Alternate Universe "Street Gang"
First story in the Something... series.
Any way he would look at it, he could only say it was a bad dream and he could only hope he would wake up soon. Sounds were muffled, images were a blur. Sometimes they would be so slow it was like Life was stopping altogether, and just after that, everything seemed to speed up, as if to catch up some crazy idea of time lost somewhere along the line... No matter how many times he would think about the actual words, the idea itself could not seem to take hold in his mind. All he could do was stay here seated, out of the way of the busy bees taking in charge all that he couldn't. He could feel pats on his head or shoulders, he knew they were talking to him, but the words had lost their meaning. He couldn't feel, he couldn't think, and the only thing that seemed real in his world under water were the harsh breathing of his laboring lungs and the uneven staccato of a beating drum that somewhere in his foggy head he knew was his heart.
+ + + + + + +
Maggie Larabee was looking at her family, worry and pride overlapping each other. Worry at JD's obvious lack of reaction, for he was in a state of shock. And pride for her men, each and every one of them doing their best to show the kid support, by a touch and a word though the kid didn't really seem to be aware of them not even of Buck. And that had her worried even more.
Life had seemed so good that morning, when they had left the Ranch to come back to the city the tension between Buck and Ryan, and thus between Chris and his father, had all but disappeared since his return from the hospital and even JD seemed less fearful of Chris snr. Maybe the fact that he had talked to the kid like man to man had been a great help and of course, nobody told the kid that this was Old Chris' way, 'cause he didn't know any other but it was obvious that by the end of their short vacation, JD's fears had been replaced by respect. He was still a bit on edge with the man, but his eyes wouldn't widen in fear at the mere sight of him. And when they had left, he had proudly shaken the old man's hand in a very adult way
It was at their midway stop that Maggie knew something was very wrong.
She was driving the truck with all the kids and Ryan the truck with all their luggage. Said he needed the quiet and he was sure the boys would be less likely to be their impish usual with a lady driving. In fact, Chris and Buck had even proposed that they alternate driving with their mother, so she could relax and so they could have some more training before passing the driving test next semester at school.
And they had gone on their merry way on the road back home back to real life
She had seen Ryan's face and she hadn't liked it. She had thought at first that it was about work again, but when he told the boys to get inside and secure tables for them, she suddenly understood it was direr. And the only idea that popped to mind at the time was 'Ez or JD'?
She hadn't voiced the question, she'd just looked at him. He had passed a trembling hand on his suddenly old looking face and his eyes had watered. He had turned around, walked a few paces then turned back to her, the tears in his eyes overflowing. And with a roughened voice, he had murmured 'I had a call from the lawyer she's gone last night ' And she had just put her arms around him, catching him in a loving embrace, drowning him in her love, allowing themselves those few moments of common grief, knowing that once the news was out, they would have to be the strong ones to keep the family together. It took her husband to caress her face to finally notice that she too had been shedding tears. They took a few minutes to gather themselves, knowing that they couldn't tell JD now, that he needed to be home, in a familiar environment and with a place to run and cry in private if needs be. And they needed to get home to call the lawyer and make all the arrangements. The funeral was in three days hence, and there was no way they would keep the kid home when he needed to say good-bye to his mother. It was most important that he be able to get closure on that part of his life.
When they stepped in the restaurant, Chris told them JD and Ez were in the bathroom and had already ordered breakfast. And the way Buck, Vin and Chris looked at them, they knew what had happened. Buck had that forlorn look in his eyes when he looked up at his father and asked 'JD?'. And when his father nodded, there wasn't really time to say anything else for the youngest were coming back from the bathroom and the other kids did their best for JD not to notice the sullen behavior of his foster parents. He didn't even flinch in front of Buck's suddenly overexuberant behavior. If his teasing was a little watery or the nookies would end up in trembling hugs, JD didn't notice or maybe he thought Buck needed the touch for comfort. And in his joy of recounting to everybody all he had seen and done at the ranch, he hadn't noticed the strange mood that had settled over the family
They all knew the hard times were coming and already in their hearts, they were grieving with him and for him.
+ + + + + + +
They had driven back home, and little by little, a strange mood had settled in the truck but JD had thought nothing of it. Maybe it was the long trek. Maybe it was the idea to go back to the city when they obviously enjoyed so much the outdoors. He had shrugged and let his head drop, slipping in a restful sleep, dreaming of horses and phone calls to his mom
They had arrived home at lunchtime. Maggie had told them Josiah and Nathan were waiting for them; they had prepared a kind of picnic to eat in the garden behind the house.
The first inkling he had had that something was wrong was the fact that all the boys but Buck had hurried out of the car to the house. Maggie had walked on one side of him and Buck on the other, his arm around his shoulders. And when he had wanted to join the others in the backyard, Maggie had told him she had to talk to him first. And Buck had steered him towards the living room. Ryan was already there, papers all over the desk, hanging up the phone with a thank you. Then, he had stepped around the desk to come embrace his wife and stand by her side. And Buck had had him sit on the couch, his arm still around him.
And suddenly, there seem to be not enough air in the room and he couldn't breathe anymore. And then so much air that he was flying on oxygen. He knew he had to open his mouth to talk, to ask to beg for something, he didn't know exactly what He had seen their lips move, had heard some grunting noises that somewhere deep inside he knew were words but they made no sense to him. Fear was in his breast, squeezing his heart unmercifully. Maggie and Ryan had hugged him, and Buck too But still, he couldn't wrap the idea around his mind, couldn't grasp the words they were saying couldn't accept the fact that he just couldn't!
He wanted to run and hide. He knew this was just another nightmare and that when he would wake up, he'd be in his bed, safe, with Buck's arms around him, protected and cherished.
+ + + + + + +
Buck had stayed by JD's side, knowing the kid was in shock. He could still remember the feeling when Ryan had come to him to tell him about his mother. And he could also recall his pride. She had died trying to help. She had done something with the little time God knew she had left. Just as she had done something with all the life she had had before. And she had loved him so much just as much as JD's mother had loved him, or she wouldn't have made the decision she had.
For one single moment, his throat closed as this old feeling of unfairness washed through him in a tsunami of grief. Why was it always the kind and loving that were to leave this Earth so soon when scums like those they had faced three weeks ago still had the right to live and prosper?
And then he remembered what Maggie had told him when he had one day broken down and raged and asked that question finally out loud. What Chris snr had told her when she had mourned her unborn babies, time after time. The message Chris snr's wife had left him on her deathbed all those years ago when he had raged against Life and Fate.
He could still remember Maggie's voice the day she told him. 'You have to remember, son, if they are so good and loving, they deserve to be in peace. And wherever would they be more in peace but by Our Lord's side? Besides, from up there, they can watch over us, keep us safe. Be our guardian angels. They haven't abandoned us, Buck, they're just preparing our stay with them. And as long as we are here, thinking about them, they are not forgotten.'
He could still remember the moment. They were in the backyard, in the treehouse. She had gently caressed his hair and without another word had stepped down the tree to leave him to think about her words. Then he had lied down on his back, his hands behind his head, looking at the night sky, remembering all the good moments he had had with his mother, finally letting the tears out of his heart. And when his eyes had been clear again, he had been faced with the most beautiful vision he had ever seen. A whole black velvet of night sky bejeweled with tiny diamond stars and one of them had blinked at him and he had whispered 'Mom!'
And somewhere in his heart, he had known Maggie's words to be true.
And after that day, every time his heart had felt so heavy in his chest, he had climbed the steps to the treehouse for a look at the night sky. And the sorrow had eased with the comfort he could take from this simple view.
+ + + + + + +
Buck looked down into JD's face and knew there was nothing he could do just yet, except stay by his little brother's side. Because even if JD wasn't aware of it, he had clasped Buck's hand in a viselike grip that bespoke volumes.
He sighed. The kid wasn't ready to grieve right now. First, he had to face the reality of his loss. Then he would have to face his grief and tears. And until then, Buck swore to himself he wouldn't leave his side.
The whisper of his name had him turn his head to the entrance of the room. Chris was there, standing awkwardly, wanting to offer comfort but not knowing how.
"I'm okay, bro," he murmured. And at Chris' nod towards JD. "He's in shock for now "
"Maybe if you could have him lie down, he could sleep it off or something " Chris shrugged.
Buck smiled a ghost of his usual smile. "Reckon you might be right "
Looking down on the frail figure, he sighed. There was no way JD would walk. He bowed down and took him in his arms.
"God, he is so small so light " He whispered, suddenly frightened at the idea that he might loose JD too in some unknown way more frightening than death
Chris' rough voice jerked him out of this sudden fear.
"Come, I'll help you," Chris softly said, knowing that if Buck had to be strong for JD, then somebody had to be strong for Buck.
Buck slowly followed him up the stairs to the bedroom the both of them shared. He was surprised to find Vin closing the blinds, making the inside of the room darker and warmer, like a cocoon against the rest of the world and Ez finishing to fill up a suitcase with clothes from both his and JD's drawers.
Chris gently pushed him towards his bed and helped him settle the kid beside him, spooning behind him, keeping his reassuring hold around him, isolating him against the outside until he could face the world by his side.
"Get some rest, Buck, you're gonna need it. Dad said we're leaving tonight for Chicago. Jim is sending his plane so we can all go with you. We're taking care of everything here. Just get some rest, okay?"
But it was a rhetorical question, he knew it. They were taking care of him, taking care of the both of them in the only way they knew how. By just being there, by their side.
A smile of thanks trembled on his lips as one after the other Chris, Ezra and Vin stepped out of the room, nodding to him, eyes saying what words couldn't, yet.
The door finally shut, his burning eyes closed, a deep breath filled his lungs and gathering JD closer to his heart, he let sleep settle down his weary heart.
+ + + + + + +
The first impressions that finally reached his mind as he came awake were the feelings of safety and love, this impression of being protected and cherished. He opened his eyes and smiled weakly as he found himself in Buck's bed, being held in his arms, tightly, comfortingly. And then, the reason why he was there suddenly crashed on him. And he couldn't stop the sudden catch in his breath. Nor the sudden erratic beating of his panicking heart. Nor the moan of disbelief that woke Buck up.
He vaguely noticed as Buck slowly rose and took him up with him, turning him in his embrace, gathering him close to his heart, murmuring a litany of words without meaning, knowing that only the sound of his voice would calm JD's panic. And he started swinging slowly back and forth, remembering that when he was a child that was the only movement that could settle his panic attacks.
Little by little, he felt JD starting to come back to himself, swallowing several times before he dared ask a question.
"I didn't dream, did I?" The question not really a question and the voice so old in its rumble.
A sigh. "No kid, you didn't dream. It's real."
Another moment of silence.
"Why can't I cry? I want to cry but I can't why?" A distressed mewling.
Another deep sigh.
"Maybe 'cause you know in your heart and your heart is already crying but your head can't get around to it so the tears can't get out "
A sigh from JD.
"Will I cry one day?"
A trembling laugh.
"Of course you will, JD. When you're ready, you will."
"I'd like to be ready now so I don't cry in front of everybody." A tortured murmur.
"JD, there's no shame in crying in front of everybody. It's your mom. If you don't cry for her, who you gonna cry for?"
"They won't think I'm a kid?"
A sound, half-laugh, half-sob from Buck.
"Do you think Dad's a kid?"
"Of course not, he's an adult. He's a Police Lieutenant!" A bewildered exclamation.
"Yet, he cried for you. So did Mom. And me. And even the others I think."
"You all did?"
"Yeah, we all did."
"Because we know you can't cry right now. Because we know what you have lost. Because we care for you " A shrug.
A timid murmur. "Because you all love me "
"Yeah, JD, also because we all love you," Buck smiled in his hair, dropping a light kiss on the black curls. "That's what a family is there for "
JD just snuggled deeper in the embrace and closed his eyes, basking in the love before facing the world again and letting slumber take him back to the realm of dreams.
+ + + + + + +
Maggie was looking at JD and Buck, relieved in some way that the kid was back among them. The shock had worn off for the moment and even if he was still pale, he had lost that look in his eyes that had scared her so much. She had tried to get closer to him, but the way he was holding onto Buck, she knew he was not ready to face her motherly concern right now. Not while he was in mourning of his mother. But her time would come, she knew it deep inside, just as her time had come with Buck. They were both too caring, too needy for a physical demonstration of that caring. Her time would come. Right now, he had decided that all he could take in his immediate world was Buck and that had to be enough to face the outside. And also, the fact that Buck had told her that JD was conscious of the whole family rallying around him did a lot to appease her worries.
He needed time. They all needed time.
The plane landed in Chicago late in the evening. A van was waiting to drive them to Jim's estate where they would be residing the whole time. With Lisbeth, JD's mother, they had chosen a little funeral home where her body was settled and where her friends and family could come for one last visit. Then she was to be cremated and her ashes spread at sea where she had spent so many joyful days with her son. Those were her last wishes.
They arrived at the estate, their luggage were taken out and they were showed to their rooms. JD had his own room, as usual when he visited Jim. Yet he followed Buck to his and nobody said a word, taking the new arrangements in stride, understanding the need for stability in the young boy at this time of his life.
Jim was not there to welcome them. He had stayed with Lisbeth to keep her company, waiting for her son to arrive and taking this time to himself to grieve.
Finally, they all gathered in the hall, waiting for JD and Buck to finish getting ready, to go and pay their respect to the deceased.
They were all lost in their thoughts, some worrying about tomorrow, some about yesterday, some remembering past losses and some wondering what it would feel like if it were them instead of JD
Not a word was spoken, not in the hall, not on the drive to the funeral home, not in the lobby where they were welcome, not to Jim who stood there. All were keeping an eye on JD, waiting for the kid to break down. Still, he was holding onto Buck's hand like a lifesaver, walking among them as in a dream. Not really aware that it was reality.
He walked to the white coffin lined with whiter silk. He looked down on what was supposed to be his mother's body, dressed in her most beautiful dress, a deep blue cotton dress he had offered her for Mother's Day this very year. And still his mind couldn´t get around it.
He sat in a pew, Buck by his side. He listened to the murmurs. He nodded to the people who came to pay their respects. And still he was silent.
People were looking at him, thinking him lost in a grief so deep that he couldn't speak anymore. All were wondering what was to become of the poor boy. And who the strangers surrounding him were. Who the boy by his side was. And still not a word.
How could they have known what was in his mind? JD was close to roaring with laughter. Of course it wasn't his mother lying there. His mother had twinkling hazel eyes, just like him. Her face was always mobile. And even if she couldn't move her body when he left for Denver, her hands were doing all the movement her body couldn't. So how could they tell him this mannequin was his mother? No, it wasn't. It couldn't be. It was just some stranger, is all
Buck could see all the emotions chasing away on the kid's face and he knew it would take some time to sink in. She had fought a good and long battle against cancer and he was happy to see that her face, though emaciated, looked so peaceful so beautiful in spite of the ravages of the illness.
He looked at JD and knew it wouldn't be tonight or tomorrow that he would realize. It would only sink in time after time, when he would think about all he had to remember to tell his mom and there was nobody to say it to. It wouldn't spring on him at the first opportunity, but it would come and pile up, one moment after another, one occasion after another, when he would finally realize that she was gone for good and that he would never see her ever again. Never hear her voice or talk to her again. Never ever again.
Then he would shatter in a million pieces, then he would finally cry. Then he would finally start healing. And Buck would be there, all along the way, waiting to be part of the healing. As would Ryan and Maggie, Chris and Vin, Ezra and Nathan. All would be there for him. And he would know once more the comfort and the love of a family.
Continued in Something New
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