Keeping a Promise

by Sue M

"Brothers Larabee" Universe

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

Ratings/Warnings: Minimal bad language

My grateful thanks, as always, to Phyllis, who is so much more to me than my beta and also lets me play in her AU..

Thanks also to Kay for her wonderful wall to accompany this story.

Phyllis, this is my birthday gift to you, babe. . .HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Webmaster Note: This is the 4,000th story archived at blackraptor

Chris couldn't help chuckling as the youngest Larabee trotted back and forth, through the living room, adding bags to the now full, rented SUV.

"Lord, JD, we're only going for five days," he smiled.

"Just making sure," the youth grinned.

Chris and Buck had planned to drive to Laramie to look at some breeding stock. With his best 'puppy dog' eyes, JD had successfully persuaded them to allow him to tag along.

Well, in fairness, there were no real objections, but it had been fun to tease him for a while and make him think it wouldn't be possible to include him on this trip.

And then, JD had decided it would be fun if everyone met up there, and after much debate, everyone had agreed, and would join the three of them on the third day.

Buck had chuckled about that, he loved the way their resident whirlwind would turn everything into a family occasion. It also saddened him to think of all the years the boy had been alone, caring for his sick mother, with no family around. Well, no more, family trip huh? Bring it on!

The trip down was uneventful. . .almost. JD hadn't eaten that much. . .or been sick hardly at all. . .or given Chris a near heart attack as he excitedly pointed something out, causing him to question JD's mental age, until he and Buck had remembered just how little the youth had traveled, and only then because his mother had died and their family lawyer's letter had invited him to Nevada. The two older men now realized they had quite enjoyed their lively inward bound trip to Laramie, despite their protests to the contrary.

Chris and Buck had been well impressed with their younger brother's knowledge of horses, he had a good eye for horse flesh, a natural, even, and Chris had been very pleased with their purchases.

During day two, Chris and JD left Buck to sweet-talk a barmaid at the hotel while they enjoyed some time at an auction specializing in Old West collectables. JD knew Chris loved to collect these antiques, but watching the pure joy reflected in his older brother's face that day, as he came across an 1866 Winchester lever-action rifle, gave the young man a precious insight into his brother's private side.

JD had been admiring a satin-lined wooden case containing twin pearl- handled .38 caliber Colt Lightenings. Chris had nodded his approval. Later, JD had wondered how much they had sold for as he had missed their sale while getting a coffee for Chris. Unfortunately, his older brother could not recall their sale price. Chris had clearly been pleased with his new purchase as they debated whether the rifle should be mounted in the study or the living room.

Day three found Chris relaxing in the bar after concluding some final business and now waiting on the four remaining brothers to check in, while Buck and JD took a trip into the mountains. Chris couldn't help but smile from his seat at the bar as the noisy group in the foyer signaled his family's arrival. He greeted them with a smile as he walked over .

"Good trip, guys?"

"No worse 'n usual," Nathan answered, "Vin, this is your bag, not mine, how did I end up carrying yours too?"

Vin shrugged, winking at Larabee, "Strange, huh?"

Josiah and Ezra chuckled as Nathan narrowed his eyes at him.

"Come on," Chris ordered, "I'll show you to the suites we're in."

Picking up their bags, they walked toward the elevators.

"What?" Vin asked Nathan as he caught the doctor eyeing him suspiciously, his suspicion growing more intense as Vin snickered to himself.

"I'm watching you. . ." Nathan promised, and Vin chuckled harder.

+ + + + + + +

Returning back after their day in the mountains, JD was gazing at the landscape as they made their way down the mountain.

"Y'know, Buck. . .Boston is real beautiful; especially in the fall, but this place. . .it's awesome!"

Buck smiled and took a second from watching the road to look at him,

"Yep, it sure is. . .God's Country they call it."


"Why what?"

"Why God's Country?"

"'Coz it is."


Buck looked at the youth again, frowning, "It just is."

JD chuckled, enjoying getting a rise out of his big brother. Buck swatted at him unsuccessfully, causing him to laugh harder.

"So can I drive now?"

Buck shook his head.

"Aww come on, I won't go too fast."

"No, uh uh!"


"These mountain roads are tricky."


"Don't start that again, squirt or I'll make ya walk back."

"Hell at this speed, it might be quicker."

Buck grunted, "Told ya, these roads are tricky."

"Yeah, yeah. . .Grandma. . ."

"Oh, kid, you are so gonna pay for tha. . ."

Buck slammed on the brakes at the sight of a body in the road.

"Oh, God!" JD cried and jumped out of the SUV.

"NO! Kid, wait. . ." Buck felt uneasy and reached for his cell phone.

JD skidded to a halt, kneeling at the side of the still form and went to touch his fingers to the man's throat when suddenly one of the 'body's' hands gripped his wrist and moved into a crouching position.

"Hey. . .OW!" JD yelped, startled.

Buck was opening his car door, "HEY. . .Leave. . ."

As if from nowhere, a man appeared at his side window and pointed a gun at him.

"Shut up and sit down," the assailant insisted. Buck did, but his eyes remained fixed on the struggling pair on the road in front of him.

Recovering from his initial shock, JD started fighting back, but the man was stronger and without warning, also produced a gun. Not registering the weapon for a moment and both men still crouching, JD grabbed for the man's wrists again, as he tried to stand and bring the man up with him. It was just as they wobbled to their feet JD noticed a gun barrel pointing at his left thigh and a loud pop was heard. For a few seconds the two men stopped struggling, then JD's legs collapsed, pain and nausea washing over him as the bullet entered his thigh at an angle.

The now very alive 'body' stood back from the collapsed youth, looking to his partner at the SUV, shocked.

"NO!" Buck screamed, startling his assailant and causing the man to lash out toward Buck's head with the gun, knocking the big man unconscious to fall sideways across the front seats.

Gasping for breath from the shock, JD clutched at his thigh as blood oozed from it, writhing in agony on the ground and oblivious to the now rallying men as they searched him and stole his wallet, watch and cell phone, doing the same to an unconscious Buck.

Taking the car keys, the men dragged the brothers way into the woods as far as they could, then ran back to the rented vehicle and sped off.

Unable to stand the pain any longer, JD passed out and the two men lay close together in the silent woodland, with no phones, no ID, no transport, and no one around for miles.

+ + + + + + +

It was almost time for dinner as Chris looked at his watch for the umpteenth time.

"Damnit. . .those two have no sense of time when they're together. Come on, we might as well eat."

Half-way through dinner, the blond checked his watch again, it would be getting dark in an hour or so, and still no sign of the two men. He pulled out his phone and dialed, twice, receiving no answer from either phone he had called, but one thing did concern him. On both calls, it sounded as if the receiver had been hung up. He looked at his family, who had all stopped eating to watch him. He shrugged at them,

"Something doesn't feel right."

"Chris, would it help if we were to hire ourselves a more appropriate vehicle than our rental car and go in search of our lost brothers?" Ezra offered.

Chris sighed, "I think we have to, I can't believe they haven't been in touch, it's not like them, and I sure as hell don't like the idea of them being up on that mountain in the dark."

Ezra stood, "If you'll excuse me, I believe I may have a stratagem." He gave a quick 'salute' and left.

Chris looked at the others, "Perhaps we should go prepare."

They all nodded and stood, leaving the dining room to head for their rooms.

A half hour later a beast of a 4x4, complete with spotlights and searchlights just about everywhere, was parked outside the hotel while Ezra sat patiently in the driver's seat, waiting for his family to join him.

+ + + + + + +

Buck's head felt like a lead weight attached to his shoulders, heavy and throbbing. He slowly started to open his eyes, finally succeeding while panting with the onset of nausea. His eyes eventually met with a pair of legs, one leg straight and the other pulled up. He followed the legs, traveling upwards, until he finally came to a pair of wide frightened hazel eyes, and in a rush it all came back.

"Kid," he gasped, "Kid, you ok?"

JD's chin wobbled as he gulped, "I thought you weren't gonna wake up. I've been calling you for ages," he moaned, his aching body resting against a tree.

Buck struggled to his brother's side, paling even more at the sight of JD's blood soaked jeans and hands as the boy was desperately but unsuccessfully, trying to hold in the blood.

"Aww hell kid," Buck whispered as he rested his head against JD's and staying in that position, they both slowly lost consciousness.

As the first glimmer of morning light broke through, Buck woke to an immense heat on his cheek, and looked to see its source. JD was burning up, his black hair soaked with sweat, as he sat there, not moving. Buck gently tapped his brother on the cheek, smiling as the young man slowly looked at him.

"We need to find help, are you up for it?"

JD shivered, "Yeah, sure. . .why not? Gotta be better than sitting here bleeding to death, right?"

"I ain't about to let ya bleed to death, kid. I'll find something to bind the wound and we'll try and find the road, ok?"

Buck began tearing his outer shirt into strips and used a few to bandage the boy's leg. He tucked the remaining strips into his jeans pocket in case he needed them later.

JD reached out and shakily touched Buck's head, "What about you? You're hurt, too?"

Buck grinned, "Don't you be worrying about ol' Buck, I'm doin' good, squirt; it's you I'm worried about. Now, can you stand if you lean on me?"

Together, the two men pushed themselves up, JD giving a little grunt as he steadied himself against his older brother. Satisfied with their progress, Buck encouraged the young man to take a few steps as he took the boy's arm around his own neck and pulled the youth in to lean into his hip. They were soon painfully making their way through the woods, the sunlight just starting to peek through the trees as the sun rose.

+ + + + + + +

Chris was frantic. He hadn't heard from either Buck or JD in eighteen hours and he now knew this was not looking good. The five brothers were exhausted and dejected, as they headed their vehicle back to town. They had utilized the vehicle's searchlights to the utmost during the night in their desperate quest to locate their missing family, but without success.

As they pulled up outside their hotel, the rented SUV that Buck and JD had driven off in could be seen parked up a little way, outside a diner. Ezra grinned.

"It would appear our two missing brethren are back and are likely enjoying the delights of 'Betty-Lou's Kitchen'. "

As one, they all headed into the diner, each man scanning the room and in turn, frowning at the lack of results.

Playing a hunch, Larabee pressed a number on his cell phone and was more than a little alarmed when a complete stranger took a phone from his pocket and thumbed a button to turn the ring tone off. As his gut clenched, Larabee dialed again and the rest of his family, now understanding what the blond was doing, watched the second man in the booth take out a phone and repeat the action.

Within seconds, the family had surrounded the two strangers, effectively cutting off any escape and Chris growled, "Care to explain how you came by those phones and the SUV parked up out front?"

Vin had moved to sit with the men and Chris smirked at the memory of how effective Vin could be at extracting information, as he had demonstrated once when Ezra had gone missing. Being around family had not softened the Texan in that department as the man nearest to Vin quickly learned. He squawked in pain as Tanner started pulling back his fingers.

Within five minutes the Larabee brothers had gathered all the information they needed and were coordinating with the police, now in no doubt that their missing brothers were in serious trouble.

+ + + + + + +

Buck and JD had been struggling for several hours and yet seemed no nearer the road. Buck's sense of direction was normally exceptional, but with his head injury, he had started to doubt himself. JD was barely conscious and still bleeding, probably due to the amount of effort they were exerting, and the brunet was seriously considering a change of plan.

He knew he could probably get help quicker on his own, but the thought of leaving his little brother here, injured, bleeding and frightened, was more than the big-hearted man could bear.

Suddenly, and with a scream, JD fell, bringing Buck down with him. The youth's face was screwed up with pain, tears squeezing out from the corners of his eyes. Buck pulled him around and propped him up against a tree, noting how hot the boy was. He was barely conscious, his chin resting on his chest. With a heavy sigh, the big man knew what he had to do.

After changing the dressing on his brother's leg, Buck cradled JD's face in his large hands and encouraged the boy to look at him.

"Kid, I hate to do this, but you can't go on, and ya need help bad. I think I should make you comfortable and try to get help alone. Whaddya say?"

Buck's heart clenched at the sight of the young man's wide, tear- filled eyes, but pride kicked in as the youth blinked away the tears and nodded.

"Ok. . .ok. . .you go on, Buck, I'll be fine."

Buck pulled him into a tight hug, and then pushed him back to look into those soulful eyes.

"I promise you, squirt, if it's the last thing I do. . .I'll come back for you. . .I swear. . .do you believe me?"

Wearily, JD nodded, "I trust you, Buck. . . I. . .I know you will."

Buck got his brother as comfortable as possible then hugged him one last time.

"I love you, kid," he whispered into JD's ear as he squeezed as hard as he dared, but pulling away, he realized JD was no longer conscious. Buck rose unsteadily to his feet, and prepared to leave.

Looking back one last time at the unconscious youth through tear filled eyes, the brunet sighed then walked away, vowing to find help. . .and praying he wouldn't be too late.

+ + + + + + +

Chris felt a little reassured to see the chopper in the air and a large group of police officers and a mountain rescue team ready and waiting to start searching. The horseman watched as the rescue team leader approached the brothers.

"The air crew is going to the place the two men that attacked your brothers think they left them. . . to do a sweep. We'll do the same, but we're going in on foot. It's pretty dense and a person can easily get turned around in there, and I'm guessing that's what's happened. Did you know the men confessed to shooting one of them?"

The family looked shocked. "Wha. . .what?" Chris stammered, grasping at the man's arm, "Who. . .how bad?"

"Sorry, I don't believe it was mentioned, but it adds a new dimension to our search, Lord knows how much blood he's lost, or even if he's still. . ." Team Leader Rawlins looked at the five scared faces, and promptly changed the subject.

"We're all set to go. I see you have a vehicle, just follow behind me and we'll make our way to the starting point." With a nod, the group got in their vehicles at the base of the mountain and waited for the entourage to move out.

As they watched Rawlins walk back to his team, four pairs of eyes turned to Chris, who returned the look.

"Let's not jump to conclusions. Come on, let's do this."

+ + + + + + +

Buck had lost track of time and and, with his watch gone, he had no way of checking himself, so he just kept going.

He found himself smiling as he thought about his youngest brother, who, just a few short months before had been a complete stranger. Yet now, it felt like they had known each other all their lives. He couldn't explain it, and didn't care to, either; he just knew it felt right, and good. That warm feeling was immediately gone as he felt the awful pain come crashing in, the pain of knowing the youth was hurt, and the pain of seeing those wide, hurt -filled eyes as the kid showed absolute faith in him to come back with help. Despite the constant throbbing in his head, Buck moved determinedly on.

+ + + + + + +

As he looked around, JD felt he may never leave this place alive. Although he had absolute faith in his big brother's return with help, he was still losing blood and his leg felt like it was on fire. For that matter so did everything else, yet shivers shook his body until he ached from head to toe.

He reflected on the last several months. He had gone from being an orphan to one of seven and he had loved and savored every moment of it. He had felt loved and cared for. . .and safe. It was kind of cool, having six big brothers looking out for him. Oh, he looked out for them too, and there was absolutely nothing he wouldn't do for them, or give up for them. Despite his protests of smothering, he regularly felt the contrary, and he knew they knew it too. He had formed a unique and special relationship with each one of them. . .but Buck. . .he and Buck had connected on a completely different level, almost as if they had met in a previous life.

His thoughts turned to the big guy, and he silently prayed he wasn't too badly hurt. JD knew Buck was in pain, he had seen it in his eyes, but he knew Buck would never allow himself the luxury of giving in to it. JD had to get through this; he wanted to show his big brother how grateful he was for all they had shared in the past few months, and for trying to help him through this now. With those thoughts uppermost in his mind the young man fought with every fiber of his being to stay conscious until help arrived.

+ + + + + + +

The chopper had made several sweeps but as yet had nothing to report. Rawlins decided to instruct the pilot to set down and stand by. His team and the Larabee brothers had arrived at the start point for the ground search and would take over.

Half an hour into the search had produced nothing and the family was in despair. Vin approached Rawlins,

"Maybe we should split up; I've done some trackin' in my time and. . ."

"No, sir," Rawlins insisted. "I allowed you to join us but I will not have breakaway groups at this juncture. If we've had no luck in a while, I'll review my decision."

Josiah put his arm around Tanner's shoulders, "Come on, son, the man's right, it's still early," he looked at the blond then back to Tanner, "And I believe Chris needs you right now."

Vin looked across at his older brother and saw the anguish etched on Chris' face, and he nodded his agreement.

+ + + + + + +

Buck had gotten excited, when a chopper had passed over him several times, confident now someone was searching for them. He pushed on a little longer, but soon nausea overcame him again and he sank to the ground on his knees. Bending forward, he propped himself up by his elbows as he took in great gulps of air. Unable to clear his head Buck lay down on his side for a moment, closing his eyes, perhaps if he took a little nap, yes, a little nap. . .just for a moment. . .

+ + + + + + +

Vin stopped and looked around him.

"What?" Chris asked

"Dunno, just a feelin', I can't explain. . ."

Nathan approached them, "I've brought my medical kit, but it's not set up for any major trauma."

Rawlins came closer to them, "Don't worry, the chopper is all set for any eventuality, and it's only a few minutes away."

The men were nodding when their heads turned sharply toward a cry further ahead.

"Here. . .OVER HERE!"

The group moved quickly toward the call and as they reached a small clearing, the family could see a familiar form lying in the grass, two of the rescue team next to him.

Nathan was alongside and examining his brother in a matter of seconds.

"He has a head injury, but I see no other problems."

He called loudly to Buck, smiling as he saw the man react. Slowly, blue eyes peered through dark eyelashes as Buck blinked his way back to consciousness.

"Na. . .Nathan?"

"Hey, Buck. . .take it easy, you've got a bad knock to your head and I'm guessing a concussion, too."

Chris came into his brother's line of vision and squeezed his shoulder, "Hey, big guy. . .good to see you... Buck. . .where's JD?"

For a moment all Buck could do was frown, then recollection showed and he tried to sit up.

"Oh, God. . .Nathan, ya gotta help him. . .he's hurt real bad."

Ezra dropped down behind Buck and supported him into a sitting position; Chris touched his brother's face.

"Take it easy, just relax and try to remember which way you came. . ." "This way. . ." Vin rose from his crouched position and pointed, "He came from this direction.

Chris looked at Tanner and silent thanks passed between them. Buck was struggling to stand.

"Gotta go back for him. . .I promised. . .got to keep my promise."

"Buck," Josiah soothed, "You need treatment and rest, let someone. . ."

"NO! I'm keeping my promise. . .I'm going with you.

They all looked at each other.

"OK, it's your decision, but we need to move it. . .who knows what condition this guy's in," Rawlins pointed out.

"JD. . .his name's JD." Buck growled.

"I think I can find him," Vin assured and they all moved to follow him, Buck helped along by Josiah and Chris.

+ + + + + + +

Ezra was fascinated as Vin's long legs strode purposefully through the woods. He was learning things about his new family each day, and he marveled at how such diverse individuals had become so comfortable with each other in such a short space of time.

Suddenly Vin was running and in seconds, the men could see why.

As Vin reached his brother he held his breath. JD looked dead and Vin's heart had started thumping hard in his chest. He reached out, his hand shaking, and touched the boy's head, moving down to the pulse point in his neck. JD was very pale, hot and clammy and Vin turned bright eyes to his approaching family.

"I think we still have him," he whispered.

Nathan positioned the youth more comfortably and began his examination as Rawlins called in their position to the waiting chopper. Buck and Chris squatted next to JD's head as they waited for Nathan to finish.

"He's weak but he's still with us," Nathan informed, allowing himself a small smile, "He needs fluids and treatment fast, the bullet's still in there."

As he finished his sentence, rotor blades could be heard cutting through the air overhead and in less than a minute, a fully equipped paramedic had been lowered into the clearing and was setting up an IV. Buck stroked at the sweat-soaked black hair as he talked non-stop to the youth. Just before the chopper crew were about to air-lift JD and the paramedic out of there, JD's eyes flickered open and made contact with Buck's.

"Hey, kiddo," Buck sniffed, smiling, "Promised I'd come back, didn't I?"

JD slowly nodded his head, never taking his eyes from his brother's face.

"Now I need you to keep a promise for me. . .I want you to promise you'll hang in there and we'll talk about all this later, can you do that for me. . .for all of us?"

Still keeping his focus on his brother, JD swallowed hard then nodded, as his eyes slowly closed.

Buck looked up and smiled at his brothers as a single tear rolled down his face, "That's good enough for me."

Re-examining Buck's injury, the paramedic strapped him into a harness and within minutes, they were flying off to Laramie's Mercy hospital.

With huge sighs of relief, the remaining men made their way back to their vehicles, and headed to the hospital.

+ + + + + + +

Eight hours later, Buck and JD were asleep in a private room, their family arranged around the two beds, chatting quietly. JD's sleep was heavily drug-induced and he was not expected to wake any time soon. Buck was awake, but lay there with his eyes closed for a few minutes, as he listened to the soothing sounds of his family talking.

He enjoyed these moments; these last few months had been some of the happiest times of his life. Remembering something, he popped his eyes open, visibly relaxing again as he saw his youngest brother sleeping peacefully, partially propped up, his injured leg elevated. Buck looked up as Chris stood over him.

"Welcome back. How are you feeling?"

"Good, thanks." He looked over to JD, "How is he?"

"Lucky. . .no serious damage by the bullet, but he's fighting an infection, suffered some blood loss and was dehydrated. We can take him home in a few days, if you're up to it."

"Oh yeah, I'm up to it. It'll be great to get home."

With assistance, Buck sat up in the bed and looked at each of his brothers.

"Thanks, guys. . .thanks for coming for us."

They all smiled, Ezra spoke, "Actually, Vin must be commended. His efforts to extract the details of your whereabouts from the miscreants, who attacked you, along with his expert tracking skills, played a big part in your rescue."

Vin and Buck looked at each other and nodded acknowledgement.

"I owe you, Vin."

"Naw, you don't, but thanks anyway." Vin smiled.

Once again, Buck's attention was drawn toward the still form on the bed next to him.

"He's ok, Buck, he just needs a little time," Chris advised, but he knew there was more to it. "What?"

Buck sighed, "He wanted to drive. . .if I'd let him, then he wouldn't have jumped out and. . ."

Chris growled, "If you didn't already have a head injury I'd slap you across that thick skull of yours. Don't you dare beat yourself up over this; this was no one's fault except the bastards that attacked you, now let it go!"

Buck nodded and settled back down in the bed, he wasn't strong enough to be arguing with big brother Chris, not today anyway.

+ + + + + + +

One week later and JD was still occasionally toppling off his crutches, but every day he was getting better at staying upright, especially after being admonished for hopping around without them. Chris came into the house. He'd been working with the new stock and had come in to get a drink, punching JD's arm playfully as he passed him on the way to the kitchen. JD limped after him.

"Chris, can I ask you something?"

"Of course, what is it?"

"Do you think we could have a party for Buck, you know, as a thank you from me?"

"A thank you? Is this about Laramie?"

JD nodded.

"Sure. . . hell that's a great idea. Get Ezra to help you, he's great at this sort of thing. Where d'ya want to hold it? Here?"

"How about Rosie's?"

Chris nodded, grinning, "Excellent, yeah let's do it. When should we say it will be. . .a week?"

Grinning widely, the youth nodded again. He pulled out his cell phone and sat on a chair in the kitchen.

"Ezra? Hi, it's JD. I wondered if you could help me with something. . ."


Ezra, with help from Josiah, had organized the catering, while JD and Vin had worked tirelessly on a banner, the music, lighting and special effects. The night of the party, the brothers had waited in the shadows for Buck to close down, Chris sticking with him to ensure a smooth exit, while Inez had returned to let them all in to set up. An hour or so later, Vin called Larabee's phone and they all sat back and waited.

+ + + + + + +

Fumbling in the dark for keys, Buck sighed.

"I only left here an hour ago, Chris, I don't hear no alarm."

"The cops said the alarm for Rosie's was going off, I promised we'd check."

"I didn't even get a chance to check on the kid," Buck grumbled.

"He's fine, you'll see him soon." Chris smirked.

Buck slapped his hand blindly along the wall just inside the door to locate the light switch. As the lights went on there were cries of


Buck, shocked, looked around, then up at the banner over the bar.


JD flicked a switch and filled the bar with music, lights and bubbles.

He limped forward on his crutches and hugged his now weepy big brother.

"I just wanted to say 'thanks', you know, for taking care of me when I got hurt; even though you were hurt yourself you never gave up on me." The youth dropped his eyes for a moment, and then looked back at Buck.

"Sometimes, words just aren't enough. Thanks for keeping your promise." He stretched up to whisper in Buck's ear, "I love you too."

Buck looked at JD, realizing the boy had heard him the day he had gone for help, and with tears in his eyes he let out a hearty chuckle and gripped his youngest brother in a tight bear-hug. They stayed that way for a few moments then pulled back and grinned,

"PARTY!" they yelled together and prepared to have one hell of a good time.

About half-way through the celebration, Chris approached JD as he sat quietly watching the others trying to limbo under a broom handle. In Chris' hands was a wooden box. One by one the others turned, wondering what Chris was holding and what was happening.


The smiling easterner looked up at his older brother.

"I was going to give you these for your birthday. . .but I figured, after what happened recently. . .ah hell, I'm no good at this stuff. . .here, this is for you."

With a puzzled look, JD accepted the now familiar box and flipped it open to find the twin Colts he had admired at the auction in Laramie. He let out a small gasp and with misty eyes he looked at the blond with a mixture of surprise, gratitude and awe.

"Chris. . .I. . .I don't know what to say. These are. . .this is. . ." the young man gulped.

"Thank you," he whispered.

Chris' grin lit up his handsome face and he chuckled as his youngest brother threw his arms around him. After a quick squeeze and a pat on the back, the blond turned to a reception of grins from the gathered ensemble.

"What?" he asked.

"Ya ol' softie. . ." Buck grinned, causing the others to laugh as they walked over to take a look at the younger man's gift.

+ + + + + + +

JD laughed as Chris and Josiah dragged a chattering Wilmington in through the door of their home.

"Aaaahh, y. . .you guyssss are the. . .bessst. . ." Buck slurred as he patted Chris on the face and pinched Josiah's cheek.

"Yeah, yeah, we love you too, bro'. . ." Chris grinned.

"And yo. . .ou. . ." He hiccupped, pointing to JD. . ."C'mere, squirt."

As the two men dropped Buck down onto the sofa, JD approached and sat next to him. Buck put his arm around JD's shoulders and winked at him as he spoke with exaggerated hand movements.

"Shhhhhhh. . .I'm gonna tell you a. . .s. . .secret," he said, putting his fingers to JD's lips instead of his own.

"Y'see all thisss?" he swung his arm around to indicate their homestead, narrowly missing Nathan as the doctor brought in some coffee.

"I'ss not worth squat without the rest of y. . .you. . ." He clutched his chest, thumping it twice, "An' it hurts right. . .here when one o' ya's gets hurt. . .y'know?"

His smile fading a little, JD nodded. "I think we all feel the same way, Buck."

"Yeah, w. . .well, jjjussst you remem. . .bem. . .ber that. . .o. . .ok?"

"Yes sir, I will. D'ya want some coffee?"

"Nah. . .I's jjjussst gonna t. . .take a li'l nap!" and as Buck's head dropped back against the sofa, he dozed off.

Satisfied Buck was ok, Nathan nodded and Chris and Josiah hefted the big guy up and carried him off to bed.

JD looked at his brothers, who, as himself, were both amused and touched by Buck's words.

"I think we can safely say the party was a resounding success," Ezra concluded.

JD rubbed his eyes and nodded,

"He's right too; it wouldn't be right without either one of you. Maybe we should celebrate more often, just to make sure we don't forget that."

"Anything for a party, eh kid?" Vin chuckled as he approached him and ruffled his hair.

"You know me too well, Tanner," he replied, absently rubbing his leg. "I'm off to bed too, goodnight, guys."

Each man called out to him as he slowly limped his way up to his room. JD met Chris on his way back from putting Buck to bed.

"Is Buck ok?"

"He's fine, kid. Great party. . . it was a good idea."

"Yeah, it was good, wasn't it...? Chris?"

The blond turned back, "Yeah?"

JD's nerve was suddenly gone, so he just smiled, "Aw. . .nothin', sorry. . . goodnight."

The older man returned the smile, "'Night JD."

Chris made his way back to the others, wondering if JD was about to voice his own thoughts, of how one day, one eventful meeting in a lawyer's office changed the course of all their lives. . .for the better.

The End