It was another four days before either JD or Ezra could be moved from the
high-dependency room. By that time, Buck and Nathan had been released under
strict orders that they were to do nothing more strenuous than walk up a
flight of stairs. As per Dr. Russells orders, no more and no
less than two agents spent each night watching over JD and Ezra, spelled
during the day by the others. Vin spent most of his time there, leaving only
when Chris kicked him out to eat, sleep or shower.
The nights were the worst, Ezra and JD both invariably suffering nightmares.
Despite sedatives to help them sleep, neither got much rest during the hours
of the night. Surprisingly, it seemed easier for them to relax during the
day, and indeed both slept more between dawn and dusk than they did after
The subject of Ezras nightmares was clear; he would suddenly begin
to have trouble breathing, and end up hyperventilating and clawing at his
throat until the watching agents woke him from the nightmare. Once awake,
he would deny remembering what the nightmare was about and appear to return
to sleep, though the intermittent shudders and tears leaking from the corners
of his closed eyes betrayed that pretense. Josiah had tried to comfort the
Southerner, the first night, and theyd learned then that Ezra would
not take comfort from any of them. His proud mind translated it as pity,
which a man of Ezras dignity and upbringing could not accept. All they
could do for Ezra was wake him from the nightmares and give him their mute
JDs nightmares, however, were far more elusive in typifying. Theyd
seen him have reactions that ranged from screaming in pain and fear to speaking
in a low, angry voice that made anyone hearing it shiver, wondering how such
deadly hate could come from their youngest agent. As with Ezra, all they
could do for JD was wake him from the nightmare, though his refusal to accept
comfort seemed to stem from a desire to keep all contact with others at a
minimum. He barely talked to any of them, except for Ezra and, on occasion,
Buck. After four days of this, they were all missing the normally incessant
chatter from their youngest colleague.
The day after theyd been moved to the low-dependency room, Ezra and
JD had to give their statements. The officers and agents whod come
to take their statements were as considerate of the injured agents
mental states as they could be, but their teammates could see, afterwards,
that the questioning had taken its toll.
Six days after theyd been moved to the low-dependency room ten
days after their rescue eleven days and thirteen hours after their
capture Dr. Russell came in and discreetly pulled Chris aside. They
went into the corridor and Dr. Russell asked bluntly, Have you talked
to your agents about counseling, Agent Larabee?
Well no, not yet. I wanted to wait until they were ready.
To be brutally honest, Agent Larabee, if you wait until theyre
ready to talk then youll be waiting a long time, longer
than either of those men can afford. Ive seen too many patients like
JD and Ezra to delude myself into thinking this will just go away. Now, I
know a number of competent counselors, either here or outside the hospital,
though there is one man who specialises in kidnap situations, especially
those involving Federal agents or police officers abducted in the line of
duty. Id like for you to have them at least consider the idea. The
sooner they get professional counseling, the better.
They seem to be okay. Chris glanced back into the room, where
Ezra was shuffling a deck of cards and conversing with JD, who, while not
his usual exuberant self, seemed more animated than he had in the last ten
days. Dr. Russell shook her head.
The nightmares are continuing, and Ive seen enough cases like
this to know what denial looks like, Agent Larabee. Im afraid that
if you dont persuade them to agree to at least minimal counseling,
youre going to lose them.
You really think its that bad? Chris asked, stunned.
Unfortunately, yes. JD isnt eating, even though all our tests
show that he should have been able to handle food since Tuesday, and Ezra
needs prompting to do the most basic things like drinking or getting dressed
each day. They barely respond to the nurses, surely youve noticed
Now that Chris thought about it, both agents seemed strangely passive when
the nurses came to check on them or change bandages. Even when the thick
bandages protecting JDs hands were changed, he hardly seemed to notice
and he certainly didnt look at his hands to see the extent of the damage.
Chris had looked, the first time the bandages had been changed, and hadnt
been tempted to again; the stitches from the surgery to realign the bones
made an ugly tracery across JDs hands, and his fingers, splinted to
boards to prevent them from getting bumped out of alignment, were swollen
and dead-looking. Ezra, too, had given almost no reaction when the stitched
wound from the surgery to repair the tearing of abdominal muscles had been
checked, probed and re-bandaged.
He looked back into the room, looking past the surface appearance of recovery.
There was a strained quality to JDs voice, and though Ezra still used
the long words that confused the hell out of most of them, his heart didnt
seem to be in what he was saying. The breakfast trays that the nurses had
brought were untouched, and the pitcher of water standing on Ezras
bedside table was still full, the glass beside it unused. As he looked closer,
he realised with a start that both JD and Ezra had the same look in their
eyes cold, blank resignation.
He turned back to Dr. Russell. I see what you mean. Ill do my
best to get them to agree to counseling, but its going to be a fight
the whole way. None of my men are fond of medical treatment, whether its
physical or not. Hell, I have enough trouble getting them to attend the mandatory
counseling session after what the ATF deems traumatic jobs. But Ill
do what I can.
Please do, Agent Larabee. The sooner the better.
Chris watched her leave, frustrated that he hadnt noticed something
was wrong earlier. He watched Ezra and JD for a few more moments, noting
the forced quality to their banter, and then reentered the room.
JD looked up as Chris sat down again. Hey. Whatd Dr. Russell
have to say?
Oh, she just wanted to know what the arrangements for you two were
once youre discharged, Chris lied. It wasnt the right time
to bring up the idea of counseling; hed do that later in the morning,
when both men had been given their meds for the morning. He continued, I
told her that youd both be coming to the ranch for a while.
He held up a hand to forestall their protests. Hear me out. Both of
you live in places where youd have to use stairs, and Dr. Russell
isnt happy about that. Ez, you live alone and shes really
not happy about that. If youre both at my place, its easier to
navigate and theres room for one of the other guys as well, so
theres always someone on hand if you need anything. Besides, its
not like its forever, just until youre both a bit more mobile.
Mr. Larabee, I assure you I am perfectly capable of caring for
myself, Ezra bristled, though the protest lacked its usual fire. Another
sign that worried Chris; Ezra was usually much more vehement when he was
told something that he didnt like. JDs lack of protest was a
worry as well, especially since the younger man usually hated being dependent
on anyone else and would, under normal circumstances, be pressing Chris to
let him stay at home, citing Bucks presence as surety. Now, he was
just staring at the sheet, his hair falling over his face and hiding his
That may be, Ez, but Dr. Russell doesnt want either of you alone
for a week or so after youre discharged. Just in case something
happens, Chris reasoned. It was the standard practice, after all; they
should be used to it. And he supposed they were; that didnt mean they
He let his eyes roam the room, falling in what he hoped was a natural way
on the untouched breakfast trays. You guys havent eaten.
Jareds gonna give you hell about that.
Ezra actually looked surprised as he looked at the tray beside his bed, while
JD just shrugged and said in a dead voice, Wasnt hungry.
Damn it, JD, thats been your excuse for the last two days. Do
you really want them to have to use a food tube? Because they will if you
keep refusing to eat, Chris snapped. JD just blinked at him as though
the outburst was perfectly normal and shrugged again.
Screw waiting. Dr. Russell was right; were gonna lose them
if this goes on much longer.
Chris sighed and leaned forward. Ez, JD, I think we need to talk.
Ezra looked up at him with mild interest in his eyes, shuffling his cards
over and over. JD didnt look at him, but Chris kept talking anyway,
hoping that JD was listening. Damn it, even if he wasnt Chris would
find a way to drum what he was saying into JDs head.
Dr. Russell thinks the two of you need some counseling, and I agree
with her. And before you give me any crap about being fine, weve all
had to have mandatory counseling for cases that were nothing compared to
what the two of you went through. Its obvious from your behaviour that
youre not fine. I dont think Travis would let you return
to active duty without at least some counseling, anyway.
Thats all a load of bull, Chris, JD argued, for once seeming
to be almost himself again. I dont need a shrink to spout
sanctimonious bullshit at me about knowing that its not my fault I
got hurt. I knew the risks when I signed on, and I dont need
to share my feelings with anyone.
Whether thats true or not, you have to see someone, Chris
said firmly. Dr. Russells reluctant to release either of you
without at least a consultation.
Its completely unnecessary, an utter waste of time, Ezra
stated, shuffling his cards again. Chris sighed in frustration and stood
up, crossing over to JDs bed and placing his hand on the younger
mans shoulder. JD flinched and pulled away.
You see? You cant stand to be touched, JD, not even by a friend.
Ive seen how you react to the nurses when they change your bandages.
And if you shuffle those cards any more, Ez, theyll end up more dog-eared
than Bucks favourite copy of Playboy. Look, Dr. Russells
not going to release you until you at least talk to someone, so why not just
do what she wants? Shell get her way eventually.
Ezra looked down at his cards, seemingly confused by them. He looked back
up at Chris and nodded. All right. Ill agree to one and
only one session with this . . . psychiatrist. Though
I think the whole thing is ridiculous.
Thanks, Ez. JD?
The young agent kept his eyes rebelliously averted. Chris, I only jumped
cause you hit one of my bruises. And getting bandages changed
hurts, in case you didnt know. I dont have a problem with
Cut the crap, JD. You and I both know that neither of us is leaving
this room until you agree to see the psychiatrist Dr. Russell recommended.
Dont make me have to order you.
JD glared at Chris. Fine. Ill see the goddamned shrink. Happy?
No, but its a start. Just . . . go into this with open minds,
please. Its not going to help if you wont let it.
+ + + + + + +
Dr. Jude Nichols was a man in his early thirties, with short black hair,
grey eyes and a surprisingly informal manner. Dressed in slacks and a button-down
shirt, with a lightweight jacket in deference to the cooling weather, he
was far from the suit-and-tie image that Ezra had had in his mind. His office
was comfortably furnished, and pictures of a smiling red-haired woman holding
a small child graced the desktop. In short, it was a homey place, and Ezra
automatically felt ill at ease. Homey places just reminded him of the lack
of home his childhood had had.
Ezra perched on the edge of the armchair, fiddling with the bandages around
his still-raw throat. The bandages wrapped around his torso were an uncomfortable
reminder of the weakness hed succumbed to, and any careless movement
pulled at the stitches in his stomach. At least he was dressed in something
other than that embarrassing hospital gown, even if it was sweatpants that
he suspected someone had bought, since he was sure hed never owned
such an item of clothing.
Jude sighed. Ezra had been sitting in silence for the past five minutes,
since arriving as per Melinda Russells orders. Jude had been warned
about the stubbornness of the ATF team known as the Magnificent Seven, but
he hadnt quite believed the stories. Now, if Ezra Standish was any
indication of the rest of the team, he believed every word of them.
He leaned forward. Ezra. Were not going to get anywhere if you
dont talk to me.
I believe Im required to attend one session with you before I
am discharged, Ezra said coolly. Im here. That doesnt
mean I have to talk.
Jude sighed again. So it was going to be that way. Sometimes he hated
I cant give you a clean bill of health if all youre going
to do is sit there and shuffle those cards, he said as Ezra pulled
a deck of cards from his pocket. Like it or not, Ezra, Dr. Russell
seems to think that you need counseling and shes not going to be happy
if all I can say about our session is that I would have had ample opportunity
to catch up on my paperwork.
Fine, the Southerner snapped, putting the cards away. What
do you want me to say? That I know it wasnt my fault I was captured?
That I know I couldnt have done anything to help JD? I already know
both of those things, Dr. Nichols, so really theres little point in
me being here. I dont blame myself, I dont blame JD. I blame
the man and woman who abducted us, and theyre beyond my reach now,
being dead and comatose respectively. I dont feel any burning need
for revenge; at the moment all I really desire is to be at home, away from
all these damn prying eyes!
Jude almost smiled. Finally an emotion cracked the stoic mask, even if it
was misplaced anger. And just having Ezra say something was enough
for him to see behind the mask to the confused, hurting man beneath. Now
if he could just get that man to let him help . . .
I know this sounds cliché, Ezra, but humour me. What are you
feeling right now?
Ezra gave him a look of disbelief. Jude repeated the question, and the ATF
agent sighed and answered.
Annoyed. Bored. In a minor amount of pain. Uncomfortable. Tired of
being asked how I feel. That about sums it up.
Jude pinched the bridge of his nose. Ezra.
The agent exhaled, dropping his head into his hands. When next he spoke,
his voice was muffled by his hands.
Guilty as hell that JD was injured so badly and I escaped with the
lesser injuries I sustained. Frustrated because the nightmares wont
go away, and that makes me feel weak. Confused.
Finally. Why do you feel confused?
I keep having nightmares and thinking that Caines just behind
me, but I know shes comatose and not even in this hospital. I know
that there wasnt anything I could have done to protect JD but I still
feel as though its my fault he was injured so badly. Theres so
much going on inside my head and I dont know if I can deal with it
all right now.
Thats why Im here. I can help you deal with it, Jude
told him. Everything youve just said, its perfectly natural
for you to feel that way. Its why Dr. Russell recommended you see me
in the first place. I can help you work through what youre feeling
until you think youre ready to scale back on the sessions.
Ezra looked at him thoughtfully, toying with the white bandages around his
throat. Jude caught a glimpse of still-raw skin and hid a grimace; that had
to hurt. Asphyxiation was one of the more traumatic things a human could
experience; no wonder Ezra was having nightmares.
Ezra nodded finally. All right. Well see how this goes.
+ + + + + + +
Josiah and Nathan came to give Chris time to sleep, eat and shave, not long
after Ezra returned from seeing the psychiatrist. The afternoon had been
awkward; JD had muttered a few answers to Chriss comments and gazed
out the window, his eyes distant. Chris knew that if they didnt break
the apathy that his youngest agent was feeling, they were going to lose JD.
When Josiah and Nathan kicked him out, Chris headed to the car park. Much
as he hated to admit it, he was exhausted. Nursing two injured ATF agents
was hard, and he once again found new respect for the nurses and doctors.
Upon reaching the car park, he stopped short. Vin was leaning on the waist-high
wall, looking over the city. He was as still as if he were sniping, the motion
of breathing and the breeze playing with his hair the only movement. Chris
watched for a few moments before he realised that Vins breathing
wasnt steady and even; it was hitching, as though he had just been
running . . . or crying?
Vin? You okay? he asked, moving forward. The sharpshooter cursed
and swiped at his eyes, not looking at Chris.
Im fine, cowboy. Just wanted to get some air.
Theres more bothering him than cabin fever. Hes taking
this a lot harder than the other guys, even Buck.
Chris moved up beside Vin and leaned on the wall, looking sidelong at his
friend. You dont have a shift tonight. You should be at home,
getting some rest.
Vin whirled around, his expression a mixture of incredulity and anger.
Rest, while hes lettin himself die in this damn place?!
How am I supposed to rest, Chris?
I was right. Now how do I get him to admit it to himself?
Blunt seemed the best option; neither man appreciated dancing around issues,
and Chris knew that he was bad at playing the subtlety game. He came right
out and asked.
Whenre you going to tell him, Vin?
Vins reply was a bark of bitter laughter. Theres nothin
Chris sighed. Im not good at this sort of thing. I dont
get the spiritual and emotional stuff; Josiahs better at that than
I am. But I was the one who noticed whats going on with you, so Im
gonna deal with it.
Deal with what?
You. JD. You care for him, Chris said bluntly.
Of course I care for him. I care for all of you, Vin said stubbornly,
refusing to meet Chriss gaze.
Damn it, Vin, thats not what I mean and you know it. Youre
damn good at hiding what you dont want the rest of us to see, but something
as strong as what I think you feel for JD cant be so easily hidden.
Vin finally met his gaze, his eyes full of indecision and anguish. You
know what Feds are like, Chris. How can I subject him to that? Anyone whos
not on the straight an narrow gets hell in the Bureau. Anyway, its
not like I know he feels the same way or anythin.
No harm in asking, is there?
Vin laughed, a shadow of his normally cheerful chuckle. Hes not
gonna look at me the same if it turns out he doesnt . . .
Vin, this is JD were talking about. Even if he doesnt
reciprocate, hes sure as hell not gonna care whether you like guys
or girls, Chris said impatiently. Youre never going to
find out if you keep avoiding the issue.
Youre startin to sound like Ez.
Damn it, dont change the subject! Just answer me honestly, Vin,
do you love him or dont you?
The car park was filled with silence as Chris stared Vin down, waiting for
the answer. The sharpshooter exhaled and nodded.
Yeah. I reckon I do.
Then for Christs sake, tell him. You said it yourself, Vin,
hes letting himself die in here. He needs something to hold on to.
Vin gazed at the setting sun, indecision chasing fear across his face.
What if its not enough?
Youve gotta try, Vin. Youll hate yourself if you dont
do anything, you know that. And if theres the slightest chance that
itll help JD, how can you not try? Youre braver than that.
A chuckle escaped the sharpshooters lips. Hell, Chris, you been
takin lessons from Josiah? I never thought Id see the day when
you got involved in your colleagues love lives.
When said colleagues are as stubborn as you and JD, I dont have
much of a choice, Chris shot back, allowing a grin to slip across his
face. You gonna go in and talk to him?
Vin nodded. Yeah, reckon I might do that. Whos on duty tonight?
Nate an Josiah? They should be okay lettin me talk to JD alone,
If theyre not, tell them I want to talk to them. Now stop wasting
time, Vin, and get in there.
The sharpshooter chuckled again and made a sloppy salute. Aye, sir
. . . wish me luck, yeah?
Dont believe in luck . . . but good luck anyway. Bring our boy
+ + + + + + +
JD was half-listening to Josiah and Nathan as they bantered back and forth,
making an effort to include him in the conversation every few sentences.
Hed tried to raise some enthusiasm at their company, but it just
didnt come. He felt as though his mind was dosed with the same morphine
that kept his body numb for the what was it, twelve days since their
He knew that there was something wrong with his thought processes, that this
apathy was dangerous. He knew that he should be glad that theyd been
found, worried about Ezra someone had taken Ezra somewhere that afternoon,
and he knew that should worry him but it didnt annoyed that
he had to stay in hospital this long. But he didnt feel any of that.
It was as though Mikhail and Caine had killed whatever it was that made people
He shuddered at the thought of those two, and Josiah was immediately at his
side. JD? You okay?
Mmph. A noncommittal grunt, eyes fixed on the window. Pretend
to be watching the clouds. Clouds? There were no clouds in the sky
when had it gotten so dark? How long had he been thinking about Mikhail and
Caine and not feeling anything?
Long enough Vin to be back, even though he did a shift last night and should
be resting now. The sharpshooter sauntered into the room, looking somehow
less than at ease, and said, You mind if men JD have a little
chat, fellas? Go and get somethin to eat, some of the swill this place
calls coffee, give us a little while, yeah?
JD knew Nathan cracked a grin as he replied, You mad at us or something,
Vin? I wouldnt wish cafeteria coffee on anyone.
Sounds as Josiah and Nathan left the room. A creak as Vin sat in the chair
near the bed. Silence. Normally JD would wonder why Vin had asked Nate and
Josiah to leave if he was just going to sit there and not say anything, but
wondering was beyond him right now.
His hands felt heavy
No! Dont think about his hands. Cant.
A sigh, and Vin leaned into his line of sight. Youn me have some
stuff to talk about, JD. Got some things I need to say to you, and then I
reckon its about time you talked to one of us properly. You can cuss
me out, or hit me, or whatever makes you feel better, but Im not
lettin you kill yourself like this.
JD blinked. He wasnt trying to kill himself . . . right?
Now, I know youre thinkin that Im full of it, that
youre not killin yourself. But youre just lyin there,
JD, youre not eatin or drinkin or tryin to get better.
Im not sayin this to try an put any blame on you, cause
this is nobodys fault except those bastards who hurt you. But if you
keep goin this way, youre gonna let them win. An I cant
let you self-destruct like that.
Something about the way he said that was . . . different. Different to the
way Chris would have said it, or Nate, or even Buck. JD moistened his lips
and looked at Vin, really looked at someone for the first time in twelve
Cant let me . . .?
Vins eyes were full of pain, and that startled JD. Other people
shouldnt be hurting because of him, least of all his friends. He went
to touch Vins arm and glimpsed the thick white bandages on his hands.
Oh, God, his hands . . .
Despite wanting to make sure Vin was okay, JD couldnt tear his eyes
away from his hands. This was what hed been avoiding for twelve days;
avoiding thinking about his hands, and what Mikhail and Caine had done to
them. They felt heavy, and he couldnt distinguish separate fingers.
His arms may as well have ended at his wrists for all the feeling there was
in his hands.
It was all too easy to remember them the way hed seen them last; twisted,
mangled by blades and burns and broken bones, crimson blood interrupted by
ivory spikes of the small bones sticking through his skin. The bandages kept
him from seeing the damage now, but it was in the forefront of his mind.
A stifled sob escaped his throat as he stared at his hands, scared half out
of his mind that hed lose the one thing that made him useful to the
Gentle arms enfolded him, and the clean smell of Vins hair. Not
sure whether this is an improvement on the silence, but cry if you need to,
JD. God knows Id be doin the same thing, if I was in your situation.
The docs are pretty confident, though. They reckon youll be fine.
The spasmodic sobbing continued as JD fought against more images flooding
his mind. Images of Ezra strangling, of the blood from that horrible head
injury. Images of the brands and blades that Mikhail and Caine had used to
try and break him. None of it had worked until they went to work on his hands.
It had hurt, worse than any pain hed felt before, but hed known
that hed heal, given time, and that even if he was laid up for a while,
he could still be useful to the team with his computer skills. Maybe theyd
known that, and thats why they saved his hands for last.
After some time, JD calmed somewhat, the harsh sobs giving way to stilted
breathing. Vin shifted slightly, though keeping his arms around the younger
man, and spoke.
JD, I got somethin I gotta tell you. Not sure if nows the
right time, but I gotta do it before I get the chance to talk myself out
JD looked at him, eyes still red and swollen from crying. Sounds
It is. See, the thing is . . . I kinda . . . shit! Im not good
Throwing up his hands in frustration, the sharpshooter got rid of the need
to explain things by taking JDs face in his hands and kissing him thoroughly.
JD was still with shock at first, but after a few moments he relaxed enough
that Vin was sure he wasnt going to slug him the moment he pulled away.
When he did pull away, an unreadable expression was on JDs face. The
dark-haired man licked his lower lip, gazing at Vin. For his own part, Vin
waited to see what JDs reaction would be, the tension making him sweat.
JD kept looking at him with that odd expression, until Vin wished hed
never come in here today.
That was . . . informative.
Informative. Vins heart sank; informative was hardly what hed
been hoping for.
How . . . how longve you been waiting to do that, Vin?
The question was tentative, the tone not quite curious, not quite hopeful.
Vin figured the best idea was to answer truthfully.
A couple months now, I reckon. Cant say for sure when I first
. . . noticed . . . you, but I reckon Ive been wantin
to kiss you for at least a couple months. Never got the guts to do it,
What made you decide to do it now? JD asked. No condemnation
in his voice, just sincere inquiry; he wanted to know why Vin chose
Seein you the way you were, not carin if you lived or not
. . . just about killed me, JD. I had to give you somethin to hold
on to. That, an Chris pretty much threatened to kick my ass if I kept
it to myself any more.
JD looked confused now. Chris knows?
Yeah. Found me out in the carpark, givin myself a headache
wonderin whether to tell you or not.
You know, you havent actually told me anything. Just gave
me one hell of a kiss.
Vin glared at JD. Are you teasin me?
That depends. Are you going to kiss me again?
You are teasin me.
JDs expression turned somber. Hell, Vin, Im sorry,
he said quietly. I just . . . I gotta keep my mind off this, you know?
If I let myself think, then I keep thinking about whatll happen if
my hands are wrecked. Im the computer guy, Im nothing without
my hands. I
Vin silenced JD by kissing him again. He pulled back slightly and smiled.
No. Youre not nothin, JD, no matter what happens. I
wouldntve fallen in love with you if you were nothin.
In l-love? JD stammered. Vin would have laughed at the stunned
look on his face, if the situation hadnt been so serious.
Yeah, in love. What, you thought I just wanted to kiss you and leave
it at that?
Wouldntve been the first time someone did, JD mumbled,
averting his eyes. Vin caught the younger mans chin and made JD look
Who did that to you?
JD squirmed under Vins scrutiny, but when the sharpshooter refused
to release him he sighed and answered, A guy back in the Police Academy.
He liked guys, but he insisted that he was straight. Slept with three or
four girls a week to prove that he was straight, then made the moves on guys
at nightclubs on Friday nights. I was at one of the nightclubs he went to,
and he kissed me. Acted like nothing happened when I saw him on Monday.
Cant blame him, really; you know what cops can be like. He didnt
want to deal with that. It hurt, though.
Vins emotions were going two ways, which was confusing to say the least.
He was angry at whatever cop it had been who hurt JD, but he was elated at
the same time, because this was proof that JD wasnt completely
straight. Oh, he knew the younger man couldnt be completely gay either,
otherwise he wouldnt be going out with . . .
Oh, shit. Casey.
JD exhaled. Yeah. I dont want to hurt her, you understand that,
Of course! I dont know what I was thinkin, tellin
you this when youre in a relationship with Casey. Hell, its just
plain luck you didnt kick my ass out the door.
Im not gonna pretend like nothing happened today, Vin. I definitely
have . . . theres a lot to work out. I think you guys need to ask Casey
to come in here tomorrow. Theres some stuff we have to talk about.
Vin nodded. Yeah, I reckon there is. Ill call her tonight, if
you want. Weve been keepin her up to date with whats been
goin on, but . . . well, Chris didnt think she should see you
the way you were.
JD closed his eyes, fighting back tears. I didnt want to remember.
If I thought about it, I thought about my hands and I kept running through
what Chrisd say if I couldnt use them properly. Kept thinking
about being asked to leave the team because I couldnt be the computer
Chris wouldnt do that, and that youd even think so shows
that youve got a lot to sort out in your mind, Vin said carefully,
choosing his words so as not to upset JD. Promise me youll see
that Dr. Nichols that Ezras seein?
JD sighed. All right. I have to admit, the way Ive been lately
. . . it kinda scares me. I didnt think it was possible to live without
feeling. Thiss gonna be hard, Vin. I dont know if I can . . .
Were here for you, Vin promised. All of us are behind
+ + + + + + +
Nobody was sure what happened during JDs session with Jude; at JDs
request, Jude didnt make a tape of the session or write down anything.
The office door was closed for the hour, and the low murmur of words could
be heard, though nothing could be made out. JD had returned to the room he
was sharing with Ezra at the end of the hour with a thoughtful expression
on his face, and though he was quiet for the rest of the morning he did at
least participate in the conversations going on around him. This quietness
seemed to be more due to having a lot on his mind, rather than apathy. Ezra
and Buck and Vin, the two on duty that day, seemed relieved at the change,
though none of them mentioned it.
Casey showed up in the afternoon, toting coloured balloons and boxes of candy.
At the confused looks her burdens earned, she explained, My friends
and Aunt Nettie wanted you to have something to cheer you up in here. Plus
a couple of the girls think that Ezras too good-looking to be single
and are trying to make good impressions, she added, winking at the
Southerner. She went to JDs bedside and kissed him. Ive
been aching to come and see for myself that youre okay. Not that I
dont trust the rest of you, but . . . well, its one thing to
hear, a completely different thing to see for yourself.
JD returned the kiss, then said, Cass, can we talk? Theres some
stuff we need to get into the open.
She nodded, looking confused. Sure. The balcony?
They went out onto the balcony and closed the door behind them. The men inside
the hospital room could see the two talking, but no words filtered in. JD
said something that made Casey frown and glance at Vin, but she didnt
seem angry, just confused. Their conversation went on for a good hour, during
which Ezra managed to rope Vin and Buck into a game of poker, politely pretending
that JD and Casey werent outside.
An hour after theyd gone out to the balcony, Casey opened the door.
Vin, you mind joining us for a minute?
Vin glanced nervously at JD, who was looking over the edge of the balcony,
and threw down his cards. Why not? Im losin here anyway,
he said, standing up and walking over to the door. Casey closed it behind
him and they both sat down. JD looked up, and instead of the rejection Vin
had expected there was something . . . else. Casey didnt look angry,
like hed expected, either.
Im guessin JD told you bout what I said yesterday?
He did, Casey affirmed. We had a lot to talk about.
Look, I wasnt thinkin when I said that yesterday
JDs with you, an hes happy
Vin. Will you please let me talk? Casey said gently. Yes,
JD told me that you love him. And yes, it did surprise me. But I do admire
your good taste. Now, me and JD were talking about a way to deal with this
without anyone getting hurt. I know I love JD, and I believe that you
love JD. As for JD
JD loves both of you, JD interrupted. I dont want
to leave Casey, but if you dont mind sharing me with her, Vin, then
Id . . . Id love to be with you as well.
Vin gaped at the two younger people, stunned that theyd come up with
this plan. Hed never have thought of it, probably because hed
never felt quite this way about anyone before, let alone another man with
a girlfriend. He was suddenly aware that JD was twisting his hands together
in his lap, messing up the bandages. He reached out and stilled the movements,
his hand meeting with another, smaller, feminine hand.
Vin and Casey looked at each other and started laughing. JD shook his head.
Wonderful. Now Ive got Buck to mother me, and you two to take
over when hes not around. Vin, were you planning on answering me?
Vin answered by leaning forward and kissing JD, gentler than the night before,
a reassurance instead of a declaration. He was aware that Casey was watching
them with a smile on her face, and then both men were engulfed in the young
I take it thats a yes? she said softly. Vin broke away
from JD and smiled at her.
Yes, thats a hell yes. If youre sure thiss all right
with you, Casey. This isnt the most orthodox arrangement.
Oh, who cares about that? she asked impatiently. This way
youre happy, Im happy and JDs happy, and thats
whats important, isnt it?
Vin worried at his lower lip in concern. You reckon the others are
gonna have a problem with us?
I dont think so, Casey said confidently. You guys,
youre closer than anyone Ive ever known. Youre not going
to let a little thing like sexuality come between you.
Were going to have to decide what to tell them pretty fast,
JD said suddenly, looking back at the dividing window between the balcony
and the room. Casey and Vin turned to see Ezra and Buck staring at them,
Thanks to those who stuck around to see this finished; if youre
interested, I might be writing a follow-up piece to this. After all, there
is some unfinished business. I just felt that the end was dragging, and I
wanted to finish it before I got frustrated and dumped the whole thing. If
youre interested in a sequel, let me know and Ill consider it.
Again, thanks to my readers. Your reviews gave me the courage to keep writing