A Long Night

by Sue M

Ratings/Warnings: Some bad language

Disclaimer: Just playing. I know I can't keep 'em but if I could they'd be on season 10 by now!

Thanks to Mog for the delicious ATF/AU

Thanks always to Phyllis, you're the best, hun.

Happy birthday, Karen.

JD couldn't take it any longer. The noise from above was grating on his nerves. Clearly, Buck was having a bad night, so the youth decided he'd best go check on him. He glanced at the clock. . .three minutes after midnight . . .so much for their early night.

Yawning, he stretched and climbed wearily out of bed, wincing at the pinch to his ribs and the tight pull on his swollen knee. JD's initial steps were shaky, but he soon regained equilibrium and slowly limped up the staircase to the master bedroom.

Gently, he pushed open his partner's door.

"You ok, Buck?"

Buck yawned and sat up in his bed, "Sure kid, why?"

"Sounded like you had an elephant up here, can't you sleep?"

Stretching, Buck shook his head. JD walked further in to the bedroom.

"Have you tried counting sheep?"

The brunette gave a soft laugh and then a nod.

"There's a TV documentary about to start on a donkey and pony sanctuary. . .nah probably too cute to be boring enough to send you to sleep."

JD joined him on the bed, sitting on the edge as he looked back at his bleary eyed surrogate brother.

"What is it, Buck?"

The look was enough. JD paled and hung his head.

"I'm sorry," he whispered.

"That was too close, kid. . ."

"I know. . .I'm real sorry, I couldn't get back. . ." The youth raised his head.

Blue eyes met brown.

"We need to talk, JD."

"Well, how about some warm milk?" JD almost whispered.

Buck smiled, "Yeah, why not, and break out the cookies, too. Set 'em up in the living room. . .I'll be down in a minute." He watched the young man nod and limp out. Buck's stomach flipped as he rubbed his face, it was gonna be a long night.

+ + + + + + +

Checking his watch JD flipped open his prescription bottle and tapped out two pills. He hadn't expected to take any more painkillers tonight, but now he couldn't sleep, he knew the dull aching he was now experiencing would soon accelerate to sharp griping spears of agony and he wasn't up to that and a Buck lecture. He flicked on the TV as he heard footsteps padding down the stairs.

"Turn it off, kid. . .can't talk over that."

JD sighed and looked at his friend, "Do we REALLY need to talk, Buck? You pretty much know what. . ."

"JD," Buck sat in his recliner and faced the young man, "We're up. . . we're talking."

The youth passed over Buck's warm milk and nodded in resignation. As he sat on the sofa, he broke open the cookies, passing one to his roommate and taking one himself. Buck watched in amusement as his young friend dipped his cookie in his milk and popped it in his mouth, reaching for another one. The easterner looked up as he realized he was being watched.

"Wha'?" he mumbled, spraying crumbs.

Buck shook his head but was no longer smiling.

"So what the hell kind of stunt was that today?"

Wilmington knew instantly by the young man's face he'd started this conversation all wrong, and was proven right as JD gulped down his cookie and rose to his feet.

"You can call it stupid. . .you can call it unlucky. . .you can even call it clumsy, but what it wasn't, was a 'stunt,' Buck. Goodnight."

"WAIT! Kid. . .wait," Buck reached out and held onto the youth's forearm.

JD looked at the hand on his arm then after a long pause raised his eyes to meet Buck's, astonished at the depth of pain reflected there. He dropped back onto the sofa and sighed.

"Go ahead, get it over with. . .I guess I have it coming. I could see how pissed off everyone was with me."

Buck still held onto JD's arm.

"Son, that wasn't anger. . .that was pure fear."

Dunne snorted.

"I kid you not, boy; there isn't much that rattles this team but watching those crates you were behind disintegrating in that hail of gunfire, and you yelling. . .Jesus, kid. . .I'd rather eat my own leg than watch and hear that again."

JD swallowed hard and absently rubbed his knee.

"Wasn't a picnic for me, either."

Both men relaxed a little as Buck nodded his understanding.


Chris allowed himself a small smile as he looked at his team.

"OK, guys, let's wrap this up!"

Team Seven started packing up the guns and surveillance equipment, chatting and joking; the ease of the operation had lifted their mood. JD patted his pockets.


"Problem?" Vin asked.

"I left my headset back at the packing cases, won't be a minute."

He jogged off to where he'd been just ten minutes prior.

Chris shook his head, "Should I threaten to take it out of his salary if he's lost it?"

Buck chuckled, "Or his hide. . .that'll wind him up!"

"Boys, you should be ashamed of yourselves," Josiah admonished, "That young man did an exceptional job today. He has so many gadgets and gizmos to think about, I'm not surprised he mislays one occasionally. "

"Well, I for one, am eternally grateful his gizmos are considerably smaller these days. Those archaic instruments that the ATF insist on issuing were beginning to ruin the line of my suits," Ezra added as he watched his teammates continue to load up.

"Any time you wanna lend a hand here, Standish," Nathan offered.

"One does not 'lend a hand' whilst wearing a $1200 dollar suit, Mister Jackson."

Just as Chris was about to respond, he noticed Vin become suddenly alert and look back to the crates. He felt the hairs on his own neck prickle.


"Dunno, cowboy. . .something' s not right." A glint of metal caught Vin's eye and he looked to that direction then toward the youngest agent as he was making his way back to them along a long line of cases.


They all dropped to the floor and watched helplessly while JD dove behind the cases for cover as an insistent barrage of gunfire erupted, all aimed at the packing cases.

Convinced that Chris would probably dock his salary if he had lost any equipment, Dunne was relieved to have retrieved the missing item. As he wove his way back through the stacked boxes, he heard Tanner scream his name but before he could react to the call, gunfire exploded around him and he dove for cover.

He hit the ground hard, his knee impacting with the cement floor full force. As he growled in pain, he mistimed his roll and crashed into a partially blasted crate, catching his side. He had no time to feel sorry for himself as the crates he had taken cover behind were exploding and splintering with consistent ferocity and it was all he could do to lay flat with his arms covering his head.

"Aaaahhhhhh. . .SHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT! "

He was pinned down and in pain. What had happened to their easy bust? Had any of the guys been hit?

Figuring his suit was ruined anyway as he lay flat to the ground, Ezra, being nearest, wriggled over to the van and started reaching for a rifle. Clutching his prize, he called to Vin and slid it over to him. In seconds the sharpshooter was in position and firing back.

Tanner took a deep breath; he needed to find his target. He couldn't afford to look at JD's position; he knew the onslaught of bullets had practically disintegrated JD's cover and the young agent had run out of time. He also knew as soon as he fired his first shot, they would likely be the next target; he had to make this shot count.

He rolled his neck and focused. . .there. . . steady. . .steady. . . steady. . .now!

A single shot rang out and Team Seven held their breath. In seconds, they realized the shooting had stopped and the sound of a car pulling away assaulted their ears.

Ezra called it in; the others tore off to the matchwood that was once at least a half-dozen or more packing crates.

"JD! JD!"

Buck and Vin were there first and they stopped stock still, wondering where to begin. A soft groan from under the rubble spurred them on, and several splinters later they found JD's legs, soon followed by an arm. A few quick and careful tugs had Dunne out of the rubble and leaning against Buck, shaking, though he didn't know if it was fear or shock. Hardly anyone spoke, Buck wiped at some of the drips of blood on the boy's face inflicted by the flying debris, with his shirt cuff.

"Jeeze, kid."

Taking in great gulps of air, Dunne looked around at the solemn and silent faces of his teammates.

"M' knee's killing me," JD held up his headset, "Shit, and I broke my headset."


JD stared at the ATF jacket draped over one of the dining chairs, then back at his roommate.

"Why did you want to be a cop, Buck?" he wondered.

"Why did you?"

"Nu uh. . .I asked first."

Buck looked into the distance for a moment then back to his roommate.

"I guess it was because of my ma. After she was murdered, I guess I had this half-assed idea that I could join the force and find her killer. 'Course, it never worked out quite the way I planned it, but I got to meet Chris, and many other great men and women, then the guys. . .you." The two men looked at each other for a moment, "So. . .your turn."

JD sighed, "I used to pretend my dad was working undercover for the BPD and that was why he couldn't come home. Then as I got older, everyone kept telling me I was too short to be a policeman," he grinned a little, "Had to prove 'em wrong, didn't I?"

Buck grinned, "Stubborn little shit."

"That's my name, don't wear it out. More milk?"

"Grilled cheese. . ."

"This time of night?"

Buck nodded, "Yeah. . .right now. . .to hell with the rules."

They nodded and both got up to go into the kitchen. Buck switched on the grill while JD dug out the cheese from the fridge, sniffing it before putting it on the chopping block. Rubbing his eyes with the heel of his hand, he selected a knife and began slicing.

Buck placed four pieces of bread on the grill pan, turning around as he heard a curse then the faucet running. He winced.

"How bad?"

"It's fine, Buck."

Buck rolled his eyes and crossed to the sink. "Aw, hell."

"It's fine, it looks worse than it is."

Wilmington took JD's hand from the water, wrapped a dish-towel around it and raised the boy's hand in the air. He guided him to a stool and, instructing him to remain in that position, dug out the first-aid kit.

Buck proceeded to clean the cut but was unhappy with it.

"I think this may need stitches, kid, I. . ."

"NO! No way am I going back to the hospital today. It's fine. . .just stick a band-aid on it."

"Well, how 'bout I call Nathan?"

"Buck. . .no. Poor guy needs to sleep. Honestly, it'll be fine." JD wasn't sure if he was trying to convince himself or Buck. It hurt like hell and didn't appear to be slowing down in the bleeding department, either. He figured the painkillers had probably almost dulled his senses by now, anyway. . .then again, that was probably why he'd cut himself in the first place.

"You'll be offering to 'kiss it better' in a minute," the youth teased as he watched the man gently apply the dressing.

"Was that a request?" Buck grinned back, raising his eyes, but not his head.

"Depends. . ."

"Depends on what?"

"On how attached you are to your family jewels."

Buck laughed out loud and JD smiled. . .he hadn't heard his friend so much as chuckle for hours. . .it was a great sound.

Buck pointed to the living room.

"Go. . .sit. . .I'll finish up here. Perhaps you should sit on the floor, that way you can't fall off the furniture and do any more damage."

JD looked back at his friend, "Oh, ha ha. . .look at me, I'm cracking up here. . .oof."

He looked back again quickly to check whether Buck had noticed he had just banged his shin on the coffee table, relieved to see that he had not. Sitting down on the sofa, he flipped his feet up and bolstered cushions behind his back for comfort, resting his cut hand across his chest and up onto his shoulder for elevation. Sighing, he settled back and closed his eyes for a moment.

Placing the bread and cheese under the grill, Buck looked into the living room. He guessed by the position of his head that the young agent had dozed off.

"Hey. . .kid?"

With no answer forthcoming, Buck took the opportunity to dial out.

"Nathan? I'm so sorry to disturb you, I just wanted to ask. . .yeah. . .no, it's not from the bust. . .don't yell, Nate. . .we couldn't sleep and we thought we'd make some grilled cheese. . .I have to whisper, I don't want him to hear me."

Buck took a deep breath as he now regretted picking up the phone at all.

"I just wanted to know, how long a cut should bleed for before you. . .a knife. . .cheese. . .Nathan, I just. . .pretty deep, yeah. . .dunno. . .about an inch, inch and a half long, maybe. Did that. . .yep and that. . .he won't go, said he's seen enough of the ER today."

Buck silently prayed he had now done the right thing.

"Ok. . .ok. . .I'll do that, thanks pal. . .sorry to wake you, just wanted to be safe rather than sorry, you know? 'Night."

By the time he brought the two plates of food in, JD was snoring softly. Buck placed one plate on the coffee table and holding on to the other, returned to his recliner and began to eat.

Wilmington glanced across at his partner. He loved this little guy. JD was exactly how Buck imagined a little brother to be and couldn't have felt any closer to the youth if they were truly blood related. He marveled at how quickly the two had bonded, as if they'd known each other all their lives, and at how he had tried to fight the connection, fearful of getting so close to someone that his heart would burst if harm came to him. Ha. . .so much for that plan, the ladies' man had been sucked right in there by the end of the kid's first week on the team, or in truth. . .from the first day he laid eyes on the youth.

And he didn't regret it for a moment.

God, JD looked so young when he slept. It was no wonder most people who met him wanted to either 'mother' him or dismiss him. On the other hand, most people who 'knew' him knew how strong, proud and dependable he was. The kid of Team Seven was going to grow into an amazing man. . .if this job didn't kill him first.

Buck closed his eyes and replayed the afternoon's events in his mind, shuddering at the noise of the gunfire, the crates cracking and splitting, and JD's yell and curse from his exposed position. The looks on the faces of each member of Team Seven as they each tried to decide what to do to help JD, and the relief when Vin finally did do something. Thank God, Ezra got to the van in time.

Buck jerked awake as something touched him.

"Shit, sorry, I was trying to rescue your plate before it slid to the floor."

Wilmington rubbed his face, "How long was I asleep?"

"About twenty minutes. Damn, I should 'a just left it and hoped it would stay put."

"Well, I wasn't enjoying the sleep much, anyway. How's the hand?"

"Fine." JD snapped back, turning slightly to hide it.

Buck rose to his feet and, taking the bandaged hand, he immediately noticed the blood.

"We should change the dressing," Buck stated calmly, guiding JD back to the kitchen.

Dunne frowned, he'd expected more of a lecture than that, but was grateful for the respite.

Wilmington changed the dressing in silence, working with an ease that suggested he had done this before. . .many times. Dunne studied him as he worked.

JD loved this man. Buck had given him a home, friendship, loyalty, laughter, and was a great teacher, despite JD's protests to the contrary. Every day, the youth wished he could return what he had been given, and every day Buck told him that just being there was payment enough, and the youth knew Buck absolutely meant that.

The two had so much in common, were so alike in personalities, both tactile and emotional and neither afraid to show it. Oh, yeah. . .JD would put on a show sometimes, but the only person he was fooling was himself. Buck read him like an open book and even in their most heated arguments, Buck often knew how to 'bring' JD around. If an argument went unresolved for any length of time, it was usually down to the younger man's determination to pursue or punish his surrogate brother's concerns, until he later emerged from his room to apologize, only to be met by immediate forgiveness, a hug and a complete change of subject.

Even at this moment , in the peace and safety of their own home, JD felt an ache in his heart at the thought of anything bad happening to this man he considered a brother, and every day, JD thanked God, and all that was holy, that he'd applied for that seemingly unattainable job in Denver and had inadvertently found himself a family.

"I remember the first time you got shot."

Buck's words snapped JD back to present time, causing the youth to pull a face.

"Yeah. . .strangely enough, I do, too."

Buck poked his arm, "You know what I mean. . ."

"Yeah, I know, sorry. . .and?"

"And? Oh, no and. . .it just sort of 'popped' in there."

"So images of me lying on a concrete floor, bleeding out just. . .popped in there?"


"You need help, man."

"Quite likely."

"Old fool."

"Less of the 'old', kid."

Both men laughed, then the younger man winced.

"Ow, steady on, Buck."

"We should definitely get this checked out."

JD sighed, "Well I'm off work tomorrow, maybe I'll get a cab. . ."

"Like hell. . . I'll take you."

"Chris didn't give you the day off."

"Well, he'll have to, now."

"Buck, I'm not a kid, I can go by myself."

"You'll probably get run over by an ambulance, I should take you."

"Why do you always assume I'll screw up?"

"Because you usually do."

JD blinked hard at his roommate, pulling back a little. Now his tired mind was suddenly going into overdrive.

"And that's what you really think I did today, don't you?"

Buck paused for a moment, his eyes dropping to the floor momentarily.

"No. . .no I. . .well, if you hadn't left that damn headset. . ."

JD jumped down from the kitchen stool, wincing at the pull on his knee, and shouldered Buck out of his way.

"Fuck you, Wilmington." He stormed out of the kitchen and slammed into his bedroom.

"Damn," was all that Buck could say as he cleared up the dirty dressing, noticing how wet it was.

"Damn it all to hell!"

Buck hovered outside JD's door for a good ten minutes, listening to shuffling noises inside. Finally he could stand it no longer and knocked.

"Kid. . .JD. . .can I come in?"

No answer.

"Well I'm gonna, so if you intend to shoot me, can you aim for my mouth? That way you'll get my foot at the same time."

He turned the door knob and pushed open the door to find his best friend packing a duffle bag.

"W. . .what are you doing?"

"Hell, Buck. . .I don't know. . .screwing up again?" JD spat back.

"Kid, please. . .I didn't mean it like that. . ."

JD stared at his best friend, his eyes bright, his features taut.

"Yeah, yeah, ya did, Buck. You always do. I bet you guys get a real kick out of it, huh? Oh, I don't doubt the concern is genuine at the time, but then later. . .I bet you all have a good old bitch and a laugh at my expense, don't you. 'that rookie, kid. . .always good for a laugh. . . this one'll make a good addition to my memoirs.' He continued stuffing clothes into the duffle bag.

Buck crossed the room and grabbed JD's good hand.

"Don't say that, don't ever say that. Stop with the 'poor little rookie' line, it's getting old. Every one of those guys thinks the world of you, I do, too. How can you dismiss them, us, so easily? Each one of us would lay down our life for you, for each other, and we don't doubt for a moment that you wouldn't do exactly the same for us. Don't punish them for something stupid I said."

JD and Buck stared at each other for the longest time, then the younger man's shoulders slumped and Buck took his cue and pulled him toward him, wrapping his arms around the closest thing to a brother or son he'd ever had.

"I'm sorry," Buck felt the youth's words vibrate through his chest, "I just wish it wasn't always me. . ."

Wilmington moved his friend's body away from his own slightly and looked into the youth's eyes.

"You and me both. Let's go back to the living room," and without any resistance, the ladies' man guided the youth back to the sofa.

Once they were settled, Buck started.

"You remind me of me when I was six years old. Ma and me had had a fight and I raced upstairs, packed my school bag, and headed out. I only got to the end of the road when I realized I didn't have a clue where to go, so eventually I headed back. She hadn't even missed me. Also, I'd only packed socks, so I'm guessing I would have been in a heap of trouble by day two."

JD released a soft laugh which was like music to Buck's ears. They made eye contact.

"Kid, I swear. . .I sometimes say things I don't really mean. You did nothing wrong, but I'll be honest with you, I can remember a split second of wishing you hadn't forgotten that damned headset. We ALL did, and we all thought it because it put you in an exposed position, away from us. . .away from safety."

JD played with his bandage as he spoke softly. . ."I know, I'm sorry." He raised his head and once more hazel eyes met blue.

"I. . .I thought I was gonna die, Buck. . .I thought we all were. I thought they were shooting at all of us, and all I could think about was, 'no. . .not like this. . .not on my belly cowering on the floor like a spineless wimp.'"

Wilmington joined him on the sofa and pulled JD toward him.

"You weren't being a coward, kid. . .just trying to protect yourself. We ALL hit the deck. Hell, none of us were about to offer ourselves up for target practice."

Buck picked up the still bleeding hand.

"Please, let's go to the ER and get this checked out."

JD tugged his hand back, hugging it to his chest.

"No, I really don't want to go there tonight, please."

Buck sighed, damn. . .there was the 'look'.

"Ok. . .well, let's change the dressing again."

As they rose to go to the kitchen, the doorbell rang. Frowning and placing JD's hand back up on his shoulder, Buck approached the door.

"Who is it?"

"Why d'ya have a spy hole then ask a dumb-assed question like that?"

Buck grinned and unlocked and opened the door, revealing Larabee leaning heavily against the doorframe and Jackson standing right behind him.

"Because stud, axe-murderers rarely announce themselves. . .then I look through the little hole. What are you doing here?"

"Oh. . .I don't know. . .a little birdie called me to say two of my favorite people seemed intent on bleeding to death tonight." Larabee cocked an eye at his EMT.

Buck snorted a small laugh and shook his head.

"Well, make that one of us, while the other's having a piss-poor time convincing the injured party to do anything about it."

Larabee gave a knowing look as he and Nathan entered the apartment.

"Well, now you know why I'm here. . .Nathan's gonna take a look and if he thinks it needs attention, I'm gonna haul his ass down to the ER myself."

JD knew THAT voice. Shit. . .now what? All this just because Buck couldn't sleep. Next time, to hell with it. . . he was gonna buy earplugs. . .

Dunne tried to duck into his room but Chris was too fast.


The young agent spun on his good leg to face his boss.

"Chris," he acknowledged, "Couldn't you sleep either?"

Chris just grunted as he approached the young man, lifting the bandaged extremity for closer inspection.

"Let Nathan check your hand."

"Nathan's here, too? Aww man. . ."

Jackson joined them and took hold of the bandaged hand from Chris and gently led JD to the kitchen, his own medical kit in hand. Chris and Buck followed them in, the blond again leaning against the doorframe to watch Nathan work, wincing as the bloody bandage was unwrapped.

"Coffee?" Buck asked.

They all nodded, JD hissed.

"I'll take that as a yes, shall I, kid?"

JD glared at his partner. "When did you call Nathan?"

"Who says I called him?" Buck attempted to feign innocence.

JD was having none of it.

"I do, the phone hasn't rung since Vin called before we went to bed. . . or was it Ezra? No, it was Josiah. . .anyway. . . why did you call him? Nate needs his sleep, Rain's gonna kill me for this."

Buck laughed, mostly at the fact that the kid had inadvertently listed most of the team in his tirade, and it hadn't even occurred to him that they had called out of concern for the young agent.

"Why are you laughing you idiot? I'm being serious."

Buck laughed harder, "Kid. . .don't ever change, will ya?" He continued to make the coffee.

JD looked at Chris and Nathan, exasperated, but snapped back to reality as Nathan cleaned his cut.

"Ow. . .Jesus H Christ, Nathan. . .that freakin' hurt!"

Nathan looked at him as he continued with his ministering.

"Good, it's meant to, shows it's doing its job. This needs a few stitches. It's just below your thumb so every time you flex or use your hand it's gonna pop open, plus we should check there's no tendon damage, it's pretty deep. It's obviously not numb any more, so whether we go now or later won't make it hurt any less, but it'll bleed until we get it closed. . .your call."

"My call. . ." Chris answered before JD could, "And I say we go now."

JD pouted, "Seriously guys, it's just a cut. . .it's seems like such a lot of fuss. . ."


"Yes, Chris?"

"Can you shoot with your left hand?"

"Yes sir, you know I can."

"Would it bother you if you didn't have that advantage?"

"Of course, I like that I. . .oh, yeah, ok. . .point taken."

Chris pulled the now standing agent toward him, cupping the back of the youth's neck.

"Good, I won't take chances with my men's. . .my friends' health. Better to be safe than sorry."

"Buck, I'm assuming you're coming. Nathan, we'll drop you home, apologize to Rain for us and tell her a BIG bouquet of flowers is coming her way care of Wilmington and Dunne. Tomorrow, fill in the guys and tell them we'll be two down for the day, not one, and if things don't go as fast as I would like, they may be three down and Josiah'll be in the chair."

Chris looked at his three exhausted agents as images of exploding crates flashed through his mind.

"Actually, scrap that. . .tell Travis Team Seven are taking a personal day. . .and we'll all meet here as soon as we're done at the hospital."

"What do I tell Travis we're taking the day for?" Nathan wondered.

"Tell him we're going over the events of the bust yesterday. . .he'll understand."

By the time Larabee had finished, Buck had already picked up his and JD's jackets and the four men headed for the door.

+ + + + + + +

Within half an hour of three weary men returning to the CDC, the doorbell rang. Chris looked out and opened the door, admitting Vin and Josiah carrying bagels and pastries. Before they had completely unpacked their bags, the doorbell rang again and Nathan was in and carrying fruit and yogurts. Ezra arrived within ten minutes after that with seven giant Starbuck's coffees.

After helping themselves, they all sat around in the living room. Buck, JD and Chris were on the sofa, JD's left hand was heavily bandaged and strapped to his shoulder. Ezra had claimed the recliner, two new soft chairs went to Nathan and Josiah as Vin had happily opted for the floor between the sofa and the recliner, his arm casually draped across JD's knee as he enjoyed his breakfast and chatted to the youth.

Chris cleared his throat.

"I think it would be a good idea if we talked about the recent bust. We've debriefed on the technical details. Now I think we should clear the air on the personal details. Who wants to go first?"

JD looked at his hands, he really didn't want this conversation, convinced it would go badly for him.

Josiah sat up.

"For myself, I can only say someone up there was looking out for us all that day, especially for you, John Dunne."

JD looked shyly at him.

"When we approached those shattered crates, I truly believed we would find you dead or seriously injured."

JD shuddered, Buck swallowed.

"I know what you mean, Josiah," Nathan agreed, "But what I couldn't figure is how they got the drop on us like that, we're supposed to be the best."

Vin nodded, "That's pissing me off, too. I can only assume the guys we busted were bait, easy pickings to take them to the real business. . . us."

"Indeed," Ezra added, "I for one wasn't tested at all, I should have realized something was wrong."

"Well, none of us did, and that's the way of it," Chris pointed out. "Buck?"

Buck looked at Chris, then JD, then the others.

"If squirt here hadn't forgotten that headset, we might all be dead, now."

Dunne looked at his partner in confusion,

"That's where they made their mistake. If we'd all been together, they'd have cut most of us down before we'd even realized what was happening. JD took their focus, and they were arrogant enough to think they could blast him and then turn on us. Thank God Ezra got Vin a rifle in time."

"Ruining, I might add, a very expensive suit."

Larabee glared at him, "Don't even GO there, Standish."

Soft chuckles rippled around the room. JD swallowed.

"All I can think about is. . .they're still out there."

Those words hit the other six hard. They were still out there. . .they'd have to watch their backs.

Chris shifted to look at his youngest man. "JD, I just wanted you to know, you did nothing wrong. . .so stop beating yourself up about it."

Dunne turned to look at Wilmington, who tried to avoid his gaze.

"Buck. . .you told him?"

"Don't go on at Buck. . .hey, look at me."

The youth slowly turned back to his boss.

"I can understand why you felt that way, JD, but you need to get past this. We. . .none of us believed you screwed up, and even if you had, we ALL do at some point, and we got years on ya, kid."

The others looked at each other, not really knowing what the issue was, but able to take an educated guess.

"We clear on this now, son?"

JD nodded, "Yes sir."

"Good, and just for the record. . .I could hardly look at the pile of rubble you were under either, for fear of what we might find, so God only knows what Buck must have been feeling."

The two old friends looked at each other, each knowing what the other was thinking.

Nathan changed the subject. "JD, why haven't you eaten breakfast?"

"My stomach hurts."

"Where are the pills you got from the hospital?"

Buck leaned over to the rack under the coffee table and tossed the bottle to the medic, who read the label.

"It says to take with or after food. . .have you?"

JD shook his head, "I don't think so, no."

Nathan rose, "Ok, come with me, I got something that'll help settle you."

As JD pushed himself up from the sofa and wearily followed, Buck caught his eye and winked at him. JD smirked back. Just as he got to the kitchen he could see Nathan preparing something off-white and liquid, he then turned to look back at the group of men he considered family as they began arguing over TV channels while Buck and Chris snored happily on the sofa.

Every day they took their lives in their hands, every day they faced the possibility of losing someone, but every day, and even now, knowing there might be people out there wanting Team Seven out of the way, JD got up for work and thanked God for the opportunity. . . he wouldn't change it for the world.

The End