Chris came out of the boarding house, Ezra close behind, neither of them hiding the worry they felt. They had heard JD yelling and concluded the kid had run into Buck. Buck most likely couldn't help but notice the boy's appearance and showed concern for him as usual, but things had changed, something Buck might have momentarily forgot.
Buck sat on the boardwalk with his head in his hands, shaking.
Buck very slowly raised his head to face his oldest friend. Chris could see the hurt in his face, this man was losing one of the best friends he'd ever had in the kid, and what made it worse..he could be losing the chance to be a father to the young man he'd grown so fond of, Chris could do nothing but sit next to the man and put an arm of consolation around his oldest friend's shoulder, like Buck had done for him.
"Give him time, Buck."
"I wished he'd pulled that trigger.." came a tired voice, once just as lively as the kid's.
"He pulled his gun on you?" Chris knew the kid was in trouble, he didn't know how much until now.
"He ..looked..so... I didn't want him to go off and do..." Buck couldn't find the words, he knew what he wanted to say..the words just got lost somewhere.
"Vin's keeping a good eye on him," Buck nodded.
"Ezra's heading to the telegram office to send out that telegram," Chris changed the subject.
"You found out where he was born?" Josiah asked, even he was still shaken with the events that he'd witnessed.
"Virginia, JD told us," Chris smiled a reassuring smile
"How long before we find anything," Buck's flat tone making it more a statement then a question.
"Don't really know, Ezra says it might be a couple of weeks, or longer." He hated to add that last part, but felt it was important to honest.
"He's never gonna forgive me," Buck was wallowing in self pity, and nobody denied him the right to do so.
"Buck, he's been given a lot to deal with, I ain't blaming you, let him work through this, Buck. We're all steppin' on eggshells here with him."
"Not Vin," Buck couldn't help but feel jealous. Over the last two or three months the youngest members had grown closer, like Chris and JD had.
"Buck, cut the jealousy crap," Chris stated, seeing right through his statement. "If Vin's the only one of us that can keep JD's head even, then so be it. Look," Chris sighed, knowing he had gotten angry with Buck and not meaning to, "Vin's always let JD be JD. Hell, Vin knows more about that kid than any of us do. He'll let him do what he has to do. He ain't mad at ya, Buck."
"He pulled his gun on me, Chris! How can you say he ain't mad at me?"
"He needed to go somewhere, and you stopped him..he ain't thinking right, Buck. You tried to stop him, that's what he reacted to..it would have been the same if was Josiah, Nathan, Ezra, or me. He's mad as hell at his mother..and he can't go to her and yell and scream..so he's doin' it to everyone else."
"Remind you of someone?" Buck said, half seriously, Chris' words working to ease the scoundrel's mind.
"Yeah..and if I'm not mistaken, you were my 'Vin'," Chris smiled sadly, remembering how Buck took the brunt of Chris's anger after Sarah and Adam died.
Chris stood and extended his hand to his oldest friend, who took it gratefully and stood. The hardened gunslinger then did the unexpected, he pulled Buck into an sympathetic embrace.
"He'll be back, and he's going to be okay, I promise," the man whispered to Buck. He nodded and pulled away.
"Thanks," he said hanging his head, wiping away the tears..not sure if they were for the young man he feared for or for the show of emotion that Buck thought he'd never think Chris would ever be capable of again. Even in JD's grief he was responsible for that, like he was responsible for bringing out everything Buck remembered about the old Chris.
+ + + + + + +
Vin suspected JD was heading for the spot they had been at that morning, for the first time since he had met JD he had no idea what he'd do. The kid was in such a state when he'd left town,Vin could think only the worse.
Vin had listened to the kid's distressed questions of 'why', it didn't take long for Vin to realize JD hadn't even begun to deal with the fact that Buck could be his father. He felt betrayed and lied to by his mother, and that brought all sorts of doubt to JD, was everything she taught him and showed him a lie? JD was close to the edge, his action in town showed that, Vin just hoped he could get to JD before he went over it.
Vin dismounted before he got too close, the last thing he wanted to do was startle JD. He was kneeling at the wooden plaque he had placed there only hours before, when everything was still the right way.
Vin cautiously walked into the opening. JD wasn't saying anything, he moved and sat, bringing his knees to his chest, wrapping his arms in front of his legs, and rested his chin on his arms. Vin approached JD, watching for any sudden movements that he might make.
"JD?" Vin said softly. JD never brought his head up.
"Why did she lie? I loved her so much, Vin. Why di..." Vin didn't think it was possible for any more tears to come before the boy shriveled up, he was wrong.
Vin sat down close to the young man and put a strong arm around his shoulders, and brought him closer, like an older brother would do to comfort his younger sibling. Vin felt a sudden rush, doing this felt right... it had suddenly filled a void in Vin that he never knew he had.
He rested his chin on JD's head and began to talk to JD, sensing he was ready to listen, and talk.
"I wish I could tell you why your mother did what she did."
"I loved her..so much..how..how cou.."
"JD.. What your mother did..before, it has nothin' to do with the woman she was ..or the person you've grown into. What she taught you..How she raised you..that made you who you are today..in here," Vin pointed to JD's chest.
Vin noticed the boy never flinched, he was listening, he was hearing what Vin said, and he was trying to process it, and make sense out of it.
"I don't hate her. Can ..I mean..is it okay ..to be...." JD couldn't finish
"To be mad at her?" JD nodded as if ashamed at the thought. "Ya can still love her, JD. It's all right to be mad at her. Kid," Vin turned and grabbed JD's face and looked him in the eyes, "there ain't one man in town that don't expect anything less from ya. Ya understand what I'm sayin'?" Vin tried to read the hazel eyes, and through the red and tired tears he could see the glint of understanding.
"JD, I'm sure your mother had her reason for doin' what she did, don't mean she wasn't a good person. Look at all those women in Wickestown, not all of them was bad people," Vin making his point. Vin could feel the tension leave the air surrounding the boy, it would take time, but JD would be able to forgive his mother.
"Buck probably hates me," JD said sadly.
Vin didn't really know how this battle would play out. He knew JD just wanted everything to be back to normal, but it wouldn't be..it couldn't be.
"He's worried about ya."
"Worried? I pulled my gun on him, Vin..I told.. I told him I .." JD shivered at the thought.
"I know.. JD, he understands, he ain't gonna be mad at ya, he just wants ya safe."
"I..I can't ..I can't talk to him, Vin."
"Not .." JD let out a heavy emotional sigh."Do you think she wrote a name down?" "Yeah, I do." JD nodded, he was sure his mother had.
"You think, I mean, you think he is?"
"Dunno, Jonathan's a pretty common name."
"My father's name was Jonathan." Vin divulged information not even Chris knew. It felt right to do so.
"Did you know him?"
"Nope, all I know is he died when I was seven, he left couple of years after I was born, don't even know what he looked like."
"Guess we got some stuff in common," JD tried a chuckle.
The two young men sat at the tree and talked about everything and nothing, JD learning more about Vin's childhood, more than Vin had ever divulged before, never feeling uncomfortable with JD's questions, and finding it easy to answer them. They even discussed their mothers, and decided they were similar as well.
Time passed and the sky began losing light.
"They're gonna come out looking for us, ya ready to head back?"
"Yeah, hey, Vin?"
"Could ..would ya tell Buck I'm sorry, 'bout before?"
"Ya wanna tell him yourself?"
"I can't," JD answered honestly.
"Sure, I'll tell him," and Vin mounted up.
"Vin, thanks," JD said mounting beside him.
"Thanks, for everything."
"That's what brothers do, right?" Vin smiled.
"Yeah, I guess," JD let out a fraction of the usual smile...but it was a start.
+ + + + + + +
"It's gonna be dark soon," Buck said anxiously looking to the end of town.
"I'm sure there fine, maybe Vin got him to talk." Chris tried to push the worry he had and ease Buck's worry. It wasn't helping Chris, but it appeared to help Buck.
"Can't imagine how much hate he's havin'."
"You and I both know the kid doesn't know how to hate."
"I don't know, Chris, he scared me."
"He scared me to, pard. Vin will bring him back," Chris stated confidently.
+ + + + + + +
The younger men were about an hour from Four Corners, Vin had watched JD closely, the kid had begun to waver every once in a while, his head was bobbing,and his body relaxed a bit too much and he began to fall. Vin jumped off his horse and was able to catch JD before he hit the ground, the momentum sending both to the ground, but not as hard as it could have been.
"Hey, you okay?" Vin asked as JD's heavy eyes opened.
"Guess I'm just tired." Vin nodded, and checked his forehead, remembering he'd cut his hand.
"Let me check your hand." JD lifted his hand to the man sitting next to him, Vin saw the dirty and torn bandage around the kid's hand, stained slightly with blood.
"What the hell did you do?" Vin asked, trying not to be too concerned.
"I punched the tree," he hung his head in shame, "Nathan's gonna be mad," he added solemnly.
"Yeah, he is," Vin smiled, happy to get some of the kid back. He unwrapped the bandages, noticing some of the smaller cuts had ripped back open, but the kid's hand had swelled. He tenderly touched at one of the spots on the knuckles, then retracted his hand quickly with a gasp.
"I don't know if it's broken."
"Guess that was pretty stupid of me."
"Well, not one of your smarter moments," Vin said lightly.
"Nathan's gonna be worse than mad."
"You got that right, and he's gonna have my hide."
"I told them I'd bring ya back in one piece," Vin joked.
"I'm still together..." JD started to defend himself
"I'm takin' you with me, you're too tired, I ain't gonna listen to no arguing."
"Your older," JD sighed, sharing in their private joke.
The two men arrived in Four Corners just as the dark claimed all the light. Nathan took the exhausted JD from Vin, and as he dismounted Nathan noticed the bandage had been tampered with.
"What's this," he turned to Vin, holding the bandage hand in his hand.
"He punched a tree."
"And you let him?" Nathan was tired and edgy from everything that had gone on that day and the stress finally caught in his voice.
"No, I did it before Vin got there, sorry Nathan," JD said, trying to make it up the stairs with Josiah's help.
"Sorry Vin," Nathan apologized knowing the tracker didn't need it, and went to the clinic.
Vin made his way to the livery with the two horses, and began taking care of them. A shadow blocked the moonlight shining through the door, and Vin looked to the silhouette.
"How ya doin', Buck?" Buck noticed the lift in the bounty hunter's voice.
"Yeah, he wanted me to tell ya somethin'."
"Why didn't he tell me himself?"
"Buck," Vin started towards the man, he'd never seen him look this bad, even after a busy 'night'. "Give him some time, he still ain't made peace with his momma, but he's tryin'. He wanted me to tell ya he was sorry, about before." "I shouldn't have said anythin', gotta learn .." "Buck, it's done," Vin paused, and then looked back to his fellow gunslinger, "Can I ask you somethin'?"
"Yeah." Buck wondered what Vin had on his mind.
"You gonna be happy, if JD's yours?" It was an honest question, one Vin wanted the answer to.
"Who wouldn't want JD as there's, he'd make any father proud," came the quick answer. Vin nodded and smiled. Then tilted his head and looked at him again.
"What if he ain't?"
The mustached man stood dumbfounded, he hadn't thought of the possibility. What would it be like to face the man who tore apart your world every day? Would Buck be able to face that man? Buck didn't think he could, how would JD?
"I don't really know, probably leave, I guess."
"How's he ever gonna respect me? I'm.. I did all this, Vin.."
"You forget JD has a big heart? Once his head gets clear, he'll be able to listen to his heart."
Buck smiled, knowing Vin was right, and only hoped JD's heart was louder than his head.
+ + + + + + +
Vin and Buck made there way back towards the clinic, Vin had explained what had happened and Buck wanted to hear from Nathan that JD was okay. The two men met Nathan on the boardwalk waiting for them.
"How's his hand, Nate?"
"Just bruised it a bit, had to restitch some little cuts, Chris just went to settle him in," Nathan smiled at the men. "Come on, lets get a drink," Nathan added, and the three men headed to join Josiah and Ezra, knowing they would be there.
The young man entered the room, he noticed it had been cleaned, leaving no sign of the destruction he had left. The young man turned to the man next to him with a puzzled look.
"Ezra," Chris said flatly.
"I must have scared him too, huh?" JD trying to cover his embarrassment with a smile. Chris didn't buy it.
"You scared everyone," he said seriously.
" I know, I'm sorry," JD nodded as he said it.
"No need to be sorry, you've had a hell of a day, s..JD," Chris editing his last word, remembering the tear it sent JD on last time. "Chris, you don't...have..to ..well..watch what ya say." Chris hadn't been able to cover it up, he had to look down to the floor to hide his twinge of embarrassment.
"I'm just all messed up, Chris, what am I supposed to do?"
"I can't tell you what to do, but I can give you some advice an old wise friend told me."
"What?" JD looked hopeful, maybe he had the answers he'd been looking for.
"He told me to listen to my heart."
"Vin told me the same thing, he your 'old wise friend'?" JD smiled a bit.
"Did you listen?"
"Not right off, but I'm starting to," Chris grinned, trying to tell JD he started listening because of him. The two men sat in silence for a long time. Chris not wanting to push, and JD trying to sort things out in his head. JD finally broke the silence.
"How long it gonna take to find out? I mean if he is..or if..he ..if he ain't?"
"Ezra thinks a couple of weeks at the most."
JD blew a puff from his mouth causing his ever present hair to go up with the force.
"You been thinking about that? If he is or he isn't?"
"Yeah, startin' to."
"And?" Chris thought that if JD talked it out, maybe it wouldn't be so jumbled in his head. JD stood abruptly and crossed the room.
"That's it I *don't* know, I mean.. I try to think about it..and I don't know, everything gets mixed up," he said, pacing the room like a animal in a too small cage.
"Okay, JD, settle down. Listen." Chris saw the exasperated look on the boy's face, "What if he's not your father?"
"Well, I guess things would get back to what they used to be like I guess, I mean they couldn't be just like they were."
"You gonna hold this against Buck?"
"No," he answered quickly, "it ain't really his fault is it..I mean.. I don't know if we could be friends like we were."
"Cause every time I see him chasing another woman.. I just.. I don't think I could handle that, not right off, maybe in time."
"What if Buck's your father? How you going to feel about that?"
JD sighed and without hesitation answered him honestly, "I don't want another father."
"How do you mean?" Chris felt his stomach clench, had the kid been feeling the way he had? He eyed the young man who sat down in front of him and looked him in the eye.
"I already have you."
" + + + + + + +
Days had passed, and slowly JD was coming back. He had stayed pretty close to Chris and Vin, and they stayed close to him. JD hadn't yet been able to speak to Buck, but could be in the same room for more than a few minutes.
Buck was very cautious around JD, the kid had even managed a smile of 'hello' in passing. Buck taking that as a good sign. Making the man smile and renewing his hope that someday things would be normal again.
Ezra had received telegrams, in regards to the one he had sent. He had requested that he be kept up to date as possible on the process. They had located no less than six John Dunnes born in Virginia in that same year, and wanted to know the exact day of the subjects birth if possible.
Ezra had passed by Chris after receiving the last request of information, but hadn't seen the leader due to the concentration of reading the telegram.
"Ah, Mr.Larabee..pardon my distraction."
"That from Virginia?"
"Yes, they have made some progress."
"Is Buck his fa.."
"They are requesting more information. The young man's birthdate."
"So they're getting close"
"Yes, they have six dates listed, all I have to do is find if any of these dates coincides with Mr. Dunne's day of birth, and send back the day in question, then they will send the information they have." Ezra didn't know if he should be excited or not, the news would change the boy's life no matter what.
"What are the dates?" Chris asked anxiously, something the men had gotten used to in the past weeks. The leader had softened towards the others a bit, most of them attributing it to the turmoil in the past week.
Only Vin knew the reason, Chris had told him what JD had said. The leader was surprised by the lack of a reaction from his friend, Vin simply said he was surprised it took Chris so long to figure it out.
"Lets see..the dates in question... April seventh, April twelfth, June twenty-fourth, July sixteenth, July nineteenth, and September twelfth."
"He's at the jail..let's go ask him."
Ezra nodded and the men headed for the jail, the answers they all desperately wanted were close, their only worry, that JD's birthday wouldn't be there on the list and the search would go on, not one of these men wanted this to go unresolved.
The door to the jail opened to reveal JD and Vin relating a story to Josiah, the kid waving exaggerated hand gestures and Vin adding to it. The three men were smiling and laughing, and Ezra and Chris looked at each other with slight smiles, each happy to see JD was healing inside and able to let his old self show. The door stopped all the conversation as it shut, caught by the slight wind, causing everyone to start a bit.
Six eyes looked to the door.
"Hey, Chris, Ezra," JD greeted in his ever jubilant way, not hiding his all to familiar smile.
"Gentlemen," Ezra nodded, before continuing, "Mr. Dunne, as much as I dislike to interrupt your banter in relating of a story, that I know not the origin of, I am in need of information to," Ezra cleared his throat, "to aide in establishing your..heritage."
"Like what?" JD asked, his voice growing quiet.
"The day of your birth," Ezra stated, hating to send the young man back into the place it had taken days to get out of.
"July nineteenth," he answered quietly, he wanted answers, but he just wanted it to all to go away, too, and it showed all over his face.
Ezra almost smiled, the answer would be coming, but the look on JD's face only made Ezra apologize.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Dunne."
"Don't apologize, Ezra, is that gonna help?"
"Yes, it shouldn't be long." And Ezra left, to go return a message to Virginia. Ezra thought they would have an answer by the end of the day, the information was there, all he had to do was give the birthday and they would send the information in question by telegram, Ezra had made it clear of the importance of the situation.
"Ezra close to findin' out?" JD asked Chris, seeing Ezra leave as soon as he got what he needed.
"Yeah, they sent him six dates."
"One of them mine?" JD asked semi-hopeful.
"Yup, probably know later today, you up to that?"
"Sooner we get this all straightened out the better," he said tensely and left the jail.
JD sighed, everything had become surreal in the past week. Not talking to Buck had taken it's toll on him. The others were there for Buck, making sure he was okay, but JD found out that Buck had pretty much kept to himself. The young sheriff felt bad for making Buck feel like he had to put himself in exile.
JD had written a note to Buck, although he could be 'with' Buck, he still couldn't talk to him. Chris had given the note to Buck who read it and sighed, "Damn kid", in the affectionate way he could. He gave the note back to Chris who read it. The note consisted of only four words, but brought hope to both men
'Please don't leave. JD.'
" + + + + + + +
Six men were sitting at a table eating supper, sitting in what had become a common order, of sorts. Buck in between Nathan and Josiah and JD sitting between Chris and Vin. Ezra usually thrown into the mix of protective and safe 'barriers', had forgone dinner to haunt the telegraph office for a response.
As the men had ate, the conversation didn't appear to be stressed and the only way someone would have known anything was wrong was the fact that JD and Buck didn't speak. JD had been caught looking towards the man as he spoke and would respond to something funny, but wouldn't speak, it was the same the other way.
The men were rendered silent as a young voice cleared his throat, and spoke to the mustached man for the first time in what had seemed forever.
"How was your patrol, Buck?"
The noise of the cafe was drowned out by silence, Buck could hardly answer. He swallowed several times, trying to find his voice in the gulps of air he took in, finally succeeding.
"It, ah..it was good," he choked out with emotion.
JD gave the man a slight reassuring smile and went back to his meal. JD missed Buck, to no end. And he knew how guilty Buck felt about what happened, knowing he wouldn't push JD into a conversation or throw himself at the kid either.
JD decided that the time had come to say something to Buck, if nothing else to let him know he didn't blame him for anything, and that he was forgiven. JD had spent the time he left the jail, after Ezra had left, thinking.
He did as Chris and Vin suggested, he listened to his heart. His heart told him he missed Buck, and if this man, who he had grown to love as a friend, wasn't his father than so be it. His heart also told him that if this man was his father, he would deal with that as well, but he would make it clear to Buck of Chris' place as well. With everything that had happened in the last few months, JD had seen Chris, not as a hardened gunslinger, but more as a father figure. The way he had been there, talked to him, made him feel safe.
JD's thoughts were interrupted by Ezra holding a yellow piece of paper that held the fate of two men. The men put there silverware or glass down on the table. The two men in question looked to each other silently trying to convince the other they were ready, and the group stood. They walked behind Ezra in single file toward the jail, like a prison warden escorting condemned men.
The jail house door opened and the men entered, the last to enter were Chris and JD, the kid had stalled at the entrance. Chris saw he was physically shaking.
"I can't do this, Chris."
"Yes, you can."
'No..I can't.. I mean...what if he is? And what if he isn't?"
"Vin and I are gonna be right there with you, you aren't alone in there."
JD took a deep breath and nodded and opened the door. He looked at Ezra who held the piece of paper in his hand, trying to read the gambler. He wasn't surprised that he couldn't, but he didn't know if that was good or bad. JD sat in the chair next to the desk, with Chris standing next to him with his hand on his shoulder, giving him the strength, or adding to Chris', to hear what had to be said.
Ezra looked around the room at the faces of his friends, knowing he had the fate of two important people in his hand. He settled his look on Chris for a signal to read the telegram. He got a nod, and the usually wordy gambler took a deep breath and stepped to the young man in question, knelt down and looked him in the eye, and spoke.
+ + + + + + +
"He's not your father."
The room was silent. JD wasn't prepared for that. He did the only thing he could and looked to Buck, who had his face in his hands, shoulders heaving..and JD couldn't breathe. He looked to Chris, knocked into Ezra and bolted out the door, with Chris right behind him.
Vin looked to the two men at Buck's side, Nathan sending a nod to the tracker to go with Chris and JD. Ezra stopped Vin by the arm.
"Take care of him.. I need to talk to you when you have the time." The look in the gambler's eye's unsettled him, but he shook it off, nodded, and left to find the two men he had grown to care about, deeply.
"Buck, I know how much you wanted this," Josiah comforted. They had talked more about this and Buck had begun hoping that JD was his son.
"He didn't," Buck said between sobs.
"He wanted answers, Buck."
"You would be incorrect of your assumption, Mr. Wilmington," Ezra stated as he came to do the same action he had with the boy just moments ago.
"What?" Buck asked, as Josiah and Nathan looked questioningly at Ezra.
"This," he held the paper, waving it in his hand, "wasn't what he wanted, he had indeed embraced the belief that you were his father. He began to demonstrate that this evening did he not?" Ezra had noticed the silence when he stepped into the cafe.
"How'd you know?"
"Young Mr. Dunne and I had talked one evening, and after he voiced his opinion on the matter, I encouraged him to reestablish communication with you, no matter how meager the words." Ezra stood from Buck and placed his hand on Buck's shoulder and squeezed, "I am truly sorry, for both of you," Ezra said honestly.
"Thank you, Ezra," Buck tried to smile. Ezra nodded and returned the smile and left the jailhouse.
JD didn't know what to do, he paced back and forth in the alley next to the jail house, he wanted to run, but didn't know where to go. The confusion that he had first felt from days before came all over again. The confusion wasn't about Buck this time, it wasn't 'what do I do if he is or isn't', it was more was he happy or sad. How did he feel, relief, sadness? He felt it all, he was confused, plain and simple.
He stopped pacing and settled himself , in defeat, against the wall of the jail. He slumped down the wall , his hands trying to hide his face. Chris began walking to the young man he had had to comfort too many times, in the last months, to comfort him again. Vin tried to follow but was held back by Ezra, and a very serious look on his face.
"Read this," he said simply.
Vin took the paper from the gambler hesitantly. Ezra hadn't mixed words, or hid his look, sending a shiver down Vin's back, when that combination was present with Ezra..it was never good.
The tracker opened the message and read it, he snapped his head up at Ezra, wide eyes looking at the man. He looked towards the leader, his friend, at the boy's side, comforting him in such a way it appeared fatherly.
"He needs to know," Vin said quietly.
"I think so as well," all the charm and fancy words escaped the southern gentleman.
Vin turned and walked to the two in the alley, and ended up standing next to JD, wondering how he would tell his two friends. Both looked up at the tracker, feeling his presence.
"That..does it say ..who?" JD asked in tired voice.
"Yeah, it does." He handed the piece of paper to JD, as he stole a glance to Chris.
JD unfolded the piece of paper wiped his eyes on his sleeve. Chris and JD scanned the paper until they came to the part they were looking for. JD lifted his head and caught Chris' eyes. And both men turned to Vin who had squatted in front of them, watching for the expressions of how the news would go over.
Chris put his hand over his mouth, digesting what he'd just read, almost not believing it.
"I..I don't..know..wha.." JD tried.
"I didn't either..it's true.."
"What...what does..what does it mean, Vin?" JD needing someone to say it.
"It means we're brothers."
+ + + + + + +
The young man stared dumbfounded. In just a few short weeks what he thought was his life had been taken away, replaced with self doubt, anger, grief, and finally acceptance. Then in just a few well placed words going back to grief and sadness at finding out Buck wasn't his father, and now, now he felt something he hadn't experienced in the previous weeks, amazement. He looked to his new found older brother.
"I'm sorry," he said, not knowing how Vin felt.
"Sorry?" Vin was alarmed, and went to his knees and held his younger brother's head, "Don't be sorry, JD. That means you ain't happy about this."
"You're happy?" JD thought, how could anyone be happy about finding out he was their brother?
"JD.... You and me, we talked..when you found out..you know." Referring to the time they had spent at the tree, the day they had found out about his mother. JD nodded, never breaking contact with Vin's eyes, as both men's eyes filled.
"JD..you and me..and everyone, we've been brothers ever since we met. We got a family."
"This...this is different," JD's lack of self esteem, something he'd had fought successfully the moment he'd jumped off that stage, reared it's head.
"Yeah, this *is* different..this is better, we share blood, JD. You're my brother," Vin smiled, finally letting the tears from his eyes fall.
The young man had no tears to shed, with a quivery lip showing his only emotion he turned to Chris, the one that always had the answers, or at least pointed him in the right direction. All he got from Chris was a smile, Chris stood and grabbed JD's hand pulling him up to stand
"Well, you gonna let everyone else on the good news?" Chris asked, showing his 'approval'. As the trio made there way out of the alley and back into the jail.
Good news, JD thought, and it finally sunk in. It was good news. He had a brother. JD couldn't help but smile.
"This week has sure been confusin'," the young man said, understating the obvious to the two others.
Chris put a fatherly arm around JD, "Yeah, I know it has. Things will start changing."
"I can't handle any more changes, can't it get back to normal?"
"Give some time little brother," Vin couldn't help but smile as he said it. It only added to the reality of it all to JD, who couldn't help but smile.
The men stepped up to the jail and JD looked at Vin, "You ain't gonna go around and call me that all the time are you?" trying to sound annoyed.
"Course I am," Vin said seriously that sent a feeling of warmth to JD.
"You think he needs this right now?" referring to Buck.
"Yeah, I do, but I think you two need to tell him, Ezra and I can tell the others."
As if on cue, the gambler opened the door and stepped out of the jail, closing the door behind him. The others had started to worry that neither Vin or Chris had come to tell them that JD was okay, Ezra knowing the reason, 'volunteered' to see if things were okay. He looked to the three in question, and tilted his head.
"Do I give my congratulations?" Ezra asked the youngest of the two brothers.
"Yeah, thanks Ezra," he paused, "Is Buck okay?"
"Mr. Wilmington is faring fairly well, although, I must add, he hasn't lost his 'mother grizzly' instinct. I'm sure his heart will begin to heal when you enlighten him with your new found brother," trying to let JD know that this would be welcomed news.
"I hope so, I guess I messed up pretty bad."
"Not at all, Mr. Dunne, not all. You handled this very well."
"Thanks," JD was unconvinced, but accepted it just the same.
"Ready?" Vin asked, and JD nodded.
JD opened the door and stepped in, holding his breath. Vin was right after him, as was Chris. The leader looked at Buck, and said he was sorry with his eyes, and Buck answering with his eyes that he was okay.
"Josiah, Nathan..they need to talk."
+ + + + + + +
The two men left but stopped when they realized that Vin didn't leave with them.
"I thought you said JD and Buck needed to talk," Nathan asked, his curiosity getting the better of him.
"May I ask why Vin is there as well?" Josiah giving into it as well.
"Well, seems JD has a brother," Chris said, still not able to hide his pleasure for the two youngest members of the seven.
'You mean..?" Josiah said.
"Buck and JD?" Nathan asked.
"No!" Chris figured it was obvious.
"Vin and JD?" Nathan and Josiah asked together.
"Yup," Ezra surprised everyone.
The men continued onto the saloon, asking how the two had taken it, and how happy they were for the two, and then going back to how Buck would be.
Chris had the men convinced that Buck would be glad, and with time very much okay with it. Every single man had been effected by what had been found, some more than others, but for now the turmoil and upheaval would be done, and all that was left was sorting it all out and dealing with it.
+ + + + + + +
The three men stayed in silence, not knowing what to say. Neither one realizing how much they had wanted this, to be father and son. The relationship they had was already established, the trust, the faith, and how they cared for each other. Finding out that they weren't, had almost been as upsetting as finding out they could have been.
The older man lifted his head.
"So am I, JD, I shouldn't have said anything."
"I'm glad ya did, Buck. I am, I know I didn't show it, but after I thought about it..you know.. Buck, I wished it would have been you." Buck hadn't expected that, and it showed.
"I wanted it too, kid.... It ever gonna get back to the way it was?" Buck pleaded.
"Yeah, I think it can. But.."
"I know with time.."
"Yeah, but I found out somethin else, too," JD handed the mustached man the paper.
"Read it." Buck read the paper, and at the place where JD had stopped reading, Buck read the name of 'Jonathan Tanner' and stopped as well.
"This say what I think it says?" Buck throwing his self pity aside.
"JD and I have the same father," Vin still not being able to hide his happiness, but JD taking a careful look to Buck and smiled, at his reaction.
"Yeah, Buck. Vin and me are brothers."
"Well, hot damn!" He rose, shaking Vin's hand and grabbing JD in one of his famous bear hugs.. "At least somethin good came out of it!!"
"The shoulder Buck, the shoulder!" JD's pleads muffled by the tall man's chest.
Vin smiled and shook his head. Things would be okay, he had a brother and the world was good, at least for today.
"Hey, break it up you two, people gonna start talkin'," Vin tried to be serious.
"Oh, yeah..you okay kid?"
"I'm fine, anyone thirsty?" JD smiled, glad things were back to normal.
The three made their way to the saloon, Buck came storming through the doors and made his way to the table not saying a word. JD and Vin waited outside, wanting to come in at the right time.
"You all know about this?" Buck not hiding his anger.
"Yeah, I just told the others..Buck," Chris started.
"What Chris? What your sorry?"
"Buck," Nathan tried.
"Well..you should be sorry," Buck hung his head in shame, for effect.
"Mr. Wilmington. We are sending our sym.."
"Don't give me no fancy words, Ezra."
"Brother Buck, I.."
"Of everyone sittin' here, Josiah, I figured you would know what to do."
The men sat and looked quizzically at the distressed man, no one seemed to be able to reach Buck. Chris thought it would go one way or the other. Just then JD and Vin came through the doors and made there way to the table.
Vin placed himself between JD and Buck protectively, and walked to face Buck.
"There a problem here, Buck?"
"Yeah, there is," Buck seethed. Chris stood to defend, who he really didn't know.
"This got somethin' to do with me and my brother?" Vin trying hard not to smile, but didn't succeed.
"Yeah, Vin..no one's celebratin'!" Buck laughed through his words, not hiding the smile.
"Jesus, Buck" Chris sighed out loud, not meaning to and sat back in his chair.
Ezra waved his hand to the barkeep and a bottle of whiskey and a mug of milk was brought to the table. The seven men stood around the table, raised their glasses and Buck toasted the new found brothers, and themselves.
"To family," Buck said, nodding to JD and Vin, then the others joined in.