Learning Experience

by Maggie Smith

A snippet in rhe Texas Rangers A/U in response to Darlin' Challenge #3.

Thanks to Dusty G for coming up with a title.

JD knew he had to do something. . . anything to distract the men in the other room; he knew that Buck and the others were just outside, waiting for the right moment. Looking around the small, barren room, he realized that he didn't have many options. So, he used the two weapons that he had available - his intelligence and his voice.

"Hey, anybody hear me?" Dunne swallowed hard, trying to keep his racing heart from coming out of his mouth. "Hey, I said, did anybody hear me?" This time his yell was strong and carried through the walls. He heard the footsteps growing closer to 'his' room and waited.

The door opened slowly, letting slivers of light from both the fire and the lanterns, enter. The man shadowed in the doorway was huge. At least 6 foot 5 inches, and broad as a Brahma bull.

"What you want, gringo?" The heavy Spanish accent was low and menacing.

JD breathed in deep and then out again before answering. "I want you to drop dead, but I doubt that's gonna happen anytime soon, so, how about something to eat?" The Texas Ranger gave the Mexican his best impersonation of a Buck Wilmington shit-eatin' grin.

The bandit took a couple steps into the room, his height, along with JD's seated form, giving him an even larger quality. "You have a smart mouth, lawdog. I would have killed you back in Concho, but Raul said no. Said you would be worth more alive than dead. I still disagree." The Mexican stepped a little closer and then spit into Dunne's face.

JD flinched, as the spittle hit his cheek and began to slide down toward his neck. He quickly curbed the nauseous feeling erupting in his stomach and looked the other man in the eye.

"Well, I guess we all have problems." JD let his grin widen. "Yours being, too ugly AND stupid." The lawman expected the hit, just not the force behind it.

The fist caught him just under the left side of his chin and rocked him backward, chair and all. A loud thump could be heard throughout the small shack, as his body impacted with the floor. JD could swear he bounced, at least once.

Blinking back the darkness, Dunne turned his eyes to the bandit once more. "Is that all you got, gringo?"

"AHHHH," the overgrown captor was not proficient in the English language, but he did understand an insult. "You will pay for that, little man." He swung his leg back, preparing for a brutal assault to JD's midsection, but sudden shots stopped him mid stride. "What the. . ." He quickly left Dunne lying prone on the floor and rushed to the outer room.

He had only made it a few steps, when a bullet caught him between the eyes. The giant of a man could have been described as Goliath falling to David's slingshot. Only, it was not David, but Buck Wilmington who felled the titan. Wilmington barely gave the man a second glance, as he quickly hurried into the room, just recently vacated by the Mexican.

"Kid?" Buck blinked a couple of times to allow his eyes to adjust to the dimness and let out a sigh of relief once he spotted the young Ranger. "Hey, JD." The older lawman knelt beside the trapped form and smiled when a defiant gaze caught his own.

"What the hell took you guys so long? What, did you let Vin take the scenic route or something?" Dunne was not a happy camper. He knew his friends had been trailing them for a while, but for some reason were keeping their distance.

"I wouldn't let ole Vin hear you say that, son. He ain't in a right particular mood." Buck re-holstered his weapon and grabbed the knife sheathed on his belt. "One of these banditos didn't take too kindly to his superior tracking ability and well, let's just say, it wasn't pretty." Wilmington cut the last of Dunne's ropes and then hauled him, chair and all, back into a sitting position. "You alright, kid?"

JD started to let out a colorful response to such a stupid question, but he glanced into Buck's eyes and saw a flicker of fear and deep concern. He sighed softly; realizing the other man's words a minute ago were a cover up for his true anxiety. Dunne slowly began to smile. "Yeah, Buck, I'm fine. Just a few more bruises to add to my learning 'experience'."

Both men chuckled at the reference, as they recalled Josiah Sanchez's description of JD's numerous trials and tribulations. `Each boy has a period of growth, most cultures call it a rite of passage, but I call them learning experiences. For each time a bump, bruise, scrape, or wound is inflicted, the youth has learned how to avoid such things ever happening again.`

"There's only one problem with that, JD." Buck tried to keep his smile from showing.

"What?" Dunne raised slowly from the seat, thanking God his body didn't hurt near as much as it usually did, especially when he got himself into these situations.

"You just ain't learning a damn thing." Wilmington laughed outright at the incredulous look JD threw at him.

"What's going on in here?" Nathan Jackson stuck his head in the door and immediately knew his services were not needed, but asked anyway, "you alright, JD?"

JD tore his disgusted gaze from Wilmington and quickly smiled to assure the medic he was indeed fine. "No problems here, Doc."

Nate smiled back. "Good to hear." He started to turn away, but stopped suddenly and swiveled back toward them. "Oh, I almost forgot. Chris is waiting for you out front." Jackson's smile quickly turned to a smirk as he left the room.

JD gulped. "Uh, Buck, is Chris real mad?" Dunne absently rubbed at his sore chin, but the pain seemed minor to the tongue-lashing he knew was waiting.

Wilmington snorted. "Now why would you think that, kid? Would it be because you walked into the middle of a robbery, against 10 men, with no back up? Or because you managed to get kidnapped by those same robbers, because you let your mouth overload your brain, again?" Buck walked past the distraught Ranger and followed Jackson's recent departure.

"Shit." JD smoothed back his hair, wishing he had his bowler, and straightened his vest, trying anything to prolong the inevitable. But, his attempts seemed to be doomed, as a very loud voice echoed around him.

"JD, get your ass out here, NOW!"

"Captain Larabee's voice could rival that of God's," Dunne whispered softly to no one in particular.

And so the long walk began.

~~~ fin ~~~

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