Disclaimer: Not mine, wish they were.

Notes/Comments: I have to thank Leslie for being a great cheerleader, always encouraging (not pushing) for this idea...I ran out of ideas...and she wanted someone to come back from JD's past....So, I hope Leslie likes it! Anyways...thanks to everyone. This is kind of a sequel to "Breaking the Chain", but I don't think you have to read the other. Soo....on with the story! Feedback greatly appreciated at: karinmilligan@hotmail.com


"Do you think he's still there?"

"From what I've heard, he's still there"

The woman sighed heavily, as the stagecoach bounced along the rough ground, to the man sitting next to her. He had travelled quite a distance to find him, they hadn't seen him in a couple of years, they doubted his appearance had changed drastically. The summer they had returned from boarding school they were told he had left.

"I still can't believe he left like that," the young woman began again, they had had this conversation a thousand times for a year off and on, and Jacob Marshall was sick of it.

"What did you expect, Jos?" Joseline had never understood why anyone would leave the estate they called home.

"I expected him to show some gratitude and tell us he was leaving," she stated in the upper crust manner she was accustomed to.

Jacob shook his head, he knew his friend was going to leave, he had said it without words, but he could see it. The day he found out, Joseline was upset by his leaving. His parents were impartial and felt the way Joseline was feeling, like he was ungrateful for 'everything' they had done for him and his mother.

'Everything', he frowned and shook his head, ungrateful for 'everything' that was done to him was more like it. Jacob was older than his friend by four years, Joseline a year older. He was just fifteen when he'd left the estate, and the only regret Jacob had was that he wasn't there to go with him.

"Do you think he still works stables?" Joseline said cheerfully, "He was so good with the horses, the boy Mummy and Daddy have now is horrid."

"Jasper's great with the horses, Jos..he just isn't easy on the eyes," Jacob said, stating what he felt was the only reason she even missed the young man.

"How dare you accuse me of even the slightest interest in.."

"Besides, I doubt they have 'stables' in a town called Four Corners," Jacob chuckled.

"Please, we weren't of the same social standing." Joseline was still concerned with the previous statement.

"You never let him forget that either, did you?" Jacob said accusingly. He loved his sister dearly, but she was so stuck on her 'social standing' bull that she would be seen with only others she considered her equal or above.

"Uughghhh," she overly stressed and rolled her eyes. "Don't start that again. If you weren't so busy socializing with the lower class.."

"Okay, okay..enough all right."

"Will be stopping in Four Corners in twenty minutes," the stagecoach driver yelled back.

"Jos, promise me you'll be decent to him if he's there. Please? I'm begging you..he doesn't work for you, so don't treat him like he still does...And if he doesn't want to see you.."

"Please Jacob, I'm sure he'll be very happy to see me." Jacob missed the mischevious grin that crossed her face.


Three men stood on the jailhouse porch and one sat, all looking at the horizon and checking the time. The sharply dressed man took out his pocketwatch and looked at it again for what seemed like the hundredth time. "It's going to be late," the man said, putting the watch back into his pocket.

As he did the sun reflected off from it and caught the young dark haired sheriff in the eyes. "Ahh!"

The yelp turned all their attention to him.

"Keep your watch in your pocket, Ezra!" Buck barked out as he bent to the young man, who held his eyes shut tightly. "JD? You all right?" the concerned big brother asked.

Nathan had told him not to look at anything to bright, like the sun, and to keep his lanterns turned down for at least another week, for the first time since any of the men had met JD, he did as he was told. It had only been three weeks since he'd gotten his sight back and the glare he caught from Ezra's watch scared him and he was afraid to open his eyes and see nothing again. JD began to open his eyes slowly.

He looked up to Buck and smiled, "Yeah, lots of little spots, but they're goin' away."

"Mr. Dunne, let me apo.."

"It's okay, Ezra, not your fault, right, Buck?" JD said a little harshly.

"Yeah, sorry for yellin' at ya, pard."

"Thank you, 'pard', I assure you I would have acted in precisely the same manner had someone else tried to..Thank you, Buck," Ezra didn't even want to say the word, much less think about it. "You want me to get Nathan?" Vin asked Buck.

"No, I don't need Nathan, the spots are all gone," JD answered for him, "Besides, stage is coming, it's late, huh, Ezra?"

"Yes, yes, it is," Ezra cupped the pocket watch and held it for JD to see the time.

"By five minutes!" JD rubbed his hands together, stood and stuck his right arm straight out, palm up. "Yes, gentlemen..Pay up," Ezra copied the same gesture as JD, the two men smiled as the dollars were placed in their hands. The other two men frowned but paid up the same. As the coach stopped three men stepped off the porch and headed to see who and what the stage brought to town.

"You comin', kid?" Vin turned to the young man still sitting on the porch. "Naw, just want to sit here," Vin nodded, knowing that the kid still enjoyed just watching. For nearly a month he saw nothing but black. When he'd gotten his sight back completely, Vin had found him sitting outside the boarding house, or the saloon, or his favorite spot at the jailhouse, just looking, appreciating the fact that he could see.

Vin caught up with the rest of the men, as they came closer to the station, they saw Chris standing next to the post. Vin walked over and leaned against the post, crossing his arms in front of his chest.

"You lookin' for something, cowboy?"

"Nope, just curious. Where's the kid?"

"Back at the jail."

The two men stood in silence. Vin knew Chris wanted to know if JD was all right. The bounty hunter decided to make him ask instead of offer. After Chris shifted his stance a few more minutes, he broke the silence.

"He okay?" he asked his best friend, aggravated, knowing he made him ask.

Vin nodded his head, not hiding the smirk, "Yeah, he's fine."

Chris rolled his eyes and stepped off the porch "I'm gonna see if he's hungry," purposely not asking if Vin wanted to join him. Not hiding his smirk, either. Joseline Marshall stepped off the coach. Buck and Ezra were about to introduce themselves when a man stepped off the coach and the woman put her arm in his. Buck growled and handed Ezra another dollar.

"Hey, JD, you hungry? I was gonna get somethin' over at the hotel, interested?"

"Yeah, I guess I could eat somethin'," he smiled and walked to meet Chris and Vin. The three men crossed the street and strode to the hotel.

"There he is, Jacob!"

Jacob turned to see the boy they had come looking for, walking down the street with two men. Jacob couldn't help but smile and was about to run over to him, but a tall mustached man, who had seen the young woman point, stepped up to him.

"Howdy, name's Buck Wilmington, Mr..."

"Ah..Marshall..Jacob Marshall and this is my sister, Joseline." Buck's expression of delight at the sound of 'sister' crossed his face and his attention refocused. "Well, I'm part of the peace keeping force here in Four Corners, and if you need anything.."

"Mr. Wilmington? We came here looking for a friend I haven't seen in few years. Well, we just saw him walking to the hotel with two other men." Buck looked back to the hotel, and back at Jacob, "You're friends of JD's?"

"Yes, I am v.."

"JD? You say? Yes, Jeff..Jeffrey used to work for us," Joseline stated, to impress upon Buck her ever important 'social standing'. Buck's smile left his face, he had woken JD out of enough nightmares to know these weren't his friends, at least not the girl.

"Damn it, Joseline, you're the only one whoever called him that."

Ezra sensed there may be a problem and stepped in, making sure this young woman was impressed by his 'social standing'.

"My dear lady, you must be in need of refreshment after your long, tedious journey to this fair, quaint town." Ezra's gold tooth shone in the sun.

Handsome and of good breeding, Joseline thought, and accepted the gambler's arm. "Yes, dear sir, it has been a very long trip." She flashed a very impressive smile of her own to her brother.

"Jos...," Jacob began, but was interrupted by the tall man in front of him.

"She's safe with him, he's part of the law, too," Buck smiled, thinking this guy would appreciate it. The ladies' man was not disappointed in Jacob's reaction.

"You're serious? She's going to love that," Jacob laughed out.

"Yeah, well she's gonna like it a lot more. Reason he dresses so fancy, he's a gambler. Con man through and through." Jacob laughed even more, than returned his attention back to JD.

"Do you know JD well?"

"Do I know him? You're looking at the man who's tried to keep the boy alive!" Buck laughed, putting his arm around the young man standing beside him, walking towards the hotel. "So JD worked for your sister?"

"My family, I've known JD for a long time. Been a couple of years since I've seen him, he left soon after his mother died. He was gone for six months before I got back from boarding school, when we found out he was gone."

"You seem to like him enough, what's wrong with your sister? With all respect..I can't imagine anyone not liking JD."

"You'd think," Jacob said regretfully, feeling pretty much the same as Buck.


The two men entered the hotel dining room quietly. Jacob leaned over to Buck, "I see he still doesn't cut his hair until he can't see where he's going."

Buck smiled. "Less."

"Howdy boys, I got somethin for ya, kid." Buck stepped aside and watched JD's face go pale as a ghost.

"Jake?" his eyes as big as the plate his meal was on.


JD swallowed and a huge smile crossed his face, tears threatening, and he stood. Jacob yanked him in a huge hug and squeezed, causing JD to gasp, Jacob pulled back quickly.

"Did I hurt you? I'm sorry....I didn't..mean...," Jacob stuttered. JD held his shoulder trying not to scream about how much it hurt..and that he was pretty sure the hug had put it out of place again. He managed to shake his head 'no' in response.

"JD separated his shoulder a few weeks back," Buck trying to ease the look on Jacob's face.

Vin and Chris were standing beside Buck with concern. "I think Nathan's in the saloon with Josiah. Chris and I will get him to the clinic." Vin nodded and was off to find the healer. They started out the door when JD stopped. "Wait," he said seriously. "What is it, son?" Chris wondered if this wasn't such a happy reunion.

"She here, too?" he asked Jacob. "Yeah, she is. She found out, I didn't know it was her riding with me until about two hours ago." JD nodded his head in understanding and let the men take him out to the clinic. Buck turned back to Jacob who didn't know what to do, "You comin'?" Buck smiled at the young man. Jacob nodded his head and followed the trio to the clinic.

Jacob walked down the street behind his friend and JD's new friends, and couldn't help but think that finding JD was a mistake. He'd been here no more than a half hour and he'd gotten him hurt already. And to make matters worse, Jos was here, too.

+ + + + + + +

Vin entered the saloon where Nathan and Josiah were sharing a bottle and a cigar. He found them and made his way to them quickly.

"Want some, Vin?" Nathan asked, raising his glass.

"No, thanks, I think the kid's shoulder came out again," Vin stated, waiting for the healer to ramble on about.....

"Don't he know what take it easy means? I wonder where that boy gets his sense sometimes...he thinks I wait around all day just to fix his sorry little butt....God...," Nathan ranted as he made his way through the saloon.

Josiah sighed and stood up from the table, "What did he do?"

"Nothin', some guy from back East he knew got excited to see him, gave him one hell of a bear hug and it just popped," Vin told Josiah as they walked out of the saloon calmly.

They exited the saloon and ran into Ezra and a lady hanging on his arm. Josiah quickly apologized and left Vin to explain. Vin smiled shyly as Ezra gave him a quizzical grin.

"Mr. Tanner, this is Joseline Marshall, she and her brother are 'old friends' of young Mr.Dunne from back East." Ezra hoped Vin got the hint not to let he lady 'know they were friends', but acquaintances.

"Miss Marshall, sorry for runnin' into ya'," Vin apologized.

Joseline nodded and informed Vin, "You know Jeffrey as well? He was our stable boy until his abrupt departure." If Vin didn't get Ezra's hint, he got hers.

"May I inquire as to where our town's preacher was off to at such a pace? Tending to a lost lamb?"

"You could say that, let's say the lamb popped his shoulder out."

"Oh my, that sounds serious, will the lamb be all right?" Joseline took the men seriously.

"Yes, miss, he'll be fine I'm sure. Miss, Ezra," Vin tipped his hat and hurried after Josiah.

"I must say Mr. Standish, this town, if anything, is 'colorful'."

Ezra fought the urge to toss this woman aside and go with Vin to see JD, but he had a sensed that this woman wasn't someone JD would be happy to see again.

"Yes, Miss Marshall, it is 'colorful' as you so eloquently put it." Ezra laid the southern charm on thick.

"I take it you and Mr. Tanner are friends?" she prodded. Ezra sensed the young lady was worried about her 'social standing' if he were to tell her they knew each other.

"My dear lady, one can not reside in a town of this size, and not be acquainted with its members."

"He's apart of this law force, here in town?"

"Yes, that he is."

"I must say Mr. Standish, the peace keepers back East sport uniforms and always show their stars proudly," she stated to point out that she thought her class more civilized.

"Yes, I suppose they would. This town, however, is new to the idea of law and order. Sporting a star on your chest of any manner could get one....killed."

"Then why did you relocate here Mr. Standish?"

"Why, opportunity my dear! Opportunity to 'establish' myself. To try and bring some sort of civilized living to these ruffians."

"For money," Joseline translated, letting him know she knew what he was saying.

"Yes, yes. The mighty dollar is wonderful motivator, wouldn't you agree, Miss Marshall?" he said, letting her know he had money to throw away on a two bit town and not suffer. He was rewarded with a raised eyebrow and look of satisfaction from the young lady.

"There is nothing stronger, Mr. Standish." She was confident that this man was very much up to her standards and most likely surpassed them. They walked together until they had reached the end of town, crossed the street, and continued down the other side, Ezra pointing to buildings he had invested money in and ones that he owned. Impressing the young woman with every word.


Josiah and Vin met at the clinic where Nathan was getting the room ready. They saw the four men coming towards them. The group got closer and the two men could see how hard JD was holding his pain in, he was sweating, pale, and had his eyes shut tight.

Buck and Josiah then guided him upstairs to the clinic for more pain and, Vin hoped, a long nap. Jacob was heading up the stairs when the black clad man stopped him with a hand on the arm. Jacob stopped, brought his head up from the ground and looked questioningly at the man. "Jake is it?" Chris asked.

"Yyyes, sir, Jjjacob Mmarshall," Jacob let out, suddenly afraid of the cold eyes that looked at him.

"I don't think you want to be up there."

"It's not my place, I'm sorry. You go ahead, just let me know how he's doing, please."

"Son, even I ain't goin' up there."

"Jake, what Chris is trying to say is, it ain't easy to watch a man get his arm put back into place."

"Listening to it's worse," Chris added in.

Vin and Chris turned to each other and said simultaneously, "Saloon."

JD sat in a chair, Buck and Josiah on either side of him, and Nathan at the small table where he kept his 'instruments'. He turned from the table and faced the men in the center of the room. Buck stepped to block JD's view of the needle Nathan held. Unfortunately, the kid was all to familiar with that maneuver and tried to bolt from the chair. "No! Nathan, please!..Just put it back in..I don't care how much it hurts! Jake just got here, Buck, I ain't seen him in two years..Please? Josiah? Please guys..If you give me that I ain't gonna be able to do nothin'! Two years! PLEASE!"

Every one of the men inside that room knew the kid didn't recover from the medicine he was given, and knew the morphine would leave him in bed for at least two days. Josiah was the first to look at Nathan as if to speak on behalf of the boy, he knew he would be inflicting more pain on the boy, but figured if JD could take it, so could he.

"I'm gonna be right here, kid. Let Nathan give ya that shot, I ain't goin' nowhere," Buck soothed, knowing he would be able to calm the kid down when the morphine took over. The kid couldn't fight the morphine like he could the chloroform, so Buck knew he could calm him. "I don't know how long Jake can stay, please, Nathan?" the boy's puppy dog look hitting its mark.

"Damn," Buck said beneath his breath, and Nathan rolled his eyes. "You can leave, Buck, we'll do this your way, JD...If you promise me you ain't gonna use that look on me again!"

"What look?" JD questioned, he never knew he had 'a look'. The three men sighed together.

"I'm heading to the saloon. If your friend's over there with Chris and Vin, they probably got that boy scared out of his mind."

"Tell him I'll be over as soon as I'm done here," the kid said as he eased himself onto a sitting position on the floor.

"I'll do that. Nathan, can ya give me a few minutes?" he asked, knowing he didn't want to hear the kid. Nathan nodded and Buck shut the door to the room and practically ran out the door and into the street.

Nathan wrapped his arms around JD's chest, as Josiah took the limp arm. Nathan and Josiah looked at each other, JD took a few deep breaths while Nathan held up one finger, he said to Josiah, "On the count of three." On the count of one the windows nearly rattled with a painful scream that could awake the dead.

Buck had made it to the saloon doors when he heard the kid's faint cry, causing him to look back a bit. He then looked into the saloon and spotted Chris and Vin sitting with JD's friend from back East.

Vin saw Buck enter the saloon and pulled a chair to the table.

"That was quick," Vin offered. Buck nodded.

"He'll be down as soon as Nathan done wrapping him up, Jake."

"I didn't mean to hurt him, Mr. Wilmington."

"Buck..and you didn't. One of them must have told you that," he shot an accusing look at Chris.

"We tried to," Chris shot back his own look. "Jake, JD had some trouble awhile back, his shoulder separated..it just let go again, it doesn't take much."

"What kind of trouble?"

"He had black cats following him around," Chris said, taking a drink of his whiskey. Jacob looked puzzled.

"Black cats..bad luck," Vin translated with a light smile.


"Some guys got a hold of him, when he wasn't at his best. They wanted to drive out the ranchers for their land," Buck began.

"Why did they want the land?"

"For the railroad, they wanted to get rich," Chris said, not hiding the disgust he felt.

"How'd he get involved? Did hear their plans or something?"

"Or something." Vin answered.

"This guy, Lewis was his name, had the kid kidnapped. He had him worked over real good, he was hurtin' pretty bad when we finally found him, his shoulder bein' one thing." Jacob was looking at Buck, wondering why this, Lewis, would kidnap JD. What did he have to gain?

"So, kidnapping JD was a diversion to get the land?" Jacob tried to follow, not knowing if he was on the right path.

"No, they wanted us outta of the way, they thought they found our weakness, they tried to use it against us."

"You guys, and Mr. Standish are the law here, right?" The three men nodded. "So what did they want with JD, I mean I know he's your frie..."

"He's part of the law here too, Jake." The men watched Jacob digest the information that Vin had just given him. "He's the sheriff," Chris added, almost amused at the young man's fallen face.

Jacob swallowed hard and opened his mouth to speak. He found his voice finally, "You're..you're serious."

"It's the truth, been sheriff for what? Year and half?" Buck looked to Chris.

"Seems longer sometimes, but I think that's about right."

"Guess you never thought he'd come out here and be a hired gun?" Vin asked the stunned young man.

"Come out West? Yeah, I figured he would, but a hired gun?" Jacob shook his head, "Guess I shouldn't be surprised," he added with a hint of sadness.

Chris watched the young man closely, he didn't sense the man was any trouble, just the opposite. From the way JD reacted to seeing him and the similar expression Jake had, he knew this had been a good friend to the kid. What bothered Chris was the question JD had asked Jake before they took him to Nathan's.

JD wasn't just a partner, a friend, or a brother to Chris. He found himself, more so with the events just weeks ago, looking towards the kid more like a father would to his son, sensing JD was beginning to feel it as well, but neither ever saying so. Chris was trying to decide if he had the right to pry into the kid's past with the 'she' he had asked about. Chris had always felt a man's past is his own. When they had come close to losing the boy, by death or to the darkness, he decided that he had the right. JD was family.


"Jake, can I ask you something?" Chris interrupted the conversation about JD's circus antics, like he hadn't heard a word of it, which he hadn't.

Jacob cleared his throat "Yes, I suppose so," he answered tentatively. Jacob wondered if this man affected JD the same unnerving way.

"Who was this 'she ' JD asked you about?" he asked, looking Jacob in the eye.

"My sister, Joseline. Mr. Wi-, Buck and Mr. Standish met her when we got off the stage."

"I take it he ain't gonna be as happy to see her as he was to see you?" the tracker questioned.

"I..I," he sighed "I don't know," he answered honestly, shaking his head slowly as the words came out.

"She called him 'Jeffrey'," Buck mocked. "That his name?"

Jacob shook his head

"What is it then?" Buck asked out of curiosity.

"I wish I could tell you, since he came to the estate at seven I've always known him as JD. To be honest," he paused and looked at Chris, for some reason, "I don't know if he knows, I never asked."

"What about your sister? Why ain't he happy to see her?"

"Mr. Larabee.."


"Chris, I love my sister dearly, but she and I don't see things the same way. She's looking to make sure she doesn't associate with people below her socially. She treats the hired help at the estate like 'hired help' if you will. She doesn't see them, any of them, as people. Am I making sense?"

"So she treated JD like dirt?"

"No, Chris, dirt would have been a step up. JD was like...like a pastime to her, a source of entertainment. She used him basically."

This is more than the men had ever heard from JD about his life prior to being here. The only memories he would share gave the impression that his life had been pretty decent or of his mother, the latter always bringing a smile to his young face.

"How did he put up with it from the age of seven and on?"

"She wasn't always that way, Mr. Tanner. When she was fourteen she came back from boarding school for the summer and she was different. Every summer when we got home, we'd go to the stables to wait for him to get off work and the first day we'd saddle our horses and go riding until it got dark. That year we went down, JD and I had our horses ready, Jos just stood there. When I asked her why she wasn't ready she said why should 'she' saddle the horse when we had a 'perfectly good stable boy' to do it. She went on about how he was getting paid to do his job so she didn't have to stress herself or something."

"She sounds like real refined lady," Buck sneered sarcastically.

"Yeah, she is. She never went riding with us again, said she couldn't be seen with me if I chose to associate with the lower class, right in front of JD," he remembered sadly.

"I take it got worse?" Chris didn't like this 'lady' he hadn't even met. He couldn't imagine anyone not liking the kid.

"Yeah, she'd would be in town and come running to JD saying that someone was after her, or a group of boys threatened her, some story, and before he could do anything they'd be on him. It was usually just scrapes and bruises. She did that more than once. Then she started getting him in trouble at the stables. She talked my parents into hiring this foreman at the stables after the old one got too old. This man was a bastard. If things weren't just the right way he beat...," he hung his head and swallowed hard, ".. I found him one night, in an empty stall. Sampson had beaten him real bad, broke some ribs, his arm, and marked his face up good. I didn't want to move him, I got my folks and we got the doctor and fixed him up. He didn't want to get into trouble for missing work, when I went to check on him Jos told me he'd gone to work, all banged up and bruised and he was working. Jos always made sure he knew she was behind him getting hurt. He put up with it for his mother, making some excuse that he'd fallen or got kicked something. They didn't have anywhere to go, and any complaining I did to my parents...well, things would get worse for him. We just decided to keep our mouths shut. We went away that summer before his mother died and didn't come back until the next summer. He had been gone a year when we got back, I can't say I wasn't happy he was gone, anything would have been better, I just wish I was home when he left."

"So you could say good-bye?" Buck understood.

"No, so I could have come with him."


The saloon doors opened interrupting the men's conversation as Ezra entered, motioned to the barkeep and joined his partners and their guest.

"Ezra, where's your lady friend?" Buck asked with a mix of concern and humor.

"Miss Marshall is resting in her hotel suite. During our constitutional through our fair town, during which I convinced young Miss Marshall rather easily, that I am 'heavily' invested in, we were interrupted by, I may say an all to familiar, resounding wail apparently transpiring from the direction of our surrogate doctor's residence. The painful noise caused your dear, sweet sister to find herself in need of a respite from our stroll."

"Mr. Standish?"

"Yes, Mr. Marshall?" Ezra said taking a much need drink.

"Did you talk to my sister like that?"

"Jake, Ezra talks to everyone like that," Vin chuckled out.

"Then what did he say?"

The men at the table tried not to laugh at the thought that the young man sitting in front of them, of money and wealth had no idea what the gambler was saying. They were reeling in their laughter and were interrupted by the voice that translated for Jacob.

"What Brother Ezra was saying is your sister needed to rest after hearing someone screaming from the clinic," Josiah said as he sat down. "Josiah, this here's Jacob Marshall, the kid's friend from back East. How'd it go?"

"Mr. Marshall," Josiah nodded

"Jake, please. How's JD?"

"He should be here in a little bit."

"He make it?" Vin asked, knowing the kid wouldn't try to pass out if it meant getting out of the clinic sooner.

"Fortunately, no. He gave up while Nathan was wrapping him up, Nathan figure's he'll be complaining in about ten minutes," Josiah smiled. "That means he'll be here in five minutes, Jake." Vin nodded knowingly at Chris's statement.

"Nathan, he's the doctor?"

"No, son. But he's the next best thing," Buck remarked.

"Why didn't he give JD anything so it wouldn't hurt as bad? Morphine or something?"

"JD didn't want Nathan to give him anything," Josiah explained.

"The kid didn't want your visit to be spent watching him in a sick bed."

"Buck, he just separated his shoulder, right? The ranch hands have done the same thing and they're up in a few hours, why would JD have to stay in bed?"

"The kid doesn't take to medicine. He just can't handle it very good," Buck shook his head somewhat sadly.

"He isn't going to be up for visiting then, maybe I should go make sure Jos is settled in."

"JD would be disappointed if ya left before he got here."

"Mr. Tanner, I don't want to be the cause of him getting out of bed before he's suppose to."

"Hell, Jake, even if you weren't here he'd be outta bed," laughed out the mustached man.

"Yes, Mr. Marshall. Our young friend has a reputation of disobeying 'doctors orders', as they would be, due to his enthusiastic spirit," the gambler smiled.

"I'm glad he didn't lose his zest for life," Jacob related, bringing snickers and sighs to the men sitting with him.

"He has so much zest, he makes you tired just watching him," Chris let out, barely able to hide the laugh he felt.

The saloon doors opened forcefully as Nathan stormed in, grabbing a chair from the neighboring table and sat down with force. The lawmen couldn't help hide their amusement at the the healer's frustrated look, JD had left the sick bed before Nathan told him to...again.

"Where'd he go?" Chris asked as he pushed his chair back, scraping it against the wood floor.

"Jailhouse," Nathan spat out in disgust.

As Chris made his way to the jailhouse, Nathan turned to Jacob.

"I take it your JD's friend from back East?"

"Yes, Jake Marshall. I'm the one who put his shoulder back o.."

"Naw, weren't your fault, son, it was still healin'. He do this back East, too? Not listenin' to people?"

"Humph, Only when he was told he couldn't do something," Jacob laughed out.

The table erupted in laughter as friends old and new exchanged stories of JD's happier times back East and of his new life out West. Sometimes shaking there heads knowingly at the trait the boy still had, marveled with ones he'd left behind, and somewhat surprised at the ones he garnered.


JD looked at the black clad gunslinger as he came in the door at the sheriff's office. Chris noticed how pale he was. He knew he wanted to see his friend and couldn't comprehend why he was here instead of the saloon.

"How ya doing, son?"


Chris knew when the boy answered 'fine' quickly, things weren't always 'fine'. Chris pulled the spare chair from across the room and sat across from JD. "If everything's fine, why aren't you at the saloon visiting Jake?"

JD shrugged his good shoulder. Even that hurt to do, and he winced.

"Son, what's on your mind?" Chris knew, he was pretty sure, anyways.

"It's been a long time since I seen him, Chris."

"I thought you were glad he was here."

"I am," came a tug of a smile, "I just..it's just..I.."

"You were hoping he was alone?"

JD lifted his head, if JD could have gone paler, he would have. Chris knew. Jake told him. Chris looked worried even, which made JD wonder if he wasn't safe with Jos in town. Could she have gotten worse?

"I dunno what Jake told ya, Chris, but..," JD laughed out, trying to hide his open book face.

"He told us that she ain't the nicest person, and her fun came at your expense."

JD hung his head, he was embarrassed, if not ashamed by the fact that a 'girl' had caused him so much suffering, and in later years a lot of pain. He was ashamed to be afraid of this person, who scared him more than some of the outlaws he'd faced. She intimidated him and broke down his self esteem, which he had slowly put back together since coming out here.

"I suppose everyone else knows," he said, anger being very present.

"Just Buck, Vin, and me."

"That's great, like Buck's not gonna let me live this down. One more thing for him to.."

"Don't think for a minute he's thinking like that!" Chris said harsher then he'd meant, and from the look on the kid's face he'd said it a bit louder than he'd meant to, too.

"JD, what I meant, no one thinks anything less of ya. Especially Buck. From what Jake was saying you have every reason to be scared of her."

"I ain't scared of her!" JD defended himself.

"No? You're jumping out of your skin just knowing she's here. Hell, Ezra doesn't even like her."

"Ezra? What was he doin' with her?" he asked not hiding his concern.

"I guess they spotted us heading for lunch, and Ezra took Miss Marshall on a 'stroll'"

"What did he tell her?"

"Made her think he owned half the town. Why, you worried?"

"I guess not. I mean, as long as she don't find out he's lying."

Chris studied JD's eyes and something in them told him that they needed to talk to the others. Something that maybe Jake didn't know, but JD did.

"Come on, I think we need to talk to the others." he said urgently.


Joseline Marshall sat on her bed in her room at the hotel smiling to herself. She was looking over letters she had received while in boarding school. She read one out loud to herself.

"Dear Jos, Mamma says to say Hi and she got your letter, and is writing back to you as soon as she can. It started snowing the other day and Misty had her a colt this morning. I heard from Jake, he says he's bored. He's pretty sure he'll be home for Christmas. I hope you'll be coming too.

I found a great spot to go riding in the snow. This big field out behind Larson's. I already checked to see if we could go there and Mr.Larson said it would be okay. I figure the snow will be pretty deep and the riding will be fun.

Hope to see you at Christmas. Oh I forgot. Happy 14th birthday!

Love, JD"

Joseline sighed and held the letter to her chest and smiled coldly. She put the letter down and opened up a journal and began writing.

Stupid, pitiful boy was in love with me! To think I would lower my standards for him! I wouldn't have thought twice if he had money, life would have been grand if he was of the same class. I had to show him, that there was never a chance for 'us'.

He did fight well, until I talked Mummy and Daddy into hiring the new foreman. Jeffrey just didn't give up. I had hoped after he'd been beaten so badly he would leave, so I didn't have to see him. If it wasn't for his mother, he would have left. He never figured out why his mother got sick, good thing we had that arsenic lying around the house.

Thank God he was gone when we got back that next year, he's all I could think about while in school, to have had to see him again.. He would have been fifteen, and I'm not sure I could have fought my urges. Oh, why was I punished? Why did you send me my love with no money?

Jacob never knew I was on the stage until we were almost here. I had to come. Didn't Jacob see that? I had to know if he had come into wealth, then we could be together,forever. And if not, I will have to rid this world of him. To know he was alive and well, I might falter and have to take my life as well. I have too much to offer this world, so I will; if necessary take his life away from him so I may live in peace. I took his only reason for staying at the estate, and I will do the same if I have to with Jeffrey. Oh, Jeffrey, please have money, I'm not looking forward to killing you.

She put the pencil down and closed her journal, stood, and decided to see if she could find her brother and the object of her anguish.


JD sighed and stood to go to the door when it opened. Buck, Vin and Jake entered. "Everything all right?" Buck felt the tension in the room surround him. JD nodded his head and when he looked at Jacob he couldn't hide his smile.

"I can't believe you came all the way out here," JD said with a chuckle, sitting back down in the chair before the weakness in his legs gave way. He knew he shouldn't have left Nathan's.

"Are you sure he's okay? He looks awfully pale," Jacob looked to Chris.

"I'm fine, nothing that hasn't happened before. Geez, Jake, it ain't like I got shot or somethin'."

"He's fine," Chris lied, he knew JD had left Nathan's too soon, he knew if he hadn't been able to sit he probably would've passed out.

"At least I know who your keeper was before me!" Buck said jokingly, unfortunately the two he had referred it to didn't see any humor, the fact the kid even needed a 'keeper' brought nothing but bad memories for both. Jacob finally broke the silence that had fallen on the group.

"JD wouldn't have needed anyone if I ..

"Nothin' you coulda done, Jake. Jos weren't right in the head or somethin'."

"I'm the oldest! I should have been able to do something, the first time Sampson beat you up."

"What were you goin to do, Jake? Hell, the only reason I stayed was because.. Look, Jake, it was my choice to stay, ain't nothin' you were gonna do but make me lose my job."

Vin watched the exchange between the two young men, he knew what had happened between the three members from back East. He felt an uneasiness that JD or Jacob or both were hiding something else. Something about the man's sister not being right in the head.

"Why you still scared of her, JD? You're older now," Vin inquired.

JD squirmed, he didn't want to say it, he figured Vin  wouldn't believe him. Just like no one else did, except Jacob. Thankfully, or not, Jacob answered for him. "She liked him," he answered vaguely.

"She had a strange way of showing it," Buck hissed through a sneer.

"Like I said before, Jos got hung up on this 'social class' thing. She'd always liked JD, I mean she liked him a lot." He stole a look in JD's direction for permission to talk for him. He didn't raise his head from staring at the floor. Jacob understood that he could continue. The boy's mannerisms hadn't changed at all, he was still easy to read.

"When she turned fourteen she changed, like I told you. She got messed up, and the older we got the worse she got. To put it frankly, she was in love with him. Jos just couldn't get passed the fact that JD wasn't 'social' enough, she did a lot of those things to get him to quit. I guess she figured he'd leave when Sampson was hired, then his mother started getting sick, and he still didn't leave."

"She was obsessed?" Chris questioned.

"Yeah, she was. You have to know that he never thought of her as more than a friend, though."

"We never said we didn't," Buck said flatly.

"She's a year older than me, I didn't understand girls any better than I understand them now," JD finally spoke, "She ain't nice, guys, we got to make sure Ezra knows."

"Mr. Standish? Why JD?"

"He's not rich, Jake. He's got more money than most people here, but he ain't rich, least not by her standards, anyways."

"You think he's in trouble if she finds out?" Vin wondered.

"No, not really. Does Jos know Ezra knows me?"

"I don't think so," Vin offered.

"Where she at?"

"Hotel as far as I know, that's what Mr. Standish said anyway."

"Everyone else is at the saloon still," Buck stated. The men nodded knowingly and headed to the saloon. Leaving JD and Chris to follow. JD stood and Chris was there to steady him.

"Left a little too early, huh," the older man stated.

"Yeah, I guess, maybe," JD smiling in a 'cat ate the canary' way.

"Let's go.. I won't let you fall too hard," he said sarcastically.


"Jeffrey!! Jeffrey!!

JD and Chris saw the young women pick up her skirts and run across the street towards them. JD stepped back.

"You're okay," Chris said more for support, not as a question.

"Yeah," came the voice from behind him, with a bit of uncertainty.

"Jeffrey, I can't believe its really you!" She made a move with open arms to hug the kid, but was stopped by a man's arm that had grabbed hers.

"Hi, Jos. I, ah , I don't think that'd be good idea," JD faltered at first, but , knowing he wasn't alone, regrouped himself quickly.

"Oh, so sorry, Jeffrey, I didn't see that you have an injury. Ahem, excuse me. Jeffrey, would you kindly ask your watchdog to release his grip on my arm?" she shot a look to Chris.

"I ain't his watchdog, Miss," Chris replied, feeling nothing but disgust towards the young woman as he let his grip on her go.

"Sorry, Chris, this is Joseline Marshall, Jake's sister. How ya been, Jos?"

Chris tipped his hat.

"Oh, I have been wonderful Jeffrey. I assume, apart from this injury you have been well?"

"I can't complain."

Joseline noticed then how pale he was and Chris noticed the boy had begun to sweat and sway a bit. "Jeffrey..are you sure you are not ill?"

"He's fine miss, just had his shoulder set, he needs to sit down. Excuse us," Chris said.

"I'm an old friend of Jeffrey's, Mr.."

"Well, that's nice to know Miss Marshall, but if he don't sit he's gonna fall. Then he's gonna get mad as hell," Chris glared at her, never offering the information of a last name she requested. Chris turned his attention to the young man as they began the short walk to the saloon, Joseline right behind them.

"She following us?" JD whispered.

"Yup," Chris answered without looking. JD rolled his eyes and sighed. "Jeffrey. Jeffrey! Jeffrey, I order you to stop! Now!"

JD did as he was told, but the look in his eyes was something Chris had never seen. JD turned abruptly and walked towards the woman quickly, Chris right behind for support or JD's protection, he wasn't sure which.

"You can't order me around, I ain't working for you no more! You can't hurt me. This is my town, you don't own it," he hissed out between clenched teeth. He got even closer to her, "And don't call me Jeffrey, my name's JD!" he yelled and turned around, nearly falling into Chris's arm, and they headed for the saloon, leaving a stunned Joseline Marshall standing on the boardwalk.


Buck, Vin and Jacob were giving the three men a condensed version of their conversation concerning Joseline, when the two remaining members sauntered through the doors. Vin grabbed a chair and pulled it to the table next to him, knowing from the look on the leader's face and the kid's posture he would need it.

Vin nonchalantly helped the kid sit easily. Only Ezra and Chris noticed the action. Ezra leaned over to Chris and in a low tone voiced his concern, "Is our young friend not well?"

"He's fine," Chris lied, again.

JD sat at the table not listening to the words going on around him, Vin wasn't paying attention to the conversation either. He looked to the leader, back to JD, and back at Chris again with a bit of concern. Chris acknowledged Vin's worry with a faint nod. Vin was about to ask when the young man next to him interrupted the conversation.

"We have a problem, Jake." The conversation stopped immediately at the sound of the young man's voice.

"We saw your sister on the way over," Chris explained. "Did she do something to you? What did she say?" Jacob wondered why JD had a familiar haunting look.

"It ain't important what she did or said, I pissed her off, I think."

"Yeah, I'd say you pissed her off."

"How ?" Buck couldn't imagine JD making anyone mad on purpose.

"She 'ordered' him to stop," Chris let it out with anger as he lifted his head and reached for his glass of whiskey. The kid's eye's filled as he looked at his old friend.

"Jake, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to yell at her. Jake, I'm really sorry," JD pleaded.

"JD, you don't have anything to be sorry about, it should have been done a long time ago," Jake said with a smile.

"Pardon me but, if I may play devil's advocate for a moment, if Miss Marshall was as obsessed with young Mr. Dunne as you so claim, would it not be a prudent assumption that the object of her desire, by stating his displeasure of her, could be subject to some unknown peril by her hand?" Ezra said with usual flair, but not hiding his concern for the young man's health.

"Never cross a woman scorned," Josiah nodded in agreement.

"Mr. Standish?" Jacob wondered.

"He's worried that Jos will do somethin'," JD said casually. Then bringing his head up to meet the surprised look on their faces that he had understood what Ezra said. "What?"

"Before you get your guns, how'd you know what he said?" Chris asked what everyone else wanted to know.

"Losing your eyesight makes a man listen more," JD smiled wryly as he stood and then walked out of the saloon to retrieve his guns from his room.

"When did he lo.."

"Lewis," the six hired guns said in unison.

"Oh," Jacob said, "Is there anything this Lewis didn't do?"

"Yeah two things, he failed and he didn't kill the kid," the leader replied, taking another drink. Buck squirmed in his chair trying to get comfortable, the others noticed and inquired at the sudden discomfort.

"Something wrong, Brother Buck?"

"Dunno, Josiah..just got this feelin'. I mean, she's runnin' around out there.." Buck shifted again before standing up.

"Your feelings are as reliable as the sun rising in the morning." The men stood at the same time as Chris did.

"Mr. Larabee?" Chris turned to Jacob, knowing the question he didn't want to ask.

"Buck thinks she'll do something to JD," he said, as they made there way to the porch of the saloon.

Six set of eyes scanned the boarding house to where JD's room was. He had just entered the building. The men let out a collective sigh and waited on the porch for him to come out. Buck was about to go and make sure he was okay when they saw the door opened and JD fumbling with his gun belt.

JD looked up towards the saloon and his friends, and noticed the sun was going to start setting. He looked over his shoulder to appreciate the sunset he missed seeing. The rest of his body turned towards the pink and purple clouds. He never remembered seeing a more beautiful sight in his life, but then again he'd said that same thing every morning and at the end of every day.

The men stood on the porch watching JD, looking younger than usual enjoying the sight like a child stares at a Christmas tree. Jacob couldn't help but smile as he watched him. He could see how happy his friend was, and as hard as his life had been and as hard as it was to live out here in the West, he still looked happy. He had found a family to belong to, and even though they had been friends, these men were his family. He could sense it, feel it inside, and could almost touch it it was so strong.

JD turned around and started walking back to the saloon, left arm in a sling and tied tightly to his chest still looking a bit pale. Something caught Jacob's eye and everything happened in slow motion.

"JEFFREY!!" JD turned to the name he hated being called.

The men looked to where the kid was looking, pulling at their guns and running towards JD. Jacob was the first off the porch, yelling to his sister, "NOOOOOOOOO!!!"

The gunshot stopped Jacob, as the rest of the men continued to where the shot made the kid stumble. JD took his good hand and touched his stomach, just under his left arm and brought it up to see the blood on his hand and looked to Joseline and another shot sent him to the ground in a heap.

She didn't see the men , she looked to her brother instead and smiled as she place the gun to her temple. Vin was yelling, "NOOO!!", as he ran towards her. Another shot and Joseline fell to the ground.


Jacob passed JD and went to where Joseline and Vin were. Vin heard him approach and stood to stop Jacob.

"Jake, you don't," Vin had taken off his jacket and placed it over Joseline's upper body, the blood seeping out from under the jacket telling Jacob not to go over, there was no hope.

"Oh , God, Jos! Why? WHY!!!!"

He looked back to where his friend was on the ground surrounded by his family and looked at the hired gun next to him, "Mr.Tanner, I'm sorry, I never should have come here, I should have sent her back when we got here, God, please, I'm sorry," Jacob sobbed, going to his knees, his face in his hands.

With Vin's strong hands on Jacob's shoulders he bent down. "Don't you think for one minute this is your fault, Jake. He's a stubborn runt, you know that. Hell, Jake, he's gonna be blaming himself just as much, if not more about Joseline."

"Why? He never did anything to her?"

"Not until today when he stood up to her," Chris tried to give him reassurance this wasn't his fault. Jacob took it another way, unfortunately.

"Are you saying this is his fault? I thought you were his friends! This isn't his fault."

Vin wisely stepped in front of Jacob and tried to calm him.

"Hold on, Jake, that ain't what he's sayin'."

"Son, what I meant is JD never stood up to her, and when he did it pushed her over the edge. The only person to blame..is her," Chris spoke with ease and control, but the edge gone.

A loud moan turned their attention and Buck's urgent voice, "Chris."

Chris turned to his oldest friend, "How is he?" he asked more quickly than usual, Buck thought.

"One went through his side.. The other hit his arm and stuck..."

"Stuck where?"

"Nathan can't tell, it's in his chest somewhere."


"He's asking for you, guess he wants the dad instead of the mother hen," Buck said. Chris sent a look to Buck. Not a threatening one, but one of... gratitude?

"He knows I won't lie to him."

"He wanted me to take care of Jake and Joseline," he said sadly, looking at the buckskin death shroud.

"I'll get her over to the undertakers," Vin offered.

"No, thank you, Mr. Tanner, I'll take her."

Vin shook his head. "Call me Vin, Jake. I'll help ya', then we can check on JD."

"Thank you Mr.Tan..Vin."

Chris made his way to where JD was laying, he could hear Nathan barking orders to Ezra and Josiah. "Ezra, go into the store, I need more cloth. JD easy now, son, ya' gotta stop kickin', boy, I know it hurts..easy breaths, don't take him so big."

Chris took the clean rags Mrs. Potter had given to Ezra, who had met him half way. Chris noticed Ezra's hands covered with blood, this couldn't be good he thought as he bent down to replace the soaked rags on the boy's abdomen.

"Chris?" JD urgently and breathlessly asked.

"Yeah, settle down son," Chris said with a way the men had gotten used to hearing when the kid was hurtin'.


"He's okay," the father figure reassured.

"Wh-What 'bout...Jos? H..hear..heard th...three... shot." JD waited for the truth that Buck wouldn't or just couldn't give.

"She's gone, son."

"Noooooo!" it came out as much as a scream of agony as it did for his friend's loss.

"Son..you listen to me! It wasn't your fault, Jake's over there blaming himself for both of you, and it ain't his fault either.. JD, look at me! She shot herself, son. She did this, all of this. Do you understand?" Chris said with urgency, knowing the kid would blame himself for thinking that one of them had shot her. Knowing that it was his fault, he'd give up and they would loose him, Larabee wasn't about to loose another son, not without a fight of his own.

JD nodded his head and let out a horrendous cry, as his sling was untied and his arm moved to see the damage that lay under it.

"Let's get him up stairs," Nathan said, without even looking under the shirt.


Three men waited on the clinic porch for word on JD. The sunset that JD had admired so much had turned into a bright moonlit starry sky. It had been hours since they'd taken the kid up to the healer's. Vin looked at Josiah and Ezra, with the dried blood of their brother on their hands, looking at the same sky. Then his eyes fell to Jacob who sat on the boardwalk reading Joseline's journal he had found, by the moonlight, hoping to find answers or reasons. Vin hoped, silently, that JD hadn't left with the sunset.

"I'm sure our youngest brother has more sunsets to see, brother," Josiah said with a hand on the tracker's shoulder.

"Lets hope so," Vin said, not as sure as Josiah, but not willing to give up hope.

"Sweet Jesus, no," Jacob spoke for the first time in two hours.

"Jake?" Vin was first to react, he wasn't prepared for the look on the man's face that had experienced extreme joy, sorrow, concern, sadness, shock, loss, and grief all in the same day, and now horror. He couldn't speak and his eyes began to fill. Josiah and Ezra noticed the anguish in Jacob's shaky voice and moved to him.

"Jake, what is it?" Josiah soothed, trying to let him know it was safe to go on.

The tears over ran his eyes as he looked into the preacher's eyes, "She killed her."

"Who, son?"

"Jos... she killed JD's mother.." he handed the journal to Ezra, "Read it out loud."

Ezra took the journal and scanned through the last page. When he gasped, Jacob said, "That part, read it."

Ezra did as he was asked and read, "He did fight well, until I talked Mummy and Daddy into hiring the new foreman. Jeffrey just didn't give up. I had hoped after he'd been beaten so badly he would leave, so I didn't have to see him. If it wasn't for his mother, he would have left. He never figured out why his mother got sick, good thing we had that arsenic lying around the house."

"She poisoned her," Vin hung his head, "Jake, she wasn't right in the head, something snapped or something."

"I know, why didn't I know, I should have seen.."

"Don't do this, son. This never had anything to do with you."

The door to the clinic opened and Buck stepped out, tired, exhausted, pale, and bloodied, but unable to hide the smile.

"Nathan got the bullet, and the bleedin' stopped. Nate says he's gonna be fine."

The men around him smiled. "Thought you guys would be a bit more happy," Chris said as he  made his way beside Buck.

"Jake found Joseline's journal. She poisoned JD's mother," Vin laid out.

"What?! How?" Buck had been rendered speechless more than once this day.


"I think we should tell him, Buck. He thinks his momma got sick and died."

"Are you crazy? She did get sick and die, he don't need to know how or why. 'Sides, she's dead, I mean.. No disrespect, Jake, but I ain't gonna tell him, he don't need to know."

"I'll tell him, JD ain't one for lying. As much as it's gonna hurt, he'd want to know." Chris looked at everyone making sure they knew he was right.


A week had gone by and both JD and Jacob were healing.

Jacob had visited JD, each blaming themselves for what had happened. Both felt guilt, one for allowing his sister to come, the other for pushing her so far she killed herself. Each trying to convince the other they were not to blame. Neither of them believing the other.

No one had told JD about Joseline's journal, and what they had found out from it. Chris wanted to wait till JD would be able to stay focused and understand it. He didn't want to have to say it again. JD had been allowed to his own room the day before, and Chris figured it was time. He had no idea what he was going to say. He had spent some time with Jacob, talking about JD's mother and he found that she was everything the kid had said she was. A beautiful, warm, caring, loving women who loved her son dearly. Chris soon felt the kid had lost as much as he did in the fire that took Sarah and Adam. All the men had read the journal trying to find out how Joseline had poisoned JD's mother. They found out, and Chris decided that they needed to tell JD. Chris didn't know if it would ease the kid's guilt, but it had to help place the blame back where it should be.. On Joseline Marshall.

There was a quiet knock at the door. "It's open," came the withdrawn voice from behind the door. Chris opened the door and entered.

"What do you think you're doin'?" he asked, seeing JD fully dressed, minus one arm in a sleeve, trying to get his boots on unsuccessfully.

"Goin' out."

"You think Nathan's going to let you step a foot out of here?"

"I'm tired of being cooped up, ain't nothing decent to look at."

"You have lunch yet?"

JD shook his head.

"I'll make a bargain with you."

"What's that?"

"I need to talk to you and if ya feel up to it after, I'll buy you lunch."

"Somethin happen? Did I d.."

"No, it's about Joseline."

"You blame me don't you?" JD slouched, forgetting his struggle with his boots.

"No one does, Jake found her journal the day she shot you. There's some things he found, and he told us about it. I thought you should know." Chris moved and sat on the bed next to JD.

"Like what?"

"She killed someone."

"What?! Who??"

"Your mother." Chris watched as JD's eyes grew and his face lost all the color he had worked so hard to get back in the last week drain from his face. Chris thanked God the kid was sitting down.

"WHAT!!??? She was gone when she died!"

"Your mother drank tea, she put arsenic in it. That's why you mother got sick, and that's why she died." Chris was in front of JD, holding his face in his hands to make sure he understood what he was telling him.

JD couldn't breathe, he felt the walls close in on him, just like the day she died. He stared at Chris with huge tears running down his face and his body giving into the tremors that raced through him. Chris went to his knees and brought the kid closer as the kid grieved. When his mother had died there hadn't been anyone there to console him, but as he gave in to the sorrow he wasn't alone and JD felt safe. JD pulled back and looked at Chris.

"Why? Why did she do this? Momma never hurt no one..Why'd she kill her?"

"She wasn't in her right mind,son. In some twisted way she thought if she got rid of you, the way she felt towards you would go away too. When the foreman beatin' on you didn't work, she decided she needed to get rid of what was keeping you there."

"My mother," the all too young voice whispered.

"Yeah, son, your mother."

JD's eye's began to grow heavy as the tears still fell. Chris had stood him up carefully, pulled back the blankets and helped JD with his shirt. The young man lay down in the bed and Chris pulled the covers on him, and sat down in a chair that he'd gotten near the wall, next to the bed.

"Thanks, Chris."

"Anytime son," Chris's response had fell on deaf ears, the boy was already sleeping, and another soft knock on the door, and Buck walked in. He put a hand on Chris's tense shoulder.

"You okay?"

"Yeah, fine, thanks."

"How's he doin'?"

"I think he's going to be okay, just give him some time."

"Vin and I are gonna get some grub, wanna join us?"

"Naw, I'm going to stay till he wakes up, told him I'd take him to lunch."

"Let me know when, I'm sure we can find something for Nathan to do," Buck smiled. "I'll need it."

The door closed as Buck walked out. JD stirred a bit and with a father's instinct Chris's hand went to JD's head and stroked back the black hair out of the boy's face.

"Don't know why your father didn't stick around, kid. I'd be real proud to call you my son."