Disclaimer: The usual...seven aren't mine, mary and Judge Travis aren't mine...Travis and Esau(although no appearance) are mine, The Ranch AU is mine...as well as all mistakes.
Summary: The revelation of what JD was doing while in Billings' custody garners a very harsh reaction from an unexpected source.
It was nearly 6 a.m. when Mary and the Judge left Four Corners, just after 6 when Chris left his sleeping son on the couch and poured the last cup of coffee from the third pot, and damn close to 6:30 when Chris heard the familiar rattles of Vin Tanner's tired Jeep round the driveway and stop next to the barn.
Chris stepped out the front door and onto the porch. His tired body ached and muscles pulled as he forced himself down two steps to sit just as Vin opened the passenger side door and climbed out.
"Morning," Chris greeted, never asking Vin why he'd gotten out the passenger's side.
"Damn door stuck, 'gain," Vin sighed as he leaned on the post at the bottom of the steps. "Figured ya'd still be sleepin'."
"Nope, been up for a while," Chris sighed before taking a sip of the steaming coffee from the cup in his hands.
"Rough night?" Vin asked, taking two steps up the stairs.
"You could call it that," Chris said, remembering why JD'd woken. But also remembering that his connection with his son hadn't been lost in the three weeks JD'd been gone and the relief he felt knowing his son didn't blame him for his absence from the ranch even if he still blamed himself. Add all that with the fact that he'd just spent the night trying to make one stubborn headed blonde understand why his son had spent nearly a month currying drugs, and yeah, it qualified as a 'rough night'.
"He still awake?" Vin questioned, understanding the 'cryptic' answer meant that JD had not only had a restless night, but there was more. Maybe JD had talked to his father maybe Vin's 'nephew' had unloaded the burden he'd seen him carry in with him when he'd run back home to Four Corners.
"Nope," Chris said, taking another sip of coffee. "Any idea when the others are planning on coming back?"
"I s'pose they'll be showin' up any time now," Vin said through a shrug.
"Guess I'd better put some more coffee on and wait for everyone to show up," Chris grunted as he stood.
"Yup. I'll get the horses fed," Vin volunteered.
Chris gave a quick nod of his head and headed back into the house. "Don't want to have to say this too many times," he added under his breath as he entered the house.
+ + + + + + +
The others showed up within the hour, with the exception of Nathan, who had been detained at the clinic. Mrs. Potter was anxious to see JD again, as was everyone else, but had yet to venture into the living room where he'd fallen asleep. So she busied herself with making sure coffee cups were filled and perusing through cookbooks as some form of distraction.
Josiah had gone out to the barn to help speed along the chore of caring for the horses, hoping that either Nathan would be there soon or Chris would fill them in on the night's events when they were done.
Every man knew the night had been one of little sleep. Whether it was the dark circles under Chris' eyes, the stressful creases in his brow, the tight line that he only parted to drink coffee, or the fact that JD was nowhere to be seen that gave it away; the others could see the man was holding on to a burden and his silence indicated he didn't want to have to unleash it but once.
Josiah and Vin entered the kitchen, careful not to allow the door to slam shut. Vin greeted the men with a slight dip of his chin, and a small smile.
Both men deposited their dirty boots, gloves and jackets on the mat next to the door, then walked over to the table where two new cups of coffee awaited their arrival, smiling at the kind and portly woman who'd placed them there; the smile she returned couldn't hide the worry in her eyes.
Gloria loved the house and the men who occupied it, mostly due to the fact it was always busy with activity. Buck coming into the kitchen like a tornado, Vin running by her with a quick peck on the cheek usually followed by either Chris sporting a sour look, the tilt of his head asking 'where is he?', Ezra with his face red as he spouted off a litany of French curses at Vin's latest practical joke, or Josiah and Nathan in deep discussion over the validity of alternative methods of healing and cures, Modern medicine, or if the homeless problem was economical or environmental.
Gloria sighed, her heart heavy knowing that three 16-year-old boys were usually added to the list of contributors to the noise level. She never realized how quiet the whole house was without all the necessary elements. For three very long weeks she'd tried not to drown in the silence, always baking, always finding something to clean, rewashing clothes just for the sake of keeping busy. She had enough baked goods in the freezer to feed half of Colorado.
Gloria glanced over to the front door, where Chris was looking out; trying patiently to wait for Nathan to pull into the driveway. She glanced back at the four men sitting at the table; Buck fidgeted, Ezra rhythmically tapped his fingers on the table, Josiah seemed to be just pondering, and Vin spun a cloth pot holder in a fast paced circle with on finger.
Her brows knitted together. She closed the cookbook, and then wiped her hands on the apron she wore. With a deep breath of resolve, she strutted over to Chris.
"Nathan's not going to get here any faster," Gloria said, a hint of a smile bouncing through the words.
"Nope," Chris agreed, his gaze still holding firm through the etched glass door.
"What time did your 'guest' leave?"
Chris' head snapped to face the woman, "How did you know?"
"Chris, I've worked in this house for a long time. You can't work for a cop without picking up a few things," she smiled, playing with her employer. "I saw the cups in the sink. And I don't usually put out the creamer and sugar bowl except when we have guests."
Chris did a combination of a nod and a headshake with a slight grin. Gloria was an observant person; he'd have to remember that next time he wanted to keep a secret.
The light moment over, Chris let out a tense breath. "Let's sit down," he said, pointing back towards the kitchen, "and get this over with."
Gloria smiled and squeezed his arm. "I think that would be best," she agreed, and turned to head back into the kitchen with Chris right behind her.
"Billings called Mary last night," Chris announced as he sat down at the table.
"Oh he's a slick piece of "
Chris held up his hand, silently asking the others to let him finish before they got all wound up.
"He called her and told her JD'd run off. She called here wondering if I'd heard from him," Chris said, his tone somewhat flippant.
"And you told her he was here?" Buck asked, nearly laughing at the idea.
"She and Judge Travis came over, we had a few things to talk about," Chris stated, not directly answering his friend's question.
"He called her last night? After four days. Well ain't that just sweet," Buck spit out, shaking his head in disgust... *Oh yeah, that's what any father would do boy he was worried probably figured he'd better call in case JD ended up dead in a ditch somewheres *
"You did inform Mrs. Travis that Billings' holds no claim to the young man?" Ezra asked.
"Nice to see he was concerned for JD," Vin hissed.
"You allowed that woman back in my house? Which cup did she drink out of?" Gloria asked.
"Hold on. It's been one hell of a night and I haven't been to bed. Now do you want to know what went on last night or do you just want to jump to your own conclusions?" Chris growled out, his hands rubbing the aggravation away from his face.
"I apologize for all of us, go ahead, Brother," Josiah said in a serious tone.
"Billings' knew JD wasn't his son. The only reason he took the DNA test was because it was court ordered," Chris said to the men sitting at the table. "JD had told Mary and Judge Travis he thought maybe the judge that had signed the custody papers was crooked, he remembered the judge looking over at the stenographer, and the look of apology he'd given Billings' when JD had made the request for a Paternity Test."
"Billings' knew he was gonna fail?" Buck questioned, unbelieving it even as he heard the words. Chris nodded his head.
"That don't make sense. Why?" Vin asked. He'd heard of many scams in his time but this? Take a kid out of his home, claiming to be his father? This was a new one.
"I suspect 'Mr.' Billings needed our young friend for a reason? Some sort of illegal activity perhaps?" Ezra asked, his jaw tight with tension as the words flew from his mouth with hatred.
"JD was a currier," Chris said, his anger at the thought still present in the delivery of his voice.
"What?" Buck gasped. He knew what a currier was; he'd been a cop too long to know that 'currier' didn't mean you delivered blueprints to company moguls.
"A currier?" Mrs. Potter asked, slightly confused at the expression on Buck and Ezra's face.
"JD delivered drugs, I assume, to Billings' customers," Ezra explained to the cook.
"No JD wouldn't do that! He no. No, I don't' believe it JD couldn't!" Gloria gasped, not prepared for Ezra's explanation.
"He had no choice. Gloria, you need to calm down, you'll wake JD," Chris said in a calm low tone.
"I don't believe you! He's a good boy. He wouldn't do that he wouldn't sell drugs " Gloria continued to rant, her eyes tearing up as the wholesome vision of JD began to crumble.
"He didn't sell them " Chris tired to reassure her, his voice still calm and quiet, hoping the ever-growing hysterical woman would follow suit.
"He gave them to people!!" she didn't.
"Gloria! Listen to me!" Chris bellowed.
"Did he know?? What he was taking to people? Did he know they were drugs?" Gloria asked, almost pleading that maybe JD didn't know.
"Yes, I knew."
The group turned to the entryway of the kitchen. With bare feet on the hardwood floor and toes just touching the linoleum in the kitchen, the group saw JD, a look of pure sorrow on his face and tears falling independently down his all too pale cheeks.
The men knew and understood, as did Chris, that JD didn't have a choice in the matter. He was Billings' son at the time; he was alone, scared and more than likely didn't know what to do to get out of the situation he was in or if he even could have.
Mrs. Potter on the other hand wasn't as insightful; her grandson had died a little over two years before due to a drug overdose. JD admitting that he knew he was currying drugs tore a hole in Gloria's heart. "How could you?" Gloria asked, her heart breaking before everyone's eyes. "How could you?" she asked again.
Chris hadn't thought of the potential for a confrontation with Gloria after revealing what JD had been doing while in Billings' charge.
JD was so worried that no one would believe him that he'd done Billings' bidding involuntarily, that he nearly didn't say anything. The disappointment JD felt sure Chris and the others might have, drove JD to silence.
Gloria Potter was like the grandmother JD never had; in JD's eyes she could do no wrong, placing her high on a pedestal. And Gloria adored the boy. She loved JD like her own, as it was so easy to do. To her, JD was as close to perfect as a child could get.
Gloria Potter was not one to get angry, and on the rare occasion that she did she had all the facts. They never thought she could become this hurt, give in to the feeling with out the whole story never thought she would allow her anger to control her; and worse, not wanting to hear any explanation.
"I didn't have a choice," JD tried to explain, shaking his head, his tears growing with every drop that fell from his 'grandmother's'.
Chris walked to where his son had taken two tentative steps into the kitchen, Vin right behind him, flanking JD.
"No " Gloria shook her head and gasped the word, she didn't want to hear it she didn't want to feel bad for JD he was the kind of person that had killed her grandson he was the person that her grandson had called had chosen over family, when things became too much JD was the kind of person that contributed to her grandson's death.
"Mrs. Potter. Please " JD begged; he could see the hatred and disappointment growing in her eyes, and it took his breath away.
"NO!! Don't you dare tell me you're sorry or that you didn't have a choice!!" Gloria yelled, taking several threatening steps toward JD her finger pointing at him with every word. Buck and Josiah held Gloria back, still in a bit of shock themselves at the woman's words.
"Gloria " Chris sang out in a low tone warning, holding his hand up and standing slightly in front of JD, trying to convey that once she knew the whole story she would change her mind.
"Gloria there are things you don't understand things you need to know," Josiah said in a calm, low tone.
"There's nothing you can say," Gloria said in a soft, but firm voice.
"Mrs. Potter. You are the most understandin' woman I've ever met. Look at 'im," Buck said in an almost whisper. "Look at JD, he's a good kid you know that. You know as well as I do, the last person he'd want to hurt is you. There's more to this, I can guarantee it." "He knew what he was doing was wrong, there's no explanation for that," Gloria remained solid.
"JD, go with Vin into my office. Let me talk to Mrs. Potter, she'll understand," Chris said. The others didn't know what Billings had done to JD to get him to curry the drugs; Gloria would realize JD did what he had to so to survive.
"She hates me God I've made such a mess of things," JD said in a strangled voice, shaking his head.
"Vin, tell him," Chris leaned into the man, whispering his request that Vin tell JD about Gloria's grandson Zach. Vin nodded, and placed his hand on JD's back guiding him toward the den.
"Come on, kid," Vin sighed.
+ + + + + + +
"Gloria," Chris said with an aggravated tone, he had seen all his hard work from last night drain from his son in seconds.
"Oh no you don't don't you dare defend him!" Gloria shouted through a sinister laugh.
"I will defend him," Chris said sternly.
"He KNEW what he was doing! He's back here of course he's sorry!" Gloria made her point loudly.
"He refused! Dammit Gloria, I can't believe you think JD'd do that willingly!" he said, in serious shock with the 'black and white' attitude she was airing.
"Mrs. Potter, if I may point out a few facts before you come to the conclusions you are heading to at break neck speed," Ezra finally spoke.
"None of your fancy words can change what he did," Gloria said with a glare.
"Nothing but turning back the clock can undo that I'm afraid," Ezra said. "What I have to offer is more a character reference," he continued in his smooth, unemotional way.
Not getting any response but Gloria's gaze, Ezra continued.
"How many times has JD lied to you or any of us?" Ezra asked. "I'm not referring to common fibs such as how many cookies he actually took out of the cookie jar."
"Ella Gaines he lied about her," Gloria quickly responded.
"True, but that lie did not benefit him," Ezra countered, referring to the fact that he'd lied about Ella's actions towards him, because his father had serious feelings for the woman.
"Never," Gloria quietly stated after a brief pause.
"Seth Billings lied to JD all of us before he even walked in the door, before we even met the man before we even knew he existed," Ezra pointed out.
"So he lied to JD to get him to deliver drugs?" Gloria laughed out, if this was Ezra's defense, it was a pitiful one.
"No," Chris answered. "Billings gave him an address, told him to take a package there. JD knew what the package was. He told Seth he wouldn't do it," Chris hung his head, took a deep breath before looking Gloria in the eye. "Billings hit him."
What? Bastard Lord have mercy He's a dead man.
Gloria heard the words that the revelation brought to the men around her. She looked into Chris's eyes. She could see the truth the anger that Chris hadn't been able to save his son from being hurt, showing clear from the glazed eyes to the jaw that clenched sporadically with the thought of his son being hit.
"He should have gone to the police," Gloria quietly said, a last ditch effort to hang onto her anger the hatred of drugs, dealers, suppliers and anyone who took part in the drug world that snatched her grandson away at too young an age.
"He was alone in unfamiliar surroundings and he was scared. He didn't know what to do. He didn't have the proof he needed, he didn't think the police would believe him," Chris said, his tone as soft as Gloria's was.
"He didn't even want to tell me what went on with Billings'. He was so afraid I'd hate him that I'd be disappointed. Gloria, you know JD would never willingly do anything to hurt someone. He did what he had to. JD said Billings hit him only once, but I'm not too sure about it," Chris revealed, stroking the woman's cheek with his thumb, letting her know that he wasn't angry with her for her reaction.
"I'll pack my things and be out tomorrow," Gloria said, after nodding to Chris that she did understand. She then turned away from the group of men.
"What? Why?" Chris asked, stunned by her words.
"I did exactly what Mary Travis did, I jumped to conclusions without listening to the facts," Gloria shook her head, sardonically chuckling at the irony.
"You were angry, Gloria but be angry with the right people. Be angry at Billings, not JD," Chris pleaded.
"I didn't believe him he can't forgive me for that," Gloria said through a sob.
"You underestimate the young man," Ezra said.
+ + + + + + +
"Sit before ya' fall," Vin said as his head followed JD to one edge of the room, to the other. "Sides, Ezra paid a bundle for that Oriental rug, you wear it out an' he'll have ya' head," Vin said as he watched JD pace from one edge of the room to the other.
"Do ya' believe me?" JD asked, stopping and turning tear filled eyes toward the man that sat in a wood frame chair in the corner of the office.
"That ya' did what ya' had to, knowin' that what ya' was doin' was wrong?" Vin asked, pushing himself up from the chair. "Yeah, I believe ya'. Mrs. Potter will, too."
"She hates me, Vin," JD said softly.
"No she don't hate ya' she hates what ya' done," Vin said with a quiet confidence.
"Same thing," JD shrugged, then shook his head and turned his back to Vin.
"No it ain't," Vin stated firmly, turning JD to face him with a gentle persuasion to his shoulder. "Mrs. Potter's grandson Zach got involved with drugs a few years back. He went into rehab two or three times program after program; he O.D.'d just shy of his 18th birthday."
JD was stunned, his mouth open slightly at the revelation. He shifted his footing, thinking of something half way intelligent to say but nothing came out.
"So," Vin said, "Ya see she's upset with ya' right now 'cause of what Billings made ya' do, reminds her that Zach died. Once she understands ya' didn't have a choice, that ya' did what ya' had to she won't be mad at ya'."
"I'm not too sure Mrs. Potter can let that go so fast, Vin," JD shook his head with doubt. "I've never seen her mad like that she looked like she wanted to hit me."
"All she was seein' was the drug dealer that took her grand kid away, she weren't seein' ya'," Vin tried to reassure JD. "She's more 'n likely beside herself thinkin' ya' hate her."
"I could never hate her, Vin," JD said in a quiet, defensive manner.
"I know that," Vin smiled, knowing that the kid was nearly incapable of the emotion. "Question is can ya' forgive her?"
+ + + + + + +
"Forgive you?" Chris repeated.
"I have no doubt that our young friend is beside himself with the fact that the revelation of his 'activities' has caused you such distress," Ezra offered the woman who dabbed at her eyes with the corner of her apron.
"Gloria?" Chris asked. "Do you understand why he did what he did? I'm not asking you if you condone it, I'm asking if you understand?" "Yes," Gloria sniffed. "Yes, I understand."
"Then you don't have any reason to leave," Chris stated firmly.
"I don't know if I can have the same trust and faith in JD as I used to. I know it's shallow and wrong, but " Gloria's voice began strong, but faded as she shook her head.
"That is hardly shallow or wrong, my dear woman. It is an honest statement," Ezra acknowledged with admiration.
"I doubt the kid expects anything less of ya' Mrs. P," Buck said through a wide smile.
"He's lost faith and trust in himself, perhaps you both will regain it back together," Josiah offered.
"It's not fair to make him walk on eggshells around me," Gloria said after taking a deep breath. "Mr. Larabee, Buck, Ezra, Nathan, Josiah it's been a pleasure working with you all, but I think it would be best if I go," Gloria said, nodding her head to reinforce her resolve.
"You sure about this?" Chris asked, uncharacteristically calm. "Can you stay until I at least find a replacement?"
"No, I'm sorry. I know you all too well I'm afraid. You'll be bringing in cooks that were so under qualified, or have a prison record, or you'll drag your feet so long that I'll just end up staying. No, Chris, I think it's best if I go tomorrow," Gloria said through a knowing smile.
"Mrs. Potter? You're leaving?" JD whispered his question from the entryway of the kitchen. "Because of what I did?"
"Don't be silly, kid," vin smiled as he walked by JD and looked at the sullen faces in the kitchen. "Yer just plannin' a shoppin' trip or somethin' right?" Vin stated walking past JD and looking at Gloria Potter.
"Afraid not," Josiah said as he approached Vin.
"No " JD gasped. "No Mrs. Potter, don't leave you can't leave be mad at me...not them!"
"You're sorry?" Gloria nearly laughed out. What did JD have to be sorry for? She was the one who'd attacked him with her words. "I wish saying sorry could change it all JD, I truly do," she responded with a heavy heart wishing that everything could be fixed with a simple apology.
"I wish saying sorry could change what I did," JD said softly, not able to stop the tears that welled in his eyes. "But it can't. Please, Mrs. Potter, don't go please!" he pleaded, a single tear spilling over, trailing down to his trembling chin. "I'll do anything I'll stay out of your way so you don't have to see me. I I'll do my own laundry so you don't have to I I'll I'll make it so's you don't even know I'm here. Anything but please don't leave!"
"JD," Gloria began, her heart breaking with every tear that streamed down JD's face. She tried to say more, but JD wasn't finished yet.
JD cleared away the tears that fell with a quick swipe of the back of his arm, he took two small steps towards Gloria, trying a new approach to get the woman, his 'grandmother', to stay.
"You've told me over and over how this house is a home and that we're all family. Well, when families have a problem they work it out, they don't run out or leave, right?"
Mrs. Potter nodded as her head hung, her hands wringing in the apron she still wore; not able to look the young man in the eye.
"I don't expect you to like what I did. I didn't like what I did. All I'm asking is that you believe that I didn't do it because I wanted to, I didn't have a choice," JD said, just an arms length from the woman.
"How can you forgive me for what I said?" Gloria asked softly, her hand cupping JD's cheek.
"You've always said that actions are louder than words words are just words but if you leave " JD said quietly. "I'm not expecting you to apologize for what you said just believe that I didn't curry drugs because I wanted to," JD pleaded so quietly it was hardly heard.
"How can I say I'm sorry?" Gloria choked out just as softly as JD, taking a step to the young man and embracing him.
"Just believe me," JD requested with emotion.
"I believe you " she whispered again, stroking his dark hair.
"That's all I need to know," JD's said in a muffled voice. "That's all," JD stated again, squeezing the woman tighter.
Comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org