Thanks to Sherry for MCAT and for all her patience, help and advice, to Wendy for the beta and Jo and Mary Ann for all the great catches.
Special thanks to Jo, Bountyhunter'slady for the stunning collage
In this AU the guys are married and/or have children but the bond is as strong as ever. Already blessed with twin girls, JD and Casey are close to welcoming a son, but their relationship has been strained due to the pressures of a demanding lifestyle, hormones and personal trauma early at the start of the pregnancy, when JD was wrongfully arrested and seriously injured while in jail. (told in Shades of Gray by Tannertexaslady)
Casey and JD Dunne had a big day ahead of them. Early afternoon, Casey had a hospital appointment and JD was accompanying her. It was one of the reasons he decided not to go to the woods hiking with Vin, Buck, Chris, Jason and Caleb. JD smiled, it would be no time at all that Cody Larabee would be accompanying them, too. He envied them a little while glancing at his wife's swollen belly, excited at the realization his own son would soon be here.
His other reasons for the need to be with his wife were due to recent events. Their latest case saw him keeping long hours away from home and often preoccupied when he was there. He also missed a doctor's appointment, Nettie going with Casey, in his place. In addition to his natural tiredness from his demanding job, Casey was constantly pinning him down to make love to her and as much as he loved her and wanted to make her happy, it had been physically draining.
But the argument brought it all to a head he shuddered as he recalled it all.
TWO WEEKS PRIOR
Nettie greeted the young couple as they returned from Travis's dinner. They both looked tired, and something she couldn't quite put her finger on.
"Did you have a good evening?"
JD nodded but Casey just glared at her husband. Sensing the tension between them, Nettie excused herself and went on to bed.
JD was deep in thought. During the dinner, Casey had suddenly scowled at him, and then barely spoke to him for the rest of the evening. At first, he assumed it was hormones again, but now he sensed something much more hostile and fully expected an argument. He sighed inwardly he really didn't have the energy for a fight, not tonight and not again.
"When were you going to tell me?"
JD looked at his wife. "Tell you what?"
Casey shuffled slightly, positioning her body in a manner which left no room for speculation she was mad. "Or maybe that's it you were never *going* to tell me were you?"
JD's patience was paper thin, and before he realized it, he snapped.
"TELL YOU WHAT FOR GOD'S SAKE?" Glancing upwards, he closed his eyes for a moment. When he looked back at her, his tone softened. "Can't we have *one* night where you don't criticize me for *something*? "
"Oh, that's nice," Casey spat, "I hardly see you for weeks on end, you miss a doctor's appointment, when you're here you barely speak to me "
JD faced her, his eyes flashing. "Speak to you? If we're not sleeping or eating or caring for the twins, we're having sex when is there ever time to talk?"
She gasped. "So it's sex, now? We no longer *make love*?"
Rolling his eyes, JD sighed loudly. "Please don't start twisting my words, Case not tonight I can't be doing this tonight."
She prodded his shoulder. "Tough we need to settle this."
Again the young tech frowned. "What? Settle what?"
"Travis announced since none of the original Team Seven wanted to take up the option, Justin was taking command of the second Denver MCAT team. Just when did you decide to turn the offer down?"
Dunne was shocked. It had been a while, and a knee-jerk reply to Chris's question. He was happy with his team his friends his brothers. Why the hell would he need to move on if he was happy? He took a step back and took off his jacket and tie, placing his keys and cell on the kitchen countertop. Looking toward his furious wife, JD attempted to answer her question.
"A while back just after Buck left us. Casey, I didn't want the position, none of us did. Why are you latching on to it now?"
She breached the gap between them. "Because, for one, I would have liked to have been a part of making that decision we're supposed to be partners, secondly, I only heard about it for the first time tonight, and thirdly " she punched his arm, " what the hell is wrong with you? This was an amazing opening your own MCAT unit. You're young, JD you've earned this opportunity. Why would you turn something like this down?"
JD threw down his jacket and tie. "Well, to begin with, it's not like I was the first in the room to be asked. Chris went around the room, I was last to be considered, so it was hardly an exclusive offer. Then there's how I felt about it. I'm happy, Casey, I love what I do and who I work with. Me and the guys have been to hell and back, I don't want to move on, and neither do they."
Casey smiled the smile that said she had an ace up her sleeve. "Oh, I see so Buck moving on was what? I don't see any evidence of him worrying about the rest of you, or regretting his decision, even if it was temporary. They're just men, JD men who love you and care about you and have taught you well but you can't tell me they wouldn't have been happy for you to have taken Travis's offer. This was a life-changing decision and I had the right to be consulted. As usual, you have cut me out and only considered the feelings and opinions of you and your *brothers*. Grow up Dunne; MCAT/Team Seven are not the only people in your life!"
Casey flinched. Something in JD's expression told her she had gone too far. She was not wrong.
Never had JD been so angry with his wife. He constantly tolerated and indulged her mood swings and regular criticism but she had finally pushed one button too many. He got right into her face.
"How dare you say those things. I thought when you married me it was because you understood. Those men *are* my life those men and you, Nettie, the twins and the Wild Bunch but those men " his voice hitched in his throat.
"Those men, *gave* me a life. I had nothing and no one when I joined with them. We built something extraordinary together, something no one else understood except maybe Travis and our families. I never thought I'd ever have to defend my brothers to you but evidently I was wrong. I'm looking at you, Casey but I don't think I know you anymore. The person I fell in love with and married would never have said those things " He snatched up his jacket and his keys from the kitchen countertop. "...I have to get out of here."
Casey grabbed his arm. "Well, I never thought the man I fell in love with and married would cut me out of something this important in our lives, either. You've become high-maintenance, and I'm tired of waiting for you to just be you."
JD laughed, but there was no humor in it. "*I'm* high maintenance? Er hello sex on demand nighttime cravings which sent me looking for all manner of weird stuff in the middle of the night, no matter what sort of a day I'd had mood swings always asking for compliments, no matter how much I tell you how beautiful you are, complaining when I'm late home, complaining when I'm early that I'm under your feet, hell, I practically had to beg you to go with me tonight I wish to God I hadn't bothered now! High maintenance? YOU HAVE NO IDEA!"
He gasped as Casey slapped his face hard enough to snap his head to the side, instantly putting his hand to the stinging sensation it left. Casey put her hand to her mouth, crying now. She hadn't meant to do that. She reached out to him, but JD pulled sharply away.
Storming out of the door, he slammed it behind him. Nettie appeared, just as the twins cried out from their room. She touched Casey on the arm and the petite brunette turned and sobbed into her aunt's shoulder, flinching at the sound of an engine starting and squealing tires. Nettie held her tightly.
"It's alright, darlin' I've seen this coming for some time. He'll be back, you know he will, he just needs to be alone right now."
Casey looked into her aunt's eyes, her own face streaked with tears as she sobbed out her words.
"I I hit him I I "
"Ssshh. Come on, let's get you to bed, then I'll sort the twins out." Nettie guided her exhausted and heartbroken niece to hers and JD's bedroom, calling to the twins that she'd be there in a minute. In less than five, Casey had cried herself to sleep.
Once the twins were settled, Nettie hovered by the phone, hesitating for a moment, then dialing. She took a breath and spoke into the phone.
"Buck, I'm sorry to wake you, honey, but I felt sure you'd want to know. Casey and JD just had the most awful fight. What was said was bad enough, but...but Casey slapped him. He took off in the truck thank you."
She replaced the handset and sat back in the chair, hoping she had done the right thing.
Buck stretched and rubbed his face, kissing Inez on the head as she snuggled deeper into his chest. They hadn't long gotten to sleep after making love on returning home from the dinner. Reaching out for the phone that had intruded on his slumber, he mumbled sleepily into it.
In seconds he was wide awake and sitting up. "I'll be right there."
Tanner kissed his panting wife passionately, sated and happy as they lay entwined together. He groaned at the ringing phone, nuzzling into his wife's breasts as if to escape the sound. Eventually he snaked out an arm to grab the receiver, chuckling as Kelli pecked kisses over his handsome face.
He didn't meant to yell into the phone, but he was a little irritated by the intrusion. "Buck?"
He and Kelli sat up in the bed. He looked at her as she eyed him curiously.
"Okay I'll meet you there and I'll bring Kel with me."
The redhead touched his face. "What is it?"
"JD just stormed out of the house after a big fight and drove off, Casey's upset. Buck and Inez are heading over there now."
Kelli got out of bed, slipping her dressing gown over her exposed body. "Give me ten minutes; I need to make a call."
Vin jumped out of bed and slipped his naked butt into a pair of jeans from the chair in the corner of the room. By the time he had put on his shirt, socks and boots, Kelli was almost dressed and ready to go. Max, the children's standby caregiver, was due to arrive any minute.
Only half an hour later and Casey was back in the kitchen pouring herself some water. She stroked her swollen belly and cried softly. Nettie guided her to the rocking chair in the living room, taking a seat close by.
"You should be sleeping, Casey. This pregnancy started badly, what with JD in jail and all that you went through, when he was attacked." She patted Casey's tummy. "This poor little mite can't be dealing well with all this tension."
"I know," Casey whispered, her head bowed. "Oh Aunt Nettie, I've become such a shrew. JD's right, I am high maintenance. "
Nettie squeezed her hand. "You're pregnant, darlin' hormones all over the place. It's been a difficult time for both of you. JD's been real busy in work and then his injuries from the recent incident at the warehouse. It was only a matter of time before something gave." She lifted her niece's chin. "But one thing I do know for sure, that young man loves you deeply, that's why you fight so hard sometimes."
"I love him too," Casey whispered, "I always have, right from the first time we met." She covered her face with one hand. "I can't believe I hit him in anger."
Before Nettie could answer, there was a knock at the door and Buck and Inez came in, the latter dropping to her knees next to Casey and holding the sobbing girl tightly. At last Casey looked up at Buck.
"Find him Buck, please tell him I'm sorry."
Wilmington smiled. "Don't you worry none, darlin', Vin's on his way. We'll soon find him."
After informing the other family members, Max, Barbara and Ezra now watching over the Tanner and Wilmington children, Buck and Vin headed out the door, looking back to see Inez, Nettie and Kelli sitting supportively around the young, heavily pregnant woman. They glanced out into the gloom.
"Where to start," Buck sighed.
Vin shone his flashlight toward the trail caused by the Explorer's earlier wheel-spin.
"Right from there, I reckon."
JD was driving with no particular direction in mind, just as long as it was fast and as far from home as possible, he didn't care. It was only when the truck sputtered to a halt,that he realized he was deep into woodlands somewhere around Vin's home.
"What the ?" He glanced at the gas gauge and groaned, "Oh God how did I let that happen?" Climbing out of the cab, he turned and kicked at the wheel, remembering his earlier plans to gas up on the way back from the dinner. But Casey's mood had been so odd; all he could think about was getting home. With a sigh, JD looked around, then leaned back into the cab, rifling through the glove box to retrieve a flashlight. He looked back at the trail his truck had made and started heading that way; he'd driven for ages it was going to be some trek. Worse still, he was going to be late for work tomorrow and he now realized, as he patted his pockets, his cell was still on the countertop in the kitchen.
He'd walked for almost a half hour, his mind going over and over the words he'd spoken no, shouted, at Casey. He'd regretted it as soon as he'd said them, but the slap
JD touched the spot where Casey's hand had struck him, swallowing as emotion caught up with him. Casey punched him all the time, always had but not like this. That slap was done in fury and with force. What the hell had happened to them over the last several weeks?
Closing his eyes he could see his wife, standing before him, naked and pregnant. He loved that image, she was beautiful, how could she not be with such a wonderful thing happening inside her? Their son, growing in size and strength, as each day passed. Was it really only two more months left to go? Well just over nine weeks to be precise. In two weeks was her final scan, then weekly check-ups until she gave birth.
This pregnancy had been a tough one. It had started with him being in jail, then in the hospital and Casey having to keep it to herself until he was strong enough to be told. Then oh God the sex. She was positively exhausting him. With the twins, Casey seemed constantly tired, but this time JD shook his head and for the first time in hours, he allowed himself a small smile.
Trudging wearily on, shivering now as his breath showed white in the beam from his flashlight, JD pulled his thin suit jacket tighter around him, not that it helped. He drifted through his memories, recalling the day Casey told him he was going to be a father for the first time. The men's time as ATF Team Seven was almost at an end, not that he knew that then, and he'd had a horrible day. He and Casey were just getting ready for bed when she walked over to him, took his hand, placed it on her stomach and spoke softly. 'Honey, we made a baby you're gonna be a daddy ' He had never experienced euphoria like it, kissing Casey, then dropping to his knees as he embraced his wife and kissed her belly before standing to kiss her lips again, long and sensually.
He then spent the next hours traveling from one house to the other to share his news with his teammates his brothers, starting with Buck who had promptly accompanied him to everyone else's homes.
Now JD was back to despair. He and Casey had literally fallen apart. He couldn't no he wouldn't let this happen. This must be his fault somehow, he would put this right.
Something large fluttered from a tree just ahead of him, startling him for a moment as he stepped to the side and turned to look up. Scanning around, the beam from the flashlight picked up the overhanging tree limbs, the young agent shrugging when he found nothing. He took his next step, not realizing he had wandered slightly from the trail and closer to the trees. While still scanning the skyline, his foot found the edge of a small dip. Off balance, he slipped on the wet ground, toppled backwards and hitting the ground, rolled to the bottom of the incline.
For a moment he was winded, wondering what the hell just happened. He attempted to push himself up, and that's when the bump on his head made itself known, causing the young tech to become dizzy. Struggling to his feet, JD looked up from where he had fallen, but the image undulated, increasing the nausea and light-headedness. Staggering forward in the hope of retrieving his flashlight, his foot caught in a partly exposed tree root and he crashed to the ground, once again knocking the wind from his lungs. His head felt heavy when he lifted it, eventually dropping onto the sodden ground as he finally gave in to the dizziness and passed out.
Inez was hugging a sleepy Casey on the sofa while Kelli sat in front of them, holding Casey's hand. Nettie was in the kitchen making tea.
"It's all my fault."
Kelli leaned forward and touched Casey's face. "No it's not, and neither is it JD's. These things happen. What's important now, is it's resolved and you move on."
"What if he won't come home?" Casey decided she wanted to sit up again. Nettie came over and placed the tray of drinks on the coffee table, handing one to each of them, then took a seat next to Casey.
"I would bet money he is on his way back as we speak." Inez's conviction in her eyes and voice gave Casey the hope she was looking for.
"Thank you all for, you know, being here, for a silly pregnant woman."
"You're not silly," Kelli smiled. "And where else would we be?"
Vin shone his flashlight into the interior of JD's Explorer. The keys were gone and the truck was locked.
Buck was frowning "We couldn't've missed him; we followed his tracks to here. JD knows not to wander from the trail, so where the hell is he?"
Tanner traced the beam along the leaf-covered track. "Looks like he headed back the way he came on foot. I'll walk ahead, you bring the truck along behind. We're sure to find him."
With a nod, Buck climbed into his Ford and slowly followed Vin as he scoured the track ahead for JD's trail. After about twenty minutes or so, through his windshield, Buck saw Vin stop, check something, then shine the flashlight down a small dip. In seconds, the brunet watched the Texan half run, half-slide down the slope, instantly pulling up and jumping out of the truck to follow him.
By the time Vin reached JD, Buck was almost on him. As JD groaned and tried to get up, Vin gently turned him, leaning the younger man back against his chest.
"Easy kid I got ya."
Taking the flashlight, Buck looked at JD's face, wincing at a small trickle of blood trailing down the left side of the injured man's cheek from just under his hairline. Vin examined the spot, causing JD to hiss slightly. Tanner smiled.
"Not too bad, kid, you'll live."
"Good," JD whispered, "'Cause if I don't, Casey'll kill me."
"Not before Chris does," Buck grinned. "You okay?"
JD shivered violently. "I'm f freakin' freezing!"
Vin's look to Buck told the brunet Vin was agreeing, JD's body felt cold.
"Do you think you can you stand?" Tanner asked. Feeling a nod 'yes', he and Buck helped their youngest brother to his feet, holding onto him as he steadied himself.
"I'm fine really."
Buck huffed, "Oh great, just what we wanted to hear, we all know your definition of 'fine', boy." He took hold of JD, as the Texan handed him over.
"I'll just climb back up and secure a rope. I'll drop the line over and you can use that to get back up the incline." In seconds Vin was gone, and fifteen minutes later, all three were standing next to Buck's truck, the brunet removing his jacket to wrap around his shivering little brother.
"What the hell were you thinking? Coming out here in a thin jacket and no cell?"
"W wasn't exactly th thinking, bro," JD said through chattering teeth.
Vin squeezed the back of JD's neck. "By rights we should get you to hospital, but I reckon gettin' home might be best, for now and we'll take it from there."
Dunne nodded. "Th thanks "
Buck helped him into the back, wrapped him in a blanket and held the younger man close to warm him up, while Vin drove them home.
Chris was in no mood to wait by the phone and had made his way to JD's home. He was sitting with Casey, Nettie, Kelli and Inez when the house phone rang. Nettie rose to answer it four sets of anxious eyes following her across the room. "Thank you, darlin'." She looked at them all.
"They're on their way back, all three of them."
Sobbing hard, Casey buried her head in Inez's shoulder. Chris looked at Nettie and mouthed the words, 'everything okay?' The slight shake of her head was enough for Chris to make a decision then and there.
Hearing the truck pull up, Chris stood. Vin was the first through the door, quickly followed by Buck and JD. Casey squeaked and struggled up, moving hurriedly forward to greet them, only to stop when she saw the disheveled condition of her husband. Time froze as the young couple stared at each other. They both spoke.
"JD, I'm sorry "
"I'm sorry, Case "
Neither of them moved, not really knowing why, then Casey reached out, stopping just short of his face.
"I'm fine, just took a tumble."
Sobbing, Casey reached out to him. JD moved to meet her and the pair embraced for a long time. "You're cold, too," she sniffed.
JD nodded into her neck. "Going out without a jacket in the 40 degree night air'll do that to you." He could feel dizziness sweeping over him when strong hands gripped his shoulders.
"Ready for what, Chris?" JD asked, swallowing at the nausea now accompanying the spinning.
That one word from Chris was all it took. The others were ordered home, Buck and Vin arranging to pick up JD's truck in the morning. With a quick change into warm, dry clothes, JD and Chris were soon on their way.
Once JD helped Casey into his truck, they were on their way to her doctor's appointment, cutting across the mountain road to drop down onto the highway. Nettie told them not to hurry back, she would take care of the twins, hoping their time alone would help put behind them their recent turbulent weeks. The previous week, Vin and Kelli had organized a cook-out. The family was visibly heartened by Casey and JD's playfulness with each other, hoping the couple was over the worst. That night, the pair made love and JD felt an almost spiritual connection to his wife he hadn't felt in a long time for the first time in months, they were truly happy.
At this stage in Casey's pregnancy, a scan would show a lot of detail, JD was looking forward to seeing the little boy he and the woman he loved had created.
Casey giggled as she slapped JD's hand away and pressed the button for a new radio station. "I am not going all the way into town listening to rock music. Baby needs something less noisy. How about some easy listening?"
JD showed mock horror. "No son of mine is going to listen to anything 'easy', put the rock station back on." He frowned at Casey's beaming smile. "What?"
"Son in eight weeks we'll have a son."
JD grinned proudly back. "Yeah. We need a name. Did you have any more thoughts on one?"
His wife nodded. "I did. Remember I mentioned my Paternal Grandfather? "
JD nodded. "I liked that." He touched her hand. "Case I'd like " he swallowed, "I'd like Buck's name in there too do you mind?"
Casey stroked her fingers through his hair. "I was hoping you would."
As they rounded a bend, a large truck was coming at them in the middle of the road. Casey squealed as JD made a sharp maneuver, coming to a halt with the back wheel in a deep rut. He panted through his shock for a moment, then turned and yelled out at the disappearing vehicle. "YOU FUCKING IDIOT!"
He looked at Casey.
"Are you okay?"
Still shaking, she nodded. "Yes yes, I'm fine, just a little shaken. Are you okay?"
"Oh sure, and now I'm gonna turn this truck around and arrest that asshole "
He looked at the delicate hand on his arm. "We'll be late, let's just go."
Her soft words calmed JD down and nodding, he shifted into gear and attempted to get them out of the ditch. After a few moments of slipping, the back wheel finally found traction and they jerked away.
The next ten minutes of their journey down the mountain road, was a little more subdued, JD nervous as he watched Casey stroke her belly. "Are you sure you're okay, babe?"
Casey smiled. "Yes, honestly."
JD nodded. "Good, but when we get back "
A bang from the rear of the vehicle caused the Explorer to pull violently and despite JD's best efforts, the truck skewed wildly, to careen off the side of the road and down a steep and bumpy slope. Casey screamed while JD fought to keep the truck upright, bushes and saplings whipping against the vehicle as it raced through the undergrowth. JD touched the brakes intermittently to slow the truck's descent. It seemed to be working, when he lost his battle as it hit a fallen tree and flipped onto its side, completing the rest of the journey in a horizontal slide until it ground to a halt at the bottom of the incline, the momentum and abrupt stop rolling it onto its roof. The airbags deployed, but both JD and Casey lay strapped unconscious in their seats. The engine died leaving an eerie silence, except for the sounds of a soft breeze and hot metal cooling.
Their afternoon briefing over, the six 'brothers' remained behind in the conference room. Buck spoke.
"Inez was thinking on holding a baby shower for Casey, soon. I suggested she arrange it for say a Sunday afternoon, and we could take JD out riding you know, just the seven of us, like the old days."
Chris nodded his approval. "Sounds good. How about next weekend?"
They all agreed, Buck grinned. "Good, well, I'll call Inez and let her know."
"It was good to see JD and Casey so relaxed the other day," Ezra commented, "things have been so fraught between them, has it not?"
Josiah nodded. "I spoke privately to Casey after JD's accident the other night, offering her the chance to talk in confidence if she wishes. She promised me if things didn't improve, she would. It does appear that they may have turned a corner."
"Yeah, well, it's about time. That baby sure has had a stressful seven months," Nathan pointed out.
Chris made a move. "They all have, including Nettie and the twins. Casey seemed real excited about seeing the new scan images. What time did JD say to drop by?"
"Around six," Vin remembered.
Chris nodded, checking his watch. "3.30 okay, let's get to it." The six dispersed to conclude their day.
Her head felt odd, fuzzy and aching. For a moment, Casey couldn't remember why she would feel like this, when a sharp pain in her abdomen startled her. She gasped with the shock, clutching her stomach, suddenly realizing her world was upside-down. It all came rushing back, as she turned to the driver's seat to see JD lifeless and leaning against the frame of the shattered side window, a deflated airbag hung limply in front of him. Another pain hit and she screamed out, terrified.
JD wondered if they were close to a river, slowly realizing the noise in his ears was a combination of wind and the blood swooshing around his aching head. He jerked at the sound of a frightened voice screaming his name and fought to pull himself through the fog clogging his mind. Slowly, he grasped that the terrified scream sounded like Casey. 'I'm coming, babe '
Casey sobbed with relief as a groan from her husband told her he was still alive, trying to remain calm, she panted through another contraction while trying desperately to come to terms with events. It was too early 'JD please help me'. She found her voice once more.
"JD JD please wake up I need you." Casey relaxed a little on seeing his eyes flicker open, accompanied by a loud groan.
"Oh, thank God baby, listen to me I need you to help me focus on my voice, now I need you to wake up."
The urgency in Casey's voice drove JD to consciousness. Ignoring the pain in his head and something wet trickling into his ear; he glanced across at his wife.
"What is it?"
Casey swallowed hard. "I think the baby's coming."
Regretting it the instant he shifted, JD stared at his wife. "But he can't be it's too early "
Casey panted. "Tell that to him he's coming I need to push !" She growled into her throat as her instincts took control. JD grabbed her arm, getting her attention.
"NO! No come on, Casey breathe breathe through it blow blow blow blow good girl." Not knowing where his strength was coming from, JD unbuckled himself and hauled his aching body into the back of the truck, succeeding, despite the angle, in unbuckling Casey and helping her get upright. Supporting his wife, he eased her to lie back against the side of the truck, hoping it would make things a little easier, despite them now sitting on the roof interior. Brushing away the glass and debris, he flattened the seats to make more headroom, looking back at his panting wife.
"Tell me when your contraction stops and I'll look for our cells."
Casey nodded and as soon as it had subsided, she allowed JD to help her to get more comfortable. Her cries of pain alarmed him deeply. There was no way he wanted his son born in a wrecked Explorer in the middle of God knows where. He needed to get help. While leaning her gently back after her contraction had ended, he gazed into his wife's face for the first time. She had some scrapes and bruises but otherwise seemed reasonably okay. He leaned in and kissed her.
"Apart from labor pains, is anything else hurting, now?"
She shook her head, screwing up her face as another contraction hit. She clawed at him, fisting his shirt as she growled. "I am NOT having our baby here you have to get help he can't be born here."
JD nodded and looked around him, trying hard to ignore his own pain and the blood dripping annoyingly into his eyes. The incline wasn't too bad he could climb up there maybe find some help. Cell phone he patted his pocket, relieved to find it and then cursed at the dead screen.
"Where's your phone, Casey?"
The petite brunet looked at him. "Kitchen."
"You didn't bring it?"
Casey shook her head. "No you had yours "
JD patted her arm. Okay okay "
"I thought you were getting help!"
Startled, JD nodded. "Yeah, right I'll try and reach the road." He winced as Casey grabbed his hand as another contraction started.
"Go ahead," he comforted, " squeeze, baby, squee .Aaaaaaaahhhhh h shit, Casey you need to cut your aaaahh nails! "
Casey glared at him as she panted, her voice low and hoarse. "I'll get right on that then SHALL I?"
Dunne simply smiled, he knew better than to make a comment now Casey was at *that* stage, the point where all reasoning was out of the window, and JD was both friend and foe. He watched her settle back and started to move. Casey grabbed his arm.
"Wh where are you going?"
"To get help remember? " He watched his wife shake her head, frantically.
"No no you can't not now don't leave me, JD please I'm too close Oh GOD!"
The pair breathed through another contraction and JD made a decision it was preparation time. He knew there were blankets and flares in the back that his cell signal could be picked up by the equipment at the ranch that they would be missed at some point, hopefully soon and that this precious boy of theirs had no intention of waiting. A calm suddenly washed over him he could do this.
"I am NOT having this baby here!" Casey half cried, half screamed.
JD kissed her glistening forehead. "Yeah, you are and it's gonna be fine I promise."
Kissing her again, JD made his way to the rear of the vehicle and pulled two blankets toward him. Reaching over, he checked the case of flares, relieved there was one in there as he re-sealed the box, then checked a side pocket for a sealed plastic bag containing matches. Casey screamed out.
Dunne scrambled back toward her. "Okay okay " he replied, breathlessly, terrified, but in control. "Babe, I have to take off your panties and take a look, okay?"
"Just DO IT!" she squeaked, another contraction hitting hard.
Nodding and trying not to worry about the blood-soiled underwear, he took as deep a breath as his aching ribs would allow and removed the sodden pants, all the time, praying the training he'd received five years ago would get him through this. He made a mental note to thank Nathan for insisting they did the refresher instruction course the EMT had certainly taken some flack for putting their names forward now, JD shuddered, it just might save his son and wife's lives.
Nettie replaced the phone, smiling to herself. That was the last one. All six men had called to confirm the time they should drop by not the women the men. She glowed with the warm feeling generated by how much these seven men cared for each other and their extended family it was truly magnificent. Frowning as the phone rang again, she picked up, wondering who had forgotten something.
"Doctor Bradfield?" Nettie listened intently, glancing at the clock on the kitchen wall. "I see thank you. I'll get back to you." Dialing JD's cell, Nettie licked her lips nervously; her frown deepening as she dialed a second number and the cell on the kitchen countertop rang. Trying to remain calm, Nettie called Chris.
"Christopher I'm so sorry to disturb you. Casey's obstetrician called, asking if there was a problem and if Casey and JD could call to reschedule her scan." She paused at the inevitable question. "I can't raise JD on his cell Chris, I'm worried." She nodded and agreeing to his suggestion, did just that focused on the twins, knowing the mighty force that was six formidable men was on the move.
In little under a minute, Chris made five calls and set up a GPS search of JD's cell's last known location, grateful for the embedded satellite link his young tech had set up in Chris's own computer. Normally, their vehicles had a GPS tracker fitted, but JD had disabled it because he was about to surprise Casey with a brand new Explorer. Unfortunately, it was still being fitted for its siren and a new tracker and delivery was taking longer than expected. Chris was analyzing the satellite data when the other men arrived. Glancing over the blonde's shoulder, Vin retrieved a map and in seconds had pinpointed the area they needed to search.
"Could it be wrong?" Buck asked, nervously, "I mean they should have been off that road two hours ago."
Well, we're not going to find out standing around here," Chris pointed out. "Let's go." He looked at Ezra. "I need a man here, in case this signal changes and to liaise with any ground help we need to call in."
Ezra nodded, although they could use a laptop, the rest of the family needed a link, too. "Consider it done. God's speed, boys." He prepared to alert the emergency services to back his brothers up. In less than a minute, they were gone.
JD positioned himself in front of his wife and smiled encouragement. Casey looked at him as he gently lifted her legs to rest on his shoulders and pushed back her skirt. The twins birth had been painful and exhausting, with two babies to deliver, but at least she'd received drugs to help her. Casey started to doubt she could do this it hurt so much and she was frightened it was too early. But one look into the loving hazel eyes of her husband and she knew it would be okay JD would make it okay. Casey couldn't ignore nature any longer. She knew the baby's head was right there and every fiber of her being prepared her to push. Hearing JD guiding her and encouraging her, when the contraction hit, Casey pushed long and hard, half crying, half screaming as the agony and ecstasy of the moment overwhelmed her. She was almost ready to give up after her third long contraction when JD's voice penetrated the pain.
"I see him I see him, Casey, he's crowning come on, babe big push."
Casey glared at him. "Easy for you to say you should be doing this this is all your fault " Her last words tailed off into a throaty growl as she bore down. There seemed to be a lot of blood, but JD focused on the events in hand he was no expert and he needed to be alert. As Casey panted, once again, JD looked at her, tears falling from his lower lashes.
"His head's clear, Casey you're doing it, babe you're doing it come on come on one big push, okay? We need to get his shoulders out."
The petite brunette nodded, once again straining in time with the contraction, hers and JD's hands shaking as she gripped him tightly for support. JD moved a blanket in close, gasping as his son's shoulders slipped out. "Nearly there, Casey he's almost here."
One more determined push and the rest of the tiny body slipped out.
"Oh God he's here!"
Tense moments ensued as JD moved Casey's heels back to the floor and quickly checked the little one over, looking into the infant's mouth and carefully hooking a pinky into the tiny orifice to clear his airway. Catching her breath, Casey watched wide-eyed, crying and laughing at the same time when a shaky wail emerged from the newborn. Both parents looked at each other and cried through their smiles while JD carefully swaddled the little one and cuddled him for a moment, gazing down in wonder at his newborn son. He kissed the boy's head.
"Guess you decided you just couldn't wait, huh?"
Grinning like a Cheshire cat, JD handed the baby to his mother. He kissed Casey on the lips, then the head, hiding his terror at how small the baby was.
"Clever girl." He took a minute to gaze again at their miracle lying in Casey's arms. Despite being premature and underweight, the little one was already looking to nurse. Instinctively, Casey fiddled with her clothing and exposed a breast. With assistance, the baby seemed to latch on. JD frowned.
"Is he really able to take it?"
Casey answered, not looking up at all. "I'm not sure, he's very small but it does seem to be comforting him."
Content with her answer, for now, JD tidied his wife's clothing and pulled the second blanket around her and their son in an attempt to preserve their body heat. Tears fell unashamedly as JD stared at the tiny boy. "God he's beautiful."
Casey looked up and smiled at her husband. "He looks like you."
They sat quietly for a few minutes then JD stirred. "Case I'm no expert, but the placenta "
She smiled. "It's okay for a while I elected to go through third stage, drug-free, remember? It'll be fine for a while."
JD nodded, vaguely recalling a debate about the merits of the placenta being delivered naturally and drug-free to allow the baby all the oxygen-rich blood still in the cord and placenta. He shifted.
"I have to go set off this flare, okay? We need someone to find us and soon."
Casey nodded, trying hard not to show her fear for their situation and her concern over the warmth flowing gently out of her from down below. She kissed her son's head. "That's your daddy. He's a wonderful man and he's going to get us out of here I promise."
JD felt nauseous, the pain and shock finally catching up with him as he climbed out of the back of the vehicle, pulling the box with the flare out with him. Getting his bearings, he worked out the best trajectory and placed the distress rocket into the launch stand. He looked to the Heavens. "God I don't ask for much, but please let someone see this I need to get my wife and baby to a hospital." He struck a match and touched it to the fuse, stepping back, heartened as the rocket soared high up into the sky and exploded with a mighty bang and a huge flash of red light and smoke, which colored the sky. Realizing his legs wouldn't hold him up much longer; JD climbed, painfully, back into the truck and eased himself next to Casey and his now sleeping son.
Casey's head flopped against him as she sighed. JD could see she was breathing comfortably. He knew she was pretty exhausted right about now and needed to sleep, not to mention her injuries from the accident. Covering her with the blanket as much as he could, he put his arm around Casey to draw her closer and placed his other hand on the sleeping baby nestled safely between them, just before finally succumbing to the persistent beckoning darkness.
Ezra kept regular contact with the five men to update them on the cell's signal, which never changed, so they knew their search area, but the location wasn't specific so the area was vast. Chris's mind was racing. What the hell could have happened? It now seemed likely it was serious; JD was resourceful and he would have found a way to get in touch if he could. So, that left injuries. Chris's stomach flipped at the scenarios his thoughts evoked. He was startled from his musings as Tanner called for them to halt. He followed the Texan to the side of the road, as did the others. Vin squatted, studying the ground, eventually standing.
"Looks like a vehicle got stuck in this here rut. I can't be sure but the tread looks like the Explorer. It's pretty fresh."
Buck looked around. "But, whoever it was is long gone."
Vin nodded. "Yup, but the depth of that rut might have caused rim damage just a thought."
"So, they might have had to pull over at some point?" Josiah asked.
Before they could speculate further, a red flare exploding in the sky just ahead of them, caught their attention. As one, they jumped back into the vehicle and moved out, calling for air rescue now that they knew someone was in trouble and somehow they instinctively knew it was JD and Casey.
"Did you pinpoint it?" Chris called out, relieved to hear Vin and Nathan's 'yes'.
Fifteen minutes later the five were walking along the edge looking for signs of the vehicle in distress. A yelp from Vin caused them all to race ahead to tire tracks that headed over the side. Looking down, they all groaned.
"Oh sweet Jesus."
Chris and Josiah went back to the truck to get blankets, water and a first-aid kit, calling Ezra to update him, so he could liaise with the dispatched rescue team and inform them of what the men had found. Vin, Buck and Nathan were already heading for the overturned vehicle, risking life and limb to get there as quickly as possible. When they reached the upturned Explorer, Buck moaned, softly.
"Oh God no."
Vin tried the rear door, relieved that it opened. He allowed Nathan to climb inside, but all three could see the two unconscious forms huddled together. They could also see signs of bleeding. Vin and Buck swallowed hard as Nathan cried out.
"Oh Lord you gotta see this."
Carefully the two men eased their way in, staring as Nathan slipped back the blanket to reveal the tiny sleeping infant. Buck sobbed while Vin's jaw dropped. He looked at Nathan.
"It's it's holy shit the baby came Buck the baby came!"
Trembling, Wilmington reached out to touch the infant, to check he was really there. "Oh God Nathan, is he ?"
The medic did a quick check, then nodded. "He's fine so far. Buck I need you to scoot around and hold onto JD for me Vin, I'm gonna pass you the baby, I need to check on Casey."
With a collective nod, they snapped themselves out of their shock and took their positions, Buck pulling JD protectively close, while Nathan cut and tied off the cord, quickly passing the baby to Vin. Tanner eased out of the truck and standing just beyond the wreck, pulled the swaddled baby in tight, kissing his head as tears fell freely.
"Oh baby boy you are most definitely one of us what a hell of an entrance, kid." He looked up, grinning as a misty-eyed Larabee and Sanchez joined him. "They had their baby!" Both men stared in astonishment and, in turn, each placed a hand on the baby's head.
"Oh God " Chris said softly, "Oh, dear God he's way too early."
Josiah handed the first aid kit to Nathan, leaving him and Buck in the truck for now, due to the limited space and it was evident Casey was in dire need of medical attention. He returned to where Chris and Vin were protecting the baby.
Ten minutes later, they looked up at the sound of rotor wash, the three huddling around to protect the baby from the noise, wind and flying debris. Less than ten minutes later, the baby and Casey were on their way to the hospital, Josiah going with them.
Seeing JD becoming restless Buck placed a steadying hand on the youth's chest. "Take it easy, kid...we're gonna have you outta here in no time."
Buck shushed him. "It's okay...we got him, he's in an incubator and on his way to the hospital with Casey right now." The brunet grinned, adjusting his face to look into JD's eyes. "God, kid...he's so tiny and so beautiful." Buck's eyes glistened while he spoke, desperate to keep his little brother from slipping unconscious again. "You named him yet?"
A slight nod. "J...Jarrod John B...Bucklin. .."
Buck swallowed a sob and touched JD's cheek. "Aaaw, son..."
Pained Hazel eyes cracked open a little more, to look at him. "Was...gonna have...Bucklin Jarrod John, but...but there's only one Buck...right? " JD laughed softly, his hand flapping aimlessly, eventually grasping the front of Buck's jacket. "Did you see him? Did you see my son? I did that I helped him I held him right as he was born I did that and...Casey too "
Buck, Vin and Chris chuckled, only to frown on seeing JD relax, his head lolling to one side as he slipped into unconsciousness. Buck looked at JD, stroking his face, then to Chris and Vin, tears now rolling down the big, gentle man's cheeks. Nathan again checked JD's pulse, the sound of another chopper arriving getting louder, bringing instant relief to the small huddle.
Buck turned back to JD, absently fingering the bandage around the younger man's head. "Yeah, kid, you did it you and Casey did it. And you're right, there's only one Buck...but Buck's damned proud to be sharing his name with a son of yours...damned proud." He leaned in to whisper into JD's ear. "You did real good, kid."
The attending paramedic climbed into the vehicle and, checking JD's vitals, he nodded. "He's doing fine; let's get him outta here, huh?"
The four weary men agreed and, moving away, watched their youngest being prepared and boarded for his trip to the hospital. Buck didn't need to be asked twice to join them in the chopper. After watching them go, the men called the extended family to arrange for babysitters for the twins so Nettie could go to the hospital and to let everyone know they had a new family member. From there, they headed for the Dunne-Wells property, to pick up Nettie.
Flashes of white light passed quickly overhead and JD groaned softly into the oxygen mask as he tried to make out what he was seeing and what sounds were buzzing somewhere in the distance. He felt a strong hand clasping his and blurry features moving in and out of his vision. He moaned again, cursing inwardly as all he really wanted was to hold onto the somehow familiar image, while he tried desperately to make sense of it all. A jolt startled him and the gurney went crashing into a bright room and, suddenly, the strong hand was gone. JD could feel his breathing quicken as nothing made sense and pain washed over him. A new, but nonetheless, familiar voice spoke, but the young agent was unable to articulate a reply, devoid of strength as he felt his clothes being removed, so he just let go and welcomed the darkness.
Doctor Marcus Gilford leaned over the young man he had come to know so well. "JD JD, can you hear me? We're just going to slip you into a gown and take some x-rays, bloods and a CT scan you're going to be fine, son just rest easy and let us take care of you."
Realizing the young man was unconscious Gilford nodded to his staff and stepped back for them to continue. Striding out into the waiting area, he approached an anxious Buck.
"We're just running some tests and x-rays. Do you know if he's been conscious at all before now?"
Buck nodded. "We found him and Casey unconscious at the scene, he's been in and out since." Buck went a shade paler. "Oh God the baby and Casey "
Gilford guided him to a chair and the pair sat. "Jarrod has gone to NICU and Casey to the operating theater. Buck, Casey is very poorly. She's lost a lot of blood. I needed JD to sign off on a procedure, but he's in no condition right now. Is is Nettie on her way?"
Buck nodded slowly, the doctor's words gradually sinking in. "Procedure? What why? How much blood ?"
"All in good time, Buck when the others arrive, I'll fill you in." He patted the man on the arm, stood and returned to the trauma room.
Very soon, an entourage burst through the doors, Nettie in the center of the five brothers, Kelli and Rain, the other ladies electing to remain behind to help with the children. Buck stood to greet them.
"With the baby?" Chris asked, alarmed.
"Nettie would you come with me, please."
They all looked as Doctor Gilford took the older women gently by the arm and guided her away to a private room.
"JD?" Chris asked.
Buck caught a soft sob. "I I don't know they're doing tests and x-rays, now."
The weary group took up seats while they waited for more news, standing again a little later, as a tearful Nettie re-joined them. Vin approached and she clung to him, sobbing.
"What is it?" Vin asked, softly.
Nettie took a deep breath and stood upright, patting Vin on the arm in thanks for his support. "Casey suffered a Placental Abruption; they believe, caused by the accident and is the reason why Jarrod came early. Despite numerous blood transfusions, they can't stop the bleeding and are fighting a real possibility of Casey going into DIC disseminated intravascular coagulation, not to mention the threat of the liver or kidneys shutting down." She shuddered out a breath. "They need to do a hysterectomy. "
The group looked shocked. Rain stepped forward. "Did you agree?"
Nettie nodded. "Of course, once they mentioned a risk of her dying they left me with no illusions of how life-threatening her condition is I just hope she and JD can find it in their hearts to forgive me."
Rain squeezed her arm. "They have three beautiful babies, Nettie. Being so young and unable to have any more children is so unfair but she'll be alive JD will have his wife and the children a mother. You're a good guardian, Nettie I have no doubt JD would have done the same."
Clearly comforted by Rain's words, though not really convinced Casey would be happy about it, Nettie relaxed into the younger woman's arms. A few minutes later, Marcus approached, confirming Casey's procedure was underway.
"JD's still being checked out. Would you like to see little Jarrod, while you're waiting?"
The majority of the group nodded and followed him to the NICU. Buck, Chris, Vin and Josiah remained, to wait for news of JD.
JD couldn't help but offer a tiny smile as Buck's features became clearer. The pull on his hand and the heaviness of his arm told him he was hooked up to an IV which would explain the odd high he was on right about now, but those thoughts, despite his exhaustion, led him to he frowned something
Buck watched JD's face intently as a myriad of thoughts and emotions crossed the young man's pained features. Then there it was and Buck got ready for the onslaught.
"Buck! Oh oh God Casey she she THE BABY!" With strength he should never have had, JD pushed himself upright, despite Buck's efforts to stop him, and now Chris was trying to steady him. "Get off! I need to see "
"JD!" Chris's sharp tone stilled the young man. The tone softened instantly. "Calm down everything' s in hand. Get some rest and then we'll take you up to see your son."
JD looked at the blond, then around at the faces so familiar to him, resting on Vin as he relaxed back, a small goofy grin crossing his battered, handsome face. "I got a son " Seconds later, he was asleep.
Chris squeezed Buck's shoulder, addressing them all. "One step at a time, guys we're all in this for the long haul and Casey and JD are gonna need all the strength they can muster for this one."
The ladies had joined Nettie in the surgical waiting room. The older woman, despite knowing her decision was the right one, was inconsolable. Kelli patted her arm.
"Medically, it was out of your hands, Nettie. You know you did the right thing."
Nettie sobbed, softly. "I'm sorry dear, I know you mean well, and I know you've been down this road personally, but, I also know, for a fact, JD and Casey wanted more children. They both grew up lonely and were determined that wouldn't happen to any child of theirs. Now I have to tell a young mother my niece that her choices have been taken away from her." She looked at Kelli and Rain. "How am I supposed to do that?"
Both women nodded, sadly, understanding exactly how Casey would probably react to the news they knew how they would. Rain spoke.
"But she'll still be alive."
Nettie covered her face with her hands as the two women comforted her.
Five men stood watching through the observation window, as Buck pushed JD's wheelchair with attached IV pole, into the NICU. He was about to go and see Casey, who had just come out of recovery, but first, he wanted to see his son. He was still in shock about the news of Casey's condition, but the procedure had gone well and he needed to focus on the positive. JD wanted to be able to tell his wife all about their son to give her something good to cling to. He felt Buck's hand squeezing his shoulder as he gazed into the incubator.
"He's doing very well considering, " the nurse told them.
With misty eyes, JD looked up at her. "Can I hold him?"
She smiled. "Yes, of course. I'll arrange that for you, now."
A short time later, despite all the tubes and cables attached to the tiny body, JD was cradling his son in his arms, while six big, strong MCAT agents sniffed as they watched. JD grinned back at them, leaning a little into Buck, grateful for the support. Twenty minutes later, the entourage was in the waiting area next to SICU. JD sat quietly alone in the room, stroking his unconscious wife's face.
"You should see him, Case he's small, but he's so strong. The docs are really pleased with him they say he's already put on a few ounces." JD sighed as he brushed away a tear. "It's all gonna be fine, Casey I promise. I'll help you through this I love you so much I'll do whatever it takes no matter what." He picked up her free hand and kissed the palm.
"No matter what I'm here for you."
Three weeks on and the Dunne family were finally to be reunited. The twins were excited at having their mama and little brother home. They were spending the day at the Tanner home making cards and banners with Andi, Jason, Caleb, Sarah and Joanne. Their disappointment was evident when Vin took a call, looking across to Chris and Caitlin.
"JD wondered if we could keep the kids here for tonight, Casey's feelin' a little overwhelmed. "
Kelli nodded, frowning. "Anythin' we can do to help?"
Vin sighed. "Nah just keepin' the kids here'll help, I reckon."
"Did Buck go with JD to pick Casey up from the hospital?"
Vin nodded. "Yeah, JD isn't able to drive, yet. Buck said he'd call when they're settled."
Chris squeezed Caitlyn's waist. "You feel up to a visit, later?"
Cait smiled. "Absolutely. "
JD waved Buck off as he pulled away, then went back inside the house. He walked over to Casey and kissed her, sighing inwardly as she pulled away a little. "Gonna be kinda quiet without the girls, huh?"
She nodded. "Just for tonight, JD I just wanted to get my bearings."
"Sure, I understand." He stood, smiling, as Nettie brought in some tea for Casey and coffee for JD. Jarrod whimpered and JD instantly went to the crib they had brought him home in, picking him up and cuddling him close as he kissed his head.
Casey sighed. "JD you'll spoil him. He wasn't crying, put him down."
JD grinned. "Aww, c'mon, Case the li'l fella just wants a hug." He walked over to her. "Maybe if you nursed him "
"NO!" Casey stood. "I'm tired. I'm going to bed. Give him formula if he's hungry."
As she left, JD looked across at Nettie. The woman smiled.
"Give her space, honey she just needs some time to adjust." She turned and followed her niece into the master bedroom.
Sighing, JD placed the now sleeping infant back into the crib and sat beside him, his mind replaying the day he told Casey the awful truth about what happened to her. The young woman took it badly, refusing to see anyone for a whole day, but eventually JD was allowed back and they spent hours consoling and reminding each other of the precious family they had already created. From then on, Casey suffered from up days and down days. But one thing became consistent she barely visited or touched her son except to nurse him, and she was even finding excuses to get out of that. JD hoped with all his heart things would change now they were home.
Five days on and the extended family had planned a celebration barbecue at Chris's to be held in two days time. The tension in the Dunne household was becoming unbearable, the children staying over Buck's or Vin's house on more than one occasion to prevent them from suffering because of it.
After yet another fight, JD followed his wife into their bedroom. "All I said was maybe you should see a doctor. You need help, Casey you're not yourself."
The petite brunette got right in his face. "I'm fine, thank you but, you're right I do need something I need to get away from here!"
JD was shocked. "I don't think the kids want to go anywhere just now "
Casey pulled out a valise. "No, JD just me. Not you or the kids ME!"
"You can't be serious."
"Oh, but I am now go away."
JD grabbed her hand. "Casey " He baulked at the anger and venom in her expression and words.
"Get the hell away from me I need time for myself and I'm damned-well gonna get it!"
For a moment, JD stood there, transfixed waiting for her to look at him and regain her senses. Finally, she did look at him.
Four hours later, Casey was gone and the girls had cried themselves to sleep. Nettie stayed with them for a while. JD cradled his sleeping son, gazing at his face as he slept. "Oh God, JJ what's happening to us? I feel like I'm losing control."
Two days on, the cook-out was well underway and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, despite being disappointed that Casey hadn't felt well enough to attend. Nettie wasn't too happy. She wanted JD to tell his family what was really going on, but JD refused, convinced that Casey's sudden trip to visit her old college roommate, Rebecca Lanski, was just a whim. He was certain she would be home any day now, despite the fact Casey hadn't called since she'd left.
JJ was being decidedly fussy, unwilling to go to anyone but his father and it was clearly wearing JD down. Exasperated, JD sat apart from the family in an attempt to settle the boy. Suddenly, Maria and Andi ran to Inez and Kelli.
"Mommy, mommy quick, quick, Uncle Ezra's gonna put us in a bun an' eat us!" Kelli and Inez laughed, scooping their girls up as they swung them around.
"Don't worry, girls momma's here to protect you!"
JD's world narrowed as he instinctively looked at his girls. Lilah trotted over to him and burst into tears.
"I want mama!"
Daisy instantly followed suit and now two little girls were clinging to their father and baby brother, while the events of the last few weeks caught up with them. JD felt like a drowning man as emotions and exhaustion overtook him, huge sobs racking his body while the shocked family moved as one to support him. The girls and JJ were gently taken away while Nettie and Buck moved in to console JD. As Nettie pulled the young man she looked on as a son, into a tight hug, Buck squatted in front of him.
"What's going on, son?"
Nettie decided it was time. She looked at the anxious faces of the six men and their partners and inhaled. "Casey walked out on us two days ago. She hasn't been in touch, and has given no indication as to how long she'll be away." She stroked JD's hair. "This young man's 'bout at his wits end, tryin' to balance everything while, against my better judgment, keeping it from ya'll." Nettie placed her hands each side of JD's face and forced him to look at her. "Time to ask for help, son."
JD swallowed hard and laughed softly, but there was no humor in it. "I'm something else, huh? Finally drove my wife away from me."
Buck placed a hand under JD's chin and gently pulled the young tech's face up. "This isn't down to you, kid. Shoot what were you thinking? We're your family why in God's name would you keep something like this from us?"
Realizing JD was never going to answer, Chris spoke up. "Okay, we'll work out the best way to do this. JD, forget about coming back to work, for now " he stifled the young man's protests. " you were only coming back on light duties, anyway. Let's take it a week at a time starting now." He turned to the women, glancing back to Nettie. "Can I leave the details of the children's care in your hands?"
They all nodded. Chris took JD by the arm and pulled him up. He looked at the other men. "Guys, can we talk for a minute, please?"
Together, the seven men headed for the house. When Chris closed the study door, JD broke down. Buck pulled him in tight, the rest of them moving into a protective huddle around them, each one visibly moved by the turn of events. One of their family was hurting and they were damn-well going to help him through it.
Becky looked across the breakfast table at her old college friend. "Casey, it's been a great two weeks, but don't you have any desire to return home? Your kids must be missing you terribly. Nettie will be worried. And JD you'll never convince me you don't love him. What's keeping you from them, sweetie?"
Casey sat back in her chair. She had been thinking almost the same thing. Her body had healed better than she could ever have hoped; she was getting used to her regular hormone replacements and, during the night, actually had a rather sexy dream about her and JD. It was that last thought that saddened her.
"I I don't feel like like *me* any more, Becky. JD and I wanted a big family and I can't give him any more kids. Every time I looked at JJ, it just reminded me over and over. I *do* love JD with all my heart, but I can't go back until I feel like like a woman, again the woman JD fell in love with. Does that make sense?"
Becky nodded, and grinned. "I know just what you need." She snatched up Casey's hand. "Come on."
By six in the evening, Casey had visited a hair, nails and make up salon, been to a sauna, spa and massage center and shopped for some new and very sexy clothes, underwear and negligees. The two women had dinner and then went on to a nightclub. Halfway through the night, Casey howled as the main attraction came on stage.
"Oh my God a stripper. Becky, you are so bad!" The girls giggled as they stuffed notes into the guy's thong. He leaned over to Casey.
"You know they don't call me Antonio the Great for nothing. I can give you a more private demonstration later, if you'd like."
Casey felt a jolt of electricity from her head to her groin. She giggled and looked at him shyly. Becky was right, this *was* just what she needed.
Quietly closing the apartment door, Casey looked up at the pink sky, the sun just peeking up over the mountains. Getting into the cab, Casey put her thoughts in order while they traveled across town back to her friend's apartment. Last night's events had brought it home to her with a bang she wanted...needed her family. Asking the cab to wait, Casey entered Becky's apartment, creeping past her room as the intimate sounds of her friend and fiancé, Wes Chesterfield, made it clear they thought they were alone. She quickly packed up her things, changed into jeans and a shirt, scribbled her friend a quick note with a promise to call her later and left. In the cab, she dialed her cell.
JD groaned at the cell ringing in his ear. JJ had been fed only an hour ago and JD was exhausted. Suddenly he shot up in bed. The tune playing was Paul Young's 'Every Time You Go Away'. He snatched up his phone.
"Casey?" The silence was deafening, save for the sound of his own heart thumping against his chest. He could barely speak for the emotion in his voice. "Casey please "
"JD can I come home?"
In less than twenty minutes, Nettie was alerted; JD was dressed, on his bike, and, clutching a spare helmet, on his way, Nettie's last words ringing in his ears. 'Take as long as you need darlin', just bring her home.'
Casey looked at the familiar figure perched against the seat of the propped-up bike. Her heart skipped a beat as she drank in the sight of JD in blue jeans and leather jacket, dark hair covering his eyes as he looked down, instantly transporting her back to the first day he pulled up on his bike to pick her up. She had fallen in love with JD the first time she met him and she was falling for him all over again. Approaching him, she smiled shyly as he looked up from staring at the ground, to watch her draw closer. Stopping just in front of him, they stared at each other for a long time. Casey's heart pinched at the lack of sparkle in her husband's eyes, yet, there was still love and tenderness and it gave her hope.
JD leaned against his bike, waiting hoping for Casey to show, staring at the ground and deep in thought. Over the last two weeks, he had gone over and over their life together, desperate to work out what went wrong. He recalled the day he proposed to her. The team had been involved in a pretty intense bust and JD had been injured again. After the team's op, he had intended to propose to Casey. While he lay in the hospital bed, he reckoned, if he asked now, she'd turn him down flat, but as she visited with him, he figured 'what the hell I'll never know if I don't ask.'
SIX YEARS PRIOR
"I can't believe we're here again, JD. I've lost count of how many times I've been here, at your bedside, watching you suffer. This team is crazy you're crazy it's almost as if you want to die."
JD blinked slowly, looking up at Casey through half-closed eyes.
"Oh, wonderful, and there's the *sorry* the one little word that you somehow think will make it all right again. I can't live my life around hospital visits and *sorrys* JD."
"I know, sor " He sighed. "I know."
"I mean, look at you you're black and blue, not to mention your broken arm and ribs more time recuperating again and don't think I'm coming over to take care of you, I do have a life, you know."
Five men stood in the waiting room, while the sixth leaned hard against the hospital room door, wincing. "Oooh this is not going well."
Josiah smiled. "She loves him, Buck. Casey has a big heart she'll forgive him."
"Don't rightly see what there is to forgive," Vin pointed out, "she knew he was a Fed before she started dating him."
Nathan stretched. "Don't stop her worrying, though, does it? Rain worries all the time "
" Mallory, too," Josiah added. "One day soon, Vin, you'll understand, when that special lady comes into your life."
Vin shrugged. Like *that* was going to happen any time soon.
"Has she got to the point, yet?" Chris asked.
Buck shook his head, no, and resumed listening.
"I suppose you'll stay with Buck and Inez again, hmm? It's a wonder those two have any children, the number of times you have to stay with them, to recover." Casey stopped when she saw JD's face sadden. "I'm sorry I didn't mean that it's just that I get so frightened. I can't bear the thought of losing you, JD. God, if I have to marry you to prove how much I love you and keep you close then that's what I'll do."
Finally, JD smiled, a goofy, drug-induced grin. "So is that a yes?"
Casey leaned in and kissed him tenderly, tears flowing freely. She broke off the kiss, but stayed close as she nuzzled his bruised cheek.
"Whether we have two weeks, two months, two years or two lifetimes I would love to spend them as your wife." Moving back, she punched his leg playfully. "I was beginning to wonder if you were ever going to ask."
JD reached up with his good hand to touch her face. "When I was lying there, bleeding I knew the first thing I had to do if I survived was to tell you I love you and want you to marry me. I don't want to die, Case hell, none of us do but, I can't do my job any other way. I really will understand if you have doubts. It's a lot to ask of you."
Casey smiled, desperate to get her point across before JD slipped into sleep again. She placed her hand on his heart. "You take care of yourself as best you can and that will suit me fine, but this " she tapped his chest, "I'll take care of this deal?"
JD chuckled as sleep finally claimed him. "'K."
Buck relaxed, still reeling from JD asking Casey to marry him while he was still so ill thank God she'd said yes broken bones they could help him mend Buck wasn't so sure about a broken heart. He jumped as Ezra clapped his hands together.
"I'll go and get the champagne."
Holding his gaze, Casey stepped between JD's legs and laced her arms around his neck, her face now millimeters from his. Leaning forward, she brushed his lips with hers, actually nervous now as to whether he could forgive her enough to ever want her back. The fact he was even there should have been enough of a clue as JD bent forward and this time, the kiss lingered and deepened and started the healing process.
JD's heart soared as he held the woman he loved, safely in his arms. He pulled back, thumbing to the hotel just behind him. "I thought we should talk before we go home. I booked us into the hotel for the night. Is that okay?"
Leaning her forehead against his, Casey nodded. "Yes I'd like that."
All the family gathered at the Larabee home, the children safely with Max and Dottie, their caregivers. Chris wasted no time in addressing them.
"Nettie called me earlier. Casey called JD in the early hours of this morning he's gone to meet with her."
There was an audible gasp. Buck stood. "Is she coming home? Why didn't someone go with him was he okay?"
Chris shook his head. "Buck I hardly think JD would want company at a time like this, do you?"
"What if she called him to tell him it's over?"
Everyone looked at Vin, Buck relieved that someone else was on his wavelength. Chris nodded.
"Then we'll need to deal with it, but until JD tells us that, I'm assuming this is a good move."
Caitlyn stood. "I agree. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm just going over to help Nettie with the children and then take the twins over to Rain's." She looked around at them all, her eyes finally staring deep into Chris's. "You are all wonderful. JD is a very lucky man."
Ezra tipped an imaginary hat. "Dear lady, we all consider ourselves to be lucky men we may be hardened professionals, but where family is concerned nothing else matters."
"You'll let us know if there's any news?" Vin stated more than asked.
Chris nodded. "Nettie says JD plans to take the day and the night to talk things through. I guess, if he comes home earlier than that we'll have our answer."
Casey looked at JD stretched out asleep on the hotel bed. They had talked for hours and it had been more than Casey could ever have hoped for. She agreed to seek medical help, had explained her frustrations and fears about her inability to have more children and was left in no doubt how JD felt about having her in his life, with or without more children.
He told her the children missed her, how JJ was growing stronger every day and that he was incomplete without her. The family still wanted to throw her a baby shower. Casey felt a bit nervous about facing them all again after what she had put them, her children and Nettie and JD through, but it heartened her to think they still cared enough to suggest it.
Later, while JD showered, she had taken a long hot soak in the tub, scrubbing fervently as if to eradicate something and praying JD hadn't noticed.
Lying there, watching her husband sleep, Casey wondered what she ever did to deserve him. She knew he was exhausted, coping with the children, often alone, especially at night. A flash of memory overtook her, of a strange apartment, a warm body moving away, a used condom dropping into a waste basket and a cold empty feeling in a strange bed no love no warmth nothing alone.
Shuddering, she shook off the memory by placing a hand on JD's chest, kissing his nose and lips and smiling as he woke. She pushed inside his robe and he caught her hand.
"Hey don't be starting the launch sequence if the rocket's not leaving the launch pad," he said, softly.
Casey giggled, thrilled to see the first real smile from him. "Don't you want to 'blast-off'?
JD propped himself up on one elbow, suddenly serious as he looked at her intensely. "I can't think of anything more wonderful right now than making love to you, I've missed you missed *us* but I want it to happen because it's right, not because you think it's what I want."
Leaning in, Casey kissed him passionately, leaving him breathless. "Does that answer your question?"
JD pulled her in tight, grinning. "Screw the countdown come here."
After arranging for Casey's valise to be sent on, JD sat astride his bike and pushed his helmet on. Casey climbed on behind him and wrapped her arms around his waist.
Casey snuggled in. "Home baby."
As they pulled off, Casey's heart pounded in her chest, dark thoughts clouding her mind, thoughts that hadn't bothered her for some time, but always remained just there below the surface. Visions assaulted her images of the man she was holding, being ripped from her embrace while she screamed, helpless to stop it. She squeezed JD tighter and hoped the doctor he wanted her to go to would help her she needed someone to help her and soon.
Coming soon...Fire and Rain by Tannertexaslady with Sue M...you ain't seen nothing...yet