Sometimes It Takes a Mother's Touch

by Heather M

ATF Universe

Part 1

The winger seemed to come out of no where, J.D. knew he would be there and at the last moment, he dumped the puck to his left and behind him. He knew Vin would be there to pick it up, but there wasn't enough time to brace himself for the body check. The check was fair but the few spectators in attendance and other players cringed at the impact of the 2 bodies. J.D. slid across the ice and as his momentum slowed he rolled over and scrambled to his feet all in one motion. He chased Vin down the ice arcing left. He knew Vin would cross over to the right and go for the top left corner, J.D. would be there for the rebound. But there was none. A cheer went up from ATF bench as the clock sounded to end the game. ATF - 3, FBI - 3.

Helmets and gloves came off, hands were shaken and the players skated off teasing each other good naturedly and ribbing Dave Runstedler, the referee, about his eye-sight and the FBI goal called back earlier in the game. Runstedler, was CFO for the Denver ATF office and stood 6 ft. 4, when not on skates. A trim 220 pounds, his physical stature alone guaranteed any teasing about the officiating was good-natured. Given stress that comes with ATF and FBI field and undercover work, a hockey game was not worth getting upset about except...

"Richards, you ever do anything like that to J.D. again and I'll take care of you myself," Buck threatened from the stands.

Richards' expression was first one of surprise and then one of concerned as he skated over to J.D., "J.D.? You okay?"

"I'm fine, Gary. Relax Buck, it was fair check. Richards was just doing his job. Hell Buck, you do worse to me horsing around in the office."

"Let it go Buck," said Chris. "Excuse Buck Gary, he's just having a big-brother guilt attack because he wasn't out here to protect J.D.". Chris was bringing up the rear as the players gathered at the door waiting their turn to step off the ice.

"Looks like your sharp shooting skills extend beyond your rifle Vin. That was a beautiful shot!" complimented Mickey Beattie, the FBI team's coach.

"Thanks Mickey, but I think maybe Andy's game was off. When's the last time any team scored 3 goals against him in one game," asked Vin. The quiet man found compliments difficult to handle at times.

Mickey Beattie, a senior field operative for the FBI, had approached Chris a year ago and suggested an industrial hockey league composed of teams from various branches of law enforcement. FUN was the number one credo of the league. Given the pressures of their jobs, dealing with scum of the earth and the trail of broken lives and destruction they left behind. The off hours had to be for feeding the minds, bodies and souls of these law enforcement officers if they were going to continue to stay sharp and ready for anything.

Chris was the coach of this particular team. J.D. and Vin played forward, Buck defense and Nathan tended their net. The other 7 players came from ATF teams 8 and 9. Josiah often ran the door for the forward lines, even Ezra found a place in this most "uncouth" of sports and was coerced into running the clock and keeping score.

"Hey Buck, what's this story I hear about you hurting your back demonstrating a self defense move to the new accounting Co-op student?" asked Runstedler.

"The way I hear it Dave, Buck got hurt when Stacey demonstrated some self defense moves of her own," replied Josiah.

"Now just hold on a minute, that wasn't the way it happened at all..." protested Buck.

Laughter rippled through the crowd of men as the two teams disappeared into their respective change rooms to shower and change before going home. Normally, the games were Thursday evenings, and the players and coaches and referees would meet at "The Blue Line," a local sports bar for a beer before heading home, but this game had been re-scheduled and it was now just after 11:00 p.m. Tuesday night.

+ + + + + + +

Twenty minutes later Buck was still waiting, none too patiently, in the lobby, for J.D. to come out of the change room. The last of the other players had already left when Chris, Vin and Ezra appeared from the hallway leading to the changing rooms.

"Hey, you guys see J.D. in there," asked Buck, "or did he take off without me?

"No, he's still in there Buck," replied Vin, "he's moving like an ninety year old man though. He tell you what's bugging him yet?"

"No, when I ask he just tells me to mind my own business for a change," said Buck ruefully.

"I could order him to tell us what's bothering him," suggested Chris.

"No Chris, J.D. turns twenty-one in ten days, its about time we stop treating him like a kid and let him work out some of his problems on his own," said Buck.

"WE, Mr. Wilmington, and I stress WE stop treating him like a kid?" Asked Ezra sarcastically.

"Buck maybe it's that twenty-first birthday party you've been threatening him for the past month," suggested Vin.

"I must say Mr. Wilmington, some of the hints concerning that party leave me feeling somewhat apprehensive, how must Mr. Dunne, who is somewhat less worldly than the rest of us, feel," asked Ezra.

"Nah, he knows I won't do half of what I'm talking about, he's always saying I'm full of crap."

Buck moved toward the door to the changing rooms as the other three men prepared to leave. "See you boys in the morning".

He then made his way gingerly down the hallway that led to the changing rooms and met Nathan, the big pads over one shoulder, equipment bag over the other and Josiah carrying Nathan's goalie stick and the water bottles, coming the other way.

"What's keeping J.D.," Buck asked.

"I don't know, he's like he's been for the past two weeks, quiet and a little withdrawn. Have you spoken to him yet about what might be troubling him Buck," asked Josiah.

"Nah, every time I catch him looking off into space, I ask him what he's thinking about, he just tells me it's nothing."

"I asked him if he feels alright, especially after that heavy body check, but he says he's fine, no headache, no blurry vision," added Nathan.

"I better go see to him," said Buck.

We'll go load Nathan's equipment in my suburban and wait for you two," said Josiah. "I told Smiley I'd lock the doors and put the key in the overnight slot".

Entering the change room Buck was struck with how forlorn J.D. looked. His head rested in his hands, his elbows on his knees. He looked like the weight of the world rested on those slender shoulders. He dropped his hands and started packing his equipment into his hockey bag his movements were slow almost labored. The expression on his face was confusing. It wasn't quite sadness but definitely lonely. Damn! What was bothering the kid and why wouldn't he talk to one of them about whatever it was?

J.D. didn't seem to notice Buck was there. Buck waited for J.D. to look up and there it was again, he'd seen it before, just for an instant, it looked like fear. "Everything okay Kid?"

"Yeah, fine Buck."

"I don't mean to nag kid but you seem kinda down lately, is there anything you want to talk about?

A half smile flickered across J.D.'s face, "Well maybe later Buck, I've got something I have to work out for myself."

"I can understand a man wanting to sort out his own problems, just remember I'm here, if you need me. I can be a good listener."

"I'll know you can Buck".

Buck paused for a moment, gathering the courage to say what he was about to say. "J.D., if what ever it is, is about me, you know, you can talk to any of the others, I, ahh umm, won't mind."

A smile flickered across J.D.'s features. "It's got nothing to do with you Buck but thanks I really appreciate the thought".

Buck heaved a big sigh of relief, "Come on then, Josiah and Nathan, are waiting to lock up," said Buck as he picked up J.D.'s stick to leave.

+ + + + + + +

"J.D.... J.D.... J.D.!"

"Huh? What Buck?" J.D. asked from the driver's side of Buck's truck.

"I hate to mention it kid but we're all out of liniment and I've gotta put some on my back if I'm going to make it through the night. I need to stop at Benson's Drug Store."

"Yeah, sure Buck, we can stop. You must be in a bad way if you're letting me drive your truck. Geez, hope I die before I get as old and broken down as you!"

"Now hold on!" Roared Buck bristling at J.D.'s comment and turning his head painfully to see J.D. smiling back at him. God it was good to see J.D. smile and hear some of the usual J.D. sass, Buck thought to himself.

A few minutes later J.D. pulled Buck's truck skillfully into the open parking space just to the right of the exit doors from Benson's Drug Store.

"You want me to get the liniment for you Buck?"

"No, I gotta keep moving every so often so I don't stiffen completely!" Buck had left himself wide open for a smart-ass comment but none came.

Buck noted J.D.'s face had taken on that now all too familiar forlorn expression again. Buck straightened up stiffly as he got out of the truck and headed toward the entrance of the store. Damn, what was eating at the boy!

Buck had just made his way through the automatic doors of the entrance to the store located on the far left side of the store front when two shots were heard coming from the inside of the store. The adrenaline pumping, his sore back was suddenly forgotten. He'd gone straight to the game from the office and was still wearing his shoulder holster. He pulled his gun, ducking low in the still open doorway he heard running feet. The running feet were heading for the exit door.

Buck peered around the doorframe across the front of the store. The runner exited the store. He was holding a gun in his left hand. He hesitated a moment, he seemed to be searching the nearly deserted parking lot.

"FREEZE, ATF," shouted Buck aiming his weapon at the runner.

The runner panicked, he turned quickly bringing his gun around towards Buck. Buck fired. The runner's body jerked backwards, his arms were flung out either side of his body and his gun went off.

Buck cautiously approached the runner holding his gun on him. He kicked the gun aside. Just then John Benson came out of the exit doors of the store. Buck knelt down beside the runner he was still alive.

"Anyone else hurt inside," barked Buck.

"No! I think he fired his gun just to frighten us." replied Benson, he was shaken but he still had his wits about him.

"Call for an ambulance and the police." ordered Buck. Benson immediately disappeared back inside the store.

Buck tore a strip off the suspect's shirt, wadded it up and placed it over the bloody wound high on the right side of his chest applying pressure. He leaned over the suspect; he was a kid, maybe 17. "You're going to be okay son." He said, trying to comfort the frightened teen.

Kid? Where was his kid?

Buck ordered the one of the gathering on-lookers to hold the makeshift bandage in place. He stood up and turned toward his truck feeling suddenly very scared, "J.D.!?!.... J.D.!?!.... OH GOD NO, PLEASE NO!"

Running over to his truck, Buck swung the partially open driver's door open. J.D. had slid to the ground and was seated on the pavement leaning awkwardly back against the doorframe, his head resting against the side of the seat. Buck's 38, that J.D. must have retrieved from the glove compartment when he'd heard the shots, was still in his hand. Cold fear clutched at Buck's heart.

Then a miracle, J.D. turned his head towards Buck and opened his eyes, "Everything secure, Buck," he asked in a strained voice.

Buck couldn't help but smile with relief "Everything's just fine son. Let me see how you're doing here." Buck's voice was gentle like it always was when dealing with the kid when he was hurt or sick.

There was blood running down J.D.'s left side originating high up on his upper left arm. Buck leaned carefully around J.D. and reached under the seat to get the first aid kit. He pulled a large white bandage out and placed it over the spot that seemed to be the source of the bleeding. J.D. cringed at the gentle pressure Buck put on the bandage.

"Man that hurts worse than the bullet."

"Sorry kid, I'll try to be more gentle."

"It's okay, Buck ... what would I have ever done if I hadn't met you ... ," with that the kid passed out, J.D.'s face was suddenly terrifyingly white. Buck froze. What did the kid mean by that? It sounded like he was saying good-bye!

Not really understanding how, Buck was suddenly aware of Nathan's voice insisting that Buck back away and let him see J.D. Josiah's large hands came from behind him and firmly but gently gripped Buck's upper arms drawing him up and away from J.D.'s limp body. His quiet baritone trying to reassure Buck that everything was going to be okay.

+ + + + + + +

Buck sat quietly as Josiah drove them both to the hospital. Nathan had gone in the ambulance to lend what assistance he could to the EMT's.

Buck was confused. He felt something was wrong, very wrong. He thought to himself, the EMT's seemed awfully worried about J.D.'s condition but it couldn't be that bad could it? J.D. was talking to me, right? He's gonna be okay, right? He's gotta be okay, he was talking to me, dammit!

+ + + + + + +

Chris arrived at the hospital shortly after Vin and Ezra. Well, here we all are again, he thought to himself. He was half way to the ranch when Josiah had called him on his cell phone. We meet here far too often, he thought glumly. The scene was all too familiar. Buck was pacing, worry written all over his tired features. Josiah leaning forward in his chair, his elbows on his knees, his hands clasped in a fist against his forehead. Ezra was seated next to Josiah, trying to act nonchalant while playing with a deck of cards; a miscue caused Ezra to have to grab for a card before it hit the floor. An indication that Ezra didn't really have his mind on what he was doing. Nathan was haunting the nurse's station hoping to pick up any information on J.D.'s condition. Vin was leaning against the wall, his arms crossed over his chest, watching the doorway to the emergency examining rooms. At the sound of Chris's foot steps Vin turned his head to see him. Vin pushed himself away from the wall and straightened as Chris approached, his eyes telling Chris there was no news yet.

+ + + + + + +

The doctor came out of the emergency room and looked questioningly at the group of six men.

"Who is responsible for this young man?"

"I am," said six voices in unison.

"Doctor, my name is Chris Larabee. I'm his boss," said Chris, "Buck Wilmington here and I are his legal guardians but he's like family to all of us."

"I'm Doctor Philip Winton. I'm the ER resident on call this evening. Your young friend has a bullet lodged in his shoulder. He's sustained quite a bit of damage to the bones and ligaments. Surgery is the only option to remove the bullet and attempt to repair the damage to his shoulder. I've contacted the on-call orthopedic surgeon for a consultation. We'll do the best we can but he will sustain permanent damage to the shoulder with some loss of mobility."

"Doctor Winton no offense to your abilities or those of your on-call surgeon but I'd like Ellen Kendall to examine him," Chris said.

"Mr. Larabee it is not customary to call in our Head of Orthopedics on a routine emergency case," replied Doctor Winton.

"I've some personal experience with Dr. Kendall in the past and I trust her judgment," said Chris.

"She is in great demand and may not be avail..."

"I DON'T CARE ," growled Chris in a voice louder than he intended. He caught Dr. Winton's startled expression and he was aware that the other five men in the room had been listening to the exchange and were now shifting their positions to be ready just in case their boss lost it. Chris used the moment to re-establish his composure.

"My apologies doctor." Proceeding in a more controlled voice, "Please tell Dr. Kendall that Chris Larabee is requesting the consultation".

"I'll put in a call to Dr. Kendall right now," responded Dr. Winton in an annoyingly calm voice.

"One more thing, I'm concerned that Mr. Dunne is not responding well to supportive treatment. His pulse rate is irregular and his BP is lower than I would have expected given his injuries. As it is we will need some more time to get him stabilized before we attempt any surgery."

"Why would J.D. be doing do poorly Doctor?" asked Nathan frowning at this latest bit of information concerning J.D.'s condition.

"I really don't know, we haven't found any other physical injuries that might be the cause of these symptoms, it could be attributable to shock," replied the doctor.

"Doc, we just finished playing hockey at 11:00, J.D. took a pretty rough body check near the end of the game, could he have been hurt then?" asked Vin. The fact that the normally quiet man spoke up indicated the degree of his concern.

"We'll do another examination of his head, neck and spine just to be sure. I must make that call to Dr. Kendall, excuse me," said the doctor turning to leave.

Buck initially had seemed stunned by the information concerning J.D.'s condition, suddenly recovering he asked, "Can I sit with him Doc? He and I, ... well, ... we're pretty close buddies...."

"I don't see why not, come this way," replied the doctor leading Buck down the hallway to the emergency examining room J.D. occupied.

"How well acquainted are you with this female physician Mr. Larabee," queried Ezra.

"Very well Ezra, in fact, I owe her my career," replied Chris coldly, the look in his eyes putting an end to Ezra's questions. He didn't feel like putting up with Ezra's doubts concerning hospitals and medical personnel just now. A significant loss of shoulder mobility could put an end to J.D.'s career as a field operative before it had barely even begun. He would do his damnedest to see that didn't happen.

+ + + + + + +

"Hello Chris."

The five men in waiting area looked up to see a woman in a white lab coat. She wasn't very tall, 5 foot 2, maybe, slim build, medium length, honey blonde hair. She looked as if she might be in her late 30's. She had a warm smile that reached her hazel eyes and an elegantly beautiful face, the rare type of beauty that only seems to get better with age. She carried herself with an air of calm self-assurance.

"Ellen," said Chris rising from his chair and greeting the woman with a warm brotherly hug, "thanks for coming." She returned the hug in the same warm familiar manner.

The other four men had stood at her greeting and were now each making their own mental notes of this mystery woman. Chris Larabee had very few close friends outside of six of them, and quick furtive glances among the four men confirmed for each of them that none of the others knew this woman.

"Phil Winton called and said you'd requested a consultation, knowing you I suspect it was more of a demand," she said with a smile.

"Sorry Ellen but you know I like to have my own way on most things," replied Chris looking anything but sorry.

"I'm glad you did Chris, but time is a little tight so let's get right to business. I've had a chance to examine your young friend and...."

"J.D.... his name is J.D." said Ezra, his tone expressive.

"J.D. then, I've had a chance to examine J.D., you've brought me quite a challenge. Please come to the x-ray room."

"Ellen...all five of us?"

"Phil Winton said all of you claimed to be his family, so, yes, all five."

Dr. Kendall led the group quickly down the corridor and into a small darkroom. Closing the door, once all five men were all inside, made the room seem very small indeed. Vin moved to the back of the darkened room.

Vin must be feeling claustrophobic, thought Chris, she's not likely to be too long, he can make it.

Dr. Kendall switched on the x-ray monitor and clipped two x-rays onto the screen. "The x-ray to the left is an undamaged shoulder and I've placed it here for visual reference purposes only. The one of the right is J.D.'s left shoulder."

To the four sets of untrained eyes, just comparing the two x-rays side-by-side made the severity of the J.D.'s injuries more frightening. There appeared to be almost no similarity between the two x-rays. Only Nathan's trained eyes saw reason to be optimistic.

"I've examined him and the damage is extensive so I'll have to do the surgery if he is to have reasonable mobility in his shoulder afterwards. To describe what I've found in lay-mans' terms, it would appear the bullet entered his left shoulder hitting his clavicle or collarbone end on. The bullet then ricocheted down into the shoulder lodging itself here, in the joint where the upper arm, the humerus and the scapula, the shoulder blade meet. The good news is that by some miracle, it missed both the major vein and artery traveling through the shoulder so the area has been receiving lots of oxygenated blood. The scapula appears to be intact, with minimal injury to the surface that meets the humerus. The bad news is, the collarbone is broken in three places, probably because it took the majority of the impact. When the bullet ricocheted it shattered the top of the humerus. There is quite a bit of ligament damage but considering the extent of the injuries to the bones, ligament damage is relatively minimal."

The five men shifted uncomfortably in the cramped space, the description of J.D.'s injuries made the small room seem even smaller.

Every inch a doctor thought Ezra angrily. He didn't like her style at all, too much the professional for his liking. Where is her compassion? She probably sees J.D. as a professional challenge. She doesn't seem to realize he's not a challenge to us.

"I can't estimate how much mobility he'll have until after the surgery, but the damaged collarbone, because of his youth, is likely to heal well in the sense that the bone will be strong again. But the left collarbone will be obviously irregular in appearance, especially compared to the right side. His left shoulder will droop, by how much will depend on how effective the physiotherapy is afterwards."

Ellen paused a moment to let the information sink in.

"Does anyone have any questions?" she asked. My God this is always so hard on the family, most people don't have enough medical knowledge to fully understand the injuries let alone know what questions to ask.

"No," said Chris baldly.

Turning the monitor light off and the room light on. "Then with the appropriate permission, I'll go ahead with surgery. Who do I need to get a signature from?"

"I'll can sign the permission" replied Chris, "or Buck Wilmington can, I think you might remember him ... from before."

"Buck knows her!" Exclaimed four inner voices.

"Yes, I remember," said Dr. Kendall then slipping a little out of doctor mode for a moment and continuing with a gentle smile, "he wouldn't leave the room during my examination. He's so preoccupied with J.D. I don't think he recognized me and he's too distressed to understand anything he signed at the moment."

"I'll take care of the paper work. It's not one of Buck's strong points at the best of times." said Chris.

"Is there anything any of you want to tell me about J.D.?" asked the doctor. "At times like this family and friends often think of little bits of information that prove useful or pertinent to the treating physician."

They looked from one another and then back at her.

"He's been a member of our ATF team for almost a year now. His 21st birthday is ten days away and he's very important to all of us," replied Josiah.

She smiled at Josiah's comment. "Does anyone have anything else to ask?"

"How long do you expect the operation to take?" asked Nathan.

"I expect three to three and a half hours," came her reply.

"I have one more concerned," stated, the doctor her professional self returning, "J.D.'s condition has not stabilized as well as I would have expected, given his age and generally good physical condition but it is sufficient for surgery and I don't want to delay any longer. Dr. Winton is a fine surgeon in his own right and he has agreed to assist me. I'll send a nurse out with the appropriate paper work."

Ellen Kendall, Chris's friend, gave them all a warm encouraging smile "Don't worry, I'll take good care of him." She said reassuringly and turned, opened the door and walked swiftly down the hallway leading to the surgical unit.

+ + + + + + +

Twenty-one? They said this young man would soon be twenty-one years old but he doesn't look any older than my fourteen-year-old son, Ellen Kendall thought to herself as she looked down into the face of the young man being preped for surgery. Dear God, their hiring babies for law enforcement officers. He must be an undercover agent for high schools. ATF agents in high schools...?

+ + + + + + +

The waiting room in the surgical unit was at the far end of a hallway. A picture window faced east and the worried group of friends had been treated to spectacular sunrise. But few of them noticed it that morning.

Look at that sunrise, magnificent! It's as if God was trying to reassure us that everything is going to be all right for J.D., thought Josiah taking some comfort in the omen.

I remember where I've seen her before! She was a guest speaker at that EMT workshop at Briarly, two months ago. She certainly has the credentials to back up her reputation. J.D. is in good hands with a doctor of her calibre, decided Nathan.

I wonder if she remembers me? I remember her. I remember how gentle she was when all I could focus on was the pain and the fear of losing my way of making a living. She won't remember. I bet she sees hundreds of patients a year. An educated, fancy lady like her wouldn't remember the scruffy kid I was then and she sure as hell wouldn't want to know she helped a professional killer, brooded Vin.

Another all-nighter, I'm getting too old for this. What was I thinking of anyway, bringing a kid like J.D. onto a team like this? A kid like him should be safe at home in bed at this hour sleeping with his arms around a pretty girlfriend, thought Chris.

Surgeons are surly old men with gray hair, not beautiful women who should be hosting garden parties. She'd have to spend half her day in the gym and the spa to still be that lovely at her age. I hate sunrises. Sunrises are meant to be slept through, thought Ezra sourly.

Why is it taking so long? It's sun-up already, thought Buck anxiously.

"What's taking so long? She said three and half hours at most, it's been almost four and a half!" lamented Buck out loud. "I bet something has gone wrong."

"Buck take it easy, you didn't see the x-rays, J.D.'s shoulder was in pretty bad shape. It's just taking a little longer than expected," said Chris trying to calm his friend.

Josiah stretched his arms out above his head in an attempt to relieve the stiffness between his shoulder blades. He rose from his chair and announced, "I need a cup of coffee, would anyone else like one?"

There was no reaction from anyone.

"Six cups of coffee coming right up!" said Josiah, cheerfully.

"I'll come with you to help carry. While you order, I'll let AD Travis know what's happened, and see if Team 8 can cover for us today," said Chris.

+ + + + + + +

It had been ten minutes since Chris and Josiah disappeared into the elevator. Buck had had it with waiting.

"I'm going to find out for myself," he muttered.

"Where you going Buck," asked Nathan.

"I want to see how J.D.'s doing. I'm going to find him and anybody who can tell me what's going on," said Buck rising to his feet.

"Buck hang on it won't be much longer, J.D.'s fine," reassured Vin moving to stand beside Buck and placed a restraining hand on his arm.

"Mr. Wilmington please wait at least until Mr. Larabee and Mr. Sanchez return," implored Ezra, "then we will all inquire as to Mr. Dunne's welfare."

Buck shook Vin's hand off his arm and bolted for the doors under the sign indicating "Post Operative Critical Care."

Vin gave chase.

"O good lord, he's going to himself thrown out of the hospital," muttered Ezra under his breath, as he leapt to his feet in pursuit of his friends.

"Buck! Come back here you fool," yelled Nathan as he joined in the race to the doors.

Buck was through them first.

"J.D.," he yelled.

Several nurses and orderlies suddenly appeared from behind curtained areas lining the walls.

"J.D. where are ya kid!"

"Are you crazy? Be quiet and get out of here!" The harsh whisper came from a nurse as she picked up the receiver of a wall phone. "Security!"

"J.D.," called Buck as he moved through the area checking from curtain to curtain.

"Buck come on, we shouldn't be here, lets go" insisted Vin grabbing firmly onto Buck's arm.

"Mr. Wilmington get a hold of yourself," whispered Ezra as he grabbed the other arm, "this is most unseemly behaviour"

"You're not doing J.D. any favors by disrupting these sick people!" argued Nathan in a loud whisper moving to stand in front of Buck.

"What is the meaning of this!" The four men turned and beheld anger incarnate. All 5 foot 2 of Ellen Kendall suddenly looked very menacing, Ezra was sure he saw actual physical flames leap from those hazel eyes. "There are severely injured people in here who are not to be disturbed, GET OUT NOW."

Ellen Kendall moved toward them and the four men backed up swiftly toward the door they'd just come through. Buck tried to resistance but a swift, hard elbow to the gut from Vin stopped him. They were on her turf and in deep trouble.

They exited quietly through the door, running into Chris and Josiah on the other side.

Ellen followed them through the door, "That is the grossest display of unprofessional behaviour I have ever seen! There are people in there fighting for their lives. What were you thinking of? Your friend isn't even in there." Turning on Chris, "I'll meet you and your men in my office in half an hour!"

Turning she disappeared back through the doors they had just exited. Her anger was still tangible in the air around them.

"Buck, what were you trying to do?" asked Chris, his voice as cold as his eyes.

"Now Chris, I was just trying to find J.D.," replied Buck lamely.

"Buck!" Chris began.

"I bet that was J.D.'s blood on her scrubs," Vin said thoughtfully, his comment immediately diffusing the situation.

Well, now we know J.D. was out of surgery, thought Chris glumly.

"Come on we could all use that cup of coffee now," said Josiah.

"Everything's going to be okay Buck," said Nathan trying to comfort the big man.