JD had been in the clinic for four days now, and he'd had enough. He'd had enough of staring at the same walls, same ceiling, the same chairs, the same door, the same two inch crack in the third floorboard to the left of the door. He was tired of hearing the same knock on the same door, the same person coming into the room, checking his head for a fever he didn't have, tearing off bandages to check to see if he was healing (only to have more put on), and the same people asking...
"How ya feelin', JD?"
"Same as I was two hours ago when you asked, Nathan."
"Well, he must be feelin' better if he's talking back," Buck said in a disapproving way.
"Hi, to you, too Buck," JD answered sarcastically.
"You stitch in that attitude?" Buck asked Nathan.
"Nope, that's all his," Nathan said, rewrapping the leg, then doing the same with the kid's shoulder.
"You better be watchin' what ya say there kid, somebody might just take it the wrong way one of these days," Buck said semiseriously. JD just sighed.
"I think we can cast that now," Nathan said.
"Do what?" JD asked.
"Nathan came up with this concoction that makes the bandages harden up," Vin said, handing Nathan a bag, as he entered the room.
"Careful, Vin, he a little nippy today," Buck warned quietly with a raised eyebrow as Vin passed.
"After four days I guess maybe I'd be gettin' a little 'nippy', too." Vin replied with a wink to JD.
"I'm just tired of bein' stuck in here, I guess I can hold out for another day," JD said.
"Who said another day?" Nathan asked, looking back to JD from the small table he was at.
"Well..nobody really..I was just thinkin'..I mean... I ain't spent but a few days here and there..and then I get out.. So I figured ...it would be less than that since I only broke somethin'," JD smiled at his logic.
"You forget about your shoulder?" Buck asked, reminding the boy he'd been shot.
"Well, yeah, guess I did, I just figured.." JD let out quietly.
"Well you figured wrong," Nathan said flatly.
"How 'wrong' did I figure?" JD asked with a tinge of anger in his voice, beginning to feel the disappointment creeping in.
"You'll be here coupla weeks, boy," Nathan said as he made his way to the boy, his hands full of everything he was going to use to cast JD's leg.
"What! You can't be serious, Nathan! He's kiddin' right, Buck? Right! Vin?!" JD asked looking for someone to tell him Nathan was just making a cruel joke out of all this.
"Sorry, kid," Buck smiled. JD's eyes turned to Vin.
"JD..maybe if ya do what he tells ya it'll only be a couple of days," Vin smiled, then caught the look the healer was giving him, "Guess it's a coupla weeks," Vin hung his head. Sorry kid, I tried, Vin thought.
"If'n y'all are done tryin' to make him feel better you mind givin me a hand?" Nathan asked.
"What ya need us for?" Buck asked making his way from where he and Vin were standing.
"Well, I need you to hand me these strips when I ask for 'em, and, Vin, I 'm gonna need you to hold his leg still. JD, I'm gonna take off that splint so Vin here can hold onto your leg, it might hurt a bit, so I need you to stay still ya hear," Nathan said.
"I 'hear' fine, Nathan," JD bit back in defeat.
"No need to go gettin' mad at Nathan, kid," Buck tried.
"Well then who do I get mad at then?" JD knew he should have been mad at someone, he felt mad, not his fault he stepped into the trap, how was he supposed to know it was there?
"Mr. Larabee, may I inquire as to the source of your amusement?" Ezra asked seeing the small grin that had crept across the leader's face as he stood on the porch of the clinic.
"Nathan just told JD how long he was going to have to stay there," he said evenly, the half grin still there.
"And that amuses you how?" Ezra asked, not really knowing why .
"No, Ezra, I feel bad for him. Kid with that much energy can't stay cooped up for long, just wondering how long it'll be before Nathan gives up trying to keep in bed."
"Owe..dammit, Nathan!" They heard the yell of JD's discomfort from the room upstairs.
"Yes, well, ahem. As much as I would love to relish the sounds of the morning, I do believe I will be heading to the saloon, Mr. Larabee," Ezra said as he tipped his hat to Chris.
"You said it was gonna hurt a little!" JD wailed. Chris heard the tone in JD's words, and could only hope that Buck had as well, as Chris made it up the stairs to where the small group was.
"Your muscles are stiff, JD, that's why it's hurtin' a bit; now all I got left is to make your foot flat and then were done," Nathan smiled looking up, "Why don't you lay him back down Buck, and sit on him maybe," he added sternly realizing the boy had sat up, and noticing a speck of blood on the new bandage.
"I can do it myself," JD said, and did so before Buck could help.
Chris watched from the door as the boy turned his head to the wall slightly, and Nathan moved the kid's foot flat, he watched the others, himself included, wince at the stretching of the tired and stiff muscle. He cast his glance to JD and noticed the unemotional face still staring at the wall.
He thought back at what they had found out about him, his childhood. How he had been treated, how he had sacrificed everything to give his mother a place to die in peace, and how old he was. JD never told them, they had found out through circumstances that JD was only seventeen. He watched as Nathan set the kid's foot, and saw the lack of emotion on JD's face. Seventeen short years and he could push the pain to the back of his mind like that, if he ever met up with this Chamberlain he'd make him pay, right behind Buck and Vin.
"All finished, now that wasn't so bad was it?" Nathan asked. He looked up from his work and to JD who didn't answer.
"Hey kid, Nathan's done," Buck said with a bit of concern.
"Huh?" JD said, hearing his name and Buck talking bringing him back from where ever he was.
"Nathan's done," Vin said quietly.
"Oh," was all he said, and he pushed himself into a sitting position, ignoring the ripping of the stitches and the pain.
"JD!" Nathan yelled louder than he'd meant.
"What?" he looked with wide eyes at Nathan.
"How many times you want me to stitch that up?" Nathan said harshly, but not as loud.
"Sorry, Nath.." JD began.
"Save it. You keep up like this and you're gonna be stuck here for a month, you gotta learn to listen to what your told! I don't know how you made it this far with the way you carry on!" Nathan went on as he examined the bleeding wound again, finding that where the bullet had exited was fine, he began the job of repairing the re-opened wound.
"Sorry, Nat.." JD said quietly.
"I don't wanna hear it right now, JD," he said sternly.
"Nathan, that keep for a bit?" Chris asked making his way from the door.
"Yeah, I need a drink anyways," he said casting a look to the cause of his frustration, and promptly left the room, taking out his frustration on the door as he slammed it shut, causing the room behind it to fall silent.
JD lifted his head and looked at the faces in the room, and began to feel very small, he wanted to crawl into the corner and disappear. He lifted his head and looked at Chris.
"You gonna yell at me too?" he said quietly.
"Why would I want to do that?" Chris asked, knowing Nathan's meaningless rant was reminding him of the way he'd been treated as a kid. Wasn't Nathan's fault, none of the others knew what life was like for JD except for the three in the room.
"Besides Ezra and Josiah, I think everyone has had their turn," he was so quiet.
"I don't remember yellin' at ya, kid," Vin tried to lighten the atmosphere, failing.
"I'm sure your turns comin'," JD said, head still hanging.
"Nathan's just frustrated is all kid, you know how he gets," Buck defended.
"And all your yellin', that was me frustratin' you?" JD accused Buck and the others.
"No, that was just me bein an ass," Buck said simply, stating the truth.
"What..what's that suppose to mean," JD was slightly confused.
"You had some visitors while you was getting yourself....stuck," Buck started.
"Huh?" JD was really confused, now.
"A lady named Ballard and a Warrant Officer by the name of Delaney came from back east lookin' for ya." JD's eyes grew wide as Buck told him of the visitors.
"What.. what they want," JD was pretty sure he had an idea.
"Take ya back, said you were a runaway," Buck said, JD still didn't know they knew how old he was.
"What else they say?" JD asked hanging his head, hoping against all hope they hadn't found out he wasn't nineteen like they thought. He hadn't lied to anyone, no one had ever come right out and asked.
"They said you was seventeen." Buck and the others knew it was true as they saw the slump of the kid's shoulders.
"That true?" Not needing to ask, but allowing the kid to come clean, Chris hoping it would ease the kid's mind.
JD couldn't say anything, much less look at the men around him, he just nodded his affirmation, waiting for the yelling to start, when it didn't he brought his head up and looked to Chris, the man who wanted him back on a stage two seconds after he'd jumped off the one that brought him here.
"You gonna send me back?" not able to hold back the tears, he knew this day would come Chris had wanted to send him packing so many times, he'd finally had enough, he was gonna send him away.
"JD.." Chris began, but was interrupted by JD's panic.
"I ain't gonna go back..you can send me back..but I ain't gonna get there..I'll run off if'n I have to..I ain't gonna go back..they'll just send me back to him..forget it!" The tears flowing as he panicked, and the idea of Chamberlain getting his hands on him again.
"No one's sending you anywhere, JD," Vin stepped in.
"Then why you telling me all this?" JD wondered, some kind of torture perhaps?
"I got a telegram saying you was a ward of the state back in Boston, I had it for a while.."
"Why didn't you tell me about it!?" JD was a bit angry, "Didn't think I'd tell you how old I was if you asked?"
"No, I didn't want you runnin' off," Buck tried to explain something he didn't understand.
"Well, that worked out good didn't it!"
"I'm sorry, JD, I didn't know what I was doin'. I just didn't want them to take you away," Buck said apologetically.
"How they not see me?" he wondered.
"You were with us when they came for their visit," Vin said.
"Why'd they leave then?" JD asked, not understanding why he never saw them.
"Well, you can thank the town and Ezra for that," Buck smiled.
"Ezra knows? Who else? The whole town?!" JD began to panic again.
"We all know, son. No one in town does, and if they do no ones said nothing," Chris tried to ease the boy's mind.
"Everyone knows about Chamberlain and how old I am, whatever happened to my past bein' mine..you didn't need to go sharin' it!" The last thing JD wanted were them feeling bad for him, he fought his way out here ..to start over..he certainly didn't need everyone else knowing about it.
"We're the only ones who know about Chamberlain," Vin gently said, easing the agitation a little.
"Look, kid. I just wanted to tell ya why I was acting like I was. I was scared of losin ya," Buck said in serious tone.
"We all were," Vin added, saying what Chris wanted to but couldn't.
JD didn't know what to say or think. No one, besides his mother, had ever wanted him around. These men wanted him around, they worried about him.
"I..I'm sorry I was yellin'.. It's ..it's just..I thought you didn't need me.. I ain't nothin' but trouble," JD repeated what had been beaten into him.
"You ain't trouble, JD," Chris said, putting his hand on the back of the kid's neck. "Never let me hear you say that again, you hear me?" he said sternly, but in a voice only Buck recognized, a voice he had heard him use with Adam when he'd done something wrong and Chris was making it clear that it was wrong, but that he still loved him.
JD looked into his heroe's eyes and saw the truth in the blue eyes and nodded.
"I hate to point this out, but I think you should get Nathan, Vin," Buck said, pointing to the now soaked bandage.
"I reckon so," he said, noticing how pale JD had gotten, and turned to leave.
"Why didn't you tell us ya weren't feeling good?" Chris asked, he could feel the heat from the back of JD's neck.
"You were talkin', and I didn't wanna interrupt, sides..you didn't ask," JD smiled weakly, then felt himself go.
Chris felt JD's weight in his hand before he even knew what was happening, he easily lay him back down as Buck went to get the wash basin full of water and a cloth.
"Christ, Buck, he don't weigh nothing," Chris said in a concerned way.
"Hard to weigh a lot when you hardly eat anything when ya feel good," Buck smiled a bit, easing the leaders worry.
"What happened?" Nathan asked as he made his way to the bed, Vin behind him, followed by the two remaining members of the seven.
"I think his bleedin' wore him out," Buck explained.
"You don't suppose?" Nathan asked with a hint of sarcasm, not hiding the small smile.
"Well..yeah..I guess..hell, I ain't the healer," Buck smiled back, as Nathan began stitching back up the wound.
"Lets hope he can keep these in this time," Nathan sighed.
"Third times a charm!" Buck laughed out, and the men smiled as they watched JD sleep.
+ + + + + + +
"Geez, Nathan, you just yanking them out?"
"It would be a lot easier if ya stopped tryin' to see what I'm doin'."
JD turned his head back around from trying to see Nathan patiently cut and pull the stitches that had held the bullet wound closed until it was able to heal, in less then ten minutes the healer was finished.
"That's done, you can sit back again."
"You taking the front ones out too?" JD asked hopeful
"No, give 'em few more days. I'll be back before supper to check back in on ya."
"Supper? You goin' somewhere?" JD asked.
"Yeah, Thompkins' oldest boy has had the flu, they wanted me to check in on him for a bit."
"Oh, that's too bad," JD said, upset the boy was sick but pretty happy at the fact Nathan wasn't going to be around.
"Don't even begin to think about getting out of here! I left orders with everyone to keep their eye on you," Nathan said sternly.
"Okay," JD said, after all he didn't have to 'begin' to think, he was already thinking.
"I mean it, JD, your legs healing real good, you do somethin' foolish like walking on it, you're gonna break it all over again."
"Where am I gonna go, Nathan, my legs all busted and this thing weighs a ton!" referring to the cast.
"Good, I catch you outta bed and I'll tie you down to it, understand?"
"I got it I got it! Geez, Nathan, you're treatin' me like I'm five years old!"
"Well, maybe he wouldn't do that if'n ya didn't act like it."
"You all set, Nathan?"
"You going with Nathan?" JD asked, not sure if he was happy or not.
"Nope, staying here. Someone's gotta make sure you don't go anywhere," Buck smiled, knowing JD was probably already planning some kind of 'escape'.
"And I'm sure you jumped up and volunteered," he said, knowing that Buck would never allow him outside, much less out of bed.
"Well, someone's gotta keep you out of trouble," Buck said with a smile.
"Great," JD said sinking into the bed and brining up the covers.
"Aww, come on kid, ain't gonna be that bad," Buck laughed out.
"That's what you said about seeing that Dentist in Willow Bend."
"Well, heck. How was I suppose to know he weren't gonna give ya nothin' when he yanked that tooth."
"He was supposed to pull your tooth!"
"Yeah..but I felt better after!" Buck remembered.
"Get some rest, JD, maybe we'll get you outside tomorrow if it's nice."
"I promise, Nathan, I'll stay in bed," The defeat in his voice evident making the healer shake his head with a smile, as JD rolled to his good side and closed his eyes.
+ + + + + + +
Chris turned to the voice behind him.
"This just came in."
"Thanks, Ernie," Chris said as he took the telegram from the young man.
"Good news?" Vin asked.
"I don't know," Chris said simply.
"What;s it say?" the tracker asked.
"Judge is on his way, be here tomorrow morning," Chris relayed.
"Didn't say what for?" Vin asked, the judge always said why he was coming to town.
"Well, guess we just have to wait then."
The two men saw Nathan come out of the clinic and headed for him.
"Mornin," the healer smiled.
"Nathan," Vin offered.
"You'll be back tonight?" Chris asked.
"I expect, why? Somethin wrong?"
"Don't really know, Judge is coming tomorrow morning," Chris shared.
"Buck's up with the kid, trying to keep him in bed, I'm planning on being back by supper."
"All right," Chris nodded, as Nathan snapped the reins and the wagon lurched forward.
Vin smiled at Chris and the leader hid a grin as they walked to the clinic. They made their way up to the stairs and Vin knocked on the door. The door was opened by Buck.
"He awake?" Vin asked.
"Well, I dunno to tell ya the truth," Buck said honestly.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Chris asked as he walked in the room.
"Well, he rolled over after Nathan left, thought he was playin' possum, but he ain't moved," Buck said in a hushed voiced.
"Hey, JD," Vin said.
"Yeah?" he replied flatly.
"He ain't asleep, Buck," Chris said matter of factly.
"No, I ain't asleep," he said, rolling onto his back.
"You eat breakfast yet?" Vin asked quietly, looking back at Chris who was talking to Buck.
"No.. And I ain't hungry, why are you whispering?"
"Thought you'd like some breakfast is all," Vin still whispered.
"Why are we whispering?" JD asked again.
"You wanna go eat?"
"You mean.." JD caught what Vin was saying. Vin nodded.
"Chris and Buck ain't gonna let me outta here."
"Why do you think Chris is here?"
"I gotta get some clothes on..Vin, my pants don't fit over .."
"We can fix that," Vin said as he handed JD his clothes, and took his knife and cut on the seam of the boys pants. In less than three minutes JD was dressed and ready to go.
"Ready, Chris?" Vin said standing up, supporting JD.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Buck asked JD.
"Goin' to eat!" JD couldn't hide his excitement, it had been two weeks since he'd seen the outside of Four Corners.
"What?! I don't think thats the best idea, Nathan said.."
"Buck, I'm buyin'," Chris stated.
"I'm eatin', come on kid..let's get goin' then!" Buck smiled.
The men slowly and awkwardly made their way to the cafe, JD couldn't hide the smile from his face, he was tired as hell but he was outside and that's all that mattered. They sat at the table and gave their orders, JD was asleep in the chair before breakfast arrived.
"So why's the judge comin'?" Buck asked.
"Didn't say, just said he was coming in the morning," Chris said, taking a sip of coffee.
"You made his week, ya know," Buck teased.
"How's that?" Chris asked, sneaking the kid out was no big deal.
"Getting him outta the room," Buck pointed out.
"He hadn't complained 'bout being there, guess you could consider it a reward," Chris said, underestimating the importance of it all.
"Whatever, it still means alot to him."
"He's a good kid, Buck," Chris said.
"Tell me somethin' I don't already know," Buck smiled as he looked at the sleeping JD.
"I presume that our resident healer knows nothing of Mr. Dunnes whereabouts?"
"Nathan's gone for the day, Ezra," Vin said between his bite of eggs.
"Are you waiting for him to wake from his slumber to order?" Ezra tried not to laugh out.
"He already ordered, just didn't make it to eat," Vin said with a slight chuckle.
The door to the cafe opened and Josiah made his way to the table quickly.
"Josiah, somethin' wrong?" Buck asked, noting the worried look on the preacher's face.
"Nathan turned around, caught him on patrol."
"Shit," Buck said.
JD jerked awake at the sudden sound of silverware hitting plates and chairs scraping across the wooden floor.
"Josiah, Ezra go out and delay him if ya can, Buck, Vin lets get him back to the clinic," Chris ordered out, always the leader.
"Wha..hey..hey..HEY!! What's goin' on..let go of.." JD said as he was grabbed from his sleep. "I ain't eaten yet!"
"Shut up, kid..Nathan's on his way back," Buck said harshly.
"Dang it!" JD said, trying to stand up, "I didn't even eat yet!"
"We'll take it with us," Vin said as he grabbed JD's usual breakfast biscuit.
The men hurriedly took JD to the clinic, carrying him more than assisting him. The sounds of three men on the stairs of the clinic would have waken the dead, as they made their way to the room. They had spotted Nathan coming into town, 'escorted' by two men, just as they had reached the clinic porch.
They lay the young man in bed, stripped his clothes off rather roughly and covered him, just as they heard footsteps coming up the stairs. Buck sat down in the chair, JD turned his back to him and Chris and Vin quickly and quietly made their way out the back, just as Nathan opened the door.
"Back so soon?" Buck asked in a surprised tone.
"Yeah, I forgot something."
"You seen Ezra and Josiah this mornin?" Nathan asked.
"Why?" Buck wondered innocently.
"They were acting a bit strange, came right out an met me and started askin stupid questions," Nathan said in an aggravated tone.
"Huh, couldn't tell ya."
"Hey, where'd this come from," Nathan asked, holding a biscuit.
"Vin brought it up for JD," Buck said, not really lying.
"Oh," Nathan said and turned, mistakenly kicking the pile of clothes on the floor. Nathan bent over and noticed the long tear in the pants.
"Buck?" Nathan said sternly, mentally adding up Ezra and Josiah's actions, and Bucks unusual short answers, as he held up the pants showing off the tear.
"Moths?" Buck smiled, knowing he was caught.
"From the looks of it I'd say four maybe five of them. Keep him in bed, Buck." Nathan left no room for argument, as he looked to the young man in the bed, who had fallen to sleep again the minute his head hit the pillow.
"Okay, Nate, I promise," Buck said honestly.
"Heard that already," Nathan smiled, making his way out the door and headed to Thompkins'