Chris knocked on the bathroom door, "You can come out now."

The door slowly opened and JD shuffled out, Vin right behind him, with a look of sympathy on his face.

"What in hell did they hit you with?" Chris asked, getting an eyeful of black and blue as JD came out of the bathroom wearing only his boxers.

"Don't really know, whatever they had I guess," JD shrugged and stated calmly, as a small smile formed.

"I can't believe you're okay with this," Nathan finally said loudly, referring to the fact that JD's condition seemed to hardly faze the young agent.

"With what?" JD asked as he slowly sat in the chair Chris had vacated earlier.

"Them beatin' on ya', why would anyone want to join a gang if the only way you get in is to get the hell beat outta ya'?" Nathan asked.

"It's just a test, see if you're tough enough is all, it's just the way it is Nate," JD said simply.

"How can they tell if you fail?" Nathan questioned.

"Well, seen some beg to stop, seen others die," JD shrugged.

"Don't make sense to me. . . be loyal to a bunch of people that do this to you," the low voice said, checking the wounds that JD sported.

No one spoke as Nathan finished, after giving instructions on getting rest, keeping the dressing that covered the cut clean and taking it easy for a few days he left the three men alone. Vin was the one to break the silence and relayed the information JD had given him, as JD slowly put on a shirt and sweat pants that Vin lent him.

"So you haven't any idea what this rival gang is supposed to be involved in?" Chris asked JD, after Vin filled him in.

"Uh-uh," JD shook his head

"Okay, do what you need to get the info, you get it and let us know what Joey has planned, then we can figure out what to do then," Chris said.

"Thanks," JD smiled tiredly; Chris had put him back on the case without having to say it.

Chris nodded his head as JD pushed himself up from the chair and began to walk towards the couch.

"Take the bed kid, that couch ain't gonna help them bruises none," Vin offered.

"This'll be fine, thanks anyways," JD smiled.


JD looked at Chris, without asking what.

"You ever . . . .do this," Chris motioned his hand at JD's condition, ". . . to anyone?"

JD sighed, and slowly lowered himself on the couch.

"Yeah," JD said, "It's the way. . . " he tried to explain again, but something else JD'd said seemed to bother the lead agent.

"Ever kill anyone?" Chris asked. 3 months ago someone could have told Chris what life was like for JD back east when he was younger and he would have almost laughed. Now, knowing and seeing proof, he wasn't sure what the young agent was capable of.

"Probably," JD quietly said, again shrugging his shoulders as he answered.

"Probably? You mean you don't know?" Chris said harshly.

"Chris," Vin tried to deter the leader; he'd been undercover enough before to understand what 'gang life' was like. 'Law of the Jungle', 'Survival of the Fittest'. . . That's the way it was. 'Kill or be Killed'.

"What do you want me to say?" JD asked, almost laughing it out.

"I want the truth. . . I recruited you. . . then put you on this assignment. . . I hoped you could handle it . . . If you plan on being on the wrong side of th. ." Chris's words were daggers, hitting there target with accuracy.

"I can handle it. . . I am handling it. . . You think I'm gonna cross over?" JD asked, the hurt he felt obvious.

"When I recruited. . . " Chris started to explain, but JD cut him off.

"That's right, you came to me! Did you do a huge background check on me? Or did you just see my picture and decide I could get you into places that Vin or anyone else couldn't anymore? Cause before now, my background didn't matter!" JD accused.

"It matters now!" Chris's tone menacing, it even sent a shiver through Vin and he wasn't the intended recipient.

"Why's it matter now?" JD asked, his voice serious.

"Because it does," Chris sneered through clenched teeth, "you're too good at this," Chris added quietly, this had been JD's first cover assignment. .with what the envelope he received earlier contained and the way JD had so easily been accepted into the small group. . . it made Chris begin to doubt a few things.

"You don't think I'm tellin you everythin', about the case, do you?" JD's voice went from anger back to hurt.

"Honestly, I don't know what to think," Chris revealed, shaking his head.

"What?" Vin was the one to ask.

"I knew it. . . I knew it," JD laughed out, his eyes filling, "You ain't no dif'rent than anyone else!" the young agent said through a clenched jaw fighting back the tears that wanted to come, he turned away from Chris and began to walk away.

"What the hell's that supposed to mean?" Chris growled, JD never flinching at the fact Chris had stopped him by grabbing his cut arm.

"You don't trust me! You think cause I got in so fast that I'm going bad? Or maybe the reason I'm so good is cause I want to be in a gang again?" JD paused to give Chris a chance to answer or at least respond. . . defend himself, lash out and tell JD how wrong he was. . . hell. . . he'd even take a fist to the face as an answer. When Chris didn't say anything JD decided that he was pretty close with his accusations.

"I knew it!" JD yelled, still just inches away from Chris's face, he yanked his arm free and with an energy he didn't really have, stormed out of the apartment, slamming the door behind him.

Vin didn't say a word, he walked by Chris towards the door, the only exchange was a look of disappointment from the sharpshooter.

"Vin," Chris said calmly.

"Sorry Chris, you're gonna have a hard time explainin this one," Vin said seriously, walking out the door.

He'd seen Chris blow up before, seen his suspicious nature, but this. . . not trusting JD; to the long haired agent this was unacceptable. JD thought with his heart, not always a good idea, but Vin trusted him. . . more than he trusted himself sometimes.

"Damn," Chris seethed as he saw Vin shut the door and leave.


An hour went by and the door to Vin's apartment opened. Chris looked at Vin with a surprised look on his face, he actually thought JD would be with him.

"No luck?" Chris asked, not having to; Vin could read Chris's mind most of the time.

"He's safe," Vin answered coldly, flopping his keys onto the kitchen table before turning to the leader of the small, slowly disintegrating group.

"You know where he's at?"

Vin nodded, and pointed up, Chris should have known JD'd be up on the roof.

"Ya' wanna tell me what that was all 'bout?"

"Got these yesterday," Chris said, pulling a small yellow envelope out of his jacket pocket and put it on the table.

Vin opened the envelope and took out the pictures that it contained, looking at them carefully several times before he spoke.

"Doctored?" Vin asked, not ready to believe what he saw in the picture s.

"Nope, had them checked. . . date says from two days ago. . . that's Joey Hall there," Chris said, "you wanna tell me JD's 'acting' there?"

"Where'd these come from?"

"Someone in Narcotics sent them, they have a new head in the department; wanted to watch the local youth for drug activity. . . imagine my surprise finding our 'Boy Scout' in some of these pics. He ain't standing there with his hands in his pockets Vin, he's taking it from Joey," Chris point ed out the picture that clearly showed a hand taking a joint from Hall, then JD blowing smoke.

Vin was dumbfounded, he didn't want to believe what he was seeing, but Chris had them checked, he finally shook his head and sighed.

"I hoped it wasn't as bad as it looked. . . but there real, no ones played with them," Chris said, breaking the uncomfortable silence.

"There's gotta be some explanation, Chris," Vin said, sounding more like a plea than anything.

"If this were a picture of Buck or Ezra. . . would you be saying the same thing?" Chris asked.

"No, but that's different; this is JD Chris. . . " Vin said, tilting his head, still not believing the young agent would do this.

"If ya hadn't seen the mug shots would you have believed he had gang involvement?" Chris pointed out.

Vin had to admit, Chris had a good point. He wouldn't have believed anyone who told him JD'd associated with gangs if the proof wasn't staring him in the face.

"Shit," Vin said quietly.

+ + + + + + +

JD entered the apartment cautiously, he looked around with bruised and swelling eyes.

"He left," Vin said steadily breaking the silence, jumping JD a bit.

JD finally let his body follow his head and he slowly walked over to the couch and awkwardly sat down. Vin couldn't help but feel bad for the kid, he looked like hell, probably felt like hell and here was Vin, waiting for JD to come off the roof to show him the photos Chris had left.

"Sorry to cause so much trouble," JD apologized.

"Told Chris I'd talk to ya', but to tell ya the truth. . . don't really know what to say," Vin said truthfully.

"'Bout what?" JD wondered, he was so tired that all he wanted to do was curl up under a warm blanket and sleep for the next 12 hours.

"These," Vin said, giving JD the envelope.

JD took the envelope with a confused look on his face, "What is it?" he asked.

"Surveillance pictures from narcotics. . . of you. . . with Hall, they've been watchin Hall and others," Vin said dryly, not easing the anxiety JD was beginning to feel.

JD opened the envelope and took out the four pictures. One by one he looked at them, the last one caused him to flush a bit Vin noticed, an odd reaction to be embarrassed by the photo that showed JD 'smoking' Vin thought. JD carefully put the pictures on top of the envelope and shrugged.

"This why Chris was all over me?" he asked calmly.

"Yeah! I have a mind to be just as bad, what the hell were you thinking JD?" Vin asked, his voice a bit sharper than he'd meant it to be, he told Chris he could remain calm in his 'discussion'.

JD was totally confused now, "What's the big deal? I mean. . . " JD tried.

"The big deal? You're asking me what the big deal is?" Vin laughed out . . . the kid was smoking weed for crying out loud and HE asked Vin what the big deal was?

"You're. . . smokin' JD. . . you're undercover. . . you can't be doin that shit! Christ kid. . . you're the law!" Vin explained aggravatedly, didn't the kid understand it was more important to be clear headed when undercover, than to try and 'fit' in? Not to mention he was breaking the law.

"It's just a cigarette Vin, what the hell did you. . . " JD stopped and looked at the pictures again with a bit more scrutiny.

"You think that I smoking THAT?" JD asked, pointing to the passed joint, his eyes growing wider with each word.

"It's pretty obvious JD," Vin said, getting some of his calm back.

"It's obvious THAT is a joint. . . but it ain't me taking it," JD revealed.

"Looks that way to me. . . the numbers show they're in order," Vin said, pointing out the numbers in the right hand corner that revealed the day and time.

"Not saying they ain't. . . but that ain't me!" JD said urgently, searching the sharpshooters face that he believed him.

"How can ya say it ain't?" Vin asked, giving JD a chance, one he knew Chris wouldn't be able to.

"Sides the fact I'm tellin you it ain't?" JD shot out, the accusing tone hit Vin hard.

"I want to believe that it ain't, JD, but. . . .the pictures aren't doctor ed," Vin reasoned.

"I know that. . . but that," JD pointed to the picture that focused on the hand that was taking the joint from Hall, "ain't my hand. . . he's wearin a class ring," JD said, spreading his fingers apart and showing Vin he didn 't wear a ring or any jewelry for that matter.

Vin grabbed the picture from JD and looked at it carefully, he sighed and a smile crossed his face as he looked up to the younger man. The smile left as he realized JD wasn't sitting across from him any longer. Vin stood quickly and turned as he heard JD unlock the locks.

"JD. . . " Vin said apologetically.

JD shook his head, "Don't," he managed to choke out, unable to say more. Chris didn't trust him, and Vin hadn't believed him when he said he didn't smoke the joint with out JD pointing out the ring.

"You ain't in no shape to be runnin' around. . . " Vin tried again, knowing that he could apologize for the next three years and it wouldn't be enough.

"If that had been you. . . .and you told me it wasn't. . . I would've believed you," JD said, his voice hoarse and raspy, filled with emotion.

Vin hung his head, JD had every right to feel betrayed, he couldn't blame him.

"I'm sorry," Vin said quietly.

"It's too late for sorry," JD smiled, tears finally escaping.

"Chris thinks I've crossed already. . . tell him not to feel too bad when you tell him 'bout the pictures, he ain't the first to think I switched ," the younger agent said remorsefully, tears still falling and he closed the door.


"What?!" Buck yelled at his leader, then sending his disbelieving look to everyone that was present at the table.

"Buck. . . " Chris tried to calm the man down.

"Don't 'Buck' me! He gets the shit kicked outta him, you lie and tell me he was drunk so I wouldn't find out? And you all knew? Where the hell is Vin anyway. . . thought you said he was gonna be here?" Buck fumed, he wanted to hit something, someone. . . the kid was off limits so he figured the tardy Vin would do.

"That's the other situation. . . " Chris sighed, "JD ran off last night."

"Ran off? What do you mean he ran off. . . Chris he could barely move last night, what the hell happened after I left?" Nathan asked, the kid was practical ly asleep standing.

"I got these yesterday mornin," Chris said, giving copies of the pictures to the others, waiting for their reactions.

Whispered curses were heard around the table, Buck sat back in his chair, his mouth opened slightly. He banged his fist on the close up of the hand taking the joint, that he'd tossed on the table. A high pitched sob left Buck, and he tried to quickly compose himself as his shaking hand went to his mouth. He rubbed his chin and shook his head slowly.

"How could he?" Buck finally managed to say. Chris tired to answer, but he was interrupted by Nathan and Josiah's comments.

"That a test too?" Nathan said, not hiding his disgust.

"Nope, it's the real thing," Josiah said.

"Ezra? You got anything to add?" Chris asked, it eased his mind a bit that the others thought they saw what he had, but also knew of the tremendous guilt they would have after.

"Yes, I'm appalled," he said sharply, "I surmise this," Ezra waved the picture, " is why our young agent has chosen to 'run off'?"

Chris nodded.

"You all believe the pictures depict the events to be true?" Ezra look ed to the 3 individuals who all nodded.

"I don't think they're doctored Ezra," Josiah said, shaking his head.

"Nor do I Mr. Sanchez," Ezra said with a lift in his voice, "I assume Mr. Dunne denied that he participated?" Ezra looked to Chris.

"How could he deny it Ez, it's right here in front of our faces!" Buck shot out, his anger front and center.

"Is it?" Ezra asked.

Buck and the other two agents looked at Ezra, puzzlement on their face s.

Chris hung his head and smiled sadly, he should have gone with his instinct and shown Ezra the pictures first, before accusing JD.

"Ezra, are you looking at the same pictures?" Nathan questioned, how could Ezra not see what they were.

"I assure you I am. . . .may I ask you how carefully you looked at these pictures? Please, take another look at this one," the southern said, hold ing the close up of the hand.

"Yeah, so?" Buck finally asked.

"Have you ever known Mr. Dunne to wear jewelry on any occasion?"

"That don't prove anything. . . what the hells this then?" Buck asked, pointing to the white object JD clearly held between his index finger and thumb.

"It appears to be raining, the way the young men are standing, with their shoulders scrunched up. . . and the umbrella here," Ezra pointed to someone in the background holding an umbrella, "I would say that young JD was trying to keep his cigarette from getting wet, hence the position of holding the cigarette as he did," Ezra reasoned, and sat back down.

"Now Mr. Larabee, am I to assume that when JD denied his involvement you were quick to condemn him as these two . . . and his best friend?" Ezra said knowingly, the jab at Buck on purpose

Chris nodded.

"Christ Ezra. . . I thought it. . . " Buck tried to retort what Ezra shot at him.

"And if he said it wasn't him, you would have believed him?" Buck shook his head honestly, he wouldn't have. "And you call yourself friends. . . if this had been any of us. . . myself included. . . he would have believed us if we denied it, even if the pictures were there! Of any man. . . . . . you condemned him. . . even though he said it wasn't him," Ezra said, he sighed out heavily composing the growing anger he felt. . . he could understand them not believing him, but JD?

"Do you know where he is?" Ezra asked concerned.

"No, Vin's been out all night," Chris sighed, he had obviously looked as well, the dark circles and blood shot eyes gave it away.

As if on cue, Vin walked into the meeting room.

"Nothin'," Vin said wearily, letting his exhausted body rest as he slumped into a chair.

"Where the hell could he be?" Buck asked, his worry showed not only in his words but on his face as well.

The phone rang out in the pit, Vin being closest left the meeting room and answered it. The other agents saw Vin write down something and hung the phone up, he ripped the piece of paper from the note pad and returned to the meeting room.

"PD's got JD," Vin said.

"He locked up?" Chris asked.

"Yup, Williams said you called him earlier, told him he was 'workin' , he's with the others.," Vin said, letting Chris and the others know that JD had hooked up with his 'new' family and gotten into trouble.

Chris stood and approached Vin, he took the piece of paper from Vin and turned at the door.

"Guess I'd better go bail Jr. outta jail," a sad smile crossed his face.

+ + + + + + +

"Agent Larabee," Officer Saul Williams smiled as Chris walked through the precinct door.

"Saul," Chris said with a nod.

"So, ah. . . you're here to bail out. . . your 'nephew'?" Saul asked.

"Son," Chris said with a slight grin.

The two men walked to the holding cell where JD and the other gang members were.

"He's pretty banged up Chris, I don't know what he looked like before. . . . " Saul tried to prepare Chris for the shape the kid was in.

"He got initiated last night, he looked like hell," Chris said dryly, he'd seen the fresh bruises, day old bruises always looked worse.

"He's moving reeeal slow," Saul relayed.

Chris nodded.

"Davis, right?" Williams asked of Chris. Chris nodded again as Saul opened the barred door to the holding cells.

The men approached the holding cell, Chris quickly found JD sitting on a cot his knees drawn up, his arms resting on his knees, his head on top of his arms.

"Davis, Papa's here to bail your ass out," Saul bellowed.

JD lifted his head and saw Chris, he didn't have to fight to keep a smile from his face. . . his eyes rolled and he slowly stood from the cot, never taking his piercing glare from his 'father'.

Chris fought back the emotion of seeing just how bad JD was. The leader feigned a look of disgust as JD shuffled himself to the cell door. Kid can't even stand straight Chris thought to himself.

"Later Ferret," Joey said as the cell door opened.

"Don't count on it," Chris said with a glare.

"Later," JD said with a nod, he glared at Chris as he walked out of the cell.

JD retrieved his possessions, walked out of the precinct, and into Chris's truck with out saying a word.

Chris drove for 15 minutes when JD broke the silence.

"Drop me off here," JD said, pointing to an old abandoned warehouse.

"Your bike here?" Chris suspected, as he pulled to a stop.

"Ah-huh," JD answered.

"I'll give you hand loading it," Chris offered.

"No thanks," JD snapped, opening the truck door, and trying desperately to get out with out too much pain.

Chris sighed heavily as he watched JD's flinch every time he turned wrong or went too fast trying to get out, but was amazed JD's face seemed to refuse to acknowledge it. Chris opened his door and walked to the passenger side.

"Let me load the bike, I'll take you home," Chris said, making it seem more like an order than a offer, "or maybe to the hospital," he added, JD was extremely pale, or maybe he looked that way against the bruises, but the sweat that covered JD's brow was a dead give away, the kid had a fever.

"I can manage," JD said forcefully as he made it out of the truck.

"You got a fever, that cuts probably infected," Chris said, normally JD would have done what ever Chris had asked of him, but Chris had burned that bridge of respect, he believed the pictures and hadn't even asked JD, that hurt the most.

". . . . . . . . . or maybe I'm just strung out. . . huh? Hell, been in jail the whole night. . . us drug addicts get a little freaked when we can't get our fix ya know," JD shot back, the anger he felt towards Chris at that moment was overwhelming.

"Dammit JD! I'm sorry! What do you want me to say?!" Chris's own frustration caused him to yell.

"Nothin! There ain't nothin you can do to make this right! I thought you trusted me!" JD yelled back, "I can understand what you thought was goin on when you saw those pictures. . . but you didn't even ask me about the m. . . if I'd told you it wasn't me would you have believed me?" JD asked, his tone softening, reminding Chris just how young this agent was.

"Probably not, the only one who doubted was Ezra," Chris regretted it the minute he said it. Having JD think it was just Vin and Chris that doubted him was bad. . . but the others, that hurt, and Buck. . . that was devastating.

"Buck too?" JD asked, of all the people he knew Buck would believe him.

"JD. . . you have to understand. . . . . . ." Chris tried to explain. No one knew he'd been in gangs growing up. . . with the pictures added to it. . . it was a lot to handle all at once. Maybe they didn't know JD as well as they thought.

"Understand? Oh. . . I understand just fine! You wanna know somethin? If those were pictures of any of you. . . I would've believed you!" JD turned too quick and pain ripped through his side.

"JD!" Chris said, making his way to where JD was barely standing, hunched over on himself.

"Leave me alone!" JD yelled out as he felt Chris's hand on his back, causing JD to regain his composure a bit.

"JD, let me help you," Chris said in a softer tone.

"Leave. . . .me. . . .the. . . fuck. . . alone," JD glared at the man, and once again began to walk to the warehouse.

Chris stood there, glued to the spot. Chris knew, more than ever now, that he should have gone with his gut feeling and shown Ezra the pictures first, knowing that the man had a keen eye for detail. JD had made hard choices growing up, but then again who hadn't, in his heart he didn't think it was JD, but Chris didn't think with his heart. That was JD's way. . . Chris's was the safest and smartest way. Like now. . . Chris's heart was screaming go after him. . . He's hurt and most likely sick. . . .his head was telling him to let the kid cool off, JD'd forgive them once he got his head on straight.

Chris watched as JD struggled to keep his balance. His heart cried out to him again to go after him, at least help him, stay with him, make sure he was okay. . . his head still telling him that once JD saw their side, he would understand. He just had to understand.

Why should he? He's not the one that screwed up Chris said to his head.

JD was determined to finish this case, he had nothing to loose. What did he have to gain? He'd already lost the others trust and faith in him. There wouldn't be any satisfaction in ending the case with the bad guys going to jail because he'd done a terrific job. If the others didn't trust him, he had nothing. He wanted out of the team so badly, but his pride kept him from quitting, he'd finish this case, hand in his resignation before Chris had a chance to fire him and try and move on without the family he thought he was a part of.

JD was winded by the time he got to the door of the abandoned warehouse where he'd met up with his 'new family' last night, the same place he had been initiated. It had been cool last night, and with just the sweats and the t-shirt Vin had lent him he gotten a chill, he was pretty sure that he would have froze if the group hadn't been arrested for vagrancy. JD leaned his back against the door, not knowing, or really caring for that matter, if Chris was still there. He turned to face the door, an unsteady hand turned the knob and entered the warehouse.


"You warm enough in here?"

JD turned to see Chris standing in the doorway; JD didn't have the strength to answer, his standoff with the leader had zapped his energy. . . all he could think about was lying down and sleeping, hopefully, for eternity.

"Let me take you back to Vin's at least," Chris tried.

JD shook his head, and again turned away from Chris.

"Here," Chris said offering his jacket.

"I gotta get some sleep, I got stuff to do later," JD reminded the man still walking away from Chris, never taking the jacket.

Chris again stood and watched JD walk away, the same voices saying the same thing.

"Shut up," he said quietly to his voices. He stepped through the threshold of the door and closed it behind him, he put his jacket back on and removed the cell phone from it.

+ + + + + + +

An hour had passed when he heard a familiar car pull into the warehouse lot and stepped out from the building.

"May I ask why we are standing in this. . . .this. . . .mess?" Ezra asked.

"JD's sick or something. . . I don't know how bad, can't get near him," Chris revealed.

"And this involves me how?"

"I opened my mouth and told him you was the only one who questioned the pictures. . . "

"This led you to believe that I can approach the lad? And then what, defend you all to him?" Ezra laughed out, his suspicious nature showing through.

"I. . . we all messed up. Don't want you to defend us Ezra, just want to make sure he's okay," Chris said, Ezra could see the honesty there.

"Where did the boy go?" Ezra sighed, opening the trunk of his car, "I assume I retrieved these blankets for him?" Chris smiled and nodded.

Ezra walked into the damp warehouse and found JD easily, he was sitting in a concrete window sill near the back of the building, his legs bent at the knees and his feet rested on the upper part of the sill. His back was against the opposite sill to his feet, his arms wrapped around himself and his head leaned against the steel bars that covered the glassless window frames, looking out.

"Mr. Dunne," Ezra said, even from a short distance he could see the bruises on the kids exposed arms.

"Can I ask ya somethin Ezra?" the young agent asked without facing the man that stood only a few feet away.

JD took the silence as an affirmative answer and asked his question.

"If ya hadn't see the class ring, would you have believed me if I told ya it wasn't me?"

"Yes," Ezra answered quickly.

"Why?" he asked, turning his head to face Ezra.

Ezra tilted his head in sympathy as he saw JD's face, the bruises and cuts adding more effect to the hurt look of the young man. For the first time since he'd met the young man Ezra thought he looked older than he should.

"I have made it an essential skill to read people's faces, without that skill I would not be able to do my job properly. Reading ones face reveals a lot of ones 'traits'," Ezra explained, taking a few more steps towards JD.

"What if you saw the pictures and didn't ask me?"

"I would still stand firm that you did not participate in the activity ," Ezra answered, again quickly.


The questions were simple, unfortunately the answers weren't so simple.

"I firmly believe that you would not take part, it's not. . . .you," Ezra said, his brows creased, wondering if JD understood what he was saying.

"So bein in a gang is. . . . . . 'me'?" JD asked, knowing that most of the guys, Chris included, had been surprised by that little tidbit.

Ezra sighed heavily, why did answering these questions matter to him?

"Surprising yes, shocking, no. You see, even then you had a good heart my boy, tipping off the officials when you knew innocent people were going to be put in danger; knowing that you yourself were at risk if you were found to be a snitch," the man said easily.

"There were a lot of times I didn't say anything, people got hurt. . . and worse," JD said, making his way slowly off the window sill, walking to a wooden crate to sit on.

Ezra placed a blanket on a crate that was situated across from JD, he took the other blanket and wrapped it around JD, who still hugged himself , Ezra figured it was either because he was cold, his ribs were hurting. . . or a little of both. JD's words reminded the man of a similar statement he had said in concern to Chris.

"Thanks," JD said quietly, he didn't notice the fact that Ezra had touched his cheek.

Ezra nodded as he made his way to sit on the other crate, he had decided to stay with JD, he had a slight fever and it just didn't feel right leaving him, not only that but he felt that JD wanted to unload burdens he had carried for years.

Mother would be having a coronary if she knew what I was doing . . . hell . . . I don't even know what I'm doing Ezra thought to himself.

"The times you didn't inform law enforcement, people lost their lives? " Ezra asked, not accusingly but with understanding, God knows he'd done things growing up he regretted. JD hung his head and nodded. "Were they members of gangs as well?" again JD nodded. "You entered that way of life for what? Protection, a place to belong, a feeling of family?"

"Protection. . . I was pretty small back then, not a day went by that I didn't get beat up by someone. . . then. . . this kid I went to school with, his older brother was in a gang. . . they needed someone small to crawl into a place and hide out, find out who was doing double duty. . . you know. . . like a double agent. . . well. . . they gave me the job. . . after that, never got picked on or beat up. . . always had the guys watching out for me. . . "

"You don't think they were aware of what was expected of them? The ones who were killed?" Ezra asked.

JD shrugged, "That ain't really the point is it? I mean. . . people got killed, just cause they were into the gangs don't mean they deserved to die".

Ezra saw the passion and intensity in the young mans eyes; he had definitely underestimated this young man. Not in the bad sense, he had always figured JD's life was a hard one, with no father and a mother who died too young, both doing what they had to in order to survive; he never figured it had been 'that' hard.

Even then he was trying to do the right thing. . . not for himself. . . for everyone around him. JD didn't 'need' a family to belong to as most gang members did, he had more than enough family with his mother, Ezra knew that much to be true. . . the boy adored and worshipped his mother, he could tell by the sadness in the young mans eyes every time he'd mentioned her.

His sole purpose for joining the gang was simple. . . protection. He needed to survive life on the streets for his mother, no doubt, the undercover specialist suspected.

"Mark Leonard," JD's raspy tired voice brought the silence to an abrupt end.

"Pardon?" Ezra asked, brought out of his thoughts.

"Mark Leonard. He came from California, came out east to establish a division of the Bloods. My first turf war was against them, he didn't have a huge gathering, it was a pretty one sided fight. . . took only bout 20 minutes and the ones who could ran or carried who was still alive. . . Leonard just lay there. . . his eyes were still opened, his head smashed in," JD said.

"Why. . . ahem. . . why may I ask are you telling me this?" Ezra asked, confused and hoping that JD wasn't going to tell him he'd killed the man.

"He was the first dead guy I ever saw," JD said calmly.

Ezra had seen plenty of dead people; men, women, children, but he couldn't recall who the first one was or even the name. He did know it was a man, but the details were a blank, he did know how old he was. . . he'd been 22.

"How old were you when you saw this man?" Ezra asked, his curiosity getting the better of him

"Turned 12 three days earlier, Stack waited until after my birthday for the fight, cause he liked me and didn't want to ruin my day," JD smiled sadly.

Ezra was speechless, how could this young man who had seen someone not only killed, but brutally so at the age of 12 be so full of life and cheer normally?

"This 'Stack' was the leader?"

"Ah-huh, I stayed with them for bout 6 months".

"Why did you leave?" Ezra asked, curious as to how the young man managed to jump from different 'organizations'.

"I got sent into a store, sprayed the camera's, and let everyone in. No one knew the owner slept in the back, he came out sayin he was gonna call the cops. . . Stack just looked at him. . . and shot him, the guy didn't even have a gun Ezra. That night, told our 'Rat' that I wanted out. . . I knew he'd say something to Stack, I didn't know he was gonna tell leaders from rivals. . . and well. . . that's pretty much how I got shuffled around. . . stayed long enough till they would do something stupid, like what Stack did. After I turned 15 my Mom got sick," JD revealed to Ezra.

"That is when your friend from law enforcement stepped in?"

"Cap'n? Yeah, he was a good man Ez, took care of my Mom when I was away," JD yawned out.

"Allow me to take you. . . somewhere besides here, you need to sleep. And I might add a change of clothes and a shower wouldn't do any harm," Ezra smiled.

"I can't Ez. . . I gotta be back here at 8 tonight," JD explained.

"Let me take you to my home, you can shower, change and rest before I bring you back here", the man offered.

"Can't leave my bike here," JD said.

"Ahhh. . . ahem. . . well. . . Mr. Larabee has taken care of that," Ezra stumbled the words out, JD's rolling eyes were his only reaction.

"Ezra, I can't get dropped off by someone in a Jag," JD smiled.

"Why not? Is it 'legal' for gang members to do side jobs for local crime bosses?" the man said, a mischievous grin showing his gold tooth.

"Not without sharing. . . but you could be my supplier," JD said with a sad smile. . . it would be funny if he hadn't been accused of it by his own friends.

"Well then Mr. Dunne. . . what is your pleasure?" Ezra smiled again, glad that JD would be safe and warm for the moment.


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