E-Mail: karinmilligan@hotmail.com

Disclaimer: Not mine,wish they were

Rating: PG 13

Warning: AU

Notes/Comments: This is part three in a series, Breaking the Chain and Old Friends and Enemies. It's not necessary to read the others..but please do!! Thanks to the Darlin Cheerleaders (your uniforms are on their way) and thanks to Stef my beta girl/ publisher/ editor and general pain in the butt (<g> You know I love ya).

"Hey, Buck?"

"What is it now, JD?" Buck answered, growing impatient with source of his aggravation. JD hadn't stopped asking questions since they left Four Corners two hours ago.

JD jumped at the man's reply, and sensed he'd been aggravating him, so he looked back ahead and hung his head slightly, "Sorry, not important," and decided he wouldn't say another word. Their patrol would be over soon and they would head back to town. His reward was an hours worth of listening to Buck complain, berate, and point out something the kid had done wrong in the year he had been here.

True to his conviction though, he never said a word, didn't even acknowledge most of what Buck had said because he didn't listen to him. After about two minutes of Bucks 'What the hell were you thinking's' and 'How many times have I told you's', JD figured that Buck was on a rant for getting on his nerves and just chose not to hear him.

The two men entered town passing the jail and went to the livery, they dismounted and JD headed in to take care of his horse. Buck stood there in silent disbelief. JD always offered to take care of his horse for him, but not this time. JD emerged from the livery and walked past the still dumbfounded Buck.

"Ain't ya' gonna offer to take care of..." Buck started, but was cut short by the first words the young man had spoken in an hour.

"Ain't my responsibility," he smiled smugly at him. JD knew Buck had an 'appointment', and was already a half hour late.

"That seem strange to you cowboy?" Vin asked the black clad man sitting next to him.

"What? Buck barking at the kid again? Doesn't seem any different than any other day," Chris replied.

"No, JD not taking Buck's horse."

"Yeah, the kid's probably mad at him, figures he has a lady waiting for him and it's a good way to make Buck late."

"Nice to see he's gettin' some backbone," Vin let out casually.

"They won't be mad for long, never are."

"Yup," Vin agreed as the young man they had been talking about came onto the porch of the jail.

"Good ride?"

"Yeah, anything happen here, Vin?"

"Nope, been quiet." JD nodded and headed for the door.

"You okay, son?" Chris asked. Usually after JD had gone for a ride, the kid would be full of stories about what he'd seen or thought strange. Chris thought JD was too quiet, and maybe the two friend's silence wasn't just because of a small fight.

"Yeah, why?" JD frowned, hoping he didn't look sick or something, knowing Chris would cart him over to Nathan's. He'd been there enough in the last few months, and this had been the first week that nothing had hurt.

"Just awful quiet." Vin looked at Chris. Did he miss something? When had Chris gone out of his way to show concern for JD? It's not that Chris didn't worry about any of them, he did, he just didn't show it.

"Buck's just bein' Buck is all," JD shrugged, smiled, and went into the office.

"I'm gonna get something to eat, kid, you hungry?" Chris said to the jail.

"Sure, give me a second," the jail answered back. A few minutes went by and JD came out of the jailhouse and shut the door. Chris stood and the two men stepped off the porch. JD stopped and turned.

"You comin', Vin?"

"Naw, I'm all set."

"Hey, Vin?"

"Yeah kid?"

"You think we could go for a ride tomorrow?"

"Sure, meet you here in the mornin' first thing."

"Thanks," JD smiled and turned and headed to the cafe with Chris.

Heck with Chris, Vin thought, when did I start caring about the kid so much?

Vin liked JD, there was no denying that. Vin was never one to settle down, make a commitment, or make ties to someone, anyone. But he had. He made a commitment to protect this town for as long as they were told otherwise and he had made ties, six very strong ties. Chris was the first one and he thought the only one. He cared about the others, worried about them, but Chris and him shared something, they could read each other like an open book.

JD had grown on Vin. He knew that he wasn't much older than JD, maybe by about four years, but Vin grew up on his own. He had had help at times, but he lived a lot in his young lifetime. Vin knew the kid's life wasn't easy, but through everything the boy had suffered, he still kept his spark for life, an uncaged enthusiasm that just radiated off from him and touching everyone around him.

Sure the kid had had a bad run of luck, hell, they almost lost him twice in as many months, between Lewis and Joseline the kid had spent more time at Nathan's then at his room. Finding out how his mother died was hard on him too. It seemed like the kid had to grief all over again for her. Maybe since Chris was the one that told JD how she died, he felt a need to make sure the kid was okay.

Vin and JD had gone on patrol as soon as Nathan had allowed it. JD came to a tree in a field surrounded by wildflowers and stopped. Vin worried the kid wasn't fully recovered when JD stopped. When Vin asked JD if he was okay, he answered by telling him the spot they were in reminded him of the place he had buried his mother back East. With understanding, Vin suggested they have a memorial of sorts, and they did. Vin suspected JD wanted, or needed, to go there again and that's why he had asked if Vin wanted to go for a ride.

Vin thought Chris was acting like JD was his 'own'. He began acting like Buck, in a different way, but the invisible protective arm was there, Vin could see it. JD had awakened something in Chris that he had lost, the kid had done that to them all. JD made their small group into a family, something all the men had never had or had lost.

+ + + + + + +

"You seen JD?"

The voice brought Vin out of his thoughts and he looked to the source.


"You seen JD?" Buck asked again without patience.

"He and Chris just went to get somethin' to eat."

Buck nodded and sat next to the ex-bounty hunter.

"He still mad at me?"

"Didn't say much, what happened?"

"The usual..he was asking a ton of questions and I got short with him, you know."

"And then ya hen pecked him all the way back."

"Pretty much, I don't know what gets into me sometimes.."

"He'll get over it, always does," Vin smiled at the depressed ladies' man.

"I just wanted to say I was sorry."

Vin looked at the man sitting next to him, and began wondering if something else was bothering him. Chris's protectiveness and concern hadn't escaped him, maybe Buck saw it as well and for lack of a better word, was jealous.

"Somethin' eatin' at ya, Buck?"

Buck turned to Vin, shrugged his shoulders, and with a heavy sigh, "Chris been spendin' a lot of time with JD, or is it just me?"

"Yeah, I guess. You have a problem with that?" Vin questioned honestly.

"I dunno, I guess. Just feel.. I don't know..I feel like.."

"You're losin' JD?"

Buck looked away from Vin and nodded. "Pretty stupid, huh? I mean, I think it's good that Chris is..well, makin' time with him..he's JD's hero..you know how much he looks up to him....and well..JD seems to be ..somethin' Chris..needs. That sound stupid to you?" Buck chuckled trying to hide his true feelings. He felt Chris was taking over, replacing him. The lectures he gave JD had finally been too much and JD was pulling away from him.

"No, I don't think it sounds stupid."

"Do you see it?"

Vin nodded, "I see it. But, everyone's different about him. Since Lewis and Jos..he's been through more than any man twice his age has been through in a lifetime. Knowing how is momma died..well..that's been real hard on him."

"I know, between him and what Jake said, she didn't have an enemy in the world, she was a real good woman. JD told me that no matter how bad things were, he always knew his momma loved him."

"He ever tell you about his father?"

"Nope, but I'd like to meet the bastard. He's such a good kid, can't imagine anyone not wantin' to be there, ya know. He let that poor boy and his momma go through hell, can't imagine what kinda man could do that," Buck questioned.

"You ever think he didn't know? I mean JD's father."

"Well, if the guy cared about her enough to sleep with her..I would think he'd care enough to stick around," Buck said accusingly.

"Just like you do?"

Buck was dumbfounded, and as the statement sunk in he quietly admitted, "Point taken. I guess you're right. I'm sure if this fella knew, he would have done somethin'."

"You hungry?" Vin smiled.

"Yeah, what the hell, I already missed my appointment with Daisy," he smiled his familiar smile and the two men left to go join the others at the cafe.

+ + + + + + +

JD and Vin left early that morning as planned, going to the place where Vin had suspected. It was a quiet ride, nothing said except for where JD wanted to go. Vin was unnerved, the kid hadn't said much at all at supper the previous night, which didn't escape the other three that ate that night. Whenever he was asked a question, he returned with a short quick answer and seemed in his own world, lost in his own thoughts.

"Ya' wanna tell me why were ridin' out here this early?"

"You said you wanted to leave early," JD stated.

"Then ya' wanna tell me what we're comin' out here for?" he rephrased.

"It's my momma's birthday," he said somberly.

Vin got his answer to a whole handful of questions..why he'd been so quiet, why his eating habits hadn't been great again..causing Buck to go into another rant.

"Why didn't you tell anyone, Buck wouldn't have been so bad, you know."

JD just shrugged his 'I don't know' without looking at the tracker.

"You tell Chris?"

JD snapped his head up to the tracker and didn't have to word his answer. He had. Maybe Buck had the right to feel he was losing JD, in a sense. The two young men continued on in virtual silence, finally pulling to a stop when they reached the field and the young tree.

"You want me to stay here?"

"No, you can come," the boy smiled as he reached into his saddle bag, taking out something that had filled the saddle bag.

The two walked to the tree, Vin stopping once in awhile to pick at the different wildflowers until he had made them into a bouquet. JD knelt at the tree where they had put a crude cross on the ground. JD pulled at it and set it aside and grabbed the package and unwrapped it. JD dug at the ground and placed the wooden, hand carved plaque in the ground and pushed the ground to steady it.

"Happy Birthday, Momma," JD said, tears flowing down his cheeks.

Vin knelt down and read silently, 'In memory of Katherine Dunne', and placed the flowers in front of the plaque. "Happy Birthday," Vin said, putting his hand on JD's shoulder. "It's real nice, JD, real nice."

"I always made her somethin', you think she'll like it?"

"Yeah, I think she will."

The youngest members sat in silence for a long time, then JD stood and looked at Vin.

"Thanks, Vin," he said, wiping the tears away that he was never afraid to show Vin. Vin nodded and put his arm around JD's shoulder.

"Thanks for lettin' me come." JD nodded.

They turned from the memorial tree and went to their horses and began the short ride home. Both feeling better, and JD more talkative. Back to his familiar self, the hour ride took longer with the boy spotting a track, asking what it was, where it was going. Just like they had that night looking for the coyotes, the night all the kid's 'black cats' had started coming. Vin hoped that the kid's bad luck would give him a break and let the kid alone for a while. An hour late, the men trotted into town, Vin couldn't hide the smile on his face at the kid's rambling about something JD and Jake had done back East, before Joseline had changed.

+ + + + + + +

The expressions on the younger men didn't escape the two men sitting outside of the saloon.

"Well, whatever they did, it seems the kid's cheered up a bit," Buck said, almost regretfully, wishing he could be the one that had brought the boy out of his depression. Seemed to Buck that he just wasn't what the kid needed anymore, between Chris and Vin, there didn't seem anything left for Buck.

"Yeah, good to see him smile again," Chris had been hoping the ride would do him good, knowing why he had gone. Chris happened to look at his oldest friend and noticed the look on his face.

"Buck, you all right?"

"You know where they went?" Buck asked knowingly.

"You ain't losin' him, Buck," Chris offered, pretty sure he knew where Buck was headed.

"You sure about that?" Bucked sarcastically laughed out.

"Yeah, I'm sure. He's still ain't had much time to deal with what happened, give him some time."

"In other words stop houndin' him," Buck smiled.

"Well, he'd probably think you was sick if ya didn't. Just ease up a bit, maybe."

Buck nodded, understanding that JD had been confiding in Chris about Buck's constant nagging. JD would usually tell Buck to just shut up, but the kid looked to Chris for help. Knowing Chris would, and leave no room for the usual 'I'm just trying to keep you alive' speech that Buck usually gave.

The men sat and watched the youngest tie their horses, one coming towards the saloon and the other going to the boarding house.

"How'd it go cowboy?" Chris asked, pretty much knowing it had gone good.

"He's a good kid. Made a plaque to put in front of the tree."

"It's her birthday, ain't it?" Buck finally guessed. He knew about the tree, JD had told him about it.

The two men nodded and Buck sighed. He should have guessed as much, the kid hadn't been acting right the last couple of days. He kicked himself mentally, if he hadn't been so busy nagging at him about not eating and such, and just came out and asked him what was wrong, he wouldn't have to be finding out from others.

He stood and tipped his hat to his friends.

"Guess I'd better go let him know how sorry I am."

The two men didn't stop him as he stepped off the porch and made his way to the boarding house. He made his way up the steps and to the door before his room. He took a deep breath and knocked. The door opened and a smiling, but tired looking, JD appeared at the door.

"Hey, Buck, come on in," the tired smile said.

"Just wanted to say I've been stupid, I'm sorry 'bout how I been actin'. You've had a rough few months, and I shouldn't be naggin' at ya' like I have been."

"It's okay, Buck. You're just showin' me how much you care," he said honestly.

Buck looked at the kid's bed and saw papers and trinkets from a box spread out on the youth's bed. JD noticed the look and offered the man a chair, and went to the bed.

"Some of my momma's things that I took, or she gave me." He smiled remembering every occasion. Buck just nodded trying to hide his morbid smile.

"She gave me this right before she died," he showed Buck a a necklace with a cameo on it. Buck smiled and nodded his head. He went on for hours, showing him everything he had and telling him a story about each one, some funny and some not. Buck felt the familiar comfortable feeling and was ashamed at his earlier thoughts of the kid pulling away.

"Hey! You don't know what she looked like do you?"

"You have a picture of her?"

"Yeah, somewhere in here." JD enthused, digging in the wooden box looking for the picture.

"Here it is. That's her. I don't know where it was taken, I kinda snuck it. She had this whole box full of stuff and I didn't have a picture of her. I asked, but she said she didn't have one. Guess she forgot about it. So, what do you think?" JD didn't know what Buck would say, but he didn't think Buck would be pale as a ghost when he looked up to him.

"JD.. This is your mother?" he asked, like the boy didn't know for sure.

"Of course it is, I think I'd know my own mother, Buck, geez," JD laughed at the thought.

Buck just nodded. Speechless.

"Buck? You all right?"

Buck looked up from the picture, "Huh? Yeah, I'm okay..Chris seen this?"

"No, why?"

"Just wondering.. She's real pretty, JD," Buck replied, trying to recover his senses.

"You gonna show it to him?"

"I gotta get this stuff picked back up, you can show him if you want," JD said, thinking that Buck may have felt left out in the last couple of days, and might want to show he knew something Chris didn't. He knew it was a childish thought, but then again..there wasn't a bigger child than Buck sometimes.

"Thanks, I will.. I'll bring it back later."

"Sure," JD grinned as Buck left the room in a fast walk. What a big kid, JD thought, couldn't wait to show Chris.

JD didn't know how right he was. He didn't know that in just a few hours and a few questions his life and everything he knew would be changed..forever, and nothing could or would ever be the same.

+ + + + + + +

Buck made his way to the saloon in what seemed three steps, he clutched the picture, his face growing paler and panic rose inside him with each step. He entered the saloon and made his way to Chris, not even noticing Vin sitting there. With a shaky hand and emotion in his voice he looked at Chris and gave him the picture. Chris lifted the picture, keeping his eye on his oldest friend, something had rattled him bad. He hadn't seen him this rattled, ever, he even looked scared. Whatever this was a picture of had the usually suave man beside himself.

"Tell me I'm seeing things..please..tell me that ain't who I think it is."

"Who is it?" Vin asked taking the picture before Chris had a chance to look at it.

"JD's mother."

"She's pretty. " Chris then took the picture from Vin and glanced at it before he returned a pale face to Buck.

"Sweet Jesus," Chris let out breathlessly.

"Tell me it ain't her.." Buck pleaded.

"Jesus. Jesus, Buck."

"What?" Vin asked growing ever concerned over both men's lack of control.

"Does he.."

"Course he don't know..What the hell did you want me to tell him!" Buck exclaimed, tears threatening.

"Some one want to fill me in?"

Chris and Buck looked at each other, Buck too shaken to go on, but nodded to Chris.

"We took some cattle back East for my father. We weren't very old. Buck was just as 'busy' back then as he is now. We spent a few months in this town, can't even remember the name of it. The saloon had some nice company any man wouldn't mind keepin'. 'Ole Buck here made himself at home, hitched up with one of 'em, Katie, I think her name was, pretty regular. Night before we left, he went back for one last time..she got fired. Some of the girls said she'd found out she was in the family way. We looked for her a bit. She wasn't anywhere."

Vin was dumbfounded, "..And you think this is her?"

"No, I don't think..It is," Buck sobered.

"Jesus, Buck.. You don't think? Oh Jesus.." Vin thought out loud.

"I don't know," Buck answered.

"Wait, JD said he was named after his father..you can't be," Vin responded.

"Buck's real name is Jonathan." Chris wasn't helping.

"Christ, Buck.." Vin wanted to say more, but he couldn't think of it. Emotions flying in his head so fast he couldn't straighten them out.

"We gotta tell him," Chris said flatly.

"No..I do."

"Buck, you can't do this alone. I don't know about Chris, but I think this ain't gonna go over very good. You know that."

Buck nodded his head.

"Vin's right, we gotta tell him. He still in his room?"


"Buck, the sooner we do this...."

"I know."

The three men stood and walked out the saloon, morbidly to the boarding house, to tell JD that Buck Wilmington, in all possibility, could be his father.

+ + + + + + +

A knock at the door startled the young man putting away the memories the boy had of his beloved mother. A woman who he had loved and who had loved him. The woman who raised her son to always be honest and truthful and to live life to it's fullest, and to never hate.

He opened the door and let the three guests in who wore somber faces, the buck skinned bounty hunter showing nothing but concern on his face. JD wondered what he'd done wrong. I haven't been awake long enough to mess something up, he thought.

"Hey guys, did I do somethin'?" he asked timidly, the look on the two oldest men didn't ease his mind, and the fact Vin just looked at the floor sent a chill down his back. Vin could always ease his mind if he'd done something wrong, but the tracker's actions were unsettling. The leader of the seven noticed the color draining from the kid's face and stepped near him.

"Sit down, son." JD hearing an unusual pitch to the harden gunslinger's voice. Tears began to fill JD's eyes, whatever he had done was bad...real bad.

"You didn't do anythin', JD." The compassion in Vin's words not truly convincing him, either. He noticed the usually vocal Buck, never shy to point out the boy had screwed up, didn't say a word. This terrified JD to no end as he began to shake, what had he done?

"W--What did I do?" JD pleaded.

Chris felt the boy shaking, and his heart felt for him. They'd given him the impression he'd done something, he tried to assure him.

"Nothin' you done,son. Buck ..we.. need to tell you somethin'."

JD didn't like this, Chris was in the same tone of voice he used when he'd told him how his mother died. JD looked from man to man and back again, finally setting his eyes on Buck.


There was a long pause, seemed like years to JD. When the silence was broken by Buck, he'd wished the silence had lasted longer.

"I..uh..I knew your mother," he sighed out with every inch of his heart breaking, knowing he had to finish the rest of his thought before he broke down completely and JD did the same.

"I might be your father," the tears finally showing.

JD was stunned..he couldn't talk..he couldn't move...he was paralyzed. He looked to the others for some clue that this was a joke, he didn't find one from the other's faces.

"What? How?" he barely got out.

"I..I met her in a town where Chris and I had some business..we stayed for a few months..I went to say goodbye to her but she'd gotten fired..cause she was pregnant," Buck told him between sobs.

"Fired, what was she doin'?" JD knew the kind of women Buck kept company with, he couldn't believe his mother was a ..he couldn't even think the word..the fact that Buck said he could be his father hadn't even sunk in yet.

"She was working in the saloon, she was......" Buck started, hoping someone would shoot him dead, before the word came out. Getting shot would have been easier than hearing JD.

"DON'T YOU SAY THAT!!!!" JD cried out, he broke from Chris's grip and headed for Buck, who didn't flinch, but was interrupted by Vin's strong arm around him.

"You didn't know my mother!! She wasn't like your mother, Buck!!!Don't you say it, DON'T YOU SAY IT!! MY MOTHER WASN'T A WHORE!!!"

Buck wished Vin would let JD go, he wouldn't fight him, he didn't have the right..he'd just destroyed the boy's life.

The door opened and Josiah entered, hearing the loud voices he'd rushed to the kid's room. He figured with the kid's run of luck, he needed to stop what was happening, he wouldn't have thought, in a million years he'd see what he was seeing as he opened the door.

Buck stood stock still with his head hanging down, shoulders heaving with every sob, Vin and Chris restraining JD, a small bull full of so much rage it scared even Josiah, from getting closer to his intended target. Chris caught a glimpse of Josiah.

"Get him out of here!" he spoke loudly over the boys cries, nodding his head towards Buck. He kept eye contact with Buck, while Vin got in front of JD, trying to calm the kid down.

"We'll be okay, go on with Josiah," Chris let out understanding. Josiah was confused, JD was yelling at Buck, yet no one else seemed to be upset with the mustached man.

"Let's talk, Brother," Josiah said softly, as he looked at the picture Buck held shakily in his hand. Buck tried to swallow back the tears and nodded, allowing the preacher to lead him.

+ + + + + + +

"JD..It's okay..come on..let's sit down..please..you gotta calm down..come on..that's it..lets sit down," Vin said checking his own emotions at what he'd just witnessed.

"It.....it ..ain't ..true...it ain't.." he sobbed out softly, still looking to the others for some sign this was a cruel, cruel joke.

Chris knelt in front of the young man and held his face in his strong hands. He didn't want to hurt the boy's heart anymore, but he had to know.

"I'm sorry, JD. It's her."

JD shook his head, tears coming hard and fast, and whispered a continuing chant of 'no', never looking the others in the eye. Chris knew he needed to establish eye contact, he'd never get to JD if he didn't. JD would know that what Buck had said was the truth if he could look him in the eye.

"JD..JD! JD!! Look at me!" JD's head slowly looked at the man he knew would never lie to him, no matter how much it would hurt him. He looked in the blue eyes, JD's lower lip quivering and his eyes red from the tears that still came.

"Buck's right, I saw her there myself, son." The truth was inescapable now. JD tried to pull himself together, and did so with great difficulty, but found his voice finally letting the other part of what Buck said process itself.

"Is he my father?" he said quietly.

"It's possible. I don't know, he doesn't know."

JD wanted to run away..he wanted out, the room was getting to small and the walls were closing in. He stood up, knowing he wasn't going to make it to the door with Vin standing in front of it. He walked over to the mirror over the little table that held the wash basin and pitcher. He looked at himself for the longest time, then without any warning, sent his fist into it, shattering the mirror and leaving deep gashes on his knuckles.

Chris and Vin were at his side instantly, JD raised his hand to inspect it, then looked at Chris with dazed eyes and fell into the waiting man's arms.

Vin grabbed at the towel that was near the basin, finding it full of glass he opted for the kerchief around his neck and wrapped it around the very bloody hand.

"I'll take him..you go find Nathan," Chris said already scooping JD up.

"What about Buck?" Vin asked over his shoulder as he headed out the door.

"Let's just get him to the clinic, let me think first."

Vin headed out the door, to look for Nathan, he found him at Mrs. Potter's store, and told him he was needed, without any explanation at all. After exiting the store, Nathan pulled Vin to a stop.

"You wanna tell me what the hells goin' on? Why you dragged me outta of there?"

"JD smashed his hand into a mirror," Vin answered quickly, starting to step away.

"What?! What the hell happened?"

"I told ya, Nate, he smashed his hand," Vin started again

Nathan followed, "So, you gonna tell me why?"

"Fix JD first."

"How bad the cuts?"

"Pretty deep, Chris carried him over."

Nathan nodded and the men continued to the clinic in silence.

Chris had placed JD on the bed and grabbed some towels to place on the cuts. He went to the bed to remove the bandana and noticed JD had not only waken, but had sat himself up. He removed the bandana and placed the towels on the seeping wound without any reaction. He looked to JD with concern, he caught Chris's eyes and the tears started coming again.

The door opened to find Nathan and Vin entering.

"How ya doin', kid?" Vin asked the young man staring at nothing, tears still coming.

The tear filled eyes just looked at Vin, saying more than any words could as Nathan took off the towel to examine JD's knuckles.

"They're clean at least, don't seem to be any glass in them, but I'm gonna need to stitch them up, okay, JD," Nathan stated, hoping to get some reaction from him. He didn't and JD stared at the floor, all his tears finally spent.

Nathan began the painful process of sewing the gashes together, he was unnerved by the fact that JD held his gaze at the floor, not flinching or moving or stating his displeasure of the needle piercing his skin, in less than a half hour the deepest wounds were closed, without JD speaking a word.

"Why don't I take him to his room?" Vin offered.

Chris nodded his head, "I'll be up later."

"JD, lets go back to your room," Vin said, gently taking his arm. JD looked up to Vin and stood with him and he escorted him back to his room.

"You gonna tell me what's goin' on?"

"Where's Ezra?"

"Guess, why?"

"I don't want to say this twice."

"What about Josiah?"

"He probably knows," Chris said regretfully.

Nathan just nodded, wanting to hear the whole story himself, hopefully what Chris had to say would explain the way JD was acting.

+ + + + + + +

"Do ya think it's true? Ya think he's my.." JD couldn't finish. His whole world had disintegrated in just a matter of minutes. Seventeen years of living gone in a flash, everything he believed was a lie.

"I wish I knew, kid. I don't think Buc.."

"Please don't say his name," JD cut Vin off.

"JD, I don't think he even knows. I want you to listen to me, somethin' they both did..."

JD looked at Vin.

"Chris and ...They looked for her. When they found out why she left, they went looking for her." Vin hoped it would ease the kid's mind that he wasn't 'abandoned'. JD chuckled.

"It don't change nothin', does it. She was a workin' girl, Vin, whether its him or not..hell she probably didn't even know!" JD was getting angry again.

"You saw her picture..you know how pretty she was..God Vin! How could she do that and not tell me?! Do you know how many times I asked her?! Who my father was? Do you!!! I knew I was some bastard kid.. I didn't know I was a..a ...a customer's kid!! How could she lie to me?? Everything she ever told ...it was a lie!! She lied to me!!" He saw the box of the trinkets and picked it up.

"This is all her stuff, things that I thought were special."

"They are, JD."

"No, they're more lies!!!" he screamed, sending the wooden box to the opposite wall, splintering it and purging its contents around the room. JD turned to his friend, invisible tears wanting to come.

"JD," Vin approached the kid, putting his hand on his shoulder, he felt the quivery muscles under his hand, feeling his touch, JD turned to face Vin, the emotional torture playing over his face.

"Why? Why'd she lie, Vin?" the tears finding life again as Vin did the only thing he could think of. He held him, as long as he cried. He held him until JD's body betrayed him and he exhausted himself. Vin carefully put the young man to bed, took the chair that Buck had sat in so many times, when comforting the boy that could now be his son, and did as Buck had done a thousand times.

"It's gonna be all right, JD, it is."

"How?" came the young man's raspy voice, that now sounded like a ten year old asking why the sky is blue and not green.

"I wish I knew, kid, I wish I knew," Vin said honestly and softly, finally letting his emotions show while he continued pushing the black hair out of the kid's face, causing JD's eyes to grow heavy and he finally slept, Vin never daring to stop the soothing motion.

Vin's eyes overfilled and a single tear rolled down his cheek, as the kid's heart and world were shattering, so was Vin's, he was hurting for JD, hoping against hope to take some of the burden away, knowing it wouldn't. Damn those ties, Vin thought.

+ + + + + + +

The four sullen lawmen of Four Corners entered the saloon, three sat and the black clad leader of the group continued on to another table in the middle of a poker table. "Mr. Larabee, may I interest you in an excep.."

"Not now, Ezra, we need to talk," Chris said harsher than he meant, but let it go unchecked.

"Ah, yes, I see. Well, gentlemen, if you'll excuse me, 'duty calls'," Ezra stood and tipped his hat, and walked with Chris to the other table. Only then did he notice the look on Buck's and Chris's face.

"May I ask as to why you seem to have an expression on your face of a boy who's dog has recently been rendered deceased? And if I may add, if this discussion we are about to engage in is of such a serious matter, why are our youngest members not present?"

"Vin's with JD," Chris offered before continuing, "How ya holding up, Buck?"

"I don't know. How's JD?"

"His hand will heal fine, Buck, what did you do to get him so riled up?" Nathan stated what he thought was the obvious answer to Buck's question.

"His hand? What did he do, Chris?" Buck looked to his oldest friend.

"He smashed the mirror, gashed his hand pretty good."

"Am I the only one not following the direction of this conversation?"

"Yeah, Chris? I thought Buck was there..what the hell's goin on?" Nathan wondered.

"It seems Brother Buck saw a picture of someone he 'spent time with' in a saloon he and Brother Chris often went to."

"And this person in question would be significant to us because...?"

"It was the kid's mother," Chris said. Watching the faces around him convert the information into reality. The men all caught Buck's distress as his hands went to his face, tears threatening his eyes.

"There somethin' else? I mean, JD was in shock, Chris. Not from hittin' his hand."

"We were there for a couple of months, when she was let go, rumors were goin' around," Chris began, but stopped at Ezra's voice.

"Dear Lord.. Mr. Larabee, are you saying there is a possibility that Mr. Wilmington is.."

"JD's father? Yeah, it's possible."

"JD said he was named after his father, how could that be you?" Nathan inquired.

"My real name.. My first name is Jonathan."

"So, what makes you think that's JD's real name?"

"Jake asked him before he left..said all JD stood for was John Dunne, that's all," Chris stated.

"Dear Lord."

"You've already said that," Chris pointed out.

"The time of your departure from the said town would coincide with the lad's age?" Ezra was doing everything he could think of to not make this possible.

"Afraid so."

"Dear Lord."

"Ezra?" Chris was getting worried at the man's inability to think of any other word to say.

"Have you inquired as whether there was a birth certificate?" Ezra's last ditch effort.

"She must have known who the father was if she told JD that."

"We were there for two months, Nathan," Buck finally spoke.

"Jonathan is a very popular name, Mr.Wilmington."

"Yeah, it is, Buck."

"Well.. I guess we ask the kid if he knows where he was born and look for a birth certificate," Buck said standing to go.

"Buck, you ain't gonna talk to him. You know that. Hell, I don't even know if I'm gonna be able to. Let me go and maybe Vin and I can get somethin' out of him. It's gonna take time," Chris looked at the men sitting at the table, "Just give him some room," and he left to go to JD's room.

+ + + + + + +

Vin was bent down, trying to separate glass, splintered wood and trinkets that had spewed from the exploding box of treasures. He was briefly interrupted by a soft knock and the door opening. Chris entered stepping softly over broken glass, taking stock of the condition of the rest of the room.

"What happened?" he asked softly, as he bent next to his friend collecting glass and wood.

"Guess you could say he had a bit of a bad spell," he answered quietly.

"He been sleepin' long?" Chris wondered.

"Bout half an hour, he wore himself out. Did this and just started cry.." Vin choked remembering the scene.

"You okay?" Vin looked at Chris, wondering why he'd ask that, the answer as ever readable to Vin, the way Chris read him.

"I ain't never seen him like this.. It's downright unsettlin', Chris. I just..just ..want ..to do ..take.." Vin was silent, not knowing what to say.

"Take the hurt away? Me too, Vin. All we can do is hope he get's through this. It ain't gonna be easy."

"How's Buck doin'?"

"He's a wreck," Chris answered honestly.

"What the others say?" Vin wondered if they were as mixed up as him. On one hand he felt for Buck, but on the other he partially blamed Buck for the pain JD had to deal with, but most of his compassion fell on JD. He'd worshiped his mother in the best sense of the word, and by talking to Jake Marshall he had every reason to, and now all of it was gone, to JD it had all been a lie.

"Still trying to figure it out. Ezra had an idea," the men still talking in hushed voices, not wanting to wake the young man.

"What's that?"

"JD knows his fathers name is Jonathan, right? Ezra seems to think she might have put his name on the birth certificate."

"So Buck might not be his father?" Vin almost hoped, it would ease some of JD's heart.

"Just gotta find out where he was born."

"Virginia," came the faint, raspy lifeless voice from the bed.

"Hey, JD," Chris asked tentatively, not wanting to cause more damage.

JD didn't say anything as he sat up in his bed, still looking dazed and confused. He made his way to the edge of the bed, putting both of his hands down to push himself up, but stopped at the pain in his right hand. He put his hand in front of him and looked down at it, then looked to where the mirror had been.

He saw Vin picking up the broken pieces of glass and his life. And stood and walked over to where Vin was separating the wood and trinkets, putting the broken mirror on one of the towels they were going to use when JD cut his hand, but had been full of glass shards.

He looked at the two men before him, both noticing that the ever present light that danced in his eyes wasn't there. There was a knock at the door and JD turned to open it, finding Ezra standing there.

"Come on in."

Ezra was unnerved by the young man's appearance, it almost seemed the life had some how left the shell of the young man, who looked like he had aged ten years, at least it appeared that way when looking into those eyes. Ezra smiled and nodded as he entered the young man's room.

"Mr. Du..JD.. I ..My.." Ezra tried, the usual flamboyant gambler was rendered speechless, for the first time he could remember. If he had abided by his mother's words, JD's plight wouldn't have mattered to him, but, thankfully he hadn't. As hard as this was, the pain this young man was enduring, Ezra felt good that his heart hurt for the boy, he cared and self-indulgently that made Ezra glad.

"Don't Ezra," came the melancholy voice of the young sheriff Ezra had grown to care about. How couldn't he have grown fond of him? He was the truest example of what it meant to be young, or at least he had been until today.

"You goin' somewhere JD?" Chris asked noticing JD was heading out the open door.

"Like it matters." JD replied coldly and slammed the door.

"Shit!" Chris growled, "We're losing him. Vin?" But Vin was already at the door.

"I think I know where he's headed," Vin said opening the door, then added, "I'll bring him back safe," he promised and shut the door.

Vin opened the door to the boarding house to an angry voice that was becoming, unfortunately, too familiar.

"Let me go!" JD yelled.

"No, I ain't lettin' you ride out of here all worked up, son," Buck using words that he always had used not thinking, but they brought back the memory of that morning for JD, and he lost it, again.

"Don't call me that! You ain't got any right! You can't do what you did..and then be my father one day!" JD pulled his gun and put it against Buck's chest, much to the horror of Josiah and Nathan who stood beside Buck, having no choice Josiah aimed his gun as well. Josiah then caught sight of Vin.

"Let go of me, or I swear..I'll shoot you!" JD screamed, tears staining the red face.

"JD, Jesus..I'm sorry..please..I," Buck tried, finally realizing that he had sent the boy to the place he was.

"JD, thought you wanted to go for a ride?" Vin said calmly, thinking of the only way to diffuse the situation, distraction. It worked, JD lowered his gun. Vin held his hand to the others as in a sign to let the boy just walk away, Josiah nodded, holstered his gun and stepped to Buck, putting a reassuring hand on the man's shoulder.

JD took a few tentative steps back and holstered his gun, like he'd seen it in his hand for the first time. He turned to Vin with questioning eyes and confusion on his face.

"We're going for a ride?"

"Yeah, remember?"

The confusion left and was replaced by the focused stern eyes, remembering where he wanted to go. He walked to his horse and urged it on into a straight run. Vin turned back to Buck and stepped to him.

"You okay?"

Buck nodded, "Make sure he don't do somethin'.."

"I know where he's going, he's just got to get this outta his system. We'll be fine," Vin added, hoping to ease the older man's conscience. He mounted his horse and took off after JD.