JD was pretty much out of it all night. Everyone took advantage of the calm before the storm to get some much-needed rest. As the sun came up, Nathan gathered everyone to explain what was going to happen and why. Five pairs of eyes took in everything he said in absolute silence.
Buck was the first to ask a question, "How long will it take to get him off the drugs?"
"I don't know, Buck. Could be a few days, could be a couple of weeks."
"Isn't there anything we can give him? He's been thru enough hell already." The southerner asked as he leaned forward to rest his elbows on his knees.
"Amen, Brother Ezra," Josiah whispered.
Nathan shook his head, "Without letting on what happened, it'd be really hard to get anything soon enough to do him any good."
Ezra came to a decision, "I'll start breakfast. We need to keep up our strength."
"I hope you got some soup, I don't want to put anything heavy on his stomach at first." The ex-medic glanced up at the younger man. Standish smiled as he pulled a large mug of barely warm soup out of the microwave. Nathan shook his head, he just didn't know about Ezra.
Buck sat on the floor beside the bed holding JD's hand. His guilt nearly overwhelmed him every time he saw the ugly bruises on the boy's arm. Ever so gently, he stroked the black and blue marks. He wanted the kid to open his eyes and be all right but he knew that wasn't going to happen.
Nathan opened the door and it accidentally hit the rocker. JD's eyes sprang open and he began to shake. Buck shifted to his knees and tried to pull the boy into his arms. The kid fought, kicking and whimpering until his friend let him go. Jackson held Wilmington back by his shoulder.
"Don't press him, Buck. You don't know what they did to him."
The young agent had backed into the corner and drawn up his knees. He rocked himself, banging his head against the wall.
Nathan put the soup on the dresser before sitting on the foot of the bed.
"JD? It's Nathan. Can you hear me, son?" The kid continued to shake and rock. Nathan reached out and stroked only the top of his feet. "Just take it easy, now, hear?"
JD shuddered but didn't pull away from the touch.
Nathan went and got a smaller cup and put a small amount of the soup in it. He touched JD's hand with the cup and held it there until he took it. JD sipped from the cup as if he thought it was poisoned but he did finish the few ounces they had given him.
Buck remained in the room either on the floor by the bed or sitting in the rocker all day. Josiah relieved Nathan at mid morning so he could get some rest. The older man sat and talked to JD, letting the boy just hear his voice without touching him. Wilmington ached to touch the kid but he held himself back, waiting for JD to need him.
By midway thru the afternoon, JD's body began to miss the drugs. He began to thrash in his blankets and whimper as if in pain. Josiah gave him more of the soup and watched him as he drank it. JD slept off and on thru the day. Buck only touched him when he slept. By the time the sun went down, Dunne was beginning to come down, hard.
Chris and Josiah had to physically remove Buck from the room around ten o'clock. Around midnight, JD began to tremble more violently and babble incoherently. Sanchez climbed onto the bed and tried to gather the young agent into his arms. Larabee wiped the sweat from the kid's face and tried to calm him as the withdrawal tortured his mind and body.
Josiah finally hit upon the idea of rocking JD as he had been rocking himself. Sanchez rocked the small, shaking body and hummed softly in his ear, which seemed to calm him slightly. Around four in the morning, the kid finally slipped into a deeper sleep and Josiah tucked him in carefully.
Nathan briefed everyone on what worked and what didn't in handling JD so far. "He seems to have retreated into his own mind. He hasn't responded to any of us as if he recognizes us," Jackson explained, "We have to keep pouring in the calories, his body will need everything we can get into him." Josiah reminded them that music seemed to comfort JD and suggested that they move a radio into the room as soon as possible.
Buck resumed his vigil at the bedside while the others rotated on an hourly basis. JD thrashed in the blankets and resisted any effort to touch him except to mop his brow. He drank the soup when they gave it to him and drank water. In his sleep, he cried out for Buck, Vin and Ezra.
All three men sat in the room and tried to comfort JD, to no avail. The boy would not be comforted. Later in the afternoon, he began to run a fever. Nathan and Josiah kept a close watch on him as his temperature soared. Dunne continued to call out for the others. Chris gathered him up as Josiah had done and rocked him for a while. They had sent Buck into the other room to rest. Josiah sat in the rocking chair.
"Buck! No, no more! Please? Vin? Not Vin. No. Can't, don't please. Ezra!" JD called as he pushed Chris's hands away.
"What happened to Buck? JD, can you tell me? What happened to Vin and Ezra?" Chris asked.
JD looked at Chris without seeing him, "Buck died! Vin and Ezra, no, no!"
Chris looked at Josiah, "They told him Buck killed himself?"
Larabee bolted from the room and awoke Buck.
"The bastards told JD you killed yourself. That's what he's so worked up about!"
The two men raced back into the bedroom. Josiah moved to let Buck sit behind JD and wrap his arms around the trembling body.
Buck rocked his young friend gently, "JD, it's Buck. Come on kid, come back to us. I'm right here and I'm not going anywhere. It was a lie, kid, to get them to let you go."
Wilmington repeated the phrases over and over as he held JD. Josiah continued to mop the sweat from the boy's face as his fever broke.
An angry mob had collected in the living room at the cabin as Josiah explained that, apparently, the kidnappers had told JD that Buck had taken his life. They were still trying to convince him that his roommate was alive and well. Nathan reminded them to try to get Dunne to eat or drink something as often as possible because the fever was burning up calories that he couldn't afford to lose.
Josiah and Vin made breakfast for everyone. Ezra went for more supplies. Buck slept for a few hours while Chris sat with JD. Larabee moved a portable television into the room to provide a distraction for whoever was sitting with the kid as he slept. The team leader found out, painfully, that the flashes of light from the television bothered the young agent terribly.
Chris had been sitting with JD asleep against his chest for about an hour as he watched the mid day news. JD's eyes fluttered as he began to awaken. The flashes of light in the semi-dark room caused the kid to react, violently. Larabee had relaxed his grip on the thin body when he suddenly began to struggle. JD's uncoordinated actions landed a fist on Chris's nose, drawing blood. The blood registered immediately in JD's mind and he began to scream in terror.
Buck had gone out of the cabin for a breath of fresh air. Suddenly he heard JD begin to scream. All five men dropped whatever they were doing to run to the door. Buck pushed his way into the room to find the young agent standing in the corner screaming in terror at the blood on his hands. Chris was holding his nose and trying to calm the boy at the same time.
Nathan shoved Chris toward the door, "Get out of here! You're upsetting him even more!" Buck took a towel and approached JD.
"It's okay, JD. Let me wipe your hands. Okay partner?" As soon as Buck covered the blood, JD leaned into his arms.
"Buck!" He said weakly.
"I gotcha, kid. Take it easy," Buck whispered. Somehow it penetrated JD's mind and his eyes widened as he pushed away from Buck. "It's okay, kid," Wilmington said again.
JD's whisper was pure gold, "You're alive!" Dunne collapsed, sobbing into Buck's arms.
The older man stood, holding JD against his chest as his tears fell on the boy's shoulder. Nathan finally nudged Buck to put the young man back to bed. The boy clung to Buck with all he had until he slept again. Wilmington stayed at his bedside the rest of the day. He wanted to be there whenever the boy opened his eyes.
Nathan and Buck were with JD when he opened his eyes the next morning.
"Buck! He cried out as he awoke.
"Right here partner, easy now," Buck whispered as he brushed the bangs out of JD's face.
"Buck, he told me that you were, that you killed yourself! Buck, I couldn't, I don't know what I'd do without you," JD rambled as he clutched at the hand that held his. "Especially since," he let his voice trail off as his stomach protested violently.
Wilmington held JD as he threw up into the wastebasket.
"It'll get worse before it gets better," Nathan said softly, "his body's gonna give him hell because it don't have the drugs. The cold isn't making this any easier either."
Buck looked up at Nathan as he stroked JD's back, "How could anything be worse than what he's already been thru?"
But Nathan was right. JD began to shiver uncontrollably. He couldn't keep anything down. He was irritable and confused. When he drifted off to sleep, he woke up screaming about rats chewing on his feet. Every movement in the room startled him and any noise sent him into fits of screaming.
The men took turns physically restraining Dunne when he was bad off but it was taking its toll on them. Even Ezra, who had somehow managed to remain distant from all the stress, was showing wear. Aside from breaking Chris's nose the previous evening, JD managed to put his fist thru the window in his room, forcing Nathan to put 17 stitches in the back of his hand. Vin twisted his ankle trying to keep the kid from smashing the mirror above the dresser; they had to cover the mirror with a sheet.
But Ezra was the one who got caught between JD and the wall when the boy tried to break the door down to get out. Dunne had jumped up from the bed as quick as lightening and made a break for the door; the southerner moved to intercept him and got body slammed into the door and wall. The doorknob left a nasty bruise on the undercover agent's back and caused a great amount of pain.
Nathan made some calls and acquired some Compazine in an injectable solution to try to help JD keep his food down. He seriously underestimated what the sight of another syringe would do to the boy. It took Josiah and Chris to hold him down so Jackson could give him the shot. Afterward, the kid reverted to the rocking motion that he'd had before.
After JD napped, Buck was able to get him to take some more soup. The boy continued to tremble, even in his sleep. Chris was beginning to have serious doubts about being able to keep JD's condition under wraps. The judge was demanding to know what had happened to his youngest agent.
Nathan gave JD another shot of the Compazine before he woke up in the morning. When Dunne awoke, he was in pain! His body ached all over and his stomach felt like he had been on the receiving end of one of Josiah's punches. He couldn't stop shaking! He rolled over and focused on the figure asleep in the rocking chair, Chris. He shifted his gaze to the wall where Buck was also sleeping.
"B-Buck?" He whispered. Both Chris and Buck responded immediately.
"What do you need, JD?"
"Wh-When is it?" He said as his teeth chattered. Buck looked at Chris, puzzled.
"When is what, son," Chris said softly.
"The f-f-fun-funeral," he finally managed to say.
Buck moved in front of JD, "There's no funeral, son, I'm right here."
JD shook his head, "No, no, for Vin, for Ezra."
Chris and Buck looked at each other, dumbfounded. Buck shook his head, "What funeral for Vin and Ezra? They're right here, son. Hell, Ezra's been cooking up a storm trying to fatten you back up." JD looked at Chris for confirmation.
"It's true kid. No one died. It was a story we made up to get the men who had you to give you up."
"He said, he told me they shot Ezra. Right between his green eyes," JD whispered as he drifted back to sleep.
Unfortunately, JD didn't remember much about the conversation when he awoke from another nightmare about the deaths of Ezra and Vin. Nathan held Dunne on the bed as Buck explained it all to him again. Standish and Tanner came in and sat on the foot of the bed and talked to the boy. He looked at them as if they were the devil himself before passing out again.
It was nearly sunset before JD was able to accept that the two agents were alive. He cried hysterically and clung to Vin. Ezra sat beside them and rubbed JD's back as he cried. The sheer stress of thinking that his friends were dead had sapped the young man. Relief at finding out they were alive had the same effect. JD sank into a deep and, thankfully, dreamless sleep.
Sanchez was with JD when he awoke.
"Josiah," JD said, "Do you think I could have some of that coffee that I smell?"
The older man's smile lit the room, "Of course, you can have anything you want, son." Josiah opened the door and called out, "Ezra, JD wants some of that coffee."
"Extra sweet," JD called after him.
"Extra sweet," Josiah passed along.
As Josiah helped JD sit up and propped him with pillows he asked, "How do you feel this morning?"
The young agent looked around the room, "I keep wanting this all to be a bad dream or something."
Ezra entered the room with a tray, "I brought you coffee and I also thought you might want something more substantial than the soup that Nathan has been forcing down your throat so I brought you some eggs and toast."
JD's stomach growled as the smell of the food reached his nose.
Nathan appeared in the doorway, "Before you go feeding him solid food, you better let me give him another dose of the Compazine so he can keep it down."
The haunted look that crossed JD's face made Ezra's heart ache, "Just let him get it over with and then you can eat, okay kid?" The southerner said quietly. Large, frightened eyes watched as Nathan drew the medicine into the syringe.
"I'll give it to you in your hip, okay?" Nathan asked. JD nodded, but made no move to allow the team medic to give him the shot.
Josiah shifted closer to the boy, "I'll hold on to you."
JD never took his eyes off of the syringe in Nathan's hand as Josiah reached for him.
"I'm not that hungry after all," JD said as he tried to move away from the edge of the bed.
Josiah knelt down by the bed and looked JD in the eyes.
"We're just trying to help you, son. You know Nathan wouldn't give you anything that'd hurt you, right? Your stomach has been throwing back everything we feed you without the medicine. Come on, now. Just turn over here, nice and easy, and we'll get this over with."
Sanchez gently pulled JD onto his side and wrapped his arms around him tightly. Nathan pulled at the sweat pants the kid was wearing and swabbed the skin before giving him the shot. JD whimpered as he felt the needle bite and his hands tightened in Josiah's shirt.
Dunne clung to Josiah a moment longer, trembling, before he let go. Ezra waited until Sanchez situated him with the pillows before setting the tray across his legs. JD swallowed hard a couple of times before he reached for the coffee cup. The liquid was just cool enough not to scald him as he sipped it. With a deep breath, he managed a smile. The three men in the room smiled back.
JD ate about half the eggs and one piece of the toast before he pushed the plate away. Josiah returned the tray to the kitchen while Buck sat with his roommate. Almost immediately after eating, Dunne's eyelids drooped and he slept. Nathan was encouraged, if he was eating and sleeping without nightmares, he was well on his way to recovery.
For lunch, Buck suggested that they get the kid out of bed and into the fresh air. JD wanted to take a shower first. Nathan agreed as long as he left the door unlocked in case he needed help. When Dunne emerged from the bathroom, he looked much better. Wilmington hovered close as the shaking young man made his way to the table on the patio.
"Don't push yourself too hard at first," Nathan cautioned. JD nodded as he took a seat. Chris was grilling steaks. Ezra set a bowl of fresh fruit on the table, drawing looks from Buck. An awkward silence settled around the table. No one knew what to say.
"It's good to see you back on your feet, kid," Vin said. Smiles of agreement shone all around.
Finally, everyone found something to say and the group settled into a more normal mode. JD ate only a little but it was good to be out of bed. He looked around the table as the others ate and talked among themselves. He realized that he cared for these people as much as he had cared for his mother. The thought of losing any one of them would be devastating.
"You okay, kid?" Ezra asked softly.
JD smiled, "Yeah, I was just thinking about how well we all work together. You wouldn't have thought it when we first got together. You know what I mean, it took them a while to warm up to you too. When I started here, they only saw me as the kid, too young and wet behind the ears to do any real work. They intimidated the daylights out of me at first, still do sometimes. But the way you all came together for me has been, " his voice trailed off as he couldn't find the words that fit the emotions he was feeling.
Ezra stretched his arm across JD's shoulders, "I know. I have tried so hard not to let myself get too attached to them, to you too, but they won't let me stay that way."
"You can't keep us out forever, you know. You need us as much as we need you. I know it's hard for you, your mother didn't teach you how to show your feelings, but we know how you feel about us too."
Ezra smiled warmly at his young friend.
JD slept a good part of the rest of the afternoon, propped up on the undercover agent's shoulder. The others floated around but Ezra refused to be relieved. They spent several hours sitting outside, enjoying the warmth of the sun and the feeling of being whole again.
Judge Travis showed up at the cabin, demanding to know what was happening with his best team. He knocked on the door and waited. Chris opened the door, "Judge Travis, come in. You should have called, we could have thrown another steak on the grill."
The judge walked in and sat on the couch, "Since you didn't see fit to give me any answers, I thought I would stop in and see for myself."
Chris studied the man's face, "There wasn't anything to tell you yet. JD's still getting over what happened. He should be up to par in a week or so."
"But you have yet to tell me exactly what he is getting over."
JD came thru the sliding door and stopped in his tracks, "Judge Travis, I didn't know you were coming up."
Travis studied the boy intently, "How are you doing, young man?" JD looked uncomfortable and looked to Chris for a moment.
"I'm doing lots better now, thanks to the guys taking care of me."
The Judge hadn't missed the haunted look, the weight the boy had lost or the dark circles that still had not faded from around his eyes.
Buck and Josiah came into the cabin, each carrying a plate of steaks from the grill. "Come on, kid, get moving, the food's getting cold!" Buck yelled as he nudged JD with his elbow. As he looked up, Buck saw the judge sitting on the couch, "Judge Travis! Didn't know you were coming! We could have put another steak on the grill."
"JD, come here and sit down. I've read the narratives from the others on your kidnapping but your report is still missing," Travis said. The awkward silence in the room was so thick that it could have been cut with a knife. Buck walked back and put the meat in the oven to keep it warm before slipping back outside. Josiah also put the food he carried in the oven before slipping back outside.
Travis sat quietly as he observed the bizarre behavior of his agents. JD sat looking nervously at his shoes as he waited for the sword to fall. Chris shifted uneasily in his seat. Orin cleared his throat, "Would one of you like to tell me what the seven of you are trying so hard to hide from me?"
Chris looked up, "What makes you think we're hiding something?"
Travis stood up and walked to the sliding door. He pulled back the curtain to reveal the other five agents agitatedly discussing something at the far edge of the patio.
"You're hiding something, you know it and I know it. Just tell me what it is and we can all go on with our day."
"It's m-me. They're t-trying t-to protect m-me," JD stammered. Chris drew in a breath and started to interrupt but Travis held up a hand.
"Protect you from what?"
JD looked about as miserable as he could possibly look. "It's because they shot me with heroin while I was kidnapped. They didn't want you to know. They didn't want it on my permanent file."
Travis studied the haunted eyes a few minutes longer. "Heroin? They gave you," he shifted his gaze, "They gave him heroin? And you weren't planning to tell me. Do you really think that I care so little for JD that I wouldn't have done something to protect him?" Orin asked as he stood and approached Chris.
"I guess I wasn't thinking too clearly. When we found him, drugged out of his mind, we didn't think. We just reacted. We protected our own," Larabee said staring hard into Travis's face.
JD jumped up, shouting.
"You can't blame him! He was only trying to protect me! Judge, please don't be mad at them."
Before Travis could respond, JD ran from the cabin. Thru the glass door, they could see the others break ranks and run after him. Chris started outside but he was stopped by a firm hand on his arm.
"Let them see to JD. Now tell me, Chris, did you really think you could keep a thing like this under wraps? Do you really think you're doing the boy a favor by making him hide this?"
Chris dropped into the chair and covered his face with his hands, "I didn't think about anything! I just wanted to protect JD! Damnit, Orin! He could have died! I didn't think, I just acted!"
"Calm down, Chris. I understand you care for the kid. I understand protecting your own. But you can't sweep this under the rug. He'll need counseling to get over this."
The sliding door opened and the rest of the team filed in, each face more guilty than the last. They lined up behind Chris as if they meant to do battle. Travis studied the faces of the seven men.
"Okay, here's the way it's going down. I will put JD on light duty for the next two weeks. Today is Saturday. I want all of you back in the office on Monday. I'll arrange counseling for him with a friend of mine who will keep it off the record."
A few pairs of eyes met his with some hope. "I'll see you all on Monday," Travis said. Chris didn't look up as the judge left.
Buck shifted uncomfortably, "I think I forgot my milk-bone underwear." Vin chuckled nervously.
JD looked around at the others, "Are we in trouble?"
Chris sighed, "No, we're not. Not yet at least. Come on everybody, let's eat before it gets cold."
They sat up late that night talking and playing cards. JD sat back and watched for a while as his thoughts spun madly in his mind. He was asleep on the couch when the game broke up and they all went to bed.
JD awoke early. He snuck out of the cabin and down to the barn to see the horses. There was still a little tremor in his hands but it wasn't so bad. The judge was going to allow him to get counseling without putting it on his permanent file. He was beginning to think that it was really going to be okay.
Vin slipped into the barn, "Morning kid. How are you feeling?"
"I think I'm gonna be okay, Vin."
"You want to go for a ride?"
JD nodded, "But later, with everybody."
Vin draped his arm around JD as they went back to the cabin. Ezra was already up and making breakfast for the group. It was a routine he had settled into that eased the group into their day.
Josiah came out after his shower and joined the group at the table. He reached out and mussed JD's hair as he teased him about his increasing appetite. Chris agreed to going for a long ride as soon as everyone had eaten and was ready.
They rode for hours. The fresh air and sunlight did wonders for JD, he looked almost the picture of health and vitality. Buck hovered close to the boy all day. Ezra managed to get Josiah laughing about some silly thing. Vin showed off with his horse, jumping the stream and doing little pirouettes. Nathan rode close to Chris and tried to gauge the leaders feelings.
Larabee turned to Nathan, "You know, this will all come out okay in the end. We just have to find the bastards who did this to us."
Not to JD, to us, Jackson realized that their leader was going to be okay. If Chris would be okay and JD was on the mend then the whole group would be able to ride another day.