ATF Alternate Universe

DISCLAIMER: The following is a work of fanfiction 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 don’t own the characters (but…boy…if I did…) This story is strictly for entertainment. No monetary gain will be made from it.

"Friendship is a priceless treasure never to be bought or sold -- it can only be cherished."

~ Anonymous

Chris knew something was wrong. Vin and JD should have met him and the others in front of the school ten minutes ago.

"That boy couldn't be on time even if that Goddamn Mickey Mouse watch of his dragged his scrawny ass to where it was supposed to be," Buck fretted. "And Vin ain't much better…he let's the kid get by with too much…let's himself get takin' in by that 'look' of his…"

"Look who's talkin'," Chris smiled. "Big brother Buck…who wouldn't know how to pronounce the word 'no' if he had a fuckin' Funk & Wagnells in front of him."

"Should we go look for them?" Josiah wondered.

"Nah…we'll give 'em five more minutes." Chris was anxious to get this latest case wrapped up.

They'd been working on uncovering gang activity in a local high school. Vin had taken a 'job' as a wrestling coach. Nathan was 'working' in the nurse's office and Josiah was offering 'counseling' to troubled kids.

JD…looking all of fifteen…was given the 'honor' of being a freshman.

God, Chris…can't I at least be a sophomore, for Christ's sake??? Chris remembered the kid pleading.

It seemed so long ago…but…in reality…it had only been two weeks.

"Kid probably talked Vin into stoppin' for ice cream in the celebrate his 'graduation'." At least…Chris was hoping it was something that 'innocent' that was delaying the two youngest members of the team.

+ + + + + + +

Chris Larabee took off in a dead run.

Where is Vin??

Chris could see a body lying on the ground behind the school gym. Even from as far away as he was, Chris could tell the body was too small to be Vin. The closer he got…the more scared he became.

Where is Vin??

Chris could see the body looked like a kid…

…a kid with blacker than black hair.

Oh, God!! JD!!

Where is Vin??

Chris slid to a stop and knelt next to the boy.

"JD???" Chris shakily put his hand to the kid's neck…

Please, God…please.

A pulse.

Thank God!!

Where is Vin??

"JD??…Son??…C'mon, now…open your eyes for me, son." Chris pushed the wayward bangs from the boy's face…and shuddered when he saw the deep gash over his left eye.

JD didn't stir. The kid had been worked over pretty good. His face was bruised and bloody. He had a large knot forming on his temple. His wrist appeared to be broken and Chris wasn't sure about the unnatural angle of his left leg.

Chris had one hand applying pressure to JD's head wound and used the other to pull his radio out of his pocket.

Chris called for an ambulance and prayed for a quick response. "Ambulance…JFK High School…behind the gym."

Where is Vin??

Vin must have gone for help. But why?? Why'd he leave the kid…he could have just called us.

Chris caught sight of Buck and Ezra approaching from the front of the gym. Chris could see that Buck was already in a panic…racing towards the kid.

"Calm down, Buck…ambulance in on the way?" Chris placed a hand on Buck's shoulder…the big man was on the verge of loosing it.

Buck always lost it when the kid was hurt. He was JD's father, mother, brother, friend and roommate…all rolled into one. The boy meant everything to Buck.

Buck grabbed JD's limp form up into his arms and held him close. He could see the kid wasn't moving at all. The kid was out…and so cold to the touch that Buck shivered when he pulled him to him. Where's Nathan?

"Never shoulda let him go undercover here…this school is nothin' but a cesspool. Goddamn kids are nothin' but a bunch of cutthroats and druggies…ain't no place for a boy like JD…never shoulda let him…" Buck choked on his words…the lump in his throat keeping him from blaming himself one more time.

"Where's Vin?" Ezra was looking around. "Is he OK? Was he hurt?"

"Haven't seen him," Chris whispered.

"Haven't seen him?" Buck snapped his head toward Chris. "He wasn't here when you got here?? He wasn't here with the kid???"

"Like I said, Buck…haven't seen him." Chris was afraid of where this was going and he needed to keep Buck calm. JD needed for Buck to be calm. Sure…JD was out cold…but JD and Buck had a connection that went beyond normal standards. The two were 'brothers' in every sense of the word…never needing words to connect…a look…a touch…was all it took between the two.

Nathan and Josiah came running after hearing Chris call for an ambulance. Their worst fears were realized when the came upon the scene awaiting them.

Nathan could tell that JD was hurt bad. The man had enough medical experience to know broken bones when he saw them…and JD definitely had some.

"Good Lord…what'd they use on the boy?" Nathan tried to examine JD as best as he could…but Buck was not letting go of the kid for anything.

"Let him be, Nathan." Buck was rocking the kid back and forth…tears streaming down his cheeks…"Let him be. I've got him now…he's safe."

"Buck…" Nathan started before Chris pulled him aside.

"Ambulance is on the way, Nate. Leave 'em be."

"Where's Vin?" Josiah wondered. "He go to show the ambulance where to come?"

"No…but that's a good idea. Ezra?" Chris turned to the Southerner, who understood what Chris wanted.

"Certainly, Mr. Larabee." Ezra was off in a flash.

"So…where's Vin?" Nathan asked.

As if on cue, the others all looked up to see Vin approaching from the courtyard between the buildings.

When Vin saw the others all gathered…he stepped up his pace.

"What's wrong?" Vin asked.

"What???" Chris gasped.

"I said what's wrong?" Vin repeated.

"You don't know???" Buck seethed.

Vin looked past the others to see JD in Buck's arms. He knelt next to the two… "Oh…God…what happened???"

Chris yanked Vin up by his collar and pushed him into the wall. "Tell me why you don't 'know' what happened, Vin. You were supposed to be with the kid. Isn't that what I said??? 'Stay with the kid, Vin. Don't leave him alone, Vin.' You knew that gang was getting close to figuring out he was a cop. I said…'Whatever you do, Vin…don't let JD out of your sight.' Goddammit, Vin!! Why'd you leave him???"

"Charlotte…" Vin started before Chris tightened his grip on Vin's neck.

"Goddamn!! I didn't want to hear that name, Vin!!!" Chris screamed as he pushed Vin harder into the brick wall.

"She needed help…there was trouble…in her classroom…" Vin braced himself for whatever Chris had in mind.

"It was a trick, Vin…to get the kid alone…" Chris released Vin…and shoved him away. He returned to Buck and JD.

"You shouldn't have done it, Vin. You know that they used you." Josiah shook his head.

"She needed me…" Vin said softly.

"JD needed you, too," Buck whispered.

"What?" Vin spun around to face Buck.

"I said…JD needed you…too. You let him down…you were supposed to stay with him…you Goddamn bastard. You go runnin' to your lady friend…your 'married' lady friend…and leave the kid behind to get himself killed." Buck was careful never to raise his voice above a whisper…for JD's sake…but his words carried their meaning…nonetheless.

"She was in trouble…"

"I don't want to hear it," Chris broke in. "Just save it, Vin. I need men I can trust. I need to be able to know that I can count on you…and…obviously…I…can't."

"And…obviously…neither can the kid," Vin whispered as he walked away from his friends.

+ + + + + + +

Vin sat behind the wheel of his jeep…never bothering to put the key in the ignition.

Why should he?

He had no where to go.

He wanted to go to the hospital…check on the kid…but the others would be there…and they sure didn't want him there. He didn't want to get things stirred up. It sure wouldn't help the kid any to have all his friends there…fighting amongst themselves. He'd just steer clear…that was the best thing he could do for JD right now.

Vin sat and tried to replay in his mind how things had gone wrong.

So terribly wrong…


"Kid…if we don't get hustling Buck's gonna have our hides. You know how he gets when he's hungry." Vin was trying to hurry JD along. Dang…the kid could dawdle like a pro. The boy was cleaning out his 'school locker'.

"Geez, Vin…gimme a sec. I don't wanna leave anything behind. I thought for sure I had that super soaker water pistol Buck gave me last week in here. I'm gonna need that when we get back to the office." The kid was digging in the bottom of the locker like a dog burying a bone.

"C'mon, kid…" Vin was getting impatient.

"Chill, Vin…you got a hot date or somethin'?" JD asked.

Then JD slyly peeked around the locker door…"That's it…ain't it??? You got a lunch date…don't 'ya???" JD grinned ear to ear. "That teacher??? The 'married' one???"

"None of your business, kid. Let's get a move on." Vin pulled the boy out of the locker, slammed the door shut and proceeded to drag the kid down the hallway.

"OK…OK…geez…Vin…OK…lemme go." JD pulled his arm free from Vin. "All the women in the world, Vin…why her?"

"What's that supposed to mean?" Vin grabbed the kid's arm and spun him around to face him.

"Nothing, Vin…I mean…I…it's just…she's 'married'…Vin," JD whispered.

"Just don't go stickin' your nose in where it don't belong, kid." Vin released the boy and walked off.

"Hey…Vin…wait up…" JD called.

Vin kept walking, ignoring JD's pleas. Who did the kid think he was…anyway??? Trying to give Vin advice…in the 'love' department. Kid didn't have a clue…not a clue.

Vin hadn't realized he'd gotten so far ahead of JD until he heard the boy call him from far down the hall.

Stay with the kid, Vin. Don't leave him alone, Vin.

Chris' exact words.

Stay with the kid, Vin. Don't leave him alone, Vin.

Vin stopped and let JD catch up to him.

"I'm sorry, Vin…I didn't mean anything…really," JD apologized.

Vin wrapped his arm around the kid's neck…"I know, kid. C'mon…let's blow this place."

As Vin opened the door and they stepped out…he came face to face with Charlotte.

"Vin…" she was out of breath…"in my classroom…there's going to be a fight…I was looking for campus security…"

"We can handle it…c'mon, JD." Vin grabbed the kid's arm.

"Vin…I…I can't go breakin' up a fight…I'm supposed to be a 'student'…remember? I'm not done here…officially…yet," JD said, pulling free from Vin.

"C'mon, kid…come with me," Vin said.

"No…you go ahead…I'll wait here." JD settled down on a bench.

Stay with the kid, Vin. Don't leave him alone, Vin.

"Kid…c'mon…I can't leave you here by yourself."

"You go on…I'll be fine."

Charlotte was pulling Vin's arm…dragging him towards her classroom. Vin looked back to see JD sitting on the bench…waving to him.


You go on…I'll be fine.


Vin slammed his fist on the dash.

+ + + + + + +

Chris thought the ride in the ambulance seemed like forever.

In reality…they were halfway to the hospital…and it had only been three minutes.

But…a small ambulance…with a lot of Buck Wilmington worry…was not a good fit.

Buck was sitting next to JD…holding his hand…making sure he didn't grab the one with the broken wrist. He would stroke the kid's hair…or rub his arm…anything to make contact…let the boy know he was there.

It broke Chris' heart to see JD hurt as bad as he was. And it broke his heart to see how much JD being injured hurt Buck.

Buck was not going to be easy to handle. Buck was a time bomb waiting to go off. Oh…he may look like the attentive 'big brother' right now…stroking the boy's hair…leaning over to whisper in the kid's ear…trying to get him to wake up…but…inside…deep down…Buck's mind was elsewhere.

Chris knew that as soon as Buck would lay eyes on Vin…the fur was gonna fly. Buck could not believe that Vin left the kid.

For that matter…neither could Chris.

Everyone knew how dangerous this assignment was for JD. Being thrown in as an equal with a bunch of drug dealers and big-time bullies was not easy for someone with the kid's face and personality. But…being the professional he was…the kid… somehow…managed to pull it off. He'd managed to convince the gangs that he was not as 'sweet and innocent' as he looked.

Chris knew that Buck was going to tear Vin apart…and as the leader of the elite squad…it was Chris' job to try to keep that from happening.

Even if Chris was tempted to join Buck in the attack…rather than try to prevent it.

Chris tried to keep focused on the boy. He knew JD needed his attention right now. But…still…Chris felt himself being drawn to think about Vin.

How could Vin have done what he did? He had to see it was a trap…a dangerous trap to get the kid.

Or…is love 'really' blind???

Vin had become infatuated with one of the teachers at the school. Charlotte.

Chris really didn't care for the woman.

Reason number one…she was married. Maybe her husband wasn't the greatest guy in the world…but did that mean it was right for her to make a play for Vin?

Vin had to realize it didn't look good…dating a married woman.

Didn't Charlotte know what she was risking? A bad reputation could certainly harm her teaching career.

Reason number two…Vin was 'distracted'…to say the least. Chris had noticed that Vin was letting the women affect his job. Chris never thought he'd see it happen…but he began to feel that Vin was not focused on his work. And in their line of work…that could get you killed…or…in this case…your partner.

Forget about all this Larabee.

This kid here's fighting for his life.

"Buck???" a faint cry…

…had both men in tears.

Thank, God…the kid was awake.

"Buck??!!" JD panicked.

"Hey, kid…I'm here. You just stay still. We're almost to the hospital. You're gonna be fine," Buck rattled off all of his big brother lines for the boy.

Chris prayed that Buck was telling the kid the truth.

He had to be telling him the truth.

They couldn't lose the boy.

Buck couldn't lose the boy.

Chris knew that if they did lose JD…they'd lose Buck, too. The two were now a package deal…a two-piece set. You couldn't have one without the other…and you couldn't lose one…without losing the other.

"I…I couldn't…there…was…too…many…" JD's eyes were terror-filled as he looked up to Buck. "They…they…just…kept…"

"Ssshhh…just relax, JD." Chris gently placed a finger over JD's mouth. "It' don't matter right now, son."

God…he looks young. Young…and vulnerable.

Christ…the kid 'is' young. He's not even old enough to be a law enforcement officer…and here he is…doing undercover work. Shit…I gotta get my head examined.

"There…was…too…many, Buck…" JD kept repeating as he would fade in and out. It was as if the boy felt he had to justify getting the crap beat out of him.

JD started to grab Buck's arm with his other hand and screamed.

"Settle down, kid. Be careful…you got a busted wrist there, son," Buck soothed.

"Can't…breathe…" JD's choked out.

"We're almost there, kid. Just hang on a little bit. The doctors'll fix you right up. You'll be back to school in time to take your finals, kid," Buck teased the boy.

Buck regretted it as soon as it was out of his mouth…but it was too late to get it back.

"NO!!" JD screamed. "NO!! I'm…not…goin'…back…"

"JD!" Chris snapped to get the boy's attention. "Buck's just kiddin' 'ya, son. You don't gotta go back there."

The kid was beginning to panic again and was getting agitated.

"They…kept…hitting…me, Chris," JD cried.

"I know, kid…I know…" They were pulling into the circle drive at the hospital. Chris could see the emergency room personnel hustling towards the ambulance.

"Vin…was…gone…Chris," JD winced. "I…tried…too…many…"

"I know, kid. I'm sure Vin's sorry. You know Vin wouldn't want you to get hurt. You know that…right, son?" Chris knew that JD had a lot ahead of him in the next few hours…emergency room…and surgery, he was certain. JD didn't need his head clouded with doubts about how important he was to everyone. The kid needed to know that they would all be there for him…even Vin.

Before the ambulance doors opened, Chris took JD's face in his hands…"You know that Vin didn't mean for you to get hurt…right, JD?"

"Yeah…I…know…" and JD passed out. Chris sat back and moved his hand to the kid's chest, noting the labored, ragged breath of their youngest.

"That's the trouble with the boy, Chris," Buck growled as he hopped out of the ambulance ahead of the stretcher. "He's just a kid. He'll believe any Goddamn thing you tell him."

+ + + + + + +

The team members waited…watching the doors to the emergency room…willing them to open up with news on the kid.

Buck, of course, was pacing. What else would he do? JD had become such a big part of Buck's world that the very 'thought' of losing the boy was more than Buck could handle. The only thing keeping the big man together was denial…plain and simple. JD would be fine…because he 'had' to be fine. That was all there was to it.

Ezra was standing…staring out the window…at nothing, really. He was too nervous to sit…but his legs felt too shaky to trust himself to pace.

Chris was sitting…his head in his hands…plagued with the guilt he felt every time the kid got hurt.

Josiah was in the chair next to Chris…trying his best to reassure their leader that God wouldn't take the boy from them now. "Why would God want him right now?" Josiah reasoned. "He knows we're gonna take care of him for a while." And prayed that he was telling the truth.

Nathan was at the nurse's station…trying to get any information he could. The reply was always the same…"The doctor will talk to you as soon as possible."

They all felt the 'absence' in the room, but no one mentioned it out loud.

The others were all afraid of upsetting Buck…so Vin's name never came up.

Finally…the doors opened and the emergency room doctor came towards them. The doctor looked tired…or was it…sorrow?

"Oh, God…" Buck whispered.

Chris rose and stood behind Buck…a hand on each shoulder…just in case.

"He's alive," the doctor started. "He's in bad shape…but he's alive. Not really sure why…just down right stubborn I guess."

"That 'would' be JD," Chris affirmed.

"He's got some broken ribs that are puncturing his lung and some internal bleeding. We'll take care of that first. He's going to be going into surgery in a few minutes." The doctor checked the chart and continued. "Let's see…he's got a broken wrist…broken kneecap…concussion…various cuts and bruises and one hell of a headache. Who ever did this…they certainly knew how to swing a bat."

"You mean…a baseball bat?" Ezra gasped.

"Yeah…kid said that's what they used. OK, gentlemen…this is a hospital. So…you know that means paperwork. He's only twenty, right? Somebody's got to sign for him…for the surgery…he's underage." The doctor held the clipboard out in front of him.

Buck took it. "I've got legal papers on the kid," he said as he signed the forms and handed them back to the doctor.

"So…you're the famous 'big brother Buck', huh? Been hearing a lot about you. From the way he talks about you…I pictured you to be about eight foot tall and able to walk on water," the doctor smiled. "JD wants to see you before he goes into surgery. Come with me."

Buck strode through the doors…trying to prepare himself for what he'd find on the other side.

But how could he be prepared for what he found???

How was Buck to have prepared himself for the sight before him?

Buck had wanted to see the boy so bad…and now that he'd laid eyes on him…he had to swallow fast to keep his stomach down.

The kid looked like he'd been run over by a bus.

JD was hooked up to what looked like about a mile of tubing…the bruises were all turning a ghoulish green and purple, making the boy's pale skin appear an even more ghastly white…he had two black eyes…his wrist was in a splint…his leg was elevated in traction…and his head was bandaged.

"Buck???"…so faint…so scared.

Buck made his way towards the bed. He wasn't sure if the kid was calling for him or if he'd seen him enter the room.

"Hey son…I'm here. It's gonna be OK." Buck gently lifted JD's hand. He wasn't sure if he was getting through to the kid or not…until he felt the boy squeeze his hand…ever so weakly…but realized it was probably as hard as the kid was capable of at the moment.


"Kid…you just rest. The doctor says they're gonna fix you good as new."

"Hurts…" the boy cried.

"I know, kid. I know. I wish I could take your place son. I surely do." Buck wanted to do so much for the boy…but was so unsure of where to actually touch him. Every place seemed to be broken, bruised, bloodied or bandaged.

"I…know. Sorry…don't…mean…to complain."

God…I love this kid. What a piece of work he is.

"I think you got a little complainin' comin' to 'ya, kid," Buck grinned.

"They…tell you?? About…surgery??" JD whispered.

"Yeah. You'll feel a lot better afterwards."

"I…I wanna…see…everybody…before…OK?" the boy pleaded…giving Buck the 'look'. Like it was necessary at this point. Like his battered body wasn't enough to get whatever he wanted from anyone.

"Sure, kid. You want me to send Chris in?" Buck asked.

"No…you stay." JD squeezed Buck's hand a little harder.

"OK. I'll go get him and we'll be right back." Buck put his hand on JD's chest…as if it was a promise of 'cross my heart…I'll be right back'.


Buck went to the waiting room and sat down next to Chris. "We got a problem, pard."

"That being?" Chris asked.

"Kid wants to see 'everyone' before he has the surgery," Buck said.

"Everybody?" Chris looked around the room.

"Everybody," Buck affirmed.

"Shit!" Chris was afraid this would happen. He had felt that Vin not being here was wrong…and now he knew why.

"How's he gonna feel when he finds out Vin ain't here?" Buck worried. The kid didn't need to be getting upset about anything…he was in bad enough shape as it was. He sure didn't need anymore problems.

"He won't find out. We'll just have to get Vin here…fast." Chris pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and started punching the buttons.


"Yeah?" Vin picked up on the other end.



"Can you come to the hospital?" Chris tried to keep his emotions in check. He needed to take care of this 'situation' first…for the kid.

"No. I don't think that'd be a good idea." Vin noticed that Chris' voice sounded scared…and that scared Vin to no end.

"Look, Vin…kid's gotta have surgery. He's real scared. He wants to see everyone first."

"Not me…I'm sure," Vin lamented.

"Vin…don't shut the kid out because of the rest of us. Think about JD here, Vin."

"How's he gonna feel when we all get into it at the hospital?" Vin asked.

"Ain't gonna happen," Chris promised. A promise he hoped would be kept.

"What'd you do??? Have Buck put to sleep???"

"C'mon, Vin. Help me out here. JD wants you here. Now…what's it gonna be?"

"Fifteen minutes."

"Thanks, Vin. Room 512."


"Vin's on his way." Chris put the phone back in his pocket.

"Great," Buck seethed.

"Buck…JD wants him here. And right now…JD needs to be babied more than you do…so chill out."

Suddenly the doctor appeared from out of nowhere. "Gentlemen…you all better come right away if you want to see the boy."

"What's wrong?" Buck panicked.

"His BP's dropping like a rock. We've got to go in right now. I'll give you all a couple of minutes…then he's going down to the OR."

"We've got another guy on the way…" Chris started before the doctor cut him off.

"No time. Can't wait."

+ + + + + + +

"Where's…Vin?" JD was pretty out of it…but he knew that one of his 'brothers' was missing.

"He'll be here when you wake up," Chris promised. He hoped he wasn't lying to the kid.

"He's mad…at…me…ain't…he?" JD's eyes were spilling over. "Tell him…tell him…I'm…sorry."

"Why would he be mad at you, kid?" Chris comforted.

"'Cause I…I…said…something…about…Charlotte…being married. Tell…him…I'm sorry," and the boy was out.

+ + + + + + +

Chris looked up as Vin ran into the waiting room. "Sorry, Vin. They couldn't wait. They had to take…" Chris broke down.

Vin sat down in the chair next to Chris.

"He get worse?" Vin was kicking himself for staying away earlier. Sure it was the easiest thing for him to do…but what had he done to JD?

"His BP dropped," Nathan said. "They couldn't risk waiting."

"Was he upset…that I wasn't here?" Vin was afraid to ask.

"What do 'you' think?" Buck bellowed.

"Buck…" Chris started.

"Don't even think about tellin' me to let up on him, Chris…'cause I ain't even got started yet."

Vin stood and turned to Chris. "I'm gonna leave. You can page me when I can see him."

"You ain't gonna see him," Buck stated.

"Buck…settle down," Nathan cautioned.

"No!" Buck stepped towards Vin. "He needed to see you 'before' he went into surgery. But you weren't here for him. What a surprise!! We won't be needin' you around here later. So…don't bother comin' back."

"Bucklin!" Josiah reprimanded.

"I'm serious. I'm movin' into JD's room…and he better not come around…'cause I sure as hell ain't as forgiving as the kid." Buck felt Nathan and Ezra pulling him away from Vin.

Vin finally blew up. "You know, Buck…you love the kid so much…how come you didn't stay with him…like always?"

"I woulda…but you were with him. I never worried about the kid…'cause you were with him. Goddamn, Vin…I never dreamed you'd leave him. But if you'd have told me you were gonna abandon him…I'd have took care of him myself."

"Both of you…drop it. Vin…I need to see you." Chris pulled Vin by the arm and dragged him out into the hallway.

Chris pushed Vin up against the wall for the second time today. "Want to tell me why you left the kid?"

"I told you…Charlotte needed help. There was a fight brewing in her room."

"You had orders, Vin," Chris reminded. "Those orders mean anything to you?"

"Charlotte was scared," Vin said.

"Yeah…I guess JD was scared, too…when he was getting the shit beat out of him," Chris snapped.

"I didn't think anything would happen to him," Vin whispered.

"No…Vin…you just didn't think…period," Chris called over his shoulder as he walked back into the waiting room.

+ + + + + + +

Buck Wilmington was a terrible waiter.

He'd waited through five hours of surgery. Not patiently…mind you…but he'd done it.

Now he was sitting in JD's room…waiting for the boy to wake up.

They brought the kid up from surgery about three hours ago but he hadn't wakened yet.

The doctor assured the team that the surgery had gone well. They were successful in stopping the internal bleeding and were able to insert a chest tube to begin re-expanding the boy's collapsed lung. It would take several days for the lung to return to normal, but the intricate procedure was over.

All that was left to do…at the moment…was wait.

Wait for the boy to wake up…

…and wait for him to ask where Vin was.

Chris had promised JD that Vin would be here when he woke up.

Buck was beginning to get nervous. He was afraid that the kid would be waking up any minute…and Chris had not returned yet with Vin.

Not that Buck cared. He really didn't want to see Vin…but JD wanted him here.

And that was all that mattered right now.

Buck would put his differences aside…or at least give the impression of such…to make the boy happy.

Chris had paged Tanner and the two had spoken briefly on the phone. Chris then told Buck he had to leave and quickly disappeared. He said he would return with Vin…if he had to drag him.

And Chris would do just that…if needed.

Chris had promised JD…and he'd never broken a promise to the kid. And he wasn't about to start now…not with the condition the boy was in.

+ + + + + + +

Chris had gone down to the main lobby to meet Vin.

Down to the main lobby…where Vin had been for the last eight hours. "Didn't want to be too far away…just in case…"

"I understand," Chris said. "He's still out…but I promised him you'd be there when he woke up. Which should be any time now. So…I'd like you to come back with me…now."

"Buck's there?" Vin wondered.

"Buck wants you there…for JD's sake. He ain't gonna start nothing in the kid's room. He knows it's important for the kid to see you," Chris explained.

"Why's he need to see me…anyway?" Vin didn't figure the kid would want to see him…for a long time, maybe. At least…that's the way Vin thought the kid should feel about him.

"Kid thinks you're mad at him," Chris revealed.

"What??? Why's he think that?" Vin could hardly believe what Chris said.

"Who knows how the kid thinks when he's sick or hurt, Vin. Anyway…he thinks you're mad at him. Thinks that's why you weren't there before."

"Shit!" Vin cursed.

Chris was pressing the button on the elevator. "I gotta be gettin' back up there. You comin'?"

"Yeah…" Vin stepped on the elevator behind Chris. "Stupid…little…shit! How could anyone be mad at him…anyway? Goddamn…little…shit! Don't he have any idea how we feel about him?"

"We're talking about JD here, Vin. The kid's clueless about the whole deal. 'Course…that's probably a good thing. He could be a real brat if he knew how we felt," Chris smiled.

"That kid don't know how to be a brat, Chris. It's JD…for Christ sake…he's like a Disney character without the fur."


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