ATF Alternate Universe
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 don't own the characters (although I would be
willing to make an offer on JD.) This story is strictly for entertainment.
No monetary gain will be made from it.
Merry Christmas everyone. Hope you enjoy your present!!!
|Remember, no man is a failure who has friends.
JD Dunne was sitting at his desk. That is if you could call spinning at nearly the speed of light sitting. A bright, red Santa hat had replaced the boy's usual newsboy's cap. "Kid," Buck Wilmington bellowed, "you spin that chair one more time I'm gonna shove your little ass in a box and ship you to the North Pole. Now..SIT STILL!!!"
The kid couldn't help it. He was so excited that it was Christmas Eve that he wasn't going to let anything spoil his good mood. Not even Buck's bellowing. "Merry Christmas to you, too, Buck!" There was an ear-to-ear grin on the young agent's face. The boy definitely knew the way to handle his big brother ~ kill him with kindness.
Team leader, Chris Larabee walked over to JD's desk and plopped down a stack of papers. "JD, if you're bored and need something to do, you can put these reports in order."
"No way!" JD pushed the stack back to his team leader and continued spinning.
"Good Lord!" Ezra Standish gasped, preparing himself for the verbal reprimand he was sure was coming.
Larabee grabbed the kid's chair in mid-spin, the abrupt stop nearly catapulting the boy to the floor. "What'd you say, kid?"
"I said 'no way.' C'mon, Chris, it's Christmas Eve." JD rolled his eyes at his superior, trying to scoot his chair free from the man's grip, but to no avail.
Larabee leaned on the chair back with his full weight, causing it to recline backwards. "And your point would be???" Chris' steel blue eyes pinning the boy down.
JD seemed unaffected by Chris' menacing glare. What the heck, it's Christmas Eve, he's not gonna hit me on Christmas Eve. "Well, usually, Chris, people have a party on Christmas Eve. All the other departments are having one. How come you're being such a Grinch?"
"Good Lord" Ezra gasped again. The kid must have some sort of death wish!!!
Wilmington took this as his cue to jump in and rescue the kid again, like always. "Son, you don't want to go there." Buck jumped up, grabbed JD out of the chair and shoved the kid behind him, blocking the boy from Larabee's view.
JD grabbed Buck's arm and turned the larger man around. "C'mon, Buck, I know you guys had a party last year. You told me yourself that it was a really wild one. But this year, it's like Scrooge City. What gives?"
"Well, it's not 'last year,',kid," Chris said quietly as he walked back towards his office.
"Yeah, but how come..." JD started before he heard Chris' door slam. Yikes!!
Vin Tanner came over and sat on the edge of JD's desk. "'You're' the reason, kid."
Ezra Standish walked up and placed a firm hand on JD's shoulder. "Mr. Tanner is correct, my young friend. I do believe you owe our illustrious leader an apology. You were wrong to assume that it was his decision that we would not be having any office festivities this holiday."
"OK then, it's not Chris' fault, but how's it my fault?" JD was staring at the other agents. He wanted answers, and he wanted them now.
"You're underage, kid, that's why." Vin cuffed the boy on the back of the head, knocking the Santa hat off, as he walked away.
"Huh?" JD reached down and retrieved his Santa hat and placed it back on his head.
"What part don't you understand, kid?" Wilmington sat down at his desk, shaking his head. " Brass sent the word down last week. No party in this department.'cause you're not 21. ATF frowns on underage drinkin', kid."
JD slumped, dejectedly, down into his chair. Josiah Sanchez walked over and squatted next to JD's chair, which put the mountain of a man at about eye level with the seated boy. He placed his hand on the boy's knee. "Chris didn't want to tell you son. He didn't want you feelin' bad about it."
"Oh, man..." JD put his head down on the desk. "I'm dead..."
"I feel I must be in agreement with you on that statement, Mr. Dunne," Ezra said, surprised the boy was still among the living anyway after the way he had handled Larabee earlier.
JD sat at his desk for a few more minutes, mentally kicking himself. "Might as well get this over." JD pulled off the Santa hat, tried to straighten out his hair and slowly made his way to Larabee's office. The trip from his desk to Chris' door seemed to take forever.
Larabee's door was open and he could feel someone watching him. "Yes???" he said, never looking up from his desk.
"I... I... uh... I'm..."
"Easy for you to say, son." Chris looked up and smiled at the boy. "C'mon in, shut the door."
"Sure." JD closed the door and walked over to stand in front of Larabee's desk.
"Have a seat, kid."
Larabee looked at the boy slumped in the chair before him. He looked so young ~ much younger than his actual twenty years. No wonder everybody loves the little runt so much. "Look, JD, I probably should have told you this before, but the higher-ups..."
"The guys told me." JD's head was hanging, his too-long bangs hiding his expressive eyes.
Chris looked surprised. "Oh, well, they really shouldn't have done that. It was my decision to not tell you."
"I'm sorry 'bout what I said before..." JD still never looked up at Chris, only slumping further and further in his chair each time he spoke.
"I know you are, son. I know you didn't 'really' mean to call me a 'Grinch,' right?" Larabee smiled at the kid, trying to let him off the hook.
But JD didn't feel like he deserved to be let off the hook. The boy was still miserable, feeling responsible for cheating the team out of a party. "I'm sorry 'bout screwing up Christmas for everybody this year." JD finally lifted his head and Chris could see the boy's huge hazel eyes filling.
Chris got up from his desk and took a seat in the chair next to the boy. "Did we say you were 'screwing up' our Christmas?"
"No, but duh just like always, 'kid screws up'." JD leaned forward, his elbows on his knees, his head hanging again to hide his eyes.
"Not your fault you weren't born 'til '79, kid." Chris grinned, placing his hand on the boy's back.
"I... I'm just in the way, I guess. You guys'd be better off without me."
Larabee started to worry. The kid was usually overflowing with self-confidence and yet now, here he was, in front of his 'hero,' acting incredibly insecure. Like he often did ~ when he was sick. "You OK, JD?"
Uh-oh. Larabee's parental feelings for the boy came forward and he instinctively placed his hand on the youth's forehead. Shit!! "JD, I think you're comin' down with somethin', son..."
"I said, I'm fine." JD pulled away from Chris and stood up. "Look, I'll go put those reports in order now." JD turned to leave but stopped in the doorway"Sorry." And the kid darted out.
Chris just shook his head. It seemed like the kid was always apologizing for something or another. Usually unnecessarily, but always doing it, just the same. Chris had never once regretted his decision to have the boy join the team. Except of course the times when he was hurt in the line of duty. Whenever JD was injured, Chris would kick himself a thousand times for putting a kid in that kind of dangerous situation. The kid was only twenty, for Christ's sake. Not even old enough to drink.
Not even old enough to drink.
A point that the 'old' Chris Larabee would have had a hard time accepting. When Chris lost his wife and son, he'd spent many a day with only a bottle for company. Oh, Wilmington had tried, but Chris had done his best to push Buck away.
But, Buck, well, if he thought that you were worth the 'effort' he'd follow you to Hell and back to help you.
Worth the effort.
JD was definitely worth the effort.
Not just to Buck, but to the whole team. JD was the team's own little poster child for 'effort'.
Buck always said it was an 'effort' just not to up and kill the kid every day. Not that anyone really believed him. 'Course, Buck lived with the kid, worked with the kid, and hovered over the kid with what ever time there was left over. Anyway you looked at it, that was a 'lot' of JD. And even as little as the kid was, he could drive a man crazy in record time.
Ezra always thought it was an 'effort' to even begin to fathom someone being as innocent and naive as JD in this day and time. Ezra swore he knew more about life as a child than JD does now. 'Course Chris was pretty sure that Ezra was 'born' as an adult. He could never imagine Standish ever being a child. The undercover agent was pretty much a loner by nature, but really had a way with children. Larabee was sure that was why Ezra had such a soft spot for the kid. Not that JD was a child, but he was the closest thing the team had to one. And even though Standish's feelings for the boy were pretty obvious, Chris knew he'd never come out and admit it.
Vin Tanner had always felt it was an 'effort' just to keep up with JD's rambling. The sharpshooter and the kid made quite a pair. Tanner very rarely put more than ten words together at a time, but yet got his point across, while the kid talked a-mile-a-minute and rarely ever really said anything. But Vin was crazy about the kid. He was damn near as protective of him as Buck, but just usually managed to go about it in a more subtle manner than Wilmington. Vin would definitely 'hover' sometimes, just did it in a way that JD didn't usually notice.
Josiah Sanchez. Josiah thought 'everyone' was worth the 'effort'. So, needless to say, JD was worth a helluva lot more. Sanchez absolutely adored the boy. Said you don't find many kids nowadays with JD's heart, passion and honor.
Nathan Jackson often jokingly said it was an 'effort' just to keep JD alive. Nathan referred to JD as a 'living, breathing, cartoon character'. If there's a piano within a hundred miles, it's gonna fall on JD's head. And sick??? A cold that would require an aspirin and a box of Kleenex for the rest of the team would land the kid in the hospital with a fever of 107 and on life support.
And himself? What did he think was an 'effort' with the kid? It was an effort just to not lock the kid away until he was 'grown up,' it was an effort not to smother him like Buck, it was an effort to remember that he was not a 'little kid' but rather a 'kid' who was 'little,' and it was an effort to remember every time that he looked at him that he was not his son.
Chris suddenly realized he'd been daydreaming for quite a while when he heard panicked yelling coming from outside his office.
+ + + + + + +
JD walked slowly back to his desk and sat down in his chair, never looking at the others as he passed.
"You OK, kid?" Buck looked worriedly across his desk at the boy, noticing his face looked flushed.
Shit!! Buck noticed the kid had that look he'd get when he wasn't feeling well and his head was killing him.
"So, everything's OK with you and Chris?"
"Goddammit, JD, drop this fine crap and talk to me, boy!" Damn kid could try the patience of a saint.
"What'cha want me to say, Buck??? I'm a jerk???" The kid looked at the older man, his eyes spilling over. "OK, I'm a jerk! You happy now?????" The kid was quite obviously upset and stood quickly from his desk. Too quickly, actually, as the room suddenly began to sway and the boy pitched forward towards the floor, only to be caught by the strong grip of his big brother, Wilmington.
Nathan Jackson, an ex-Army medic, rushed to the boy's side. "What happened?"
"Dropped like a rock, Nate." Buck held the boy's limp form in his arms. "What's wrong with 'im, Nate?"
"He's burnin' up," Nathan fretted. "He say anything'bout feelin' sick?"
"Boy don't complain, you know that, Nate." Tanner had joined them and was kneeling next to Buck, his hand on his shoulder, trying to keep the man calm. Seeing the large man holding the boy in his arms, Vin felt like his heart was going to break in two, so he knew that Buck would be on the verge of a full-blown panic attack by now.
Chris heard the commotion and rushed out of his office. "What's goin'..." he started before he saw the kid on the floor. "JD???"
"He passed out." Vin looked up and could see the instant concern in Larabee's eyes.
"I thought he was coming down with something when he came in a few minutes ago. I was gonna tell Nathan. I didn't think the kid'd take matters into his own hands this fast."
+ + + + + + +
JD felt queasy. He thought he could hear someone talking to him but he really couldn't make out who it was or where they were. Everything seemed so muffled and far away.
He tried to open his eyes but the effort was useless. He just couldn't do it. But, at the same time, he could see someone kneeling next to him. It was a man in a suit and a hat. The man looked vaguely familiar. Like someone he'd seen before but didn't really know.
Suddenly, it came to him. "Whoa! You're... you're..."
The man extended his hand. "Bat Masterson, kid. Good to meet 'ya."
"Bat Masterson???" Despite his aching head, JD sat up slowly. "But you're... you're... "
The man smiled and raised his eyebrows. "Dead???"
"Yeah," JD whispered.
"Well, son, they sent me to help you."
"They??? They who???"
"You know." Bat looked upward.
"Yep. Anyway, kid, you're feelin' kinda down, huh? Thinkin' you're no good for yourself and no good for anyone else either, huh?"
"Yeah, I'm just..." JD trailed off.
"Just a kid."
Masterson smiled. He had taken an instant liking to the kid. He was hoping he'd do a good job and be able to help the boy through his troubles. "Well, son, everyone's a kid at first. You won't be a kid forever."
"I will around here. I could be forty and I'll still be a 'kid''cause they'll all be like sixty." JD giggled slightly, thinking of his 'geriatric' friends shuffling around the office.
"Wishin' you didn't work with these men?" Masterson asked.
"I mean, maybe you shouldn't be here. Maybe you're not good enough to be working with these 'men'. You are'just a boy' after all, and..."
"Hey!! I can do the work. I pull my weight around here." JD didn't like what this man was implying.
"So, what's the problem then???"
"I dunno." The boy was tiring, his lashes getting heavy, but he continued on though his speech was slowing down. "They still just think I'm a kid. I think sometimes maybe they don't really want me around."
Masterson could tell the boy was fading and thought that he'd better get started on his assignment. "Wanna see?"
"Wanna see what it'd be like for them if you 'weren't' around?"
They boy's eyes widened. "You can do that?"
"Hey, I'm dead, I can do a lot of things. C'mon."
+ + + + + + +
"Buck, you 'bout ready to head out?" Larabee strolled up to his best friend's desk.
"Nope." Wilmington shuffled through a stack of papers on his desk. "Workin' a double, Chris."
"Double??? On Christmas Eve???" Chris couldn't believe what he was hearing. Party-man, ladies-man, Buck Wilmington, working on Christmas Eve?
"Ain't got no plans, Chris. Just gonna go home and watch TV. Might as well let someone with a family have the night off, let 'em be home."
"You ain't gotta sit home by yourself, Buck. You could come home with me."
"Oh, there's a real pleasant thought. Sit around by myself, or sit around and watch you drink yourself into a stupor like you do every holiday. Hmmm... let me think about this for a bit" Wilmington drummed his fingers on his cheek for all of two seconds. "OK, thought about it long enough, think I'll pass, pard. You go on home."
"Fine. See 'ya Monday, Buck."
Buck sat at his desk, remembering how Chris used to be. He wasn't always the dark, brooding man he is now. He used to be a real 'family' man, before he lost his family, that is. The man truly had nothing to live for and definitely nothing to be happy about. 'Happy Holidays' was not the thing to wish Larabee at Christmas. He knew Chris was heading home to hide out for the next 48 hours.
Not that Buck was much better himself. Bachelor, no family, now that Chris had pretty much abandoned him. No 'real' love in his life, no one special, no one to go home to, no tree, no fun, just him and the TV. Who needs that kind of depressing scene on Christmas Eve? That's why Buck had decided to let someone else have the time off. Someone that maybe had people waiting for him, maybe a family, maybe a kid, maybe a son. Snap out of it, Buck, you're just talking crazy now. You ain't got any one like that in your life right now. Quit making yourself miserable.
+ + + + + + +
"What's wrong with Buck? He's not alone, he's got... Oh..." JD suddenly remembered. So this is what Buck would be like without him??? Maybe Buck's fits were all an act. Maybe the kid really didn't drive him crazy. Maybe he really was happy to have the kid around.
"That's right, kid. He doesn't have you, no 'little brother' keepin' him hoppin'."
"Geez, poor Buck. He's all alone on Christmas, and Chris, too??? Everyone was gonna come over to our place tonight, it was gonna be so cool..."
"Guess that won't be happening, son, since there 'is' no 'our' place."
+ + + + + + +
Vin Tanner sat at this desk watching Wilmington and Larabee talking and carrying on. He envied them their friendship. The two had been friends for what seemed like forever.
When Tanner had joined the team, he'd taken an instant liking to Larabee. That was the main reason he'd decided to join. He felt the man was honest and would be a good man to work for. But, it was more than that. Vin had felt that Larabee was the type of man he could be close tobe real good friends with. It wasn't until after he'd joined up that he realized that there were no more members allowed in the Larabee-Wilmington club.
+ + + + + + +
"I don't understand. Vin and Chris, they're really close." JD shook his head, thinking.
"They are now."
"That's another thing that changed after you came along."
"Me? What'd I do?" JD looked at Masterson, his eyes wide with wonder.
"When you joined the team, you'd just moved from Boston, you'd just lost your mother, you had no one."
"Yeah." JD shifted his eyes to the ground, remembering.
"Chris Larabee knew that you needed someone."
"Chris had already been through what you were going through, son. He'd been to the bottom and was trying to claw his way back up. He didn't want you to have to do the same thing."
"So, you mean???"
"He gave you what he knew you needed. No matter what it cost him. Chris gave you his most precious gift, he gave you his best friend, he gave you Buck."
"And then... Vin?"
"Vin was able to step in and fill a void for Chris. Thus, you had a great effect on Vin and Chris, you made them become the best of friends."
"But, Buck, he lost his best friend..." JD's eyes filled as he thought about it.
Masterson placed his hand on the boy's chin, tilting the young face up towards him. "Don't worry son. You gave Buck something he'd never even realized he wanted until he had it."
"A little brother."
+ + + + + + +
Ezra Standish was packing up his briefcase. "See you fine gentleman next week." And the Southerner headed off.
"Big plans for the holiday, Ezra?" Josiah Sanchez inquired as Standish passed his desk.
"No, nothing really."
"Well, no. Mother is in Europe, as usual. Thought perhaps I might run over to one of the casinos, partake of a few games of chance, perhaps a midnight buffet." Standish smiled, uneasily.
"Sounds like an 'interesting' way to spend Christmas," Sanchez said.
"You're mother's always gone at the holidays?" Sanchez really didn't know much about the agent's personal life.
"Usually. It's really quite all right. I've grown accustomed to it. It was always the same, every year in boarding school." Standish felt uncomfortable opening up about his past.
"You're welcome to come with me, if you'd like, Ezra. I'm going to be delivering meals to shut-ins and homeless shelters. I could really use some help."
"No thank you, Josiah. I prefer to spend the holidays alone if you don't mind."
Nathan Jackson was putting on his jacket, preparing to leave.
"Heading out, Brother Jackson?" Josiah asked.
"Yeah. Gonna put in some of my re-certification hours tonight. Gotta keep that EMT license current, 'ya know."
"Nothing better to do on Christmas Eve?" Sanchez wondered.
"Well, gotta do it sometime. Figure they could probably use the extra help in the emergency room, usually a busy night. Besides, like you said, got nothin' better to do."
"How 'bout helpin' me deliver those meals? Like I told Ezra, I could really use some help."
"Sorry, Josiah," Nathan apologized. "I'm already on the roster, can't back out now."
+ + + + + + +
"I'm helping Josiah deliver those... Oh..."
"That's right, son. You're not there to help Josiah. He needs help, but no one else seems to be in the 'holiday spirit'."
"No, you're wrong, everybody's really excited about Christmas!"
"Maybe because there's a 'breath of fresh air' in the office? A 'kid' maybe?" Masterson suggested to the boy.
"Me??? What difference would I make?" JD knew Masterson had to be mistaken. He could never make any difference in anyone's life. Especially in the lives of the men he worked with. They were all far more experienced in everything than he was. They certainly didn't need some dumb kid teaching them anything.
"Well, let's see, you're like a brother to some, like a son to others, and a friend to all of them. You've had a positive effect on all of these men. You don't see that? You've made them all take a look at themselves, and their lives. Things that are important to you, like friends, family holidays are now important to them, too. They've all changed because of you. They don't want to disappoint you, son. There's nothing those men won't do for you. I don't think you realize the way they truly feel about you."
"They just think I'm a kid, that's all."
"Close, but not quite," Masterson smiled.
"What do you mean by that?"
"You're not just any kid, son, you're their kid."
"Their kid???" JD was puzzled.
"You're very special to those men. You don't see that?"
"Guess not." Again, JD's head was hanging in self-doubt.
"You don't see the way Buck's face lights up when you're around? The way Chris admires your honesty and strength? The way Ezra defends your naivete? The way Vin always has his eye on you, protecting you? The way Josiah loves your heart of gold and kind soul? The way Nathan worries when you say you're feeling 'fine'? You don't see any of that???"
"You're loved by each and every one of these men, son. I can't believe you don't see it."
"I just figured..."
"I just figured that I was a pain in their ass." JD lifted his head to face Masterson.
"Yeah, well, that too." Bat smiled at the boy.
+ + + + + + +
"JD??? Son???" Buck stroked the boy's face with a cool, damp cloth. "C'mon, kid, wake up, please???"
"Uhmmmm..." JD groaned. Where was he? He was on a couch. But where? Was it Chris's office maybe? "Uh... Buck???"
"Hey, kid!" Buck beamed. "'Bout time you came 'round."
"You've been out for a bit, son." Nathan put his hand to the boy's forehead again. "You feelin' sick, JD?"
"You know, kid," Buck smiled, holding up the wastebasket, "pukey?"
"Oh... uh... no."
"Good. Think you can get up, so we can get you home?" Buck was supporting the boy and helping him sit up.
"Duh JD, what's wrong with you, boy?" Buck placed his hand gently on the boy's flushed face. "You sure you're OK?"
"Well, let's get out of here then." Buck helped the boy stand and steadied him as he swayed.
JD looked up to face Buck. "Don't you have to work a double shift???"
"What? Quit your clownin', kid. You know we've got big plans, son. Remember?" Buck had one hand on the boy's shoulder and was gently rubbing the kid's back with the other. "You 'sure' you're OK, son?"
"C'mon, then." Chris Larabee shoved his desk drawer closed and turned off his lamp. "Let's get goin'"
"You're comin', Chris?" JD turned startled eyes towards Larabee.
"You did invite me, didn't you, son?" Chris couldn't hide his concern over the boy's obvious confusion. "You remember, don't you, JD?"
"Yeah, but I thought... never mind..."
JD was surprised to see Standish joining the group that was preparing to leave. "Ezra??? You're comin', too?"
"Where else would one spend the holidays, but the comfortable abode of 'Buck and the kid'?"
"So, you're not goin' to the casino?"
"Mr. Dunne, you do seem a trite confused. Are you quite certain you are all right?"
"I'm fine." JD smiled for the first time, really meaning what he said. "So,we're gonna all be together???All of us???Tonight??? Christmas Eve??? Right???"
"Ain't that what you wanted, kid?" Vin asked.
"Well, you always get what you want, don't 'ya, kid?" Tanner smiled.
"Not always," JD stammered.
"Like what?" Tanner couldn't really recall a time they hadn't all given in to the kid.
"Well, I didn't want to screw up everyone's Christmas, you know, the party..."
"Kid, party don't mean shit to us. As long as the seven of us are together, that's all that matters," Vin reassured the boy.
"You sure? I'm not in the way?"
"Kid, you ain't big enough to be in the way." Buck smiled as he pulled the kid into a big hug. "God, kid, what would we do without you?"
"I don't know," the boy lied, remembering what must have been a dream.
"Neither do we, kid, neither do we." Chris placed his hand on the boy's head.
"Hey, Buck?" JD finally pulled himself out of Wilmington's hug. "You know, I had a dream and you guys were all in it and Bat Masterson, too."
"Batman?" Buck asked.
"No, Buck, Bat 'Masterson'... you know..."
"Oh, the guy with the stupid hat?" Wilmington grinned.
"It's not stupid, Buck, it's cool. I'd wear a hat like that if I was a cowboy."
"Aww, kid you'd be wearin' a halo back then just like you do now."
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