"Mr. Dunne? Mr. Du..aw hell..JD?!" Ezra yelled.

"Ezra? Are you crazy? What are you doin out here?" JD asked, approaching the gambler.

"I should be asking you the same thing," Ezra smiled.

"Gettin wood, remember?" JD answered part of the question.

"I am well aware of that..what I was referring to was the mention of being mentally unstable!" Ezra said.

"Huh?" JD asked, with the rain and the fact he was digging out the small hole he had made earlier to keep extra wood dry, made it hard for him to hear.

"What I'm trying to convey...JD have you lost your mind?!" Ezra asked, the usual fancy words washed away with the rain that fell.

"I'm just getting the wood," JD said, then sniffed.

"Allow me to retrieve the wood.. You need to get out of those wet things..you're going to make yourself ill, son," Ezra said with concern, hearing the sniff only increased the worry.

"Don't worry so much..I'm fine," JD said, smiling, "Sides, unless ya' brought extra clothes.." JD continued as he walked past Ezra with an armful of wood.

Ezra peered into the hole and found a few more sticks of wood, he rolled his eye's grabbed the wood and followed JD back to the cave At least he won't need to come back outside Ezra thought.

+ + + + + + +

JD stood by the entrance to the cave, watching the rain come down. Chris had finally let up on Ezra for not doing what he had requested, Ezra had exhausted all the explanations he could, still not convincing the leader that he indeed had tried to get JD back under shelter.

JD's stomach growled, he looked back at the others to see if they had heard it, returning his gaze back to the rain satisfied that they hadn't. JD was lost in the mesmerizing sound of the rain, a sudden clap and instant roll of thunder made him jump back as if the lightning had struck right in front of him, sending him backwards into Buck.

"Whoa there kid," Buck said, catching the younger man.

"Sorry Buck," JD said, his voice shaky, sporadically looking back to the opening, like what was 'out there' was a monster.

Another loud slap.

"Come on, you're still a little wet..ain't nothing gonna get ya in here," Buck smiled, guiding the young man by the shoulders back to the fire.

JD and Buck joined the others, Chris was adding more wood to the fire, causing it to spark slightly and snap.

Another clap, louder than before; JD jumped a bit, then looked back to where the sound was coming from, Buck could feel JD's muscles begin to tighten and shake under his hands.

They all knew JD hated lightning storms, he had told them about the stables being caught on fire by a lightning strike, they never knew for sure if that was why he hated them so much, they just assumed it was. They would usually distract JD, keep him busy playing cards or let him tell some long winded story..but they had never had to deal with him being out in the open when a storm like this hit, no one was sure how they were going to distract him, or even if they could.

JD became very quiet, he brought his knees up to his chest, surrounding them with his arms, he stared vacantly into the fire as he rested his chin on the top of his knees. With another loud strike of lightning, JD pulled his arms tighter around his knees momentarily.

"Mr. Dunne, would you be interested in a game of cards, I'm sure I have a somewhat dry deck here somewhere," Ezra offered, seeing the reaction from the last clap of thunder and lightning. JD shook his head in response, never taking his eyes from the fire.

The five men glanced at each other, JD's silence did nothing to ease their already worried minds; Vin had told them he suspected he was sick, just from his appearance earlier, Nathan said he looked tired, but otherwise fine.. but had added he would get sick if he went back out in the rain, Chris had agreed with Nathan; and Buck, of course, agreed with Vin. Ezra said if he was sick, he didn't believe he would be showing any signs of it at the moment..due to the fact JD's attention was in other places, like with Vin's well being.

Ezra pointed out that the young man was no doubt chilled, but Vin was the one who needed the attention more so, and if JD was cold, he hadn't really felt it yet, because he wasn't focussing on any discomfort he might have, he was focusing on what needed to be done for Vin. Nathan and the others had nodded in agreement at the gamblers observations, knowing that in JD's book..everyone else came first.

JD's breaking point became obvious as a lightning bolt hit the top of the slope that hid the cave, the force causing their safe haven to shake.

JD's hands instantly went from where they were around his knees to his ears, covering them, shutting his eyes tightly, wishing it all to just go away.

Buck had been playing a card game with Ezra when the bolt hit, leaving JD virtually by himself; Buck had attempted to lighten the young man's mood earlier, but all he'd gotten was a 'leave me alone look', so he did.

Chris felt the ground shake, his eyes going to JD as everything settled down and no longer shook, all except for JD that is. Chris stood removing his duster as he walked to JD. He wrapped the duster around the shaking sheriff, not really knowing if the shaking was the from the storm or something more.

"JD," Chris said, the tone he used had become familiar with the others in the cave, but they were never the recipient of that tone..that was JD's..and only Buck knew it had been Adam's before.

"JD, you don't need to be afraid," Chris tried.

"I ain't afraid!!" JD yelled as he stood, causing Chris's jacket to fall, his voice strong but the words unsteady.

"JD! Calm down! He was just sayin.." Buck said as he stood, JD had gotten everyone's attention when he yelled.

"That I'm afraid! I heard him Buck! I don't need you.."another strike at the cave interrupted JD, JD's eyes grew wide as the ground beneath him shook, he swallowed hard trying to gather his wits..not wanting to show the others that Chris was right, he was so caught up trying to regroup himself, he never heard Vin yelling to get out, never heard the the roof of the cave begin to disintegrate, causing rocks and dirt to fall into the cave.

"Let's get to the horses!" Buck yelled, speaking to Vin, who stood, still unsteady. Nathan grabbed one side, Ezra the other; Buck and Chris were following close behind, Chris's hand leading JD by the arm.

The horses were still where they had left them, a bit skittish but still there. Vin was assisted onto Ezra's horse sitting behind the gambler who had mounted first. Buck was nearly to his horse, and Chris was still guiding JD towards the entrance, the roll of thunder brought JD to a halt, Chris had to take a step back not to loose the grip.

"JD, we can't stay here..the place is falling apart," Chris said, urgency in his voice.

JD's eyes were wide, he shook his head vigorously as he brought his free hand to break from the grip that tugged at him to exit the cave. Chris turned his face towards Buck, still keeping his hand on JD.

"Go with them..Get them back to town!" he yelled.

"I can't leave ya' here!" Buck protested.

"Buck! Go! I'll take him with me!" Chris stated.

"He scared out of his mind Chris! You mind tellin' me how you plan on gettin him out of that deathtrap!?" Buck questioned, talking like JD wasn't even there, which was pretty accurate.

"Anyway I have to..now go!" Chris ordered.

"Last resort Chris! Last resort!" Buck stated.

"I promise Buck!" Chris reassured.

Buck mounted his horse, every inch of him wanting to go back and help Chris get JD on a horse and out of here. As Buck informed the others that Chris had JD under control, the small group left, Vin protested leaving his brother behind..but between Buck's assurance that he'd be fine..and a glare from Nathan, Vin knew it was a lost argument.

Buck spurred his horse, hoping that JD would listen to Chris and the leader wouldn't have to do something he would regret.

+ + + + + + +

"JD, we have to go..now," Chris said again with force.

"No," JD said quietly, his voice trembling and unsteady..and his eyes shown Chris just how scared he was.

"Listen to me son..the cave is falling in on us! We can't stay here ..we need to leave!" Chris said, pullin' on JD's forearm as he said it, his grip getting tighter as he felt the other hand tug at his, trying break free.

"Buck said it was safe in here!" JD tried to reason, sounding more like a plea.

"JD ..I don't want to have to hurt you..Now lets go!" Chris said, pulling the struggling man out of the cave and back into the harsh cold rain, chris somewhat surprised at the strength the younger man possessed.

"No..No no!!" JD screamed..Chris had never heard the pitch before..but it brought the hairs on the back of his neck straight up, and a shiver right through him.. JD was terrified.

Chris could feel his hand slipping from JD's arm as he tried to escape, Chris sighed heavily, last resort Buck Chris thought.

"Sorry JD," Chris apologized under his breath, and sent his fist into JD's jaw.

Chris held onto the forearm as his fist connected, JD's head snapped to the side with the force, his body suddenly went limp and he would have fallen to the ground completely if Chris hadn't caught him.

Chris sighed again, but the loud clap of lighting, again hitting near the top of the slope, reminded him of why he was out in the rain. He swore silently as he remembered his duster was in the cave still, no doubt buried by the rocks and debris; he gathered JD up, loading the unconscious gunslinger onto his horse, mounting behind him.

With one hand he held the horses reins, the other wrapped tightly around JD's waist.


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