Life Saver

by Angie

I’m still basically without the aid of a beta reader, so any mistakes are mine and mine alone. Don’t have any medical training, only playing things back the way they were explained to me.

JD ran the web site address through his mind again, ‘dot GOV backslash?’ Or was it ‘backslash dot GOV?’ He shuffled through the papers on his desk, looking for the card he had written it down on. He bumped his cup and a splash of Coke spilled on the papers he was patting.

“Dang it! I need a bigger desk!” he finally hissed out loud.

“You ain’t hardly that big, kid,” Vin drawled from the corner.

“Easy for you to say, you don’t have Buck putting all of his files on your desk. All this isn’t mine, you know!”

Vin snorted as he looked at the huge stack of folders balanced precariously along the edge of the desk. JD tried to keep the desk blotter clear so he had a space to work in and that was the only place Buck would not stack things. The two desks vaguely resembled the living space the two men shared. Only the necessary areas were clutter free, a person took their life in their hands if they opened a closet or cabinet door in the apartment.

The day was winding down and Chris stuck his head out of his office. Seeing only Vin and JD in the bullpen, he called to them.

“Hey, you want to grab supper?”

After they had shut down their computers, the three men met at the elevator. When the doors opened on the main floor lobby, a man stood looking at them. He was not especially tall and he had a gangly look about him. His hair was dark as were his eyes.

“Going down to the parking lot?” Chris asked hesitantly.

The man shook his head and stepped back. The doors closed and the car descended to the parking level. When the doors opened, Vin and Chris stepped out and started toward their vehicles, they didn’t notice right away that JD had not moved.

“Hey, JD? Forget something?” Chris called back. It took him a minute to process the look of shock that was frozen on the kid’s face. He tagged Vin’s arm and started back. The elevator doors stayed open because JD had his hand over the sensor.

“JD?” Vin called as he stepped closer.

“Did you see that man? He looked just like my dad,” JD whispered breathlessly.

Chris pushed JD back into the elevator and punched the lobby button again. When the doors opened, he bolted out and looked for the man. Vin went to the security desk.

“Who was the guy standing at the elevators just a minute ago?” the sharpshooter asked the guard. The man turned the clipboard around and showed the neatly printed name, Jonathan P. Dunne. “Where did he go? Did he go up to the office?”

The guard nodded, “He said he was here to see JD. He had ID and everything looked on the up and up. You want me to have security grab him?”

“No, if he comes back down, keep him here!” Vin ran back to the elevator just as Chris was pushing the button for their offices. After an interminable amount of time, the doors opened and they found themselves facing the man again. His eyes widened in surprise and he stepped back from the elevator.

Chris opened his mouth to speak and was jostled by JD as he pushed past to get to the man. The stranger backed away until JD took hold of him and shoved him against the glass doors of the Team 7 offices. They could barely make out the low snarl that came from JD’s throat.

“Who in the HELL are you? And what are you doing here?” the young agent growled as he pressed his forearm against the man’s throat.

A firm hand gripped JD’s shoulder just as the security guards from the surrounding floors burst out of the stairwell with weapons drawn. Chris waived the guards off as he tried to pull the young agent off of the stranger.

“I’m sorry, JD. I never meant to hurt you,” the man whispered.

“It’s you! It really is you? Mom told me that you were dead!”

“I’m sure she thought it was best that way, son,” the man said.

JD sprang back from the man as if bitten. Rage contorted his features as he glared at the man. Vin moved closer, to restrain his friend if necessary.

“Get out of my life and don’t come back! EVER!” JD flung over his shoulder as he headed for the stairs. He shoved the door so hard that it slammed against the concrete wall and echoed throughout several floors of the building. Vin spun on his heel and followed him, leaving Chris to deal with the stranger and the problem.

“I hoped he would at least be willing to talk to me,” the man told Chris.

“He might, after he’s had time to mull it over. By the way, I’m Chris Larabee, JD’s supervisor and you are?”

“Jonathan Dunne, JD’s father. Listen, Mr. Larabee, I never meant to upset him like that. I’m really here to ask for his help.”

“You disappeared before he was born and you show up here out of the blue to ask for his help?”

“It’s not for me,” the man drew his wallet and pulled out a photograph, “it’s for her. That’s Jessica Dawn, my daughter and JD’s half sister. Look, it’s all explained in this letter. If you would just ask him to read it. I’ll understand if he doesn’t want to see me or talk to me, but I really do need his help. Just ask him to read the letter.”

The plain white envelope had JD’s name neatly printed on it. The man’s hand trembled as he held it out for Chris. Once the letter changed hands, he ran his hand through his hair and looked toward the guards who were still watching him warily. Chris tucked the envelope into his pocket and nodded.

“You’d better get going. I’ll talk to JD.”

“Thank you, Mr. Larabee. I’d appreciate any help you could give him.”

Two of the guards got in the elevator with the man and the rest took the stairs back to their respective posts. Chris sighed as he wondered what would bring the man back into JD’s life after nearly 25 years. What could be that important?

JD hit the reinforced steel door at the bottom of the stair well and stopped. Rage and confusion coursed through him in alternating waves. His mother had lied to him! She told him that his father was dead! He had grown up believing that the man was dead. Why would he come around after 25 years? What could he possibly want after all this time?

Vin slowed as he rounded the landing above JD. He didn’t know what was going on, but he sure as hell didn’t want to upset his young friend any further. Slowly, carefully, he descended the last group of steps to stand behind JD. He didn’t reach out, he knew that the kid knew he was there.

“My mom lied to me, Vin. Why would she do that?”

“Maybe she didn’t know the truth. You didn’t give him a chance to explain.”

“I don’t want to hear what he has to say.”

“Okay, problem solved. Let’s go wait for Chris and get something to eat,” Vin suggested.

The elevator doors opened and Chris stepped out. JD and Vin were leaning against the Dodge. The younger man still looked mad as a wet cat. He decided he would wait a while before broaching the subject of the letter.

“Are we riding together?” he asked in what he hoped was a light hearted tone.

“Nah, I can drive. We headed for the saloon?” JD asked.

“Yeah, see you there in a few minutes,” Chris answered as he unlocked the truck. Vin walked over to his jeep and climbed in.

Ten minutes later, the three of them were sliding into a booth as Carmen dropped a bucket filled with iced long necks on the table. The Hispanic woman tossed a smoldering look over her shoulder at Vin as she walked away.

“Whoo, Vin you better do something about that or she’s liable to catch fire and burn the place down,” Chris teased. The sharpshooter only smiled as a warm blush crept into his cheeks.

Inez floated past the booth and set a plate of fresh tamales and taquitoes on the table before sliding her hand across Chris’s shoulders as she leaned against the edge of the seat.

“What can I bring you tonight?”

When all three men had ordered, she returned to the bar. Vin nudged the plate of appetizers toward JD. The kid hadn’t touched any of the food and was steadily scraping the label from the bottle in his hands.

“You want to talk about it?” Chris asked.

“Not yet, Chris, okay?”

“Whatever you say. If we’re going to pretend that it didn’t happen, then you have to eat and at least act normal.”

When a small smile lifted the corners of his mouth, JD reached for the plate and helped himself to a tamale. He tipped his bottle up and took a couple of swallows. Vin questioned Chris with his eyes and the team leader’s expression clearly announced ‘we’ll talk later.’

Carmen drifted back to the table and leaned against the edge of the booth. She leaned down and whispered something in Vin’s ear that caused his hand to tighten on the long neck he was holding. The Texan slid out of the booth and followed the waitress onto the dance floor.

An awkward silence descended on the table as JD stirred the last bit of chili on his plate with the last French fry. The envelope in the blond man’s pocket seemed to gain weight the longer he carried it. Taking the last tamale from the plate, Chris tried to catch JD’s eye.

“All right, what did he say?” JD asked without looking up.

“Did I say something?” Chris defended in an innocent tone of voice.

“No, your eyes have been burning a hole in me for the last half hour. Might as well get it off your chest. What does he want?”

Chris pulled the envelope from his pocket.

“I don’t know, but he said it’s all in there.”

JD took the envelope and ran his fingers lightly over the front. He stared out toward the dance floor until he spotted Vin, tightly pressed to Carmen who had her hands in his back pockets. Nudging the bottle toward the empties on the corner of the table, he pulled out his wallet and dropped some money on the bill lying by Chris’s elbow. He picked up the envelope and tucked it into his pocket.

“I’ll look at it later. See you in the morning, Chris.”

“You know you can always call me,” Larabee began.

“Yeah, I know. It’s just a lot to take in at one time. I need to kick it around a while.”

“Be careful. See you in the morning.”

Chris watched the kid until he couldn’t see him anymore before pulling out his cell phone to call Buck. He wanted to tell him what had happened at the office. Taking the phone, he sought the privacy of the restroom to make the call.

The envelope lay on the passenger side seat, unopened. JD slowed down for the light and let his eyes drift over to look at it again. The moment of distraction was all it took. He never saw the car that drifted over from the oncoming traffic lane. The airbag deployed in his face and he gasped in surprise. The seatbelt locked, preventing him from striking the steering wheel as it snapped his collar bone. His mind vaguely registered the pain in his shoulder before he lost consciousness.

+ + + + + + +

The team leader was just pulling into the driveway at the ranch a couple of hours later when his cell phone rang. Seeing it was Buck, he flipped it open.

“Chris, was JD coming straight home from the saloon?”

“He didn’t say but I got the feeling he was. He isn’t there?” Alarm tightened the blond man’s throat as he wondered were the kid could have gone.

“No, and I’m just starting to worry.”

“Maybe he went to see Casey. Or maybe he just went for a ride to clear his head. Knowing how you mother hen him, maybe he just needed to be alone for a while,” Chris tried to reassure the man who looked on JD as a younger brother and son combined.

“Yeah, you’re right. I’ll give him a while longer.”

+ + + + + + +

Something acrid was passed under his nose and JD flinched. A light touch lifted his eyelid and waved a light in it. He tried to turn his head and almost panicked when he realized that he couldn’t. He recognized the ceiling tiles and knew he was in the emergency room, he just couldn’t remember why. A face appeared above him and asked if he knew who he was and where he was.

“JD Dunne and Denver General, but what happened? Why can’t I move my head?”

“It’s just a precaution, until we rule out a spinal injury. You don’t remember what happened?” the nurse asked as a worried look crossed her face.

“No, I was on my way home and then I woke up here. Are the guys here?”

The nurse smiled. “No, we haven’t had a chance to call them. You were in a multi-car MVA and we’re swamped. I’ll call your boss as soon as I get a chance.”

The emergency room was an absolute zoo. JD and the driver who hit him were only the beginning of the eight car pile up. A police car on route to the accident was side swiped by a minivan and a car load of teenagers whose driver was not paying attention plowed into the Mustang after the cars had come to rest in the intersection. Denver General had taken all the injured and the staff was spread thin.

A couple of hours passed before Buck, on a whim, called the hospital. The switchboard operator was new and when the man on the line asked for JD Dunne, she pulled up the admissions list. Jennifer Dawn Dunne, she reasoned that someone might shorten to JD and she told him that the patient was in the ICU. Buck felt as if his blood had turned to ice water as he dialed Chris.

One of the advantages of being familiar with a hospital is that you know how to avoid the congested areas of the building. Buck saw the crowd milling around the emergency room doors and detoured around to the staff entrance on the other side of the building. Because he had dated several of the nurses, he knew the key code that opened the door. Racing to the elevators, he punched the button for the intensive care ward.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra and Vin arrived at the same time and raced into the crowd in the emergency waiting area. A nurse recognized them and took them straight to JD. The X-rays had just come back and they were removing the restraints from his head and neck. As soon as they could, both men moved to his side.

“Hey kid, I thought you were going right home,” Vin teased.

“I tried to, Vin. They won’t tell me what happened, do you know?”

“No but the waiting room is packed. You don’t remember?” Vin’s tone conveyed concern.

“I was slowing down at a light and then I woke up here. Oh God, Vin, I had a beer at dinner and they took a blood sample! It’s going to be my fault!”

“Now, let’s not go putting the cart before the proverbial horse. One beer would not have made you inebriated to the point that you could not remember what happened. Remain calm. They take blood for a sprained ankle around here, remember?” Ezra chided JD to distract him from his panic.

+ + + + + + +

Wilmington rounded the corner and grabbed the first nurse he could find. Fortunately, it was someone he knew and she didn’t freak out on him.

“Where is he?” Buck demanded.

“Where is who?” she asked.

“JD, I called and they told me he was here! Where is he? How bad is it?”

“Buck, calm down. JD isn’t up here. We do have a patient with his last name, but it’s a girl. We thought they might be related but the mother insisted that she only has sisters and her husband has no other living relatives. That’s odd, the girl’s initials are JD, too.”

It took a moment for him to accept what she said. Buck suddenly felt very, very foolish. He had the whole team racing to get down here and it was the wrong Dunne. Chris was going to chew him a new asshole for this. Just as he was turning away, he heard his name coming over the intercom.

“Buck Wilmington, please report to the emergency room,” the page said.

“Thanks Lucy, I didn’t mean to scare you. I better get down there, I may be back later, one way or the other,” he said as he headed for the elevator.

+ + + + + + +

While Chris and Josiah checked on JD, Nathan was getting the scoop from the doctor. JD had a broken collar bone and had blown some small blood vessels in his eyes, giving him a very scary look. They had indeed run a blood alcohol but it was too low for him to be considered intoxicated. As soon as they could immobilize the arm and shoulder, he would be released as long as someone would be with him. A police officer stuck his head in and motioned for Chris to come out into the hall.

“I just wanted to let you know that your agent was not the cause of the accident. He was slowing down for a yellow light when a car in the oncoming traffic lane drifted across the line. His weapon was taken at the scene and he can pick it up at the police station as soon as he is able. Will you let him know? Every time he sees me, he gets upset.”

“Thanks for the information, I’ll let him know,” Chris said as he shook the officer’s hand.

Buck burst out of the elevator and skidded to a halt beside Chris.

“Look, Chris, you aren’t going to believe this but they actually do have a patient named Dunne in the intensive care but she’s a girl and I’m real sorry I got everyone down here like this and …”

Chris held up a hand. When the torrent of apologies stopped, he spoke.

“JD is here. He was brought in after a multi-car MVA. He has a broken collar bone. He’ll be fine. What are you talking about?”

Buck ignored the question and pushed past Chris to get into the room with JD. Two nurses had him sitting on the side of the gurney while they put an immobilizer on his shoulder. The bruise from the seatbelt stood out darkly on the very pale skin. JD saw him and tried to raise a hand to wave but winced in pain instead when the motion jarred the broken bone. Buck forgot all about the girl with the same initials as he moved to get closer to the kid.

It was quite late when JD was finally discharged. Nathan offered to go back to the apartment with JD and Buck to stay the night. Chris left, saying that he was going by the police station to pick up JD’s gun and get a copy of the report ordered. He also wanted to find out where the Mustang had been towed to so he could see how badly damaged it was. The car was JD’s pride and joy and he wanted to be prepared to break it to him as soon as he was feeling better.

The pain pills had JD feeling loopy and he was glad that both Buck and Nathan were there to help him walk. He tumbled gratefully into his bed and sank into a deep, medication induced sleep. Buck straightened up the living room and brought out blankets and pillows for Nathan to use on the couch. He stood in the bedroom door for several minutes while Nathan juggled JD out of some of his clothes and back into bed.

It all came back to him when he tried to get out of bed the next morning. JD tried to roll over to go to the bathroom and was shocked at the pain that lanced through him. With his right hand, he felt the immobilizer on his left shoulder. Using only his right arm, he managed to sit up on the edge of the bed. He maneuvered carefully through the piles of clothes on the floor to get to the bathroom. When he glanced in the mirror as he was leaving the room, the sight of his own eyes scared him.

“Buck!” he yelled. “Buck come here, quick!”

Nathan rolled off the couch and ran into the bathroom. He could hear the heavy footfalls that said Buck was also on his way to see about JD.

“What’s wrong?” Nathan asked, seeing that the young man didn’t look any the worse for wear.

“What happened to my eyes?”

“It’s just broken blood vessels from the airbag. You’ll be fine,” Nathan assured him as Buck stormed into the bathroom.

“Jeez, kid! You look like something out of a cheap horror movie. Does that hurt?”

“No it doesn’t but thanks Buck, I need all the compliments I can get,” JD replied in a surly tone.

“Well, at least you don’t have to go to work looking like that. What do you want for breakfast?”

JD took one last look at the reflection in the mirror before shaking his head and following the others into the living room. When he realized that he was in his tee shirt and underwear, JD blushed. Nathan caught the rosy glow and went to his rescue.

“You want some help getting dressed?”

“Thanks, Nathan.”

After they got JD fed and dressed, Nathan called Chris to see what the plan was for the day. The team leader wanted to stop by and take JD to see the car so he could clean it out. It was a total loss. What the oncoming car didn’t damage, the one that hit him afterward did. The whole team turned out at the tow yard to offer moral support for their teammate.

Nathan eased JD onto the ground from the seat of Buck’s truck. Chris and the others closed ranks around him as he walked toward the blockade style fence that protected the tow lot from curious gazes. The once proud Mustang sat at the front of the lot, near the tow truck. Buck reached for the kid, suspecting that his knees would fold when he saw the car.

“Wow,” JD whispered as he approached the car. When he turned to face Buck, his smile held a challenge. “And you said it wouldn’t protect me in an accident!”

The team breathed a collective sigh of relief. JD opened the driver’s side door, wincing as the motion caused his shoulder a twinge. He ran his fingertips over the airbag, feeling the texture of the material. Vin opened the passenger side door and began to empty the glove box into the bag he was carrying. Chris came from the office with the keys and a crowbar to open the trunk. JD eased behind the wheel one last time as his friends gathered his belongings. This was the car that he had first kissed Casey in and the place they had almost gone too far several times. It held a lot of good memories.

When they had cleaned the last of the personal effects from the car, JD stroked the steering wheel one last time and walked away. As Nathan was helping him back into the Chevy, he asked a question that had the team medic shaking his head.

“How soon can I start driving again?”

Since it was Friday, the judge gave them all the day off to spend with JD. They weren’t really doing anything, anyway. They decided to gather at the ranch. There were several small projects that needed to be done that had been neglected for too long. Josiah and Vin headed for the barn to work on several of the stall gates which were in need of repair. Chris and Buck headed for the creek, heavy spring rains had washed brush into the waterway and it needed to be removed. Closer to the house, Nathan and Ezra were painting the shutters that Chris had sanded the previous weekend. JD sat watching.

When he grew tired of watching them paint, JD wandered into the house thinking to lay down. As he passed the little table where Chris tossed his keys when he came into the house, he noticed the envelope with his name on it. He had forgotten all about the confrontation the previous evening. At first, he thought he would leave it lay. For several minutes he managed not to look in the direction of the table. Finally, he got up and took the envelope from the table. He opened the flap and pulled out the typewritten sheets of paper. A couple of photographs spilled into his lap and he picked them up.

Anger flared in his chest as he looked at the happy family portrait. The girls looked to be 10, 13 and 16 in the picture. They had their hands on his father’s shoulder and he had his hand on the waist of a pretty, older woman. The other picture was a close up of one of the girls. She looked enough like JD that he knew she was his sister. ‘Half sister,’ his brain insisted angrily. He opened the papers and began to read.

The door opened and JD walked out holding a paper in his hand. He navigated through the assortment of shutters drying in the sunlight to make his way to Nathan’s side. Thrusting the paper out, he kept his thumb under one word.

“What does this mean, Nathan?”

The team medic looked at the word above JD’s thumb and he looked at JD again.

“Where’d you get the letter?” Nathan asked cautiously.

“My father showed up at the office yesterday and gave it to Chris,” the young agent replied.

“I thought you told us that your father was deceased?” Ezra asked.

“That’s what I thought, too. But he’s not and now he wants something from me,” JD answered, his words laced with bitterness and anguish.

“Why would your mother choose to deceive you all those years?” the southerner began, only to find himself on the receiving end of a withering glare.

“JD, that word means that your sister has a kind of leukemia. Your father wants you to be a bone marrow donor,” Nathan explained after reading the rest of the letter.

“She could die from it?”

“Yes, if she’s unable to find a matching donor. Even with a donor, the odds aren’t great. It’s still a rough go for her. Are you going to do it?” Nathan asked.

“I don’t know yet. I’m still trying to figure out why he waited all this time to let me know he was alive. I spent my whole life wishing I’d had a chance to know him and now I do and I feel …”

“Betrayed?” Ezra volunteered.

“Yeah, betrayed! Like everything in my life has been a great, big lie. Why would he do that? How could he just turn his back on my mom and me?” JD asked. He still held the envelope with the pictures in it. Ezra took the envelope and drew out the pictures.

“He has a nice looking family,” the southerner said softly.

“And my mom and me had nothing! He went off and left her with nothing! How could he just do that? Why didn’t he want to see me grow up?” JD’s voice tightened toward the end of his tirade and he turned and walked back to the house.

“You go get Chris and Buck, I’ll round up Josiah and Vin,” Ezra suggested as he folded the letter back into the envelope.

By the time everyone was up to speed, JD was curled up in the recliner, asleep. Nathan checked him for fever out of habit before tossing a light blanket over him. Ezra slipped into Chris’s home office and did some research on the computer. The others gathered on the deck to discuss the situation.

“How much do we know about JD and his mother?” Buck asked.

“Only that she died right before he left Boston. He always said that she told him his father died before he was born,” Vin offered.

“There had to be a reason. JD’s mom loved him, she wouldn’t have lied to him without a good reason,” Nathan asserted.

“And I may have the reason,” Ezra announced as he closed the sliding glass door behind him. “The elder Mr. Dunne was the target of a mob hit. He was convicted of embezzling and sentenced to five years. The ‘family’ he was stealing from did not take kindly to sharing their ill gotten gains.”

“Wow. How’s the kid is going to deal with that?” Vin wondered aloud.

“There’s more. Mr. Dunne was suspected of having bought freedom for his wife and child by killing a rather unsavory element while incarcerated in the minimum security facility. He was never convicted of the murder and was released early due to prison overcrowding. From what I found in the computer, it appears that they kept watch on JD and his mom for several years after his father was incarcerated. Perhaps he felt it was safer for them if he didn’t return to them upon his release.”

“Or he couldn’t find them,” Chris suggested. “We know that JD and his mom moved around a lot before she got the job as maid for that wealthy family.”

“How convenient that you should mention ‘family’ again. The people that she worked for were related by marriage to the man who ordered the hit on JD’s father. I would suppose that they were being used as leverage to prevent Mr. Dunne from divulging any ‘family’ secrets,” Ezra countered.

“Poor kid. I wonder if his mom knew about his dad and lied to protect him,” Buck mused aloud.

The sliding glass door opened again and JD stepped out. He didn’t miss the way everyone tensed or the papers that Ezra tried to casually conceal inside of his pants pocket.

“If you are through dissecting my life I’d like to know what you found out about my family,” the young agent stated as he lowered himself onto the step next to Buck.

After getting a nod from Chris, Ezra offered the printout to JD. The whole team held their breath as the kid’s hazel eyes scanned the information. When it appeared that he had finished, Buck passed his hand lightly over his roommate’s back in a comforting gesture. When JD raised his head, there were tears in his eyes.

“Do you think she knew?”

“Only one way to find out, son,” Chris started.

“I need to think about this,” JD said as he folded the papers neatly and handed them back to Ezra. Scrubbing the tears from his cheeks, the young agent used Buck’s knee to push up from the step. He crossed the yard and leaned against the side of the corral. A couple of the horses came over seeking treats but walked away when they realized there were none coming.

The men returned to their projects after lunch, leaving JD in his contemplation. By the time they gathered for supper, the young man was on-line, researching bone marrow transplants. He had printed several articles. He had also been doing research on his father.

“Anything you need to know about, JD?” Nathan asked.

“Not really. There’s so much information available but it just depends on the patient. I also found where he married this other woman, Diana, it says she was a teacher. Oh Nathan, I just don’t know what to do. The letter says he wants to get to know me.”

“You would have a chance to find out what happened,” the medic offered.

“But I can’t get over this feeling. They had a father their whole lives!” JD cried petulantly.

“I don’t know what to tell you, son,” Nathan replied. He caught the slight flinch when he used the word ‘son’ and regretted rubbing salt into that raw mental wound.

As the sun went down, they built a fire and sat around it watching the stars come out. JD was quiet and withdrawn. They left him alone, letting him mull over the situation. He knew they were all concerned about him and he was grateful that they didn’t press him with questions. Gradually, they began to return to the house to get some sleep. When it was down to just Vin and JD, the Texan began to speak.

“Why’d you join the bone marrow registry, JD?”

“I don’t know. The lady at the blood drive asked me if I wanted information about it and I said yes. I figured maybe I could help somebody.”

“And this girl in the hospital isn’t somebody?” Vin asked.

JD looked up sharply and met the challenge in the sharpshooter’s eyes. He had toyed with that thought early in the afternoon. That was what drove him to do the research on the computer. Hard on the heels of that had come the curiosity about his father and his father’s new family. The bitter burn of jealousy had reared up and caused his defenses to click on and he became angry. Those were the feelings he had been warring with all evening, curiosity and jealousy.

“You could at least meet her. I’d go with you if you want,” Vin offered. JD’s eyes lit with relief as he nodded.

“I’d like that, Vin. Thanks.”

The pain pills allowed JD to get some sleep and he was feeling more confident when he woke up the next morning. Nathan helped him with the shoulder immobilizer so he could take a quick shower. It was really hard to wash his hair one handed but he managed. Afterwards, Nathan helped him back in to the confining hardware and helped him on with his clothes.

“I feel like a little kid here, Nathan. I’ve been dressing myself since I was four!” the young man protested as the medic tucked the back of his shirt into his jeans. JD tucked in the front and sat on the bed to allow him to help with the socks and shoes.

“There you go. All set. Now, I’ll just put you in your highchair and you can have your …” Nathan started in a teasing tone until JD flung the damp towel at him.

Vin had confided in Chris that he was taking JD to the hospital to meet his sister. The team leader only nodded in agreement, nothing was said about it over breakfast. When Tanner picked up his keys and headed for the door, JD finally told the others.

“We’re going over to the hospital to meet my … uh, my sister,” he finally ground out. The others smiled and nodded encouragement.

“You’re doing the right thing, JD,” Josiah told him.

The young man became increasingly more nervous as they approached the hospital. When Vin parked the Jeep, JD hesitated about getting out.

“You need a hand there?” Tanner inquired.

“No, but will you do me a favor?”

“Anything,” Vin answered quickly.

“Keep him away from me. If I do this, it’ll be for her not for him. I just want to see her and then we can go, okay?”

Vin reached across and placed his hand lightly on JD’s bound shoulder. He studied the worried look in the younger man’s face. With a confirming nod, he got out of the Jeep and walked around to help his friend.

The elevator doors opened and JD hesitated. He had been picking at the Velcro closures on the shoulder restraint, a show of how nervous he felt. Vin held the doors open and waited for JD to step out, but didn’t rush him. Finally, the two of them walked down the hall to the nurse’s desk. A woman with reddish-blonde hair glanced up from the file she was reading and raised her eyebrows in question.

“We’re here to see Jessica Dunne,” JD told her.

“It’s family only in the ICU,” she informed him.

“I know. I’m her … brother, half brother, brother,” he finally decided.

The nurse nodded and stood up. “Follow me.”

They followed her down the hall and around a corner. They reached a room with glass panel walls surrounding three-quarters of the room. In the bed lay a young girl. At her side, the man from the other night at the ATF building sat holding her hand. The nurse pressed a button on the intercom and spoke.

“Mr. Dunne? There’s someone here to see Jessica,” she said.

Jonathan Dunne came to his feet and turned around. His eyes widened as he smiled. Giving the small hand another squeeze, he headed for the ‘air lock’ that led out of the sterile environment.

“You’ll have to wear a gown, mask, cap and gloves to go in there. Her immune system is almost nonfunctioning,” the nurse’s voice was drowned out by his own heartbeat as he watched his father coming toward him. Jonathan reached out and JD recoiled.

“Perhaps you could come with me, Mr. Dunne,” Vin suggested.

“I … no, you don’t understand. JD, she doesn’t know who you are. My … my family doesn’t … know about you and your mother,” the elder Dunne protested.

“I won’t tell her who I am,” JD promised.

“Mr. Dunne, if you’d take a walk with me,” Vin encouraged. He could see the hesitation about leaving the sick child with someone who was a stranger.

The nurse stood, like a deer in the headlights, not understanding the intense drama playing in front of her. She looked from the older man to the younger one, the family resemblance was strong. Finally, the father of the little girl let his shoulders fall from the protective stance and turned to follow the long haired man in the denim jacket. She turned to the young man and gestured him into the ‘air lock’ while she followed.

JD did everything the woman told him to do and put on the sterile, paper garments. He wondered how the little girl would feel about being confronted by a complete stranger whose face she couldn’t even see.

“The room has a constant outflow of air to prevent any germs from getting to Jessica. In her weakened state, a single cold germ could be fatal. She’s been really brave and upbeat about everything, bless her heart. It’s all right to touch her if you want and you can give her water from the pitcher on her bedside table.”

Nodding constantly, JD felt as if he had swallowed a dozen butterflies as he turned to enter the girl’s room. The gentle current of air moving through the doorway made his eyes tear at first. As he neared the bed, the child moved and she was watching him.

“Hi, my name’s Jessica. Who are you?” she asked in a high-pitched, baby like voice.

“My name’s JD,” he answered.

“Hey! Those are my initials, Jessica Dawn, JD. That’s neat!” She smiled and her eyes sparkled as she shifted on the bed so she could watch him. “Both of my sisters have the same initials, too.”

Feeling some of the tension leaving him, JD smiled. “Must be nice to have sisters, I never had any growing up.”

“Sometimes it’s not so great. I’m the littlest and they treat me like a baby, especially ‘cause I’m sick. Have you ever been really, really sick?”

“I’ve been sh, I mean hurt at work a few times and had to be in the hospital. I really hate it!” he told her honestly.

“Me too. But I have a tutor who comes and brings me my school work and sometimes I can work on the computer. Do you have a computer, JD?”

“Yeah, that’s what I do at work. I work on the computers and surveillance equipment for my team,” he explained.

“What did you do to your arm?” She pointed to the sleeve hanging loose at his left side.

“I had a car accident a couple of nights ago. It broke my collar bone.”

“Does it hurt?” Her face showed concern as she frowned.

“Not now, but it did at first,” he told her.

Time passed quickly for the young people in the sterile room of the ICU. In the cafeteria, time seemed to crawl for Jonathan Dunne. He tried to drink the cup of coffee he’d ordered only to find it cold and bitter. The young man sitting across the table was perfectly at ease as he sipped the coke he had gotten at the counter.

“What kind of person is he?” Jonathan asked.

“He’s got as much energy as the Energizer Bunny. He’s really smart and caring. I’d trust him with my life. Buck loves him like the brother he never had. Chris respects him and that says a lot for JD. I don’t think he’d be on the team if Chris didn’t see something in him,” Vin explained.

“Has he said anything about me?”

“Just that his father died before he was born. His mother raised him alone working as a housekeeper. When she died, he started looking for something different.”

“What about his mother? What does he say about her?”

Vin studied the man before answering. He could feel the discomfort radiating from the older man. “He loved her very much. He was as happy as he could be. He took her death really hard.”

“I thought about him a lot. His mother sent me a single picture of him when he was born and a few afterwards. I tried to keep tabs on them before I married again. When Jennifer was born, I started to let go. I would never have bothered him if he hadn’t been on the registry. I thought it was a sign, you know? Like getting a second chance. I could do two things at the same time, save Jessica and get to know my son.”