Catch of the Day by Sue M

Alternate Universe "RNLI"

Thanks to Katy for RNLI

Summary: One of those times a fishing trip produces more than one kind of 'catch'.

My thanks to Katy for the read through, suggestions and 'catches' :o)

Based loosely on a true story

"Get your arse out of bed, boy…fresh fish waits for no man!"

At the sound of Buck's voice, JD yawned and rubbed his eyes. He dragged himself out of bed, fumbling in the dark for the lamp on his bedside table to check the clock…4:30. He could easily read the glowing display, but sighed at the information on the readout. Damnit!

He coughed. Damn niggling cough just wouldn't quit. He'd had it all week, not that he had struggled too much, but it was becoming more persistent. Rubbing at his scratchy throat and the slight burn in his chest, JD drank some water from the tumbler on the bedside table and headed for the shower.


Buck, Chris and Vin were patiently sipping coffee in Buck's private kitchen, grinning as a yawning teenager stumbled into the room.

"Sorry guys, I forgot to set my alarm."

"We've still got time," Vin said. "By the time we get to Looe, the boats'll just be coming in,"

"Mmmm, fresh mackerel," Chris smiled. It had been a long time since he'd been at the dockside when the trawlers came into harbor.

JD nodded, sipping the coffee Buck had handed him. That did sound good. Buck had been telling him a few days ago how there was nothing quite like buying fish from the quayside as the fishing boats docked. Normally, Buck would buy from Four Corner's own fishing fleet, but they were laid up for two months, having already caught their EU quota…so Looe was to be the destination for this buying trip.

And Buck was a great cook, promising JD the breakfast of his life when they got back to the pub. JD's mouth was already watering in anticipation. He smiled as Buck handed him a bacon roll.

"You can eat this on the way," Buck grinned. "But no crumbs in my car." He cackled at the look of skepticism JD threw him.

"I thought we were taking my Landrover?" Chris asked.

Buck nodded. "Oh yeah…no need to worry about the crumbs then, kid."

JD chuckled; stopping the instant he saw Chris' expression. Laughing at the exchanges, Vin grabbed JD around the shoulders and the four headed out.


JD inhaled, deeply. Even with the smell of fish in the air from the trawlers, there was something special about the harbor at dawn. He watched as seagulls squawked overhead, circling the boats in anticipation of an easy meal.

Unexpectedly, he coughed. 'Oops, a bit too much sea air, there' he thought, grinning as Vin, Chris and Buck walked toward him, each holding about a dozen fish.

"No prizes for guessing what the 'Chef's Special' is today, then," JD grinned.

"The scavengers of the sea," Buck stated, holding up his fish, "that's what makes them so damn tasty."

Chris flipped up the hatch door of his Landrover, revealing four cooler boxes half-filled with ice which the three men placed the fish in. Vin turned to JD.

"Gonna get Ron 'the fish' to fillet them."

JD smiled at Vin's name for their local fishmonger. 'Ron 'the fish', Jim 'the milk' for the milkman, Mike 'the post' for their postman… apparently, it was a 'Welsh thing'. "What about breakfast?" JD wondered aloud. Would Ron be up this early?

Buck smiled. "Oh, I'll handle those." He checked his watch. "We'd better get a wriggle on; the boys are coming over for breakfast in about two hours.

"Oh, great," JD said, sincerely, he loved having breakfast with his friends, especially since Inez had gone home to Spain for a few weeks to visit her family. He and Buck had really missed her around, especially at meal times.

"You know," Chris said as they climbed into the 4x4, "we should get out one night and catch our own mackerel."

JD's face lit up. "Could we?"

The four looked at each other. Vin spoke.

"I know someone who once offered me his boat whenever I wanted it. Maybe the guys would like to come, too." He grinned on seeing JD was practically bouncing, now.

"We've got four days off from duty," Chris reminded. "What do you think, Buck?"

"I think…let's do it!"

"Tonight?" JD asked, eagerly.

"Perhaps tomorrow," Vin suggested, "I have to ask for the boat, first."

All in agreement, Chris pulled out of the harbor car park to head back to Four Corners.


Breakfast had been wonderful. Buck's culinary skills had produced fillets of mackerel, some griddle-pan fried in butter, some marinated in orange juice, some in gooseberry sauce and, a little taster of his lunchtime special, of the fish baked in foil with rosemary, lemon, garlic, red onions and cider.

While eating, all but Nathan and Ezra agreed to go fishing at first, JD eventually coaxing Ezra to join them. Nathan had morning surgery scheduled and with the flu season upon them, decided the local doctors were stretched enough, without him being unavailable. Vin's friend had said the boat was theirs for the following night and all six men were getting quietly excited about it.


The following evening, Chris steered the boat out of the harbor to a spot a few miles offshore, where they dropped anchor and settled in for a very productive night's fishing. Buck glanced across at JD for the umpteenth time that night, as the boy coughed, yet again. He'd known JD had picked up a light cough, but it seemed to be getting worse. JD however didn't seem overly bothered and was in good spirits. Buck decided to tackle it when they got home.

Chris could see JD had finally become bored with just sitting around, so taught him how to cast and reel instead, resulting in JD adding a few more fish to the ones he'd already caught.

Alone now, JD frowned when his line seemed caught under the boat's stern. He leaned over the rail to tug at it, quickly realizing, way too late, he was over-balancing. With a small cry, he went fully over, landing with a splash in the cold water.

All heads turned at the splash, five men rising from their chairs to investigate. Buck leaned over the rail, just spotting JD in the dawn light, bobbing in the water.

"Whoo, it's cold!" JD spluttered.

In seconds, Ezra had the lifebelt in his hands and had tossed it over the side. Slipping it over his head and chest, JD clung to it as his friends hauled him back toward the boat, then up and over the side, Josiah giving the final heave to the water-sodden teenager.

"You okay?" Buck asked.

JD grinned, blushing slightly at his daft mistake as he shivered. "Oh yeah…just a bit cold, that's all." He gratefully accepted the blankets Vin and Ezra had found and were now wrapping around him.

Chris looked at the lightening sky. "Looks like we should be calling it a night, anyway."

All in agreement, Vin started up the engines and turned the boat back toward shore. Between their previous purchases and this catch, their freezers would have enough fish in them to last Crew Seven several weeks, maybe even a month or two. Despite the tumble into the water, the six men were in good spirits and had enjoyed their little trip.


Later that day, Buck walked into the bar ready for the evening session. He and JD had gone to bed for a few hours and left the morning/afternoon session to Tom and Sally, Mrs. Potter was already standing in and cooking for the vacating Inez.

"JD not up yet?" Buck asked.

"I doubt if he's slept much with all that coughing," Gloria Potter informed him.

"Coughing?" Buck was confused, he had slept so soundly, he hadn't heard a thing.

"Mmm," she answered, laying out the cutlery and menus on the table set aside for them. "But he's been quiet for the last hour…must have dozed off."

Nodding, Buck turned and jogged back up the stairs. He spoke JD's name quietly outside the youth's door, opening it a crack when JD didn't answer. He smiled as he saw the kid asleep, sprawled across the bed on his stomach. Not wishing to disturb him, Buck quietly closed the door and went back downstairs.


About an hour after going to bed that morning, JD had kicked off his duvet, tossing and turning with the heat radiating from him. Just after that, the coughing had started up again, harsh, deep, hacking coughs that took his breath and exhausted him.

Then he was freezing, pulling his covers in tight around him between bouts of lying, sitting and continual coughing. Several hours later, JD was struggling for breath, genuinely frightened as he tried to breathe deeply and failed. One really hard coughing fit caused him to move across his bed to call for Buck, only to black out, collapsing to lie face down on top of his covers.

Looking for all the world as if he was asleep.


Time had been called and Tom and Sally bid Buck goodnight a half hour after that. Gloria had left at 10:00pm; an hour after the kitchen was closed, while complaining, semi-playfully, about warning her next time mackerel was on the menu. Buck had taken that to mean she had been busy…for that matter, the whole evening had been busy and the genial landlord was just now realizing JD hadn't surfaced all night.

Locking up and shutting off the lights, Buck climbed the stairs to their living area, stopping at JD's door and knocking as he had earlier. Getting no response, he stepped inside to see JD lying as he was the last time Buck visited.

Wait…the kid hadn't moved.

Fear suddenly gripped Buck as he sank to his knees next to JD, a shaky hand pushing back damp hair from the kid's face.

"JD? Jesus Christ, boy, you're burning up!"


The tiny sound drew Buck to stare at JD's face, quickly realizing the boy was awake, his breathing raspy, fast and shallow.

"Hang on, kid, I'm gonna call Nathan."

With what little strength JD had left, he clung to Buck's shirt, huge hazel eyes staring at the brunet in fear. Buck wrapped his hand around the one clinging to him.

"You need help…I'm just going to get my phone out of my pocket, okay?"


Buck's eyes filled and he inhaled. He couldn't do this now, JD needed help, fast. He dialed Nathan's mobile, cursing as it went to voicemail. He dialed their home but it switched to the on-call doctor's service. Nathan only lived across the street…there was only one thing for it.

"Son…listen, I have to leave for a minute or two. Nathan's phones are off." His heart almost broke as he saw the fear in JD's eyes.

"I'll be right back…I promise." Touching his forehead to JD's, he disentangled the youth's hand from his shirt, then got up and rushed out of the door, taking the stairs three at a time. Unbolting the front doors and disengaging the alarm, Buck raced across to Rain's shop, Aquarius and began pounding on the door.



Nathan and Rain were enjoying an early night. Both sound asleep, it took a moment for Buck's frantic yelling to sink in. While Rain stirred, sleepily, Nathan climbed out of bed and looked out of the window. It took less than a second or two to register Buck's alarm and the doctor gestured to Buck he was on his way.


Realizing Nathan was acknowledging him, Buck tore back into the pub and up the stairs. JD hadn't moved from the position Buck had found him, but the brunet could see the kid was shivering, violently.

"I'm here, and Nathan's coming."

Mouth slightly open to suck in as much oxygen as possible, JD closed his eyes nodding, his hand once again reaching out for support. This time, Buck grasped JD's hand firmly in his to give as much comfort as he could, his other hand resting on the kid's hot, clammy head.



Nathan was with them in seconds, instantly crouching next to JD and opening his bag. "Hey, JD…having a rough time?" Not expecting an answer, the doctor snapped a small, black device on the tip of JD's right index finger, which lit up on contact, while firing a thermometer into the kid's ear. Barely having time to frown at the temperature read-out, the device on JD's finger beeped. As soon as he checked the result, Nathan pulled out his phone and dialed.

"Yeah, this is Doctor Nathan Jackson…I need an ambulance to the Lifeboat Inn, Four Corners…thanks. "

Snapping his phone shut he looked at a terrified Buck. "Help me get him up, Buck." He leaned over JD. "We're gonna get you sitting up, alright?"

Barely able to nod, JD succumbed to the two men gently flipping him over and propping him up against pillows. The action set off a violent coughing fit, the vicious bout causing JD to shake harder as tears from the effort rolled down his cheeks.

Nathan already had JD's tee-shirt up and was listening to the kid's chest, moving the stethoscope around sporadically from JD's chest to his back. Still listening, Nathan spoke, softly. "Can you take a breath for me, son?"

JD tried, but it was such an effort for so little air that it weakened him further.

Oblivious to the flashing lights in the street of the newly arrived ambulance, Buck watched the kid helplessly, his fear growing for the boy he had taken to his heart as a brother. He looked up as two paramedics toting bags, equipment and a folded up chair arrived, to then be vaguely aware of Nathan discussing temperature and oxygen readouts. One word that did stand out though, caused him to look anxiously toward the doctor as he moved aside for the paramedics to work.


Nathan nodded. "I think so, Buck. His breath sounds are poor and his oxygen levels way too low." He gestured to the paramedics. "These boys are gonna run an ECG and put him on a nebulizer before moving him on to hospital. I assume you'll be following us?"

The 'as if' look told Nathan all he needed to know. Jackson urged his friend to go sort himself out while JD was being prepared.


JD was in a strange place, floating between consciousness, exhaustion and pain. Vaguely aware of a mask going over his face a few minutes earlier, he was now fully aware of what the noisy, steamy air was achieving as he began to cough. This cough was deep and hard, but he barely registered one of the medics helping him as crud from his chest came up in thick sticky lumps, leaving him even weaker.

On Nathan's instruction, the paramedics had put in a bolus line just at the side of JD's wrist, below his thumb and Nathan injected one gram of amoxicillin slowly into it. He then offered JD a pill and his water from the bedside table.

"Try and take this for me," he said, smiling his encouragement at his young friend. With a weak nod and some assistance with the mask, JD painfully swallowed the 500mg tablet of clarithromycin. "Well done," Nathan smiled, taking the tumbler as JD relaxed back into his pillows.

Switching JD from the nebulizer to oxygen, the medics disconnected the boy from the beeping machinery, handed the readout to Nathan and nodded. "We're ready."


While picking up a few things, Buck called Chris. The conversation was short, leaving Buck relieved to have such a good friend, as Chris told him he'd let the others know what was happening and would meet Buck at the hospital as soon as he could get out of bed and dressed. Noise on the stairs alerted the brunet that JD was on the move and he watched as the blanketed boy, now wearing the oxygen mask, was carried in the chair down the stairs and then wheeled into the ambulance. In less than a minute, the vehicle, paramedics and Nathan were gone. Buck watched as Rain approached him.

"Leave your keys with me and I'll arrange for Gloria, Tom and Sally to open up, in the morning."

"Thanks, hun," Buck said, kissing her cheek. Minutes later, the pub was locked, keys handed over and Buck was heading for the local hospital.


The Medical Assessment Unit was a pretty relaxed place. Arrivals by ambulance were moved onto exceptionally well padded trolley beds as family members were encouraged to stay with the person admitted. Buck guessed because they were probably in for a long wait for the various examinations and finally an allocated ward bed.

JD, propped almost upright, had dozed off, the oxygen mask hissing gently as he slept. Buck was subconsciously rubbing a thumb over the hand he was holding, while watching Nathan interacting with staff at a large IT station in the center of the huge area. Glancing around the edges of the room, Buck started noticing all the other occupied trolley-beds, suddenly grateful they had come here and not to Casualty. This place was much nicer and less frenetic. Nathan finished his conversation and approached his friends.

"As you know, JD was in x-ray when you arrived. The Cardiologist has taken a look at the film and confirmed my diagnosis." He squeezed Buck's shoulder as he saw the alarm in his friend's eyes.

"JD's being admitted to Intensive Care until we can get his oxygen levels up to a more stable point and his temperature down. He'll be moved within the hour."

Nodding his understanding, Buck squeezed JD's hand a little tighter. "Nathan…he…he' s gonna be okay though, right?"

The doctor gave a tight smile. "The prognosis is good. He's young, fit and was healthy up until this so he has an excellent chance of a full recovery…but it will take time, and patience. If JD does well over the next 48 hours, he'll be moved to a ward. When he's released, he'll have to rest…completely. A relapse can be more dangerous than the initial infection."

"Oh don't worry, he'll rest." Buck stared at his friend. "There's a 'but', right?"

Nathan sighed softly. "He's pretty sick right now…the next 48 hours really are critical."

Noise from the MAU entrance drew the men's attention, both pleased to see Chris walk in. Buck stood and the two men clasped hands.

"How is he?" Larabee asked, glancing toward the sleeping youth.

Nathan filled him in while Buck resumed his vigil. Chris took a seat on the opposite side of the bed to Buck.

"I've told the guys. I also told them coming down here might not be a good idea right now."

"But they're coming anyway?" Buck half smiled. Chris nodded.

"Yep, they're coming anyway. I called Travis, too. He's standing us down until we know JD's going to be okay."

"Thanks, stud…I appreciate it."

Suddenly JD's eyes opened and he started coughing, clinging to Buck as he gasped for breath between bouts. Nathan walked away to get JD's move initiated.


JD couldn't really remember much about the ambulance ride, except that, if he'd been more awake, it would have been quite a buzz, riding in an ambulance with full on blues and twos. He wondered why no siren, slowly realizing it was dark. No traffic if it was late.

Being poked and prodded was barely tolerable, x-ray was horrible, the movement on and off the bench there causing him to cough violently. Now he was drifting, vaguely aware of others' voices…Buck…Nathan…was that Chris? Suddenly his chest heaved and he started coughing. It hurt and brought more tears to his eyes as he tried to fight the fire in his chest. JD felt as though his ribs were about to snap as he gratefully clung to the warm body holding onto him, trying instead to focus on the familiar calming voice whispering in his ear.

"Attaboy…let' s get it out of there…you're gonna be fine, okay? You just need a little TLC and you'll be home in no time." Buck wasn't sure if he should be making promises, but it seemed the right thing to do just then, as the coughing subsided and JD relaxed against him.


"So you should be, scaring the shit out of me like this."

JD tried to smile at the grinning man but all he could do was close his eyes and try to ignore the pounding in his head. More familiar voices were around him, now, but JD just gave in to the sleep that was beckoning him.


"Buck…what's going on?" Vin was alarmed at the condition of his youngest friend when he saw him lying there, pale and drawn. Chris filled them in.

"Was it because he fell overboard?" Ezra asked.

"It probably didn't help," Nathan answered, joining them. "But I reckon he's been incubating this for a few days. His bloods show a high white cell count and his chest has crackles. The paramedics took what he coughed up earlier, for analysis, though we won't have the results of that for a day or two."

All five men pulled a face.

"Anyway, I came to tell you, they're moving him now."

No sooner had he spoken, two porters arrived, snapped off the bed's brake and began wheeling JD out. Disoriented and alarmed at the movement, JD clung to Buck's hand.

"I'm still here, kid…and I'm coming with you."

Together, all six men moved out of the cubicle…they were all going with him.


The next twenty-four hours were slow going, five of the six men rotating to sit with a tired Buck and sleeping JD. The youth was still pale and clammy, his body hooked up to a catheter and heart monitor and an IV line which his meds now went into, Nathan explaining JD's oxygen sats were low and his heart had been working overtime to compensate, the monitor was just a precaution. The oxygen mask remained also, feeding his oxygen-starved body what it had been craving.

Buck hated seeing JD so still, but he figured it was better than the hateful coughing the kid endured when he was awake.

And Buck was scared.

He knew people could die from pneumonia. Hell, only recently, two celebrities had died from it…and they were probably being treated privately, not like JD, in an NHS hospital.

Wilmington shook himself to get a grip. JD had been treated with the utmost care and professionalism… but still…was it too little, too late? A warm hand on the nape of his neck caused Buck to smile and relax a little.

"He's doing well, son. You'll make yourself ill if you keep winding yourself up like this."

Buck took a shaky breath and looked at Josiah, sitting next to him. "Sorry, it's just…I couldn't bear to…"

Josiah nodded. "I know, and, I wouldn't normally speak so confidently under such circumstances, but…JD's strong, Buck, a fighter. Nathan's pleased with him, there's been no deterioration in his condition and he's still on target to move to a regular ward tomorrow." Josiah shifted to face Buck.

"Go home…get some rest. Ezra and Vin are due in soon. You know they'll call you if there's any change.

"I will," Buck promised, "but not until JD's on a regular ward. I'll rest easier knowing he's out of here."

Recognizing that was the best he was going to get from the brunet, Josiah nodded his approval as he placed one hand on the sleeping boy's head. Taking JD's hand in his, the priest bent his own head forward as he prayed softly for a few minutes before relaxing back for the rest of his stay, while reminding an anxious Buck that it never hurt to call on all the help you could get at times like these.


Over the next 48 hours, all but one of Crew Seven came and went, the other unmoving from JD's bedside as the group watched their young friend yo-yo between hard coughing, restlessness, to utter stillness, while temperature checks were made and bloods were drawn every few hours. JD was not the 'quiet type' and the six men found his silence almost unnerving. The only reason Buck had remained relatively calm was because of the regular reassurances from the medical staff taking care of the youth that JD was holding his own.


"How are you doing?"

Ezra's soft tone startled Buck from his slumber He smiled as he saw JD awake and looking at them both.

"Hey kid…good to see you awake." All eyes turned to Vin as he entered the quiet room balancing three coffees.

JD was looking around, clearly confused as to where he was. He licked his lips, smiling thinly as Buck helped him with his mask to be able to take a few sips of water. The youth relaxed back.

"How long?" he rasped, afraid to speak too loud for fear of setting off another coughing fit.

"Going into your third day," Buck answered, speaking softly so as not to disturb the other two patients in the ward. "The doc says they can move you to a regular ward soon."

"I'd rather...go home."

Buck squeezed his hand. "I promise, as soon as they release you, we're out of here."

Vin grinned at JD's gurgling stomach. "Hungry?"

The youth sighed. "Not really…well, I am, but…there's nothing I feel like eating right now." He caught himself as emotion started to overwhelm him, turning his head to cover his rising embarrassment. Ezra patted his hand.

"It is only natural you feel like this, JD. Your body has been through the most intense battle these past few days." He handed JD a neatly pressed cotton handkerchief, which the boy gratefully accepted.


JD was mortified by his body's betrayal in front of his friends, but there was nothing he could do to stem the flow of emotion washing over him.

"S…sorry…" he sniffed, coughing with the effort of trying to hold back the tears.

Buck couldn't help himself, standing to give the teenager a long, tight embrace. "Don't be daft…just let it all out, you'll feel a hell of a lot better for it."

JD relaxed against his friend, grateful for the comfort. Buck released him when he realized JD had gone back to sleep. Ezra stood.

"I think I'll go and determine what kind of simple food our young friend is allowed. Maybe I can procure something to tempt his appetite."

Vin looked at him. "He likes tomato soup."

Buck agreed.

"Cream of tomato?" Ezra checked.

Both men nodded.

Ezra smiled. "Leave it with me."


Next day, JD was well impressed with his private room, not to mention surprised. With Buck finally home to get some sleep and catch up with things at the pub, Chris and Nathan were visiting. Chris poured JD some fresh water. The youth had been placed on the nebulizer for a while to clear his lungs further and it had left him a little tired from coughing up more gunk from his lungs.

"Pneumonia was confirmed," Nathan told JD. "You'll have a few sessions on the nebulizer until your sputum is clear, and when it is, and when your oxygen saturation is steady at 90%, the hospital can look toward releasing you."

JD nodded his understanding. "How did I get a private room?" he asked, his voice still raspy as he spoke through the reinstated oxygen mask.


That one word from Chris explained perfectly, but he continued. "He has a friend on the board, here, once he told him you were a personal friend, not to mention an RNLI volunteer, you were moved here."

JD swallowed hard. 'Mister Travis considered him a personal friend?' "That was nice of him."

Chris couldn't help smiling at the clueless expression. JD had no idea how people he was close to really felt about him…he was always so amazed when anyone showed it…except Buck, possibly.

"You have to try and eat, too," Nathan reminded. "I know clear soup's pretty boring right now, but it's all you can have until your stomach's a little more used to accepting solids."

Sighing, JD shook his head. "I'm trying, honest…but everything tastes so weird…and like…two spoonfuls and I feel full…"

"I know," Nathan reassured, but it's important you try…you want to go home, don't you?"

JD stared at him. He wasn't a kid…or stupid…he knew eating would give him some strength back. He nodded his answer.

Chris knew that look and changed topics. "When you have lunch, Nathan and me are heading home. Later, we're all coming in to see you."

The youth's face lit up. "Everyone?"

"Everyone," Chris replied. "So get some rest this afternoon, okay?"

"I will." He also hoped, maybe tomorrow, he could have the soup Ezra had brought in for him.


Buck yawned and stretched in his bed. Checking his watch, he realized he had an hour and a half before he needed to open up for the next session. Refreshed, he got out of bed and showered, but not before calling the hospital to check on his surrogate little brother.

As he dressed, Buck heard a noise downstairs. Knowing only he was in the building, he crept down the stairs, peeking into the front room of the pub.


"Oh, mi querido…how is our pequeño jóven?"

Moving together, she threw her arms around his neck, relaxing into the embrace as Buck's strong arms enveloped her. She felt him shaking.

"I was so afraid for him," Buck whispered into her ear. She pulled back to look at him.

"But, he is alright now, si?"

Buck nodded. "He's getting there…he's a strong kid."

"Take me to him?"

"Okay…let me set up for Tom, Sally and Gloria…"

"I will help," she smiled.

Buck grinned back. 'God, it was good to have her…' He paused his thoughts. "Hey, you weren't due back until next week…how…?"

"I called to say hello and Gloria told me everything. I caught the first flight here I could."

Buck frowned. "Who picked you up?"

Inez stood upright, hands on her hips. "Do I not have a mouth, señor?"

Any other time Buck would have had a smart reply…but not today. He just waited.

"I got a taxi," she smiled, "billed to you, of course."

Buck laughed, God it felt good. "Of course."

Together, they got the pub ready for the evening session, then headed out to visit JD.


Even with the hissing of the mask, JD was pulled from sleep by a noise. He blinked open his eyes to a dark-haired vision of beauty smiling at him…definitely not Buck.


God, his voice still sounded so weak…he'd coughed up more…what was it?...'sputum'… again earlier, though the doctor seemed pleased with this particular batch.

Inez cupped his face in her delicate hands. "Oh, mi muchacho pobre… how are you?"

"I'm fine." JD smiled…his first big grin in almost a week. He looked at Buck who winked back.

"Good to hear, mi pequeño," she replied, not really convinced as she gazed at his pasty, gaunt features and dull eyes. She brushed the hair from his face. "Go back to sleep," she whispered, continuing to smooth his hair and pleased it had the desired effect. She eventually turned to Buck.

"He should be home."

Buck nodded. "Soon. They're going to make a decision during rounds, tomorrow."

"Bueno," she smiled, settling in for a long stay.


JD felt relief wash over him as he stepped across the threshold of the Lifeboat Inn. It felt good to be home, even if he did feel as weak as a kitten and tired enough to just lay on the floor and sleep. He smiled at Buck as the man hovered, uncertain as to whether he should take JD's arm or not.

"I'm fine, Buck," JD rasped out, his voice not yet fully restored.

Buck smiled back, clearly unconvinced as he guided the pale, gaunt youth toward the stairs to their living quarters. "Come on, you… straight to bed. Are you hungry?"

"Can't I stay up a while?"

"No…doctor's orders. What can I get you to eat?"

JD sighed as he slowly climbed the stairs. "Not hungry, thanks all the same."

"Inez baked white chocolate chip cookies."

JD glanced at Buck, surprised at how breathless he was as he reached the top step. "White…chocolate? "

"Mmmm," Buck grinned.

"Maybe one," JD consented; grateful he had reached the living room. "Can I crash on the sofa?"

"Maybe tomorrow," Buck promised, "today…bed." The brunet winced as JD coughed. At least it was a lot looser, now.

Wearily, JD went into his room and within ten minutes was in bed wearing crisp, fresh blue cotton pajamas. Inez knocked and entered, carrying a glass of milk and a plate with three cookies.

"I'll bring you some soup, later," she smiled, placing the items on the bedside table.

JD nodded, "Thanks." He was thinking maybe he'd fire up his laptop, check up on Facebook…less than ten minutes later, JD was asleep.

Buck set down JD's meds, pointing. "He has to take one of these, three times a day, and one of these, twice a day," Buck whispered. Inez nodded her understanding and the pair left the boy to rest.


The next evening, wrapped up tight and laid out on the sofa, JD could hear laughter coming from the bar. He desperately wanted to go down and join everyone, but he knew he'd never cope with the noise right now.

Still…he was lonely, and bored. The TV was boring and his laptop couldn't hold his interest, either. He was just about to doze off when there was a tap on the door.

"Okay to come in?" Vin asked.

JD beamed and sat up straighter. "Yeah, thank God, I'm going stir- crazy, here."

As Vin entered, the other five men followed and soon JD was surrounded by his friends. Buck watched as JD seemed brighter for the company, even laughing a little. His anxiety returned as, half an hour later, JD was asleep.

"Don't be too concerned, Buck," Nathan comforted. "His body's been through a lot this past week…it needs to recover. And he's on medication, he's gonna sleep a lot, for a while."

Buck nodded, his gaze fixed on JD. He knew all that, didn't stop him feeling bad the kid was so weary, though. He hated seeing the kid like this.


Two days later and JD was getting stronger by the minute, even finding energy to snap off a few smart-arse remarks. A crash from the bar brought Buck from the kitchen. He frowned as he spotted JD squatting down behind the bar brushing up glass, and walked over to him.

"Hey…what are you doing?"

A little startled, JD shakily stood, dustpan and brush in his hands as he did so.

"I…I just thought I'd help set up the bar for later…sorry about the glass…"

Buck crooked his finger, drawing the youth to his side of the bar. He took the dustpan and brush from JD and placed them down on the counter top as Buck placed a hand on the back of JD's neck and drew the boy closer.

"I thought we agreed you'd take it easy for the first week home, then see how it goes after that? His brow furrowed as JD's expression saddened. "What? What is it?"

JD sighed. "You…" he swallowed. "…you've been great, Buck. But…I stay here because you let me and pay me to work here…but I can't right now… I…"

Buck released a huge grin and gave JD a quick tight squeeze. "I appreciate the thought, kid, but, if you had to rest up for months, it wouldn't change anything. This is your home…rent or no rent…this is where you belong. Now go wash up, lunch is almost ready…and the boys are coming over lat…"

Both looked up as the boom sounded from the harbor and Buck's pager went off.

"Talk to you later," Buck promised as he moved to grab his coat.

Inez appeared from the kitchen and, approaching the brunet, kissed him full on the lips. "Tome el cuidado, querido…take care," she breathed into his ear. She moved behind JD and pulled the youth back against her in a hug.

Buck looked back at the pair, his smile wide as he opened the door to leave.

"Save me some mackerel," he winked, his heart soaring at the sight of two of the most important people in his life gazing back at him… already looking forward to coming home as their faces reflected their love and concern for him.

"No problem," JD snapped back with a grin. "No promises on dessert, though."

Buck laughed as he raced off toward the Saint Nicholas to join the rest of Crew Seven.

God, he loved his life.

The End