I Breathe In
This is a songfic.
Lately I've been runnin'
Into our old friends
And somewhere in the small talk
Someone always asks where you've been
So I tell them what you told me
And they can't believe we're through
They ask me what I'm doin' now
And in case you're wonderin' too
I breathe in I breathe out
Put one foot in front of the other
Take one day at a time,
'Til you find
I'm that someone you can't live without
I breathe in and breathe out
JD and Casey sat in a back corner of restaurant, holding hands. They had finished dinner and were sitting enjoying each other's company. Casey was telling a joke she had heard at work and JD saw smiling as she stumbled through it. He had to laugh, not at the joke, but at the fact that neither one of them could tell a joke decently, no matter how simple it was. Thankfully, they both knew it and didn't allow it to ruin their telling of the yarn.
JD had the night all planned. The couple was celebrating their first anniversary, one year of dating. He had slipped his hand into his pocket and fingered the jewelry box hidden in there. It had taken an entire weekend of shopping to find the right necklace, a small floating heart with a quarter carat diamond on the bottom. It wasn't much, but it was a commitment to her. JD knew it was important to her and therefore, important to him.
The waiter had left the bill and JD lay down his money as Casey sipped her wine. The cell phone in his jacket began to ring as the waiter took the money and bill. The young ATF agent smiled in embarrassment as he pulled the instrument out and opened it.
Casey was watching him as he listened to the one sided conversation. She felt his hand tense and glanced up to see him pale. The waiter had placed the change on the table and walked away as she heard JD say, "Okay. I'm on the way."
He closed the phone and turned back to Casey. "I have to go, Case. There's been some kind of trouble. Buck's been in an accident."
"Oh, JD, is he okay?" she asked.
His lip trembled as he shook his head. "I don't know. They don't know anything yet."
The couple stood up and left the restaurant. JD opened the door of Buck's pickup and helped the girl step up into the tall vehicle. He closed the door and ran around to the driver's side and jumped in.
"Casey, I'll run you home right quick and then I'll head over to the hospital."
She placed on hand over his as he inserted the key. "No, go on to the hospital. I'd like to go with you if you don't mind?"
His smile told her that he didn't mind. Just to make sure that she understood that, he leaned over and kissed her lightly. "Thanks, Case. Buckle up."
He fastened his belt and, dropping the shift lever into first, he headed to his roommate and best friend's side.
The hospital was only ten minutes away, but JD made it in five. He parked and the two young people jumped out and quickly entered the emergency doors. A glance around the room revealed none of Team Seven, so Casey followed the frantic agent to the desk to inquire about Buck.
The woman directed them to room 411 and they quickly headed to the elevators. Casey gripped JD's arm as the compartment moved upward. She could feel the tension, the slight tremor, in his muscles. Rubbing soothingly, she tried to reassure him.
"He's probably not hurt bad at all if they already have him in a room, JD."
He turned worried eyes down at her. A weak smile accompanied a "Sure hope you're right, Casey."
The doors opened and they exited, glancing both ways. The girl spotted Nathan Jackson standing off to the left and she tugged the young man in that direction.
"Nathan!" JD called softly, but the urgency was evident in his voice.
The tall black man turned at the call and greeted them with a smile and a wave.
"JD. Casey. Now, before you get any more worked up, Buck's going to be fine. He took a fall and banged his head. He has a mild concussion and a cracked wrist, but he'll be out tomorrow and back on desk duty by Monday."
JD visibly relaxed and hugged the girl as she smiled up at him. Stepping out of the embrace, he kept an arm draped across her shoulders. "Where is he, Nathan?"
"I was just heading back down to the room." He turned and headed away from the elevators.
They arrived at the room and Casey stopped. "JD. I'll wait over there." She pointed to the floor waiting room that was just across the hall.
"No, you come in with me. I didn't drag you down here to leave ya standing in the hall." He gripped her hand.
"I don't want to intrude," she stated. JD had turned to her and she saw Nathan give a quick nod as he pushed through the closed door. It silently closed behind him as she turned her attention back to the hazel eyes that watched her face. "JD, everyone will be in there. You'll want to find out all about what happened. It's ATF stuff. I don't need to be there. I can wait."
"Casey, you're just as much Buck's family as I am. You're an important part of my life and I want you to feel that you're welcome at all times. You're not an intruder here." His eyes pleaded with her.
She gazed at him for a moment and then took a beep breath. Smiling, she opened her mouth to say thanks, but was stopped as the door swung open to reveal the team standing around on the other side. Buck's voice called out gently, "Kid, get in here. And bring that beautiful little girl with ya. I'm getting tired of staring at these ugly faces in here."
She giggled as JD's face reddened. "Please,'" he whispered. She nodded and they walked into the room. Chris released the handle to allow the door to close as they passed through.
Buck was sitting up in the bed. He had a brace and ace bandage wrapped around his right wrist and a bruise was showing on his right temple at the hairline. Besides looking a bit pale, the man looked as cheerful as he was most times. The young couple approached the bed and his smile was as genuine and bright as ever. He took hold of Casey's arm and pulled her into a big hug, followed by a quick peck of the cheek.
"How ya doing, darlin'" he asked.
Shaking her head, she lightly fingered his face near the bruise. "Me? I'm the one who needs to asking that."
"Oh, hell, darlin', you know I'm fine if all I did was hit my head."
JD had leaned against the side of the bed and he patted the older man's knee with that admission. "Chris has always said you had a hard head, Buck."
Casey and Buck both turned their attention to dark haired boy. They could both see the worry that resided in his hazel eyes. JD was as transparent as the glass that kept out the cool night air, wearing his heart out on his sleeve for the world to see. Hiding his feelings was beyond his capabilities and everyone in the room knew this.
"Kid, you can just relax. You're still stuck with me for a while." JD's smile was as weak as Wilmington's joke. Buck knew he had scared the younger man. He hated that it had happened and he tried to reinforce the fact that he was okay by joking. "I got hurt worse that time we went camping with those kids from Josiah's mission."
Nathan laughed. "If I'd of known you were going to try to cut off your finger, I wouldn't have loaned ya my knife."
Vin snickered at Buck's expression. "Yeah, Buck, maybe you should leave all cooking duties to someone who knows how."
"I don't believe that would be an agreeable settlement to all parties, Mr. Tanner. I do believe that Mr. Wilmington could be trusted to do the dishes after the meals."
Chris tossed in his two cents worth with, "I think that it was Josiah that got burned trying to heat water for cleaning up that one time."
Casey listened to the seven as they began to recount the times each had been injured, whether it was job related or the product of some leisure time incident. She was suddenly aware of the danger all the men faced each day. Granted, they had dangerous jobs. It put them in harms way each time they were working a case. More than that, though, was the fact that their very essence, the thing that made them the men they were, demanded that they take risks. They lived to 'push the envelope' as saying goes. The things they did to relax would have most men cowering in their homes. Casey knew that most men did something dangerous, but these men, well, most of what they did was dangerous. And they loved it.
Casey felt a cold shudder run down she spine as she thought about the danger. She had seen each of these seven men in the hospital at one time or another. How many times? How many times had it been JD? How many calls had she received telling her that one of them was on the way over to pick her up and bring her to this very place to see the man she loved because he had been injured? How many more times would it be before they were driving to a different location, a location where she would not be comforting him as he lay in pain, but instead was saying goodbye forever?
Could she do that? Could she tell John Dunne, the man she dreamed of having children with, of growing old with, goodbye? Could she do that? As she listened to the friendly banter of the seven men, she suddenly realized that she didn't want to do that. She didn't want to see those beautiful hazel eyes closed forever; the fair-skinned face slack in death. Death and JD did not go in the same sentence. He was too full of life and warmth and love. She turned and left the room; her thoughts turned the scene in front of her into a wake-a wake for JD.
Casey crossed the hall to the waiting room and fell heavily onto a plastic couch that had seen many visitors in its time. She looked at her hands and saw the tremors. JD could die doing what he loved. He could watch one of the men that made his family die and it would kill him. She knew it to be a fact. The gentle heart that resided within him could not survive the loss of one of his friends. The girl knew that he loved her, but she could not ask him to give up the people and the job that he loved so much and took such pride in. No, if she didn't want to someday be standing over his grave, she had to remove herself from his life. She was not a strong person emotionally. The grief of losing him would kill her. But if she walked away, left him now, she would have the memory if a living, breathing JD, not some pale, lifeless shell that his soul had resided in. Casey took a deep and shuddering breath and reached for the cell phone in her purse.
JD noticed Casey leaving the room. He stayed for a few minutes longer, than excused himself, telling the others that he needed to get the young woman home before her aunt Nettie started calling around for them. All the men knew Miss Nettie Wells and sympathized with the young man. She was a formidable person when crossed.
"I'll see ya tomorrow, Buck."
"Hey, kid" the bed ridden man called. "Did ya give it to her?"
JD blushed and shook his head. "I'll call ya tomorrow about what time to pick you up."
Good nights were exchanged as he opened the door and left.
The young man looked around and, not seeing the small young woman, stepped across the hall and peeked into the waiting room. He stopped as he saw her wipe at her eyes. The fact that she had been crying was evident on her cheeks and in her reddened eyes. He quickly crossed the room and wrapped his arms around her shoulders.
"Casey, what's wrong? Why are you crying? Buck's okay. He's going to be coming home tomorrow." She seemed to shudder and began to cry again. "Case, talk to me. What's wrong?"
She gently pushed him back, but could not bring herself to look into his eyes. "JD..I ..I can't do this, not any more. I called Julie to come pick me up."
JD reached up to wipe a tear from her chin as he told her. "I can take you home. There's no need to have her come out here. I was ready to leave anyway."
She brushed his hand away from her face and took a deep breath. 'Now or never, girl. Just do it.'
She looked into his eyes and almost couldn't continue. The vision of him in a casket suddenly flashed before her eyes and she gasped. He frowned at the sound of her sharp intake of breath and once again he reached out to her. But the vision galvanized her resolve.
"JD. I don't want to see you anymore. I can't do this; the danger and injuries, I can't handle it anymore."
"Case, Buck's not hurt bad. It wasn't even a case. He fell at Chris' place." JD wanted to explain it all to her, but she wasn't listening. Casey turned from him and went out the door. JD quickly followed. "Casey."
She moved down the hall to the elevators. He caught up as she was pushing the call button. He reached out and gripped her arm. Turning her to face him, he tried again. "Casey, what are you talking about? You can't mean it. I ..I love you. Casey, please." He begged her to stay with his eyes as well as his words.
"No. I can't ask you to give up your life for me and that's what it would take. I just hadn't realized that until tonight. Please, JD. Just let me leave."
"No, dammit. You are as important in my life as Buck and the guys. I won't just let you walk out. I can't."
"You don't have a say in this, JD. It's my decision and I am leaving. Leaving here, and leaving you." As she spoke the elevator opened and she turned to see her roommate standing there, a concerned frown on her face.
"Julie, let's go." Casey started to step into the elevator, but was stopped as the young man gripped her arm.
"Case, please," he whispered. Tears glistened in his eyes.
She gently pried his fingers from her arm and stepped in next to the other girl. Glancing up, she whispered back, "I have to. Good bye, JD." The doors slid closed and cut him from her sight. Feeling a hand on her shoulder, she turned to her friend and wept quietly.
JD watched the doors slide closed. He watched the numbers click down as the elevator descended. The small box in his pocket suddenly felt as if it weighed fifty pounds as he stood fingering it. What had just happened? He did not understand why Casey was so upset.
JD heard someone coming up behind him and he quickly wiped his eyes on his sleeve. The boy was turning away from the elevator when he felt a hand on his back. Spinning around, he came face to face with Vin and Josiah. Their smiles turned to frowns when they saw his face.
Josiah reached out and placed a large hand on his shoulder. "Son, are you alright?"
"She..Casey..she left," he stammered.
Vin grinned. "Guess she didn't like our stories." He stopped grinning when he looked, once again, at the youngest of the team.
JD stood, his eyes wide, as his chin quivered slightly. He didn't know how to tell them. He wasn't even sure what to tell them. His hands shook as he pulled the box from his pocket and held it out in front of them. "She left me. She doesn't want to see me any more." His voice cracked as he spoke.
Josiah and Vin looked at each other. Vin stepped forward and gripped the hand holding the box. "Did she say why, kid?"
Black hair bounced as he nodded. "She said she couldn't take the injures any more. I don't really understand. She was fine at dinner. She was happy and smiling and - we..were happy."
The two men looked at each other. They understood the implication of what Casey had told the boy. JD, how ever, did not. He was so sure of their love that he couldn't see that she was scared of losing him. So, before that could happen, she would leave him and, thereby save herself the heartache of his loss.
"Come on, JD. Let's go back down to Buck's ro.." Vin started.
"No!" he hissed. "No, he..he needs to rest. I don't want him to be worrying about me." JD glanced down the hall and saw Nathan and Ezra headed their way. JD pulled away and tried to get to the stairwell. Josiah grabbed the boy's jacket and pulled him into an embrace. Josiah could feel the trembling muscles under his hands. The team profiler closed his eyes and sighed as the boy wrapped his arms around the older man's waist and broke down. Hot tears soaked into his shirt, making it cling to his broad chest. Sanchez saw Vin stop the approaching men and quietly explain what was happening.
JD regained his composure quickly and pushed away from the big man. He saw Vin herding Nathan and Ezra back down the hall to the room. He grabbed Vin's jacket and stepped in front of him. "No, don't go back down there. I don't want Buck to find out. Not tonight. Tomorrow is soon enough."
Tanner nodded. "I'll go get Chris. You're going home with him."
"I got a home, Vin. I ain't needing a babysitter." JD's face flushed as he stared at the sharpshooter. Tanner looked into the angry eyes of his young friend.
"Don't mean that you need a babysitter, JD," Vin started.
JD jumped as Chris dropped a hand onto his shoulder. JD turned to see Chris and Ezra standing behind him. He dropped his head and could not bring himself to look into the team leader's eyes. Chris put his hand on the young man's neck and gently guided him toward the elevator.
"Ezra told me what happened" Feeling the muscles in the young agents neck tense, he quickly added. "No, he didn't do it in the room. Buck is asleep. We won't dump this on him now. He'd blame himself." Chris saw the young man nod in agreement. The doors opened and the six men got on and started down to the ground floor.
As the doors opened, Chris stepped off with JD walking closely at his side. There had very little conversation on the ride down, but JD agreed to go to the ranch with Chris. Vin had the keys to Buck's pickup and would follow them to the ranch. Ezra and Josiah had come with Nathan after Chris called about the accident. Nathan would drop them back off. The men moved quietly to the front entrance of the hospital and then divided to go their separate ways.
Chris had the Dodge truck almost to the dirt road that led to the ranch he called home, when the young agent turned to him and asked, "Chris, did I do something wrong?"
"What do you mean, JD?"
"Why would Casey dump me like she did, no warning or anything?"
Chris sighed as he thought about what to tell the youngest member of his team. How do you explain something that you don't really understand yourself, something that you have never experienced?
"JD, I don't know what to tell you. Casey is afraid of losing you, so she decided that the best way to prevent that happening was to not have you in her life. I think that she has seen each of us in the hospital so many times, that she is afraid that our luck is going to run out. She just doesn't want to see you get killed. Guess she figures that if that happened it won't hurt as much if she isn't there."
"That doesn't make any sense, Chris. If she loves me, it won't hurt any less because she didn't see it." JD sat turned toward Larabee. His face was drawn into a frown as he thought about the girl's reasoning.
"I know that and you know that, but she has to figure it for herself." It sounded reasonable to the boy. JD relaxed as they approached the ranch house.
"So, you think she might come around and come back?"
The older man shrugged his shoulders. "JD, if I could tell you that, I could make a fortune explaining women to men, but I can't. So we'll just have to wait and see what happens. I hope she does. I like that little girl and I know how you feel about her."
"Thanks, Chris."I've got every reason
To find someone new
Cause you swore up and down to me
That I've seen the last of you
But the way that you loved me
Girl, left me hopin' and holdin' on
So until this world stops turning round
And my heart believes you're gone
I breathe in I breathe out
Put one foot in front of the other
Take one day at a time
'Til you find
I'm someone you can't live without
I breathe in and breathe out
The seven men sat around a table at the 'salon'. They had finished a case the day before and were looking forward to a relaxing weekend. They had gotten several bad guys off the street as well as the guns they were attempting to sell. The arrests had gone off without a hitch. The gunrunners gave up without a shot being fired.
Inez Receillos waited on the men. She took their orders and went back to the bar to fill the order. Buck Wilmington rose and started after her.
"Buck, she doesn't want your help and if you don't sit down, she'll make us all pay for it." Nathan shook his head as Wilmington patted him on the shoulder, but continued on his quest.
It had been a busy four weeks since Wilmington's accident. Chris had arrived the following day to take him home and told him what had happened the previous evening. Hearing about Casey and JD's break up, he had blamed himself. 'If I had not been careless,' he lamented to Chris, 'then Casey would not have been once again exposed to a team injury and made the decision that she had.'
"Where's the kid? You didn't leave him alone at our place did ya?"
Chris snorted as he watched Wilmington gather his things. "Yeah, Buck. We let him drive off in your truck alone last night. But don't worry, I'm sure he'll show up soon."
Buck glared at him and Chris glared back. Finally, Buck broke off and Chris smiled. It was too easy. He knew what the boy meant to Buck and he really shouldn't allow himself to bait the man, but it was just too easy.
"Don't worry, Buck. JD's at my place with Vin. He's doing okay."
It had taken the youth the next six days to convince Buck that, first, it was not Buck's fault and, second, he really was okay. He was sad about Casey walking out, but he had had a talk with Chris and would wait to see what the future brought.
The team had gathered around their youngest and been there for him when he needed their support. Buck knew that he was hurting and he wanted to help; he just didn't know how. He longed for the sparkle to be back in those hazel eyes and was seeing improvement each day, so he just kept doing what he had been doing. Waiting.
As he arrived at the bar, Buck glanced over to the table where his friends sat, laughing. He knew they were all worried about the kid. They had all been through the same thing, but it didn't make it any easier for them to watch. Buck had a plan, one that only he and Inez knew about. He smiled at the dark haired woman behind the bar.
"Are you sure it will work, Mr. Buck?"
"Yeah, darlin'. I'm sure. He's just waitin' for her to come back. He's been carryin' that box in his pocket for a month. When she called me today, I about hollered out loud. She's about to come around and that boy couldn't harbor a grudge if his life depended on it. You just help me when the time comes."
"You better be right. I don't want to see JD hurt any more." She frowned at him as she issued the warning.
Buck smiled back at her and then glanced down at his watch. She should be here any minute. As if on cue, he saw the door open and Casey stepped in. She stopped just inside the door and looked around. Catching Wilmington's eye, she nodded at he inclined his head toward the table the team was seated at. Buck and Inez held their breath as the young woman approached the table.
JD was sitting with his back to the door as Buck had arranged. He had his head down laughing at some story Ezra had been telling. When he looked up, he noticed that the men's faces had become somber. It was a moment later he realized they were looking at something over his shoulder and he slowly turned his head.
The young man felt the blood drain from his face and just as quickly rush back to heat his face with a blush. He opened his mouth to speak and discovered his throat was not working. Swallowing, he stood.
"Case..hi." He turned and drew out a chair. "Do ya want to join us?"
The girl's face burned with embarrassment and she shook her head. Seeing JD's eyes look away, she reached out and placed her hand on his forearm as it rested on the refused chair back. "JD, could I talk to you? In private?"
The young agent looked up to see the plea in her eyes and nodded. "I'll be back, guys."
The two walked off to a corner booth and sat down on opposite sides. Buck and Inez watched as JD positioned himself in the back corner of the booth. Glancing over, Buck saw Chris watching him. Larabee's eyes told the mustached agent that their leader was onto him and it had better work out, or Wilmington would be answering to him. Buck inclined his head in acknowledgement. They had known each other long enough to understand the other's body language. Seven pairs of eyes watched the booth, waiting for the outcome of the two young peoples meeting. Only one person moved as the drama began to play out.
"JD." Casey Wells started, but her voice faltered. Looking down at her hands, she was startled as a glass tapped on the table. She raised her eyes and met the gaze of the dark haired beauty, Inez.
"I believe you always have a Sprite, correct?"
Casey smiled and nodded. Inez sat a Coke down in front of JD and gave him a wink. She disappeared as suddenly as she had appeared.
The girl fingered the glass, turning it slowly in a circle. The boy waited patiently. Finally, she looked up.
"JD, I screwed up. I knew I had as soon as the elevator doors opened downstairs at the hospital. I thought about coming back up, but I let Julie take me on home." She broke eye contact and took a quick sip to replenish the moisture in her mouth. She was unnerved by the lack of movement on the other side of the table. The normally energetic young man had moved only to wrap a hand around the glass placed in front of him since taking a position on the corner. Taking a calming breath, she continued.
"I let my imagination take hold of my heart. I tried to rationalize to myself that I couldn't live if I saw you die; that it would be too terrible a thing to live with. My mind closed down and decided that the best way to protect myself was to walk away. Then, if it happened, I wouldn't have to watch. Only problem is that.. I'm in love with you. And while my brain was protecting itself, my heart was dying."
She glanced over at the table and saw the others watching. Turning back to the steady gaze of the boy across from her, she felt as though she was swimming in a cold pool of water and she shuddered at the lack of emotion in the beautiful hazel eyes. But she knew she had to finish, no matter what the outcome.
Wetting her lips, she plunged on. "JD, I was a fool. Each day that I was away from you, I kept thinking it was another day I could have had. Then, last Sunday, Julie had a wreck.."
That got a reaction as JD frowned and sat forward, reaching out to touch her fingers where they wrapped around the glass. "Is she all right?"
Her breath caught at the touch and she had to force her eyes away from the sight.
"Yes. She wasn't hurt. It was only a minor fender bender." She looked into his eyes and a tear rolled down her cheek. "But it opened my eyes, JD. If something were to happen to you, it would tear me apart. But it could just as easily be me and you would be the one dealing with a loss. I realized that I was throwing away the time we could have together. It doesn't matter if it's years or months or even minutes. Every second that I spend with you, is precious. I wasted four weeks already. I'm just praying that you can forgive me for being such a coward and let me come back. I was just so afraid of losing you that I stopped thinking and just reacted."
Her heart skipped as he pulled his hand away. Casey could feel the blood drain from her face. 'I blew it. I throw away the only relationship I ever wanted' she thought. Tears sprang into her eyes and she closed her eyes tightly and began to slide out of the booth. She gasped as she bumped into something and her eyes opened to see JD standing at the end of the booth.
He sat down, forcing her to move back. He reached over the wiped a tear from her chin.
"I was going to give this to you last month for our one year anniversary, but since I didn't get a chance then, I'm hoping that you will accept it now." He brought the small jewelry box out and held it out to her.
She looked up and saw the raw emotion in his eyes. A smile pulled at her mouth and she took the box he offered her. Tears cascaded down her cheeks as she opened the box and the necklace twinkled at her.
"Oh, JD. It's beautiful." She looked up at him. Shaking her head, she told him, "JD, I can't. The way I acted, the way I treated you last month, I don't have any claim to something like this." She closed the box and sat it on the table.
He picked up the small box and, opening it, he pulled the necklace out. The light reflected off the small diamond and bounced light beams around the small booth. "Case, this is only a token. It's a symbol of my heart, which you have already claimed as yours. You can't give it back, cause my heart belongs to you, forever."
She watched his eyes as he spoke and saw that he was sincere. A frown pulled at her mouth. "How do you do that?"
"Just forgive and forget so easily? I don't know that I could be so forgiving to someone that hurt me like I did to you?"
"Because I put myself in your position and I know how scary it is to lose someone close. I thought nothing would ever be right again after my mom died, but I was wrong. I found Buck and Chris, Vin and Ezra and Josiah and Nathan and I started to live again. And I found that I remembered the good times with my mom and not the pain of her passing. And then I found you and I knew that as scared as I was of losing you, I had some great memories to carry throughout my life and that made it worth any pain I might have later." A single tear rolled down his cheek to drop onto her hand as she reached out to him.
Caressing his cheek, she leaned into him and placed a light kiss on his lips as he fastened the clasp of the necklace around her throat. She picked it up and turned it over lovingly. With a sigh she leaned against his chest and listened to the rhythm of his heart as it beat beneath her ear.
JD looked over to see Inez lean across the bar and kiss an unsuspecting Buck on the mouth. His expression was priceless. JD had a feeling that Buck had something to do with Casey's appearance tonight and he intended to find out what that something was, but it would wait. Everything could wait for just a while as he enjoyed the warmth and weight of Casey against his chest. In the background the soft refrain of a song could be heard.We were meant to be
Girl, there's no doubt
And if it takes the rest of my life
For you to figure it out.
I breathe in I breathe out
Put one foot in front of the other
Take one day at a time
'Til you find
I'm that someone you can't live without
I breathe in and breathe out
Comments to: MAXBOBABE@aol.com