'ole roommate what the hell he's doing," Buck said, giving the kid a cuff on the back of the head.

"Thanks, Buck…" JD smiled sweetly at his 'brother'…comforted in the thought that his secret was safe. "for everything."

Buck watched JD head for the living room…flopping down on the couch like always and using the remote to find some sort of sports to watch…or a western…"Hey…Buck…" he called, twisting on the couch to look at his friend…"that show you like…'Time Trax' is on…wanna watch it?"

"No…kid…watch whatever you want…" Buck answered.

"Good…I hate that show…that guy's such a goof," the kid said, as he finally settled on an old episode of "Bonanza."

Buck felt a pang of guilt. "He thinks I haven't told you, Chris. I never should have…I…I had no right."

"Buck…" Chris started…"you needed to talk to someone…you were about to explode when I got here. JD wouldn't want you carrying around pain like that. You know that…so if talking to me made you feel better…then that's what needed to be done at the time. Kid don't know…and he won't know…so…as far as I'm concerned…I don't know anything about anything. Got it?"

"You told him?"

Oh, God.

The men spun around to see the kid standing in the doorway…with a look that Buck had never seen on his young face before…a look…of…betrayal.

"JD…I'm sorry…" Buck tried, before the kid turned away.

"I can't believe you told him, Buck…you had no right," JD whispered.

"Son…" Chris said, grabbing JD's arm and slowly turning him around…"I won't tell anyone…you know that."

"Why would I know that?" JD accused. "I didn't think HE'D tell anyone…and he did."

"JD…Buck needed to talk…and I was here…he was…really upset, kid. He 'needed' to tell me," Chris explained.

Suddenly, the doorbell rang, and there were calls from the other side of the door…

"Open up…guys…this chili's getting cold…" Josiah

"Yeah…and the beer's getting warm…" Vin

"Hurry up…Ezra's pulling in the driveway…" Nathan

"They ALL know…don't they?" JD panicked, pulling away from Chris' hold.

"No, son…they don't know anything…just that we were gonna have a 'guys night'…that's all…I promise," Chris soothed.

JD looked to the two…the two men he respected more than anyone in the world…and had no choice but to trust them.

Buck opened the door and the rest of the team piled in.

"'Bout time you started locking that door, Bucklin," Nathan teased as he made his way in. "Hey…Chris…JD."

"Nathan," Chris acknowledged. Chris noticed that JD had gone back to the couch…and watching TV…and was not in the best of moods.

"I brought a really big pot this time," Josiah said, as he made his way to the kitchen.

"I'll put these in the fridge…" Vin said, following Josiah. "Hi, Chris…JD…"

Vin noticed immediately that JD was not talking. "What's up with the kid?" he asked Chris as he passed him on the way to the kitchen. "He pouting about something? Buck didn't let him have his way?"

Chris motioned for the four to meet him in the kitchen. "I can't go into this…it ain't my place…and God…don't let me get caught with all of you gathered in here…but, just cut the kid some slack…OK? He just needs some TLC…and some good friends tonight…OK?"

They all agreed…and went about busily making noise from the kitchen so that JD would not be suspicious.

Vin strolled out of the kitchen and plopped next to JD on the couch. Trying to make everything appear as normal as possible, he did what he always did…and grabbed the remote from the kid…and started changing channels.

"Hey…I was watching that," JD griped.

"Like you ain't seen it a hundred times before…you know it by heart," Vin teased. "Sides…there's a rodeo on TNN."

"Oh…what a joy," Ezra said, making his way for a chair. "I hate CBS."

"CBS???" JD was confused. "This is TNN, Ez."

"CBS, my young friend…Cowboys…plus Bulls…equals Stitches," Ezra explained.

"Vin…don't be showing JD no cowboys riding bulls…next thing you know…he'll be thinking that's just the thing for him…" Nathan joked.

Buck and Chris' plan was working. The others soon had JD giggling uncontrollably.

He just needs some TLC…and some good friends.

That's all it took…just tell them the kid needs cheering up…and there they are…doing what they always do…

…taking care of the kid.

Josiah was in the kitchen, putting the finishing touches on his 'secret chili' and everyone else was in the living room…having a good time…finally having decided to watch the one thing that would make everyone happy…baseball.

"Who you gonna root for, kid?" Buck asked.

"Nobody," JD replied from the floor, where he had been relegated to when everyone else wanted to sit down.

"Nobody?" Buck asked.

"That's what I said." and JD pushed himself up off the floor and headed for his room.

"What happened? I thought things were going pretty well," Ezra said.

"Ssshh…he's coming back," Chris said.

JD reappeared, holding a pillow and dragging the quilt from his bed behind him.

He sat back down on the floor, punched the pillow a couple of times and laid down with the quilt wrapped around him.

"Cold, kid?" Vin wondered.

"Not anymore," JD said.

Chris, who was sitting in the chair by JD, instinctively reached his hand down to feel the kid's forehead.

"Feeling OK, son?"

"I'm fine."

The five men exchanged knowing glances.

Not good.

Josiah appeared and made the announcement that dinner was ready.

Everyone made tracks towards the kitchen…

…well…almost everyone.

They all noticed that JD made no effort to get up.

Buck walked over and squatted down by the kid. "JD…son…dinner's ready."

"I'm not hungry…"

"Well…now, son…I am 'shocked' by that response…yes, sir…I really am," Buck teased.

"Leave me alone, Buck…OK?"

"C'mon…JD…eat something…or Josiah's gonna think you don't like his chili." Buck tried, shaming the kid into eating.

"Alright," JD gave in. Buck helped his young friend to his feet, their eyes meeting as he pulled him up.

"Thanks, Buck…for not…you know…telling them," JD whispered.

"They're just here 'cause they heard you needed them, JD…that's all…" Buck smiled. "You know, kid…you got some pretty good friends in there."

"Yeah…and one here, too." and the boy put his arms out to Buck, who pulled him close…and held on. "Thanks…Buck…I needed that."

"Me, too," Buck said.

+ + + + + + +

Buck and JD joined the other in the kitchen.

"Here…JD…first bowl's for you," Josiah said, dishing out a huge bowl of the chili.

"Why?" JD asked.

"Because I made it…and I said so…that's why," the huge man smiled at the boy.

"I can't eat that much, Josiah…you want me to get fat like you?" JD grinned.

"I'm not fat, son…I'm…I'm…barrel-chested," Josiah countered.

"I think you're double-barrel-chested, Josiah…" JD laughed, taking the bowl of chili and heading for a chair.

Buck and Chris looked at each other and smiled. It was good to see the boy kidding around…but there was still a long night ahead.

JD was, of course, the first one done eating. "I can't finish all of this, Josiah…sorry."

"Don't worry, son. I'll put in the fridge…you can finish it tomorrow," the gentle giant smiled.

"Thanks…" the boy said, placing a hand on Josiah's shoulder…"and Josiah…you know I was just kidding about you being fat…right?"

Josiah grabbed the kid in a headlock…"No you weren't…but that's OK, son. I am a forgiving man."

Josiah released the boy, who made his way back to the living room.

+ + + + + + +

As the others finished…they sat around the table, complaining that they'd all eaten too much.

"I do believe we have eaten the whole pot…again," Josiah observed.

"Same thing we do every time you make it, Josiah," Chris said. "Great stuff."

"Chris…can you see JD from where you're sitting?" Buck asked.

"Yeah…" Chris said, craning his neck. "He's lying on the couch."

"So…would anyone care to enlighten us as to why our young friend is experiencing this abundance of mood swings today?" Ezra asked.

"Yeah…what's with the kid? You just said he needed some TLC…but…what's going on?" Vin worried.

Chris and Buck looked to the others…and then to each other.

"Not our place to say," Chris said as he got up and left the room.

+ + + + + + +

Chris walked over and sat on the coffee table in front of JD.

JD was huddled under his quilt, watching TV and Chris couldn't help but think that he looked like a little boy that had gotten up early on a Saturday morning and drug his quilt out to watch cartoons.

"JD…it's up to you…but the guys are kind of wondering what's going on," Chris said.


"Buck and I won't say anything…it's your call. What you say goes," Chris promised.

"Well…I say…no," JD whispered.

"OK…that's it then." and Chris got up, walked through the kitchen, and out on to the deck.

+ + + + + + +

Shortly after going out on the deck, Chris was not surprised to hear the sliding glass door open and shut.

"So…you think I should tell them?" came the young voice.

Chris turned to see those huge hazel eyes burning a hole in him. "It's not my decision, son."

"I'm not trying to exclude them…it's just…why the hell would they want to know?" JD asked.

"I just think they would be hurt…if they found out some other way…if it didn't come from you…" Chris explained.

"You mean…like if I've got sick again, huh?" the boy reasoned.

"I think they would feel…betrayed…somehow. Just like how Buck felt…when he thought that I knew and hadn't told him."

"I…I just don't know…they'll treat me different," JD said.

"Like how?" Chris asked.

"I dunno…different," the boy whispered.

"People do that to you before?" Chris wondered.

"Yeah…all the time. It was like…I wasn't JD anymore…I was…I was the sick kid."

"I think you're selling them a little short, kid," Chris started. "They're all pretty crazy about you…I don't think anything's going to change that"

"Maybe…but…I'd like one last night of just being me…just being…JD. I'll tell them tomorrow…no matter what I find out…good or bad." and the kid turned to go back inside.

Chris looked up…and saw a shooting star…"Kid…look…hurry…"

JD snapped around to see it just in time.

"Make a wish, kid," Chris said.

JD closed his eyes and made a wish.

"What'd you wish for, son?" Chris asked, putting his hand on the kid's neck.

"I wished it was over," JD said.

"Me too, kid," Chris said as he walked the kid back inside.

+ + + + + + +

"OK…you're cheating…I know you are, Ezra," Buck accused.

"And just how, Mr. Wilmington, am I supposed to be cheating?" Ezra asked.

"I don't know…but I know you are," Buck smiled. "You always do."

They had all been playing games for several hours. They had played just about every game they could think of…Battleship…Monopoly…Trivial Pursuit and were now into Nintendo…and poker. They had already watched several movies…had popcorn…and the sun was beginning to rise.

"I do believe we have stayed the night," Josiah said, yawning, noticing the sun coming through the window.

Buck, Ezra and Chris were finishing up a hand of poker, Nathan had just folded…

…Josiah and Vin were finishing up a game of NASCAR on Nintendo…

…and JD was asleep on the couch.

"I…for one…am ready for the comfort of my bed, gentlemen. I must be going." Ezra said, looking at his watch, seeing that it was 5:30 a.m.

"Yeah…I gotta be getting, too," Nathan grinned as he headed for his coat.

"Wait…it's not time yet," Buck called.

"Time for what, Buck?" Vin asked.

"Time…time for you to go…that's all," Buck smiled. "Might as well have breakfast here, right…Chris?"

"Sure…why not…come on, guys. What's another couple of hours?" Chris suggested.

+ + + + + + +

Buck called everyone to the kitchen when breakfast was ready.

"I'll get the kid," Vin said.

"No…let him sleep," Buck said.

"What? No hounding the kid to eat breakfast," Vin asked, puzzled. Buck was always hounding JD to eat more.

"No…let him sleep," Chris agreed.

Buck and Chris each knew the other's reasoning behind the decision not to wake the boy. They both knew the time would pass quicker for the kid sleeping, than it would sitting around waiting for the phone to ring.

They had managed to keep the kid occupied for almost twenty-four hours, and the last few hours had been the easiest by far…the boy had finally just fallen asleep.

As they sat eating breakfast…Buck expressed his gratitude to the others. "I just want to thank you guys for coming over…and helping get the kid through the night."

"It would certainly be nice if we knew why we did it…but you are welcome, none the less, Mr. Wilmington," Ezra said. "I would do anything for that boy, you know that."

Suddenly…the phone rang and Buck and Chris both jumped.

Buck stood to answer the phone…but could hardly make his feet move to get there.

As he answered, he felt his heart leap into his throat and he gave Chris a quick nod.

Chris walked over and gently shook the boy. "It's for you, JD."

JD got off the couch, rubbing his eyes and slowly made his way to the phone, taking it from Buck, who shifted his hand to the kid's neck.

"Hello…yeah…this is JD…yeah…uh-huh…oh…uh-huh…OK…all right…thanks anyway."

Buck and JD walked back to the sofa…the older man's hand on the boy's neck the whole time. JD sat down…and stared at his friend.

Buck couldn't stand it any longer. "JD??"

"Buck??!!" JD cried.

Buck remembered what he had promised the boy twenty-four hours ago…

I'm gonna hold on to you so tight, kid…so tight for those twenty-four hours…that there's no way 'anything' can get to 'ya, son…you hear me?

Buck took the boy into his arms…and held on…

…and JD whispered in his ear…

…"Buck…I'm OK."

Buck stood up, the boy still in his arms, and swung the kid around. "God Almighty!!!!!!!!!" Buck whooped.

Chris came over and slapped Buck on the back, who put the boy down…

…and Chris grabbed the kid in a big hug.

"Thank, God," he cried, as he rested his chin on the boy's head.

The three finally stopped their celebration…and noticed that there were four men staring at them…and wondering…

JD made his way to the others…flanked by Buck on one side and Chris on the other.

"Guys…I've got something to tell you…"


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