Sometimes It Takes a Mother's Touch

by Heather M

ATF Universe

Part 1 (continued)

Ellen's office was large, large enough to be divided into two distinct areas. In the space immediately inside the door sat the expected desk, with a computer, monitor and keyboard. Small stacks of files were neatly lined up across the top of the desk. A credenza sat 90 degrees to the desk, along the far wall opposite the doorway and a tall five-shelf bookcase sat up against the wall directly behind the desk chair. The printer for the computer and a fax machine sat on top of the credenza.

At the opposite end of the office, was a cozy sitting area more suited to someone's home than the sterile environment of a hospital. In the centre of a large Persian-style rug sat a low square coffee table. A number of comfortable easy chairs and a puffy couch were arranged around the coffee table. On the table sat a large coffeepot, a smaller teapot, a number of mugs and a tray of sandwiches.

A pretty young dark-haired woman had greeted them and showed them into Dr. Kendall's office. "My name is Carlie Spencer, I'm Dr. Kendall's Administrative Assistant. Dr. Kendall thought you gentlemen might be hungry after being up all night. Please make yourselves comfortable and have something to eat."

J.D. would just love to curl up on a couch like that and read those motorcycle magazines and Spiderman comics of his all day, thought Buck to himself.

The six men settled into their chairs quietly, Ezra and Vin sharing the couch. Without a word to one another they helped themselves to sandwiches, each man suddenly realizing he was indeed hungry after the long night of waiting. Despite having just finished the coffees Josiah had retrieved earlier, Josiah poured six more.

"This Dr. Kendall of yours Chris is quite a woman," observed Josiah out loud, "she's just spent four hours in emergency surgery and she is considerate enough to feed the patient's family, who have been up all night."

"Let us hope her surgical skills match her keen sense of social propriety," said Ezra morosely.

That earned Ezra a Larabee glare. Before Chris had a chance to take issue with Ezra's remark, Dr. Kendall came into the office.

"No don't get up and please, go ahead and eat, no one functions well when both hungry and tired." urged the Doctor.

Ellen Kendall looked tired herself and more that a little worried, she poured a cup of tea for herself and moved in to sit in the empty chair they had left opposite Chris.

"Gentlemen, I consider the incident in Post Operative Critical Care closed. Security, however has advised me that another disruption like that and you will be banned from the hospital, it will be out of my hands," she warned.

"It won't happen again Ellen" promised Chris, leveling a stern eye in Buck's direction.

"How about some introductions now Chris?" asked Ellen, her attention to Nathan on her left.

"This is Nathan Jackson."

"Mr. Jackson," greeted Ellen smiling at Nathan "You look familiar, did you attend the EMT workshop at Briarly Hospital about two months ago?" queried the Doctor, shaking Nathan's hand.

"Yes ma'am, but how would you remember me? There were at least a fifty of us there," replied Nathan.

"I remember you asked a lot questions about post-treatment care. Most EMT's are primarily concerned with emergency patient care, patch the patient up enough to get them to the hospital. I thought it a little unusual at the time. I gather you're the "medic" for this group?"

Nathan replied, "Something like that ma'am," with a wide smile.

"You have your work cut out for you," Ellen Kendall replied with a teasing smile, "and my name is Ellen."

"This is Josiah Sanchez," Chris said moving to the next person.

"I am pleased to make your acquaintance Ma'am," greeted Josiah in his smooth baritone.

"Please call me Ellen," with a smile and a warm handshake.

"And I hope you will call me Josiah," said Josiah with a smile. My but that woman has a way about her thought Josiah.

Turning toward Buck.

"You ah, remember Buck?" said Chris.

"Buck, how have you been?

"Ellen I'm real sorry about bustin in..." Buck began to apologize.

"Buck I understand and it's forgotten, I mean it. Okay?" interrupted Ellen.

"Yeah, okay"

"Good, now we're here to concentrate on J.D."

Moving past Chris to the next person.

"I've met you before haven't I," she asked Vin.

"Ah, yes ma'am ‘bout four years ago in emergency. I had a, ah work related injury, you were the Doc who took care of me," replied Vin obviously nervous.

"Elbow wasn't it, a fracture as I remember, Mr. Taylor is it?"

"Ah Tanner Ma'am, Vin Tanner," came the shy man's reply and a slightly nervous smile.

"Mr. Tanner," with a smile, "Can I call you Vin?"

"I s'pose that'd be all right."

"As long as you call me Ellen."

"That would be fine ma'am, ah Ellen."

Turning to the man beside her Ellen could feel the anger emanating from him despite his outward appearance of calm. She was used to heeding to her feelings and instinct told her now that this man did NOT want to become friendly with her. Was it just concern over his friend, she wondered.

"This is Ezra Standish, Ellen," introduced Chris.

"Doctor Kendall," greeted Ezra with exaggerated formality and a curt nod.

"Mr. Standish," replied Ellen, deciding it was best to leave it at that. He wanted to keep his distance for some reason; this was not the time to push. The lack of first name introductions was not missed by any of the rest of the men.

Ezra's determined to make this hard for himself, thought Josiah.

I'll have to tune him up later, thought Chris.

"Gentlemen," began Ellen, her expression becoming serious, "I was very pleased with how the surgery went, the repair of J.D.'s collar bone and the end of the humerus went very well. I expect that, with a lot of hard work in physiotherapy, he could recover as much as ninety-percent of his previous mobility in the shoulder and possibly 100 percent of his previous strength.

All six men seemed to exhale in unison as if they had all been holding their breath at the possibility of bad news. Inwardly Chris thanked god. J.D.'s career wasn't going to end here after all.

"That's great Ellen," boomed Buck with a big smile.

"That is a relief to all of us," said Josiah.

"But there's something more isn't there doctor," said Ezra in an accusatory tone. Ezra's ability to read people had not failed him. It was obvious to him, there was more and that it wasn't good.

"Yes Mr. Standish, there's more." Ellen took a deep breath before she continued, "We had just completed closing when, for some reason we have yet to ascertain, J.D. went into cardiac arrest. When external cardiac massage didn't revive him we had to defibrillate. Once was enough to get his heart started again."

The group sat stunned. Each man trying to assimilate this last traumatic bit of information.

Ellen left them with their thoughts, waiting patiently for the questions that would come.

Chris was first. "Do you, ... do you have any idea why?"

"Nothing definite, the surgical procedure to repair his shoulder went very well. We had no concerns with any of his vital signs at any time during the operation. His heart just stopped."

She waited another long moment before continuing.

"We have a theory. The extra hour I took wasn't for surgery but to consult with Dr. Brock. He's a thoracic surgeon and he's been doing some studies on the emotional effects of surgery and relating hard data to particular surgical outcomes ... "

"Ellen, if you could just get to the point," interrupted Chris.

"We were recording J.D.'s vital signs throughout the procedure. Based on Dr. Brock's experience, his recent studies, the hard data and interviews with the OR staff, it is his professional opinion that what happened to J.D. in the OR has similar characteristics to situations where the patients wanted to die."

Each man was visibly shocked by this news.

"No, no way," said Buck. Confusion and fear were evident in his eyes as he shook his head slowly in disbelief.

Chris leaned to one side onto his elbow and cupped his mouth with his hand starring intently at Ellen. This can't be happening, he thought.

Vin stood suddenly and moved quickly away from the group to stand with his back to them staring out the window.

Josiah reached up with his left hand up to clasp Buck's shoulder, in an attempt to comfort him.

Nathan attempted to speak, but found he had no voice.

Ezra was ominously still.

She waited. Dear God this situation must seem almost surreal to them, give me the strength to do what I have to do now, she thought in silent prayer.

After a few more moments Ellen explained, "These situations are most common with the very elderly and those with chronic illness, in both cases the patient feels they just can't go on. The struggle to live has become too great for them to cope with, the pressures of everyday life too much. J.D. doesn't fall into either of these categories. In a few cases Dr. Brock has studied, the patient has been under an emotional strain of some kind that has become too much for them to handle. I suspect that this may be the case with J.D. I have to ask, has anything been bothering J.D. lately, have any of you noticed any change in his behaviour, any reason to be concerned about his emotional state?" her quiet words sounding very loud in the silent room.

"He ... he's been ... preoccupied," said Chris

"Yeah, and a little bit sad or somethin' ," came Vin's response from the window.

"He didn't want to talk about it," said Nathan

"Said he had to work it out for himself," added Josiah

"O God! He told me good-bye," said Buck, tears beginning to gather at the corners of his eyes. The others turned to look at him questioningly.

"At the drug store, after he was shot, he s...s...said "what would I have ever done if I hadn't met you" and then he passed out. He was saying good-bye."

"Now hold on Buck you were tending to him at the time," began Josiah trying to comfort him.

"Josiah's right Buck, he was probably just trying to let you know he was glad you were there with him," added in Nathan.

"J.D. was alone along time before he joined up with us Buck, when you get hurt bad you get real scared, he was only lettin' you know he appreciated you bein' there with him Buck," said Vin.

"He's still with us Buck, and we're going to keep it that way," said Chris trying to reassure his friend.

"Maybe it's the doctor!" blurted out Ezra, who had been silent up until now.

"How do we know you didn't botch things up!" he accused Ellen. Ezra's usual smooth southern tones replaced with an angry snarl. "Doctor you are suggesting that J.D. is trying to commit some sort of suicide. I refuse to believe it!"

Six shocked expressions turned to stare in disbelief at Ezra.

"Ezra!" snapped Chris.

Ezra continued his tirade. "You're setting us up! Comfortable surroundings, what doctor's office looks like this? Food, smiles, "just call me Ellen" crap! Bullshit! You're setting us up! We sit here looking for a fairy tale excuse for you to blame your screw up while J.D. could be dying!"

"EZRA SHUT UP!" bellowed Chris.

Vin had moved from the window to grab Ezra by the arm. "Ez? What the hell's...?"

Ezra angrily shook the hand off his arm and stormed out of the office slamming the door loudly behind him.

"Ellen I'm sorry," apologized Chris. Ezra, you're going to get the chewing out of your life!

"Brother Ezra shouldn't have blamed you for ... " started Josiah.

"It's all right" she interrupted Josiah. She had turned to watch Ezra leave and now turned back to face the remaining five men. "It really is all right," she insisted, a little too sternly maybe. He's hurting, he's frightened and there doesn't seem to be anything he can do to help, she thought to herself, I know how it feels. "He's angry and he's worried right now and needs to take it out on someone and I'm a convenient person to take it out on. Believe me I do understand."

"That's no excuse," said Nathan. "He's just thinking about how he feels."

"Yes it is, it's a very good excuse, I've done exactly the same thing myself," said Ellen.

With a deep sigh she stood up, "It's been along night for you, and an early morning for me. J.D.'s going to sleep for another four or five hours, until mid-afternoon at least. He should be settled in his room by now, why don't you all go take a look at him to reassure yourselves that he is all right for now and then go home and get some rest. I mean it, every last one of you looks just about done in. Carlie will show you where his room is."

They got up to leave, each man thanking Ellen and heading out the door.

"Go ahead," said Chris to the others, "I'll be along in a minute".

+ + + + + + +

They hugged for a long moment and then drew back from one another.

"Despite the circumstances it's good to see you Chris. How are you Old Man?" she teased.

"Old man! Let me remind you, you are a full six months older than I am," he retorted looking down at her with a warm smile.

She chuckled. "It's still good to see you Chris. You're looking well, you've put a little weight on since I last saw you and it suits you. How are you, really?"

"I'm doing alright. I guess you could say I'm learning to live again, or at least behave in semi-human manner toward other people." He said with a wry smile. "I drink less, a lot less. God knows, some days this crew gives me reason enough to start again. There are still bad days, you know..."

"I know, the holidays, the anniversaries, those are the times when I really feel the emptiness, when the hurt is the worst."

"You're looking beautiful as always. How's Josh?" asked Chris changing the subject.

A shadowed look came over her face. "He still has the stutter but physically he's thriving, he's six feet tall and showing no signs of slowing down," she replied.

"Come on, tell me everything," Chris urged.

"He stopped seeing the psychologist about a year ago. He just flatly refused to go anymore, he said that he knows a six year old child couldn't have stopped a man with a gun, but there was no way he was ever going to stop feeling guilty for being the one who lived."

Intense pain flared suddenly in his eyes and just as suddenly was gone.

"Oh god Chris! I'm sorry I didn't think before I spoke." She apologized quickly, the regret at what she'd said evident on her face.

"It's okay. It's the truth and I know exactly how he feels."

Chris reached over and took her hand in his.

"I'm sorry I haven't seen him in a while," he said quietly.

"He understands Chris, he more that anyone knows it takes time. He's pretty old in some ways for fourteen," she said with a sad smile. "He's suffering the usual fourteen year old stuff. The "how do I look" insecurities. The artificial leg isn't helping matters much."

"God it's tough enough at fourteen without that to deal with as well."

"He started paddling kayak competitively a couple of years ago and he does well. It's not a glamour sport, but it's social and something he's good at athletically despite having only one foot. I think it helps with his self-esteem."

"Are you seeing anyone yet," he asked?

"Just my number one man."

"Ellen, as much as you love him, he'll be gone to college before you know it. It'll be pretty lonely and you're too special not to share your life with some one," Chris gently scolded.

"I know, it's just that I've had to shut away that part of me for so long that well... my life is full and comfortable right now. How about you, are you seeing any one?" asked Ellen, changing the focus away from her self.

"There's a woman, a reporter, Mary Travis, she has a young son Billy, they ... ". Chris stopped, he had said too much.

"Don't take too long Chris, you're a man who deserves children and children deserve a father like you," said Ellen, squeezing the hand that held hers.

"Ellen, what about J.D.?" asked Chris, wanted to distance himself from the subject of himself.

"Chris I haven't ruled a physical cause out, but Phil Winton's one of the best diagnosticians I've ever met and it's his opinion that the cause is not physical. That leaves either drugs...."

"NO! No way it's drugs, not with J.D. He's too smart for that and we're just too close too him, we all know the signs too well and Buck's worse than a mother hen the kid wouldn't have the opportunity."

"Then that leaves an emotional cause and I've got to admit with kids, who knows what they're thinking or what's worrying them."

"Ellen, he's hardly a kid. He's nearly twenty-one. If he couldn't handle something himself, he knows there are six people who would drop everything in a second to help him."

"Maybe it's something he can't talk to any of you about.

"What do you mean?"

"He's young, and even though he's an ATF agent, he still has all the baggage that goes along with being young. Maybe he couldn't talk to any you about what was bothering him because, he's afraid of disappointing any of you."

He paused to consider what she had said. "I hadn't thought of that, I just figured when he was ready he would open up to one of us like usual. I never thought that maybe there'd be a reason he couldn't."

"Go on," she said, "go see J.D. and then send that bunch home for some rest. I'll call you when he wakes up."

"I doubt Buck will go," he said.

"Then leave him here, I'll make sure he gets some rest."

He turned to go, put his hand on the doorknob, and then paused to look back her, his expression thoughtful.

"GO HOME," she reiterated.

Then he left.

+ + + + + + +

The others entered J.D.'s room to find Ezra, already there, seated in a chair beside his bed.

Ezra turned to see the others enter the room and then turned his attention back to J.D., but not before they'd all seen the anger still smoldering in his eyes, but this time, caught unawares, they saw there was fear as well. Ezra stood up and stepped aside.

No one said anything. They were here to see the youngest of their family and this was not the time or place for a family discussion.

Josiah, Nathan and Vin held back a moment and let Buck walk up to the bed first to see J.D. He lay so still and seemed even more so like a child than a young man. His face was especially pale against the white pillow casing. His dark brown hair, his bangs, as always, in his eyes, seemed even darker in contrast to his pale skin. The numerous wires and tubes connecting the young man to various machines and monitors only added to impression of helplessness and vulnerability.

Buck gently brushed the bangs back out of his eyes and settled into the chair Ezra had just vacated. He took J.D.'s small hand between his two big ones. Buck was startled at how cold it felt.

Quietly the other three approached the bed. Ezra stepped back and turned to gaze out the window.

Nathan cleared his throat. "You know Buck considering everything he's been through in the last twelve hours, J.D. looks pretty good," he said.

"He certainly doesn't look any worse than the rest of us," said Josiah.

"He sure does smell better than the rest of us," said Vin. His small joke brought a smile to everyone's face, even Ezra's.

"I guess he'll look a little better once his body has a chance to work some of the anesthetic outta his system," said Buck. The other four men were encouraged to hear Buck's powers of reasoning were taking over again.

They were all quiet for a moment, watching J.D., each man lost in his own thoughts, the rhythmic sounds of the monitoring equipment filling the background.

Ezra was the first to break the silence. "Mr. Wilmington, you seem to be well acquainted with this Dr. Kendall. What is her relationship to Mr. Larabee anyway?"

The other three looked questioningly at Buck, despite everything else, they were still investigators and this woman was somewhat of a mystery.

"They seem pretty close, I figured we were the closest friends he had," observed Nathan.

"Ellen? She's a friend, sort of, a special friend a guess you could say," replied Buck. Caressing J.D.'s wrist with his thumb while he spoke.

"Eleven, maybe twelve, years ago when he was still a cop, Chris took a bullet in the knee, it was a serious wound, most of the doctor's he saw wanted to just fuse the kneecap. He would have had a permanent limp and it would have ended his career, in fieldwork anyway, which as far as Chris was concerned was his career."

"Brother Chris would have been none too happy about that option," agreed Josiah.

Buck continued, "He and Sarah were engaged at the time and Sarah was a physiotherapist here at the hospital. She was familiar with Ellen's new procedures and insisted Chris let her take a look at his knee." Buck smiled at the memory, "Chris was none too enthusiastic about a woman doctor but, he had nothing to lose and everything to gain and you boys didn't know Sarah but she could be pretty ahh ... determined about some things."

"Chris agreed to let Ellen do the surgery, she was using lasers before they were popular like they are now. The physiotherapy afterwards was painful. I can still remember how he cursed over some of those exercises Ellen had him doing, but it saved his knee and his career."

"I've noticed he some times rubs his right knee, when the weather gets cold and damp," said Nathan.

"Yeah, it's his right knee," confirmed Buck.

"Three years later, I guess it was, because Chris was with the ATF then, he was leaving the FBI forensics lab through the parking garage when he heard gun shots. He spotted the shooter and brought him down, but not before the shooter had shot a man and two little boys. Turned out they were Ellen's family. One boy survived. Chris stayed with him, until Ellen could be found. The kid never lost consciousness. All they way to the hospital, he kept asking after his little brother and his Dad. That hour with that kid stayed with Chris for months. Josh was six years old at the time. They had to amputate his foot. The boy was traumatized for months. Last I saw him he still had a bad stutter."

"I remember that case,' said Ezra, "I had just joined the Bureau, Matthew Kendall, was one of the leading forensic pathologists with the FBI. It was thought that it was quite possibly a mob hit because of Matt Kendall's evidence in the Perelli case".

Buck nodded and continued, "Turned out it was revenge against Ellen, she had been working emergency a week earlier when two car accident victims came in, a woman and her daughter, they died, the shooter was that woman‘s husband and he held Ellen responsible."

"What was that Kendall fella doin' with two small kids at the office?" asked Vin.

"Ellen had dropped them off before her shift. Dad and the boys were going to the zoo for the afternoon," replied Buck.

Buck paused, the other four were very quiet with their own thoughts, none of them had ever suspected from Ellen Kendall's warm manner that she had ever known such personal tragedy. It would explain however, how she could be so patient with Ezra's outburst and empathize so completely with how they were all feeling.

"Sarah kept in contact with Ellen, even after she quit work to stay home with Adam. Ellen and Josh came out to the ranch for weekends and holidays once in a while. Chris taught the Josh to ride. Josh was always shy with everyone else but seemed to come out of himself a little with Chris."

"That ride to the hospital I would surmise," said Josiah.

"When Adam was sixteen months old he still wasn't walking, every time he tried he'd wobble until he fell down. The pediatricians wanted to do some kind of surgery on his hips. Sarah, in true Sarah style, didn't want Adam to have such major surgery so young. She took him to see Ellen. Ellen suggested some special exercises that Sarah would have no trouble helping Adam with, her being a physiotherapist and all. Anyway, Adam was up and running within a year."

"A year later Sarah and Adam were killed. Ellen didn't, couldn't attend the funeral. It was too much too soon for her I guess. She tried, I saw her at the cemetery after the funeral. She stood way off alone, crying."

"Then Chris fell into that deep black pit of grief and guilt." Buck didn't go on, that time had passed and his friend had survived it, there was no point in going there now.

"I eventually managed to talk Chris into going to this support group for people who'd had family killed by violence. It was something they started at the University. Talking about stuff to strangers was never really his style but I was desperate, the man was killing himself and his career right before my eyes." He paused again, he knew that others understood. "Chris seemed to unwind a bit after that, he didn't drink quite so much and seemed more interested in the job."

"One night I gave him a lift, as I was leaving I noticed he and Ellen walking away. I was curious so I followed them to the campus coffee shop and they stayed there, just talking, for hours. I discovered later Chris never went to any of the support group meetings. He'd met Ellen the first night before he'd even gotten through the door. I never let him know that I knew he was meeting her. I didn't follow them again, but I'd say they met like that for about a year. By then Chris had been promoted to Supervisor and was recruiting for Team 7. I don't think they've seen each other for a couple of years now."

Each man was caught up in his own thoughts. Buck's story explained a lot and raised a whole new set of questions.

"How is he?" They all jumped at the question from their leader. His quiet approach having caught them all off their guard.

"He seems to be resting comfortably," replied Josiah attempting to cover for the lapse of the group.

"He's looked better," said Chris ruefully.

"Surgery, though it can work wonders, is still an invasion to the body, it'll take a day or two for his body to adjust, then his colour should improve." Said Nathan adding to Josiah's cover for himself and his friends.

"All them tubes and wires runnin' in and out of him aren't exactly reassurin' either," added Vin.

"He's gonna be fine, just fine," said Buck still holding J.D.'s small hand in one of his larger ones while he reached over to stroke the bangs, he'd already brushed out of J.D.'s eyes, with the other hand.

"We have no doubt of it Mr. Wilmington, for all our sakes," said Ezra, voicing everyone's most fervent hope.

"Ezra, I want to talk to you... outside... now," commanded Chris.

"Let he who is without sin cast the first stone," quoted Josiah over his shoulder in Chris's direction as Ezra headed for the door.

That earned Josiah a Larabee glare as Chris followed Ezra out of the room. He was reminded he had not been at his diplomatic best with Philip Winton earlier.

Buck looked up at Nathan and Josiah, "Something I've been wondering, how did you boys know we needed help?"

"What?" asked Nathan.

"You two showed up before I had time to call anyone. How did you know J.D. and I needed help?"

"Oh... ahh, well, Patterson Avenue is closed after 10:00 p.m. for maintenance, so I decided to take Nathan home down Davenport," explained Josiah.

"When a police car with sirens blaring passed us followed by an ambulance, we umm... we had a hunch and decided to follow," finished Nathan.

"Oh" was all Buck said.

+ + + + + + +

"Ezra, I put up with your arrogance because you're damn good at your job but I would never have expected such a lapse in behaviour from you, Buck maybe, never you." Chris was warming up for a major chewing out. "You were way out of line Standish. You will never, I repeat, nev...."

"Without a doubt, Mr. Larabee, an apology to Dr. Kendall is most definitely required and will be forthcoming at the earliest possible opportunity." Said Ezra cutting Chris off in mid-tirade.

Chris paused mid-sentence and blinked at the suddenness of Ezra's surrender.

"Good!" said Chris recovering quickly. "Come on then, let's get the others. It's time to go home and get some rest."

"I think it unlikely that we will be able to persuade Mr. Wilmington to leave," said Ezra as they turned to re-enter the room.

"I don't plan to waste my time even trying Ezra."