by May Robinson
ATF Alternate Universe
Sequel to The Anniversary
Rating: PG-13 for language
Disclaimer: The following is a work of fan fiction based on the CBS television series, The Magnificent Seven. It is in no way intended to infringe on the copyrights of CBS, MGM, The Trilogy Entertainment Group, The Mirisch Corp., or anyone else who may have legal rights to the characters and settings. I do not claim ownership of the characters. This story is strictly for entertainment. No monetary gain will be made from it.
Warnings: This story won't make much sense without reading The Anniversary, first. The only characters in this little fic are Buck and JD. Smarm and angst within.
Notes: I had a few requests for a sequel and although I doubt this is what people had in mind, this is where Buck and JD decided to lead me.
Buck Wilmington sat on the edge of his couch, nervously drumming his fingers on the armrest, oblivious to the fact that fellow ATF agent, roommate and surrogate baby-brother; JD Dunne, was changing channels with the remote control at the speed of light.
Normally, Buck would have swatted the kid with a pillow by now, or even playfully cuffed the kid in the head, but Buck was distracted tonight, trying to come up with the 'right way' to have a talk with the kid, knowing that the talk would rekindle some tough memories for JD. Damn. How did I get myself into this?
Buck's chest grew tight just thinking about the accident, three months ago, which nearly cost JD his life. The boy had suffered so much, emotionally and physically while he endured countless hours of physiotherapy, trying to return his shattered limbs to the athletic, peak condition they had been in before JD had been struck down by a hit and run driver.
Buck's mind reeled as he remembered that fateful day. Witnessing JD being hit and thrown off the overpass had been the most horrific experience of the agent's life. At least that's how he had felt, until minutes later JD had stopped breathing and Buck had to helplessly watch the paramedics frantically try to clear the boy's airway. That feeling was even worse. As JD's fight for his life continued, and he had slipped into a coma following major surgery, Buck then realized that it was ultimately that time, while sitting in vigil next to the boy's bedside, that had become the most agonizing of Wilmington's life.
Buck hadn't been ready to lose the kid; hell he never would be ready, but the significance of JD being so seriously hurt on the first anniversary of the boy's mother's death, had been just too much to bear.
Although Buck had never met JD's mother, he somehow felt a strong connection with her. After all, she was responsible for raising the kid to become the young man Buck adored more than anything. JD wasn't just like a kid brother to him; JD was his kid brother...and his son, and his best friend. Buck would do anything for JD, including what he had decided to do while JD was still recovering from the accident. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
Unfortunately, Buck had kept putting off telling JD about it, because it involved the kid's mother. The loss of JD's mom was still a very painful issue for the boy, and Buck always left it up to JD to bring her up in any conversation. So, Buck hated like hell knowing that tonight's discussion would inevitably result in seeing those bright hazel eyes well up with tears, and bring despair to the boy's face. The agent sighed heavily. Should've left well enough alone.
This wasn't going to be easy on either of them.
The older agent's sad reverie was interrupted by the exasperated call of his name.
"Sorry, kid. Wasn't listenin.' You wanna run that by me, again?"
The boy's brow furrowed, and JD looked at his older friend in irritation. "Christ, Buck. And you think I've got the attention span of a gnat!" The boy then grinned, recognizing his golden opportunity to throw one of his big brother's own reprimands back at him, for once. "Now quit yer daydreamin' and tell me what you wanna watch?!"
Buck looked at the kid in mock indignation, and then he grinned. He got such a kick out of JD. The two of them bickered constantly, but it was all in fun. Unfortunately Buck's sense of humor was short-lived tonight. Damn. He took a deep breath.
"Sorry, kid. How 'bout nothin,' son. You 'n me need to have a talk."
JD didn't like the serious tone in Buck's voice and immediately turned the TV off and set the remote down on the coffee table. He had noticed that Buck had seemed preoccupied all night, but JD didn't really know how to approach his friend to find out what was wrong. Normally, the shoe was on the other foot, and JD was on the receiving end of advice, support or comfort. The boy was usually quite comfortable in that role of younger brother, but the fact that Buck was so wound-up and wanted to have what was obviously a serious talk with him, meant only one thing to JD...Shit. I've screwed something up.
He turned to Buck, worry written all over his expressive face. "Sure, Buck. I do somethin' wrong?"
Damn. That wasn't the reaction Buck was looking for at all. Hell, I've got him upset already, and I haven't even started, yet. He reached over and smoothed his hand along the boy's mop of hair. "Damn, son. Nothin,' kid. Nothin' at all." Buck threw the kid a reassuring smile, but JD was feeling increasingly uncomfortable, anyway. Buck just never was this serious...about anything.
Buck knew he had the boy's undivided attention, and so took another deep breath and began to speak. "Son, it ain't somethin' you've done, but somethin' I went ahead and did a while ago...and...and I've been meaning to tell ya, but just kept puttin' it off, 'cause I figured it would upset ya."
Okay, now I'm really worried! For a boy working in what was truly a man's world, JD held a confidence that belied his twenty years. But when it came to matters of the heart, or family, the kid could still easily crumble. Losing his only family when his mother had passed away had devastated the boy. And although he really had not expected to find another family for years, JD had stumbled into one. The ATF team had come along, and JD found he was part of a family of seven brothers, with one of them in particular ~ big brother Buck Wilmington ~ becoming the most important person in JD's life. Buck had taken JD in and given him a home and security, and despite his cocky attitude, the boy actually clung to that security, desperately afraid of losing the one person he loved most in his life, again. So, when Buck spoke such ominous words to JD as, 'went and did somethin,' 'meaning to tell ya,' 'figured it would upset ya,' the boy found himself beginning to think the worst.
Although JD's heart was breaking, he put on his best mask, and attempted to act the adult. "Okay, Buck. Go ahead. I'm ready. You can tell me."
JD's mask typically didn't work around Buck. Shit! Buck could read JD like a book, and the quiver in the boy's voice, and those hazel eyes beginning to fill, told Buck that he was blowing this big-time and was definitely sending the wrong message to the kid. "Aw, hell, JD. This ain't goin' right at all, son. Now you just hold on a minute and let me spit this all out, before I have that imagination of yours thinking I'm about to run out on ya, or somethin' just as foolish."
How'd he know? JD stared at Buck in astonishment, but then let out a relieved sigh. He's not leavin.' Thank God. "You're really not leavin' then," JD asked with a hopeful grin.
Buck ran his hands through his hair. Stupid little shit. Fool kid just doesn't haven't a clue about him 'n me...not a goddamn clue. He could just tell where the boy's imagination had been heading, and this uncertainty about his place in Buck's life constantly baffled the man. He had to nip the kid's fears in the bud before the night was completely shot to hell. Buck's voice was husky and full of honesty. "Damnit, son. Where else would I wanna be, kid?"
JD lowered his head, his wayward bangs hiding his eyes. "I don't know, Buck. It hasn't been all that easy for you the last few months while I was hurt. Hell you haven't really been on a date or brought a lady home since I got hit."
Buck sat back and thought about that for a minute. Jesus, he's right. How 'bout that! The ladies' man had been so all-consumed by the boy's recovery he hadn't even noticed what he'd been missing. Oddly, all that fact did was make him smile. His eyes twinkled and he teased, "Shit, JD. Son, you think ole Buck doesn't need a break from the fairer sex every now and then. A man could burn out if he doesn't take a breather once in a while, ya know?"
JD grinned. "Aw, Buck. You're so full of crap!"
Buck ruffled the kid's hair and then placed a strong hand on the boy's shoulder. "Yeah, most of the time I am, son...most of the time I am. But...I still have somethin' important to discuss with you, okay? And...it's...it's about your mom."
JD blanched and pulled back from his friend. "Wha...My mom?"
Seeing the bewildered look on JD's face, Buck immediately regretted his actions of two months ago, but he'd opened the gate, so now it was time to come clean. "Kid, remember how you were feeling the day you got hurt...how...upset you were?"
JD's voice became a whisper. "Yeah, sure. I was...I was upset about forgetting the day...the day...mom..." JD looked away and began fumbling with the pillow closest to him. The boy trembled as he felt Buck's reassuring arm drape around his neck.
As he pulled the boy close, Buck's voice became soft. "I know, son. Did you ever wonder how I figured that out?"
JD shrugged his shoulders. "I just thought you knew." The boy looked up in wonder at his friend. "You always know..I mean...especially when somethin's wrong."
Buck let out a quiet chuckle, and tousled the boy's hair. He was amazed and a little unnerved by the kid's eternal faith in him. "Not always, son. Not always." The older man sighed, and his eyes misted as he once again recalled the day he almost lost JD. "Kid, you had us so scared, between tryin' to figure out what had you so upset and then knowin' you were fightin' for yer..." Buck had to swallow the lump forming in his throat.
It was now or never. "Son, after you told me you'd forgotten somethin' about your mom, well, we pulled your personnel files to see if we could find out what it was." Buck held his breath.
JD straightened up in his seat. "You did what?" The kid was confused and even a little angry.
Buck looked pleadingly at the boy. "We were all worried about you, kid, Chris too. With you bein' hurt as bad as you were and sayin' ..." Buck's voice cracked with the memory. "...sayin' thanks to me and all, and so upset about your mom...well...he thought...we thought...figuring it out might help to keep you with us."
"Chris was in on this?" The kid couldn't believe it.
"Yeah, son. We all were. None of us are willin' to lose you, boy..." Buck squeezed the kid tighter. "'Specially me, kid."
JD looked up into the eyes of his big brother, and he could see the painful truth. The boy didn't remember much about his accident, but he did vividly remember waking up to Buck hovering at his bedside, holding his hand and pleading with him to wake up. And JD remembered just how awful Buck had looked. God, he looked like hell. JD had realized then how afraid Buck had been to lose him, and although the magnitude of Buck's concern was overwhelming to JD, it also helped JD to realize that just maybe, Buck loved him as much as he loved Buck. And that warmed the boy's heart.
JD considered for a moment about what his friends did, and nodded his head slowly. He understood. He'd do anything to keep Buck alive if he thought he was going to lose him, and if he thought that looking through Buck's personnel files would provide answers or even a glimmer of hope...JD would be at the head of the line.
JD shifted out from under Buck's arm and placed his hand on his brother's shoulder, giving it a squeeze. "'S'all right, Buck. That don't bother me." JD knew there was more to this story, though. He looked curiously at his friend. "But, why are ya tellin' me this now, Buck? You said you'd been meanin' to tell me about somethin' you've done...what'd you do?"
Buck nervously ran his hands over his eyes and squirmed in his seat. He faced the boy square on and began to speak. "Son, I copied some dates from your file...and...marked 'em on my calendar." Buck averted his eyes from JD's confused gaze. "Kid, I know the weekend after next is your mom's birthday...and...well...'bout a month after you got hurt, I...I went ahead and reserved us two tickets to Boston, in case you wanted to be there that day. You know...visit..." Buck's voice trailed off, but his eyes never shifted from the boy's, as he watched the emotions play in them.
JD looked away, but in a glance, Buck saw surprise, followed by grief in the boy's hazel depths. Damn.
Buck slid one hand behind JD's neck. He could feel the boy shudder. He held on for a moment, waiting for the kid to relax and once JD did settle, Buck drew the boy into him again, letting JD rest his head against his chest. Buck whispered into the boy's ear. "Aw, kid. I never wanted this to upset you, damnit. God, son...you've been hurt enough."
JD allowed himself a moment of brotherly comfort. What Buck did had shaken him up, but the kid was more amazed by Buck's gesture than upset by it. He really did have a big brother, and that made JD so very happy. The kid untangled himself from Buck's grasp and wiped his eyes, giving Buck a sweet smile. "I'm not mad at ya, Buck. God, how could I be?" JD's eyes began to well again, as he looked up in awe at his best friend. His voice was hushed. "I just can't believe you did this for me, Buck. Nobody's ever done anything like this...for me...ever."
"JD..." Buck reached for JD again, but the boy backed away this time. Although it felt like the damn was about to burst, JD kept his tears in check and Buck watched the young man before him successfully compose himself.
"Don't say anything Buck, okay, please?" JD interrupted his friend, knowing he wasn't up to handling any more of Buck's big-brotherly sympathy, at least not without winding up the consistency of a pile of jelly on the floor by the time Buck got through letting him know that it was really okay to cry...and that it didn't make him any less a man. JD knew the speech by heart, damn near as well as Buck did. And JD loved Buck for it and for allowing him to be a kid when he need to be. But sometimes JD needed to keep it together...to deal with...growing up. And now was one of those times. "I'm really all right, Buck."
Buck cocked his head, trying to gauge just how 'all right' the kid really was. He was pleased to see that the boy actually was okay. Sure, JD was upset, real upset, but not nearly the devastated boy that he had been three months ago, when he had gotten hurt. Time truly was healing JD. That, plus he was simply growing up. Buck's eyes misted again. That realization was bittersweet. He was so proud to be a part of and witness to JD's growth, but at the same time, knowing that one day JD was gonna turn around and have grown up completely on him, well, that was just gonna break Buck's heart.
Although Buck was still feeling the emotion of the moment, he tried to speak casually to the boy. "Son, it's up to you if you wanna go. I just made it so you could if you wanted to. All right?"
JD looked searchingly at his friend. "How soon do you need to know?"
Buck cleared his throat. "Well, son...uh...I've gotta cancel by midnight tomorrow or else me 'n somebody are going to Boston that weekend." Buck felt a little ashamed.
The kid laughed. "Jesus, Buck. Nice to see ya didn't leave it to the last minute to tell me!" JD smiled and Buck felt gratified. He couldn't believe that JD was actually teasing him over this. The boy's expression grew serious. "Buck, I'd like to think on it some...I'm gonna go for a little walk, okay?"
Buck straightened up. "Uh, kid. It's after ten..."
JD rolled his eyes in irritation, and Buck immediately shut up and raised his hands, feigning surrender. "I know, I know...you're twenty years old, and a cop...and you can take care of yourself," Buck sighed.
JD hoisted himself over the back of the couch, but leaned down over his still-seated big brother's shoulder. "Yeah, and don't you forget it." Before Buck had the opportunity to say 'but,' JD continued. "And I promise to stay out of trouble and out of the way of mini-vans," he sighed.
Buck reached up and grabbed the boy in a playful headlock. "You better do that, kid. I ain't plannin' on sendin' a search party out after ya tonight. Both of us got work tomorrow, ya know." Buck tousled the kid's hair and finally released his hold of JD. The kid's face was a mixture of emotions. The grin he was wearing was genuine JD Dunne, but his eyes still reflected a hint of heartache. It was clear the kid had some soul-searching yet to do.
Recognizing JD's need to act the adult, Buck resisted the urge to get up with JD and walk him to the door.
JD was about to turn away, when he hesitated and leaned over Buck one more time, resting his arms around his brother's shoulders. "Thanks, Buck," he whispered.
"For what, kid?"
+ + + + + + +
JD had been gone almost an hour when Buck began his worried pacing. Not that he wasn't worried about the kid the second JD had left the condo. Yes, JD was a trained ATF agent, and yes he was practically a grown man, but he was also Buck's little brother, a little brother who happened to have a real knack for finding trouble. And JD was out walking alone at eleven o'clock at night, with a mind full of everything but watching out where he was going or watching out for the bad-guys.
Buck set down his beer bottle on the window ledge for the fifteenth time as he stared out across the balcony into the night. He had grabbed the beer from the fridge soon after JD had left the apartment. In the time JD had been gone, he had also run a load of laundry and filled the dishwasher. Buck was doing his damnedest not to worry. And failing miserably.
Buck practically jumped for joy as he caught sight of a small leather-jacket clad form crossing at the lights nearest the building. JD. Thank, God. He watched as the kid crossed the road and noted JD's purposeful stride and his upright stance. The boy was all right.
Buck lost sight of the boy as he approached the building, so he grabbed a newspaper, hustled over to the couch, and plopped himself down...trying to look as relaxed as can be.
Seconds later the door opened and JD entered. "You didn't have to wait up for me, Buck."
"Who, me? I wasn't waitin,' kid. Just readin' the paper." Buck was the picture of innocence.
Uh huh...yeah, sure. JD smiled, as he surveyed the room, noting the beer sitting on the windowsill next to the balcony's sliding doors. The boy pulled off his jacket and pitched it onto the lazy-boy as he plunked down on the couch next to Buck.
Knowing JD would have gone straight to bed if he hadn't had something to say; hadn't made his decision, Buck waited in anxious silence. The kid seemed okay, albeit a little restless. Buck continued to watch as the boy leaned his elbows on his knees and rested his chin in his hands. JD's too-long bangs fell into his eyes and the boy swept them back in annoyance.
And Buck still waited. The kid sighed heavily a few times and then, with a grunt, promptly swung his legs up and shifted so that he was now lying on the couch, using an unsuspecting Buck as his pillow.
Wilmington could barely stifle the chuckle as he found himself looking down at the boy, who looked all of twelve laying there with his head in his lap. Apparently, and without warning, JD had decided that it would be okay to drop his defenses. And that was just fine with Buck. Big brother rested a comforting arm across the boy, feeling at ease himself, knowing that the kid was back home, safe and sound.
Buck gazed into the boy's eyes, which were tinted red and slightly puffy, evidence of tears shed during his walk. But JD actually looked content and Buck couldn't contain his smile. "You all right, kid?"
The boy took and deep breath and sighed. "Yeah...jus kinda sad, mostly," the boy murmured. "Say, Buck?"
"It is gettin' easier...just like you said."
Buck watched attentively as JD's eyes began to pool again and he thought about the kid's words. As always, he understood. Buck gently brushed the boy's wayward bangs from his eyes, and spoke softly. "Feelin' guilty, kid?"
JD blinked in astonishment. The boy nodded his head and focussed intently on his friend. "It's like I'm glad it's gettin' easier to handle, but then I get upset 'cause I don't want it to be easier...I don't ever want to forget, Buck. Ever."
"You won't, kid. I promise."
JD stared back at Buck for a moment, and then a look of determination crossed over his soft features. "You're right, Buck. I won't." The boy smiled at Buck and wrapped his hand around the arm still resting on his chest. "And I don't have to go to Boston to remember, either," he whispered. His smile broke into a mischievous grin. "But we could do somethin' together that weekend... couldn't we? Just the two of us?"
Well, all right. Buck beamed at the boy, and began to laugh. "You bet, son. We sure could." Buck began to push the kid off of him, then hauled JD up on his feet. "Now are you ready to get to bed? We've got an early day ahead of us, you know!"
"That's all right, Buck. I'm okay. But, if you're feelin' so old, then maybe you oughtta get your sleep." JD was smirking. "Besides, I told you ya didn't hafta wait up for me," JD teased.
"Ow, ow. OW!" Buck had the kid in an arm lock.
"I ain't old and I didn't wait up for you!" Buck boomed.
"All right, all right...UNCLE, sheesh!" The kid was half laughing and half screaming as Buck finally released his hold. "Okay, so you're not old and you didn't wait up for me," the kid laughed, as he skidded away from Buck's reach.
It was a standoff and Buck watched and waited, knowing that the kid was up to something. The game was definitely on. Buck felt great, and so very relieved. He really didn't expect the night to end up this well at all.
JD made his move. Barely containing his giggle, and in a flash, he deaked past Buck over to the windowsill, grabbing the warm bottle of beer still standing where Buck had left it. Buck watched, his curiosity building, as the kid sauntered back to the couch and picked up the newspaper Buck had put down upon JD's return to the apartment. The kid was wearing his much adored shit-eatin' grin on his face and that made the older agent beam.
"What's so funny?!"
The kid's grin was damn near blinding. "All right, so you didn't wait up for me." JD was giggling, and downright pleased with himself. "Just like you didn't leave your beer...unopened I might add...sitting on the ledge while you weren't watching out for me on the balcony, and just like you didn't really pretend to be reading a five-day old paper when I came in." Smug would be an understatement. As the younger ATF agent handed his evidence to his partner, he beamed, "Busted, Buck."
Buck looked over the evidence in his hands, and then shifted his gaze over to the balcony. He shrugged his shoulders, shaking his head...appropriately humiliated. But Buck Wilmington couldn't be happier.
He looked up into the beaming face of the kid he adored, and silently thanked God for him. And with another shrug, but a smile of his own, surrendered.
"All right, Sherlock. You got me."
He sure did.