Nathan approached JD with a glass of water in one hand and his other hand cupped.

"Here," Nathan offered, holding both hands out.

"Thanks," JD smiled mischievously taking the glass of water, purposefully not offering an open palm for the cupped hand.

"These, too," Nathan said sternly.

"What are they?" JD asked suspiciously, he knew that Nathan had 'connections' with the hospital staff. . . and although illegal to do so. . . they supplied him with a variety of mild pain medications as well as small doses of sedatives.

"Just aspirin. . . it'll take the small fever you have away," Nathan explained, opening his palm.

"Guess they look like aspirin," JD said after a quick inspection, picking up on of the pills he looked for a marking on the pill, when he didn't find one he took the other and popped them into his mouth, then swallowed the glass of water.

"Night JD," Vin said quietly, from where he stood with the others, far enough away he knew JD wouldn't hear.

JD lifted his legs from the floor and stretched them out on the couch, turned so his back was against the couch and lay his head on the pillow. He had a sudden feeling of himself becoming heavy. . . he knew then he'd been tricked.

"Dammit Nathan. . . .don't really wanna sleep 'til tomorrow night. . . " JD said, he speech slow as he fought against the effects.

"You need to. . . .just relax. . . don't fight it JD," Nathan assured, he knew JD would fight, that's why they had told him it was aspirin. . . .and not valium. . . in disguise, at least this way. . . by the time JD realized he'd been given something. . . the fight wouldn't last very long. . . the medication was too far ahead of his willpower.

"Valanum?" JD questioned as his eyes grew heavy, and his mouth didn't seem to want to work.

"Yup. . . one of the few things you ain't allergic too. . . so don't get yourself thinking you're gonna wake up in the hospital," Nathan smiled just as JD's eyes closed and a slow, rhythmic breathing followed.

"That was easy," Buck smiled.

"Not like he didn't suspect it seein' Nathan was here," Vin said wryly.

"How many times you jump out from under his desk. . . the same time. . . the same place. . . and every time you scare the bejeezus outta him. . . you think he knew Nathan was given him something 'sides aspirin," Buck laughed.

"You miss how many times he's walked by his desk. . . say 'Hi Vin' and keep walking, then come back just so I can jump out at him?" Vin asked, with a smile.

"He keeps jumping and emptyin' them folders just for your enjoyment?" Buck questioned, hands on his hips.

"No. . . for yours," Vin smiled.

"Nate," came a very tired voice from the couch.

"What is it?" Nathan asked, kneeling in front of JD, his hand instinctively to the young agent's fore head.

"I ain't sick. . . but I'm gonna be sick. . . " JD said, trying desperately to open his eyes.

"Can you make it to the bathroom?" Vin asked as Nathan grabbed at the blanket, Josiah searching the kitchen for a bowl. . . just in case.

"I can wait if you can get me there. . . Nothin seems to be workin right," JD's attempt at a smile making him look more pitiful then he already did.

"Thought you said he weren't allergic to this Nathan," Buck scolded.

"Not. . . Buck. . . just. . . settled bad," JD offered as Nathan and Vin practically dragged JD to the bathroom, closing the door behind them.

"Settled bad. . . what the hells that supposed to mean?" Buck asked the shut door. . . like it had an answer.

"He ain't had anything to eat since he left Ezra's. . . that's all Buck," Chris said, putting a reassuring hand on Buck's shoulder.

Chris guided Buck away from the door as they heard JD vomit, Buck felt he should be there. . . knowing the kid didn't feel good. . . that was his 'job'.

"Bathroom ain't big enough for the people in there Buck, adding one more person is just gonna make him feel embarrassed. . . and cramped," Chris said, knowing what Buck was thinking.

Buck nodded knowingly.

"Still can't believe Henderson thinks JD's responsible for his brother gettin killed, can't imagine JD hurtin' anyone on purpose," Buck sighed, shaking his head.

"JD ain't the same person he was back then Buck," Josiah said evenly, "JD was on a path of death and destruction, not by choice, by necessity. He had an angel looking after him that guided him to a different path, the preferred path. JD turned his life around, unfortunately some men can't seem to let the past be just exactly that. . . .the past. Henderson's gunnin' after JD for something that happened when he was 14; he was just a boy tryin' to survive," Josiah sighed.

"Hell Josiah. . . He's barely 20, he's still just a boy," Buck said, shaking his head.

"I know. . . I should. . . . be pissed at you. . . . Buck. . . right now. . . this here 'boy'. . . .wants to sleep," JD tiredly stated, as Nathan and Vin 'helped' JD back to the couch, his whole body still not wanting to cooperate due to the sedative.

"Maybe if ya didn't look like a boy, we wouldn't tease ya so much," Buck smiled as he followed JD's path to the couch.

"You're the only one who says anything Buck," Vin defended himself and the others.

"He's just. . . . . . jealous. . . is. . . all," JD smiled awkwardly, as he lay back on the couch.

"Jealous. . . hah!"

"You're . . . say I'm a kid. . . .only reason you say that. . . .is your so. . . ." JD stopped, his eyes closing.

".so? Sooo what?" Buck asked, hating to be left hanging.

"Old Buck. . . you're old," JD barely got out, and once again fell asleep.

Buck stood straight, he was shocked. . .

"Did. . . Did you 'hear' what he just said to me? . . . to ME!!"

"He said you was old. . . Pops," Vin teased.

"Oh he is goin' to pay for that tomorrow!" Buck said, wildly pacing back and forth, waving his arms frantically as he mumbled through a rant.

The others watched with amusement as Buck carried on, Buck tired himself out and he sat heavily on the overstuffed chair and sighed.

"Hey Buck. . . Now that you've told us what you're going to do to JD tomorrow. . . you going to tell him what he said?" Chris asked.

"Why am I gonna have to remind him?" Buck questioned.

"You forget what medication does to him. . . he ain't gonna remember a bit of it," Chris stifled his chuckle. . . well. . . He tried to. . . sort of.

"Look at that Chris. . . guess it's true what they say 'bout gettin older," Vin sighed out.

'What's that?" Buck asked, biting Vin's bait.

"Memory's first thing to go," Vin smiled.


The night had long disappeared, replaced by the day time sun; Vin smiled as he looked back to the couch, as he had done several times since he himself had awakened at 7 a.m., nearly 6 hours ago. JD had slept well the rest of the night after his small episode, the others were finally talked into leaving when JD had slept solid for 2 hours, the last ones to leave were Chris and Buck, finally agreeing to leave under the condition that Vin call if anything happened.

The small stirring from the couch caught the attention of the sharpshooter, he made his way into the living room and sat on the edge of the coffee table, waiting for JD to wake up, knowing that the kid sometimes had a difficult time comprehending and remembering things if he'd been sedated.

"What time is it?" JD asked, his eyes fluttering open as he yawned.

"4," Vin smiled.

JD looked out the window, seeing that it was day, his face went from confusion to surprise.

"In the afternoon!?" JD asked, suddenly sitting up.

"Yup, slept real good Rip Van Winkle," The sharpshooter smiled, "Hungry?" he asked, knowing if it'd be him, he'd be starving. . . . . . .

"Not really," JD said as he stood and headed for the bathroom.

. . . . . . . . . but it hadn't been Vin, it was JD. Vin never made remarks regarding JD's eating habits. Did he notice the fact that JD ate very little when he would eat? He noticed, but he also figured the kid was still upright and had more energy, usually, than a group of 6-year-olds after a sugar and caffeine binge.

He watched JD make his way out of the bathroom and Vin smiled, then there were the times like these; when JD had run himself down, when he wouldn't eat but once or twice in several days and all the energy didn't just fade. . . it disappeared completely. Nathan said the energy came from his metabolism rate. . . whatever that was Vin had thought.

"You okay?" Vin asked, knowing he sounded like Buck in one way, if he'd been Buck, JD wouldn't have made it to the bathroom without Buck asking, then nagging him not to lie to the self proclaimed 'keeper'.

"I guess. . . don't know if I feel this bad cause of what Nathan gave me. . . or it just sorta caught up to me," JD smiled shyly, acknowledging his sore and stiff body.

"Little of both most likely. . . I told ya' that couch weren't gonna do ya' no favors," Vin smiled, glad JD told him exactly how he felt, but also knowing that more than likely JD would have anyway; for a reason unknown to him, JD would tell him things. . . about his past. . . the present, what was bugging him, and Vin would always listen. . . offering his opinion if asked. . . or just listen when Buck had frustrated him so that he couldn't stand it.

"Vin?" JD asked, his voice soft, almost child like.

"Yeah?" Vin replied from the kitchen where he was making a sandwich for JD, knowing that he'd eat it.

"I wanna finish this," JD stated.

"Didn't think you wouldn't," Vin stated turning and bringing two plates with him as he sat on the wooden chair next to the couch.

"You think Henderson's talked to Joey?"

"Nathan and Chris went back on surveillance before dawn, if he talks to Hall. . . we'll know," Vin tried to reassure, fact was, he wasn't so sure Henderson hadn't spoken to Joey already, and Joey was just biding his time.

"He might have already gotten in touch with Joey. . . like he did with Chris, sent him pictures," JD said, thinking the worst.

"Hadn't thought of that," Vin shrugged honestly, taking a bite of his sandwich.

"You always gotta be so damn honest?" JD asked, half seriously; what he wouldn't do for Buck's optimism right now and tell him 'everythin'll be okay'.

"Eat. . . You make it sound like it's a bad thing," Vin smiled, knowing that JD had the market cornered in the 'Honesty Department'.

"Just. . . .What if someone gets hurt cause I'm too stubborn to back down," JD asked, playing with the sandwich in his hands.

"Is that why you want to finish this. . . cause you're bein' stubborn?" Vin questioned with concern.

JD was going to answer but the sharpshooter wasn't finished.

"If you're doin this to prove something. . . . . . .if the only reason you won't back out is 'cause you think you have to show us that your capable. . . .it's a moot point. We know you are," Vin said, hoping that he may have made JD think twice about why the young agent wanted to continue.

"That's not what I meant. . . . I want to finish this 'cause it's the right thing to do. . . I just don't want anyone to get hurt cause of me. . . thinking I was bein stubborn. . . you know," JD said, the thought of someone getting hurt because of him. . . well. . . it was a heavy burden to carry.

"How many times you get hurt covering someone else's back?" Vin asked, JD shrugged his shoulders.

"It's what we do. . . This time your the one at the most risk. . . and the 6 of us are covering your back. . . ain't no different than when it's me or Ezra in the middle of somethin' and you're on the outside watching our backs," the older agent smiled.

"I guess," JD said quietly.

He shook his head in response as Ezra's cell phone rang. Vin smiled, knowing that JD wasn't in the mood to talk to Joey at that moment.

"Yeah?" Vin asked.

"I'm am in my car surrounded by a bunch of hooligans that resemble vultures waiting for the carcass to actually die before feasting. . . I would appreciate it greatly if you would kindly offer your guidance in this manner and get them the hell away from my car!" Ezra started casually, but ended in an aggravated tone.

"I'll be right down," Vin said, not hiding the laughter in his voice or the smile.

JD's concerned face turned light as Vin revealed his conversation with Ezra.

"Can't believe he brought the Jag here," JD stated as Vin opened the door to rescue Ezra.

JD took the opportunity of being alone to dispose of his sandwich. He crumbled some of the edges onto his plate, knowing that if it was left clean Vin would suspect he'd just thrown it away. . . which is exactly what he did, hiding it under other items that were already in the trash can.

". . . .valet parking would cost me a fortune!" JD smiled slightly hearing the aggravation in Ezra's voice as the two agents entered the apartment.

"Do you want you're car to still be in one piece when you get back down there?" Vin asked, wryly.

"Yes that would be preferable," Ezra said dryly, making his way over to the window that looked down on the street, "But I didn't think it necessary to have to hire a small militia. . . .Hey!! I left explicit orders NOT to touch the car!!" he yelled out the window before continuing his rant, " to protect my property. . . it's highway robbery," Ezra said in disgust, sitting in the chair next to the couch.

"No one's robbing anything. . . and there ain't no highway 'round here," Vin said smiling.

"N'less you count the back alley on the other side," JD smiled also, referring to the alley, nicknamed the 'high way', where most addicts got there drugs or used them.

"Ahhh. . . Mr. Dunne, I assume that the reason for your quick wit is due to the fact that you had a dream filled sleep?" Ezra asked with a sarcastic tone, but the twinkle in his eye and the smile on his face let JD know that he had been worried about him.

"Don't know if I had any dreams . . . good or bad. . . all I know is I just woke up, and need a shower. . . and I don't have a stitch of anything to wear," JD smiled.

"Guess you can borrow some more of mine, those things ya had on the other day. . . well. . . let's just say they had a decent burial," Vin smiled, going to his room to find some clothes that he hoped were small enough for JD.

"Has Mr. Tanner filled you in on. . . ." Ezra asked, he hadn't had a chance to talk to anyone since he'd given Chris the information on Henderson.

"I know about Henderson. . . I ain't backing out," JD stated firmly, answering the next question he knew Ezra would ask.

"Do you think that is a wise decision? You were already at risk, you are putting yourself in a great deal more danger knowing that your 'new friends' may know that you are not what you appear to be," Ezra said, the concern in his voice was as strongly read as the look on his face.

"It's a matter of. . . "

"Please!! Spare me 'it's a matter of principal' bullshit! This is your life we are talking about. . . .not principals! I for one do not wish to have to borrow Mr. Larabee's colorless wardrobe to attend your funeral!" Ezra said seriously.

Vin had been leaning against the door frame listening to the 'black sheep' of the family. Vin was taken back by what Ezra had said but also by the tone. . . he was worried. . . and he wasn't afraid to show it. Vin never thought he'd see the day when Ezra would let his guard down. . . .even if it was for just a moment.

"It ain't a matter of principal Ezra. . . it's what's right," JD said evenly.

Vin once again was at a loss, if that had been Buck standing in front of JD, saying what Ezra had said, JD would've flown off the handle and spouted off just as bad; but he had remained cool and calm with Ezra. When did that happen? Vin asked, maybe they just never paid that much attention to the two agents and never noticed they had a connection.

"JD. . . you could get yourself killed. . . Am I not making that clear enough?" Ezra said softly, putting his hands on the young mans shoulders.

"I know that. . . and it scares the hell outta me. . . but. . . If I don't finish this. . . I won't be able to look at myself in the mirror knowin' I ran away, I did that already cause of Henderson. . . I ain't doin it again," JD said, sternly.

"It ain't all 'bout Henderson kid," Vin said, "You got me thinkin'. . . 'bout what you said about him givin' Joey pictures. . . I got a bad feelin Joey knows," he continued, handing JD the clothes.

"Chris said it was up to me, right?" Vin nodded, "Then I say I ain't backin' out. . . .don't really matter what the reason is ," JD said, turning and heading for the bathroom.

"Damn," Vin sighed.

"Can he escape from the bathroom?" Ezra asked, knowing that at this particular moment, JD would so no one would be able to stop him from meeting up with Joey.

"Nope, they have bars, so even if he opened the window he won't get out," Vin smiled, knowing what Ezra was thinking.

The two men sat in silence, both keepin an eye on the bathroom door.

"How strong is this 'bad feeling' of yours Mr. Tanner," Ezra asked, breaking through the too quiet room.

"Real strong. . . don't know if Halls got pictures. . . but somethin tells me he knows," Vin paused, trying to think of a reason to help Ezra understand, "JD gotta call from Joey late last night. . . told him there was a change of plans, kid was supposed to be keeping watch of the guns, but Hall changed his mind. . . said he lost a few guys. . . It just don't make no sense that he'd change his plans all of a sudden," Vin voiced his concern.

"I have to agree with you. . . it does seem peculiar. . . we've watched young Mr. Hall for a while. . . he is a creature of pattern. . . he has put his group under very difficult circumstance and never wavered from the danger or consequence. . . to suddenly change his method of operation due to a loss in the troops seems very unlikely," Ezra offered.

"You think we're gonna be able to keep him out of this?" Vin asked.

"Hardly, the boy is hell bent on proving himself. Doesn't he realize how difficult it will be to bask in the praise if he's dead?" Ezra said, not mixing his words.

"He can't meet Joey tonight," Vin said flatly.

"Maybe he can," Ezra said, with a twinkle in his green eyes.

"What you got in mind?" Vin asked.

"That's what I'd like to know," JD said disapprovingly, he stepped out of the bathroom undetected in time for Vin to say he couldn't meet Joey.

"Ah. . . Mr. Dunne. . . may I say you looked refreshed," Ezra smiled.

"Cut the crap Ezra. . . so what is this. . . Buck's not here so you all decided to take over for him. . . tellin' me what I can and can't do? Chris gave me this case. . . it's mine. . . and no one's gonna tell me what's best. . . The only thing that matters is we bust Boxer and Joey. . . that's all. . . nothing else matters right now," JD said forcefully.

"Just hear Ezra out would ya?" Vin said calmly, noting that JD seemed to be a bit unsteady.

"You can reject the idea if you think it will compromise your 'morals'," Ezra stated, as he walked over to JD, he too had noticed JD diminishing balance.

"Whatever," JD said, deciding it would be better if he looked interested in what Ezra had to say. . . then tell him he was still going to meet Joey.

JD took the towel that he held and quickly ran it through his hair in one motion, he turned and threw the towel back into the bathroom, and brought his head and upper body back around quickly.

Ezra was there to steady JD as the rest of the room tried to catch up with JD's head. Vin stood and was next to JD in three steps.

"Whoa. . . " JD said, reaching out both arms, hoping something would be there so he could steady himself.

"You didn't eat that sandwich did you?" Vin said accusingly, as he and Ezra escorted JD to the couch.

"You saw the plate. . . it was gone wasn't it," JD said, without having to lie about eating.

"Surely you wouldn't allow me to ruminate through the receptacle of trash?" Ezra said.

"Ruminate away. . . " JD sighed, waving his hand "I just moved to fast is all, you two are definitely worse than Buck," he mumbled.

"We gonna find half of the sandwich or the whole thing?" Vin asked.

"I wasn't hungry. . . can't a man not be hungry once in a while without playing 20 questions?"

"Once in a while. . . no problem. . . but when ya've only eaten once in three days. . . the mother hens in us get a little concerned," Vin said, acknowledging that he was aware of the fact that the 2 older agents were acting a bit like 'Big Brother' Buck.

"I am not a 'mother hen'," Ezra seethed.

"You're bein just as bad as me Ezra," Vin argued, "What would you say you are then?"

"A 'maternal fowl' I am not. I am however a friend concerned for another's health and safety, of which I have a cure for both," The conman smiled lightly.

"Huh?" JD asked.

"If Mr. Hall knows you are undercover, which both Mr. Tanner and I suspect he does, he will not bring you to the deal. . . because you will be dead. My appointment with Boxer is set for 11:00. . . you have been asked to report to the warehouse at 8, you will not need 3 hours to get the merchandise to the docks. . . I suspect Mr. Hall has other business in mind before going to his rendezvous with Boxer. . . do you see where I'm going with this?"

"You think Joey's gonna take care of me before he goes to deal. . . .makes sense," JD admitted, hanging his head.

"If our leader agrees, which I'm sure he will, you will not meet with Mr. Hall, you will be with Mr. Larabee and the others on the bust itself," Ezra said, raising his eyebrow.

"That takes care of the safety issue. . . what about the other?" Vin smiled.

"After informing Mr. Larabee of the direction we have decided to take. . . "

"What direction?? When did I say that I'd go along with this??" JD asked, suddenly realizing he wasn't in control of the decisions any more.

"Well, you didn't voice an opinion of objection so I was under the impression. . . "

"Just ask next time," JD said, laying down on the couch still tired, letting Ezra know subtly that he thought it was a pretty good idea.

"Take out or Drive thru?" Vin asked.

"Neither. . . we go and have a sit down meal prepared for us at a restaurant," Ezra smiled. . . he'd had enough takeout and fast food to last him a year.

"With real forks and stuff?" JD said sarcastically.

"Yes Mr. Dunne, and plates that aren't disposable," Ezra smiled.

"You're buyin'?" JD asked, sitting up from the couch.

"You haven't got the 'I left my wallet at Vin's' excuse," Ezra smiled.

"I told you I was broke," JD reminded, "there's so little money in there the moths left 2 weeks ago," the young agent laughed.

"I suppose. . . " Ezra looked to Vin.

"Mine left a week 'fore JD's," the sharpshooter smiled.

"Where does all your money go? Why is it you never have any money?" Ezra sighed, ready to pay for the three meals.

"You do you have a Jag, and we got normal, everyday cars. . . Maybe we should be askin' you why you always got money?" Vin asked.

"Investments. . . . . . and I would not consider that. . . thing. . . a normal, everyday car. . . is it even legal?" Ezra asked of the beat up jeep.

"Come on, you two are startin' to sound as bad as Buck and me," JD smiled at the two men, walking past them and opening the door.

"Take that back!" "I regret to inform you that there is no. . . " Vin and Ezra rebutted at the same time, causing JD to smile, for the first time in 3 days.


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