A New Year
by Sue M
Disclaimer: Just playing. I know I can't keep 'em but if I could they'd be on season 10 by now!
Thanks to Mog for ATF/AU
Ratings/Warnings: Some bad language
Thank you darling Phyllis for betaing this so quickly for me. You are a treasure, and a mine of information about vehicles. I doff my cap to you, girl!
For my dear friend, Casey. (Kathleen)
Shivering a little, he watched in fascination as his breath hung in the air, just in front of his face.
"I used to pretend I smoked as a kid," JD smiled as he thought back to his childhood, "When the cold air turned my breath white."
Buck roused from his near-sleep state, "Yeah? Did you ever smoke for real?"
"Nah...never even tried one...never wanted to. Have you?"
Buck shifted slightly, "Cigars...kinda liked the odd cigar...tried one of Chris' cheroots once...didn't care for them."
"Chris smoked?" JD was surprised.
"Sure...not much, just those funny little cheroots...hasn' t smoked for almost four years now."
JD shivered harder, squeezing his eyes closed for what he thought was a moment. What he wouldn't give for the stationary truck to be heated right now.
"Kid...you ok? You've gone quiet."
JD nodded, despite it being too dark to see it, "Yeah, just wishing the heater was working." 'Not to mention the radio' he thought.
The contemplative silence that followed was broken by a curse from Buck.
"Fucking cell battery," Wilmington complained.
"Bet you wish you'd charged the darned thing before we left...like I told ya to...'oh don't sweat it, kid...it'll last 'til we get to Chris'... then I'll charge it there...'" JD mimicked his best friend's words from earlier that evening.
"Oh, quick..." Buck retorted, "...send for a medic, JD's coming down with..." his voiced raised and he growled, "...A CASE OF STATING THE FUCKING OBVIOUS."
Dunne huffed out a laugh, then growled quietly, screwing up his face in pain.
Wilmington reached over and sought out his partner's hand, successfully clasping it.
"Send it to me, kid...come on, squeeze...I can take it...OOOOOWW!!"
JD hissed another laugh..."Don't...make me...laugh...hurts... fu...uck!"
Buck was envious, he only wished he could feel pain, he hadn't felt his legs for about an hour now. His thoughts were interrupted by the theme music to the Magnificent Seven, coming from somewhere below them.
"Y'know...leaving your cell in your jacket pocket's just as dumb as not charging your phone."
JD snorted, "Nuh uh...it's working and I have it...circumstances dictate me being unable to reach it, so it doesn't count...you're still the leading dumb-ass."
Now Buck was laughing as he managed a quick glance at his partner, a young man who had become so important to him that he had no doubt how empty his life would be without him. He listened to the labored breaths and prayed for divine intervention.
"I wish I could see my watch," JD sighed.
"It's right here on your wrist, kid."
"Duh...it's dark, anyway...I think it's smashed, the glass feels broken."
"Isn't it the one ya got for yer birthday?"
The youth nodded, sadly, again forgetting it was dark.
"We'll get it fixed up as good as new, kid...you'll see."
"Hope so." 'Got to get out of here, first.' "D'ya think they've missed us yet?"
Buck grunted, "Lord, if I had the energy I'd smack you across the head. How many times has your cell rung?"
"Ok...so I guess they've missed us...just making conversation, is all."
JD tensed as another wave of pain hit, causing him to whimper and shudder, despite desperately trying to rein it in; Buck didn't need to know the full picture, he had his own problems.
Buck felt the squeeze to his hand intensify and squeezed gently back to reassure his young friend, worrying now at how bad a shape JD was in. He heard the youth's breaths even out.
"JD talk to me."
"I...I thought I...was."
"Don't be facetious kid, you know what I'm talking about."
JD chuckled, "You been reading that word a day toilet paper again, Buck?"
Buck thought for a moment then snickered.
"What if I have...? gives me something to do when I'm..."
"Ok...stop now...that's an image I can do without thank you."
Buck feigned a sigh, "You're no fun tonight."
"Yeah, well, that's New Year's Eve for ya...ya never know what you're gonna get 'til the ball drops."
Buck squeezed JD's hand, "That's why all but Nathan came together tonight, kid...bachelor boys with no one to kiss at midnight, out ta get stinking drunk instead."
"Oh yeah? So that's why you and Vin cancelled your dates for tonight?" "Who told you that?"
JD chuckled..."Erm, let me see, '...cancel on me huh? Well you can tell that no good, shit-faced, pot-bellied, son-of-a-bitch, it'll be a cold day in hell before he sees me again..."
Buck gasped, "Hey, that smarts...she didn't even know my mother."
JD's body was shaking with silent laughter which came to an abrupt end as a pain strong enough to take his breath away, engulfed him. The next thing he knew was a voice, seemingly in the distance calling... no, yelling at him to wake up.
"H...have I been asleep?"
'Oh thank God' "Yeah...yeah ya did doze off for a while there, boy... almost gave ol' Buck a heart attack."
"Sorry...didn't realize...you ok, Buck?"
"Yeah, I'm good son, I'm good. So...d'ya think this is a cold enough day in hell for Kitty to wanna see me again?"
Dunne snorted, "I think she was pretty pissed off, so I'm guessing... no."
"Damn, too bad." They fell into a silence for a while, then Buck thought of a conversation from earlier in the week that might help keep the young tech awake.
"Hey, I was thinking recently, we've been seven in the team for what...eighteen months now?"
JD frowned, "Yeah...I guess so. What made you think of that?"
Buck chuckled, "I have no idea, it just...popped in there. I think it was when Orin was talkin' to Chris about it the other day."
Dunne gulped, "Why were they discussing the team, Buck? Did we do something wrong?"
"Nah...nothin' like that, I think they were reflecting on the decision to form the team, ya know? Seems like a whole lot of people up top didn't approve of Travis' choice of leadership, and approved even less of Chris' choices for the team."
"Well, exactly. That's what Travis was saying, if he'd listened to those people all them months ago...who knows how many cases would have been lost to the Bureau, y'know?"
Dunne nodded and answered softly, "Yeah...who knows how many?"
+ + + + + + +
Larabee was not a happy man. He did not like being ignored at the best of times but when it was two of his closest friends and, overdue to boot, he was positively livid, or in truth...a little worried.
The evening's celebrations had barely begun when Chris had been overcome with a sudden urge to contact his two often wayward friends, and an hour later had concluded all was not well. Buck's cell was moving straight to voice mail whereas JD's was ringing...then switching to voice-mail. It was the latter that concerned Chris the most. JD was typical of his age group and his cell was rarely far from him, so the youth failing to answer was something Larabee wasn't prepared to dismiss.
Chris, Vin, Josiah and Ezra were now fully kitted out for the elements, and taking two vehicles they were now back-tracking the route to and from Chris' ranch.
+ + + + + + +
Buck reached up to touch the sleeping youth's forehead, at least, he hoped he was only sleeping. The skin was cold and clammy and, working his way down JD's left shoulder and arm, it became apparent the small body was cold. JD having discarded his jacket during the ride thanks to the Chevy's powerful heater. Just as Buck's hand was about to move from his friend's body, he felt it and his heart clenched.
Buck rubbed his fingers together. Convinced now of what he had found he shakily resumed his exploration, gasping as he felt the thin rigid foreign body firmly embedded in JD's side.
'Aww hell, kid.' Buck traced the shape toward the windshield, quickly grasping that the metal rail fence they had crashed through during their unplanned freefall from the highway must have splintered and penetrated the cab.
Turning awkwardly, the brunet tried to reach JD's jacket from the floorboard where it had slipped during the crash, but despite his fingers coming tantalizingly close, he failed. Buck cursed the steering wheel and column that had trapped his legs at his thighs, and fought back tears as his exhaustion and the cold threatened to consume him.
Dunne was aware of a warm hand on him then what sounded like a sob broke the silence. He turned his head to his partner.
Wilmington coughed lightly, "Never better, kid...you?"
JD laughed softly, despite the lack of humor in their predicament.
"Just peachy. So...you found it huh? How bad d'ya think?"
Sighing, Buck squeezed his roommate's hand. "It's not all the way through, so you'd best not move around too much."
"Wasn't planning on moving anytime soon, Buck," JD's voice softened, "I'm not ready to die just yet...I sure hope Chris and the guys work it out soon."
"No one's about to die, kid," Buck snapped, sharper than he meant to. "You just keep talkin' to ol' Bucklin here and help will be here before ya know it."
JD believed him...he had to...wanted to...surely it wasn't meant to end like this, here, on New Year's Eve.
+ + + + + + +
As Chris drove, Tanner's eyes scanned left and right. The roads had become treacherous and the packed snow had frozen as the temperature plummeted during the evening. Despite knowing the emergency services were on standby, the four men of Team Seven were slowly becoming more fearful for their colleagues, their friends. If they had been well, one of them would have called already, so each man was now preparing for bad news.
Vin pointed, urgency in his action. "There."
Chris hissed as the broken fencing came into the headlights. The fencing sat at the edge of sloping fields. Seeing it splintered was bad enough, seeing the tire marks leading up to it, was terrifying.
Angling the vehicles to cast as much light as possible, Vin and Chris grabbed their flashlights and swept the beams across the clearly recent wheel-furrowed ground, aiming for the very edges in the hope of spotting something.
A glint of metal caused Chris to re-check his last sweep, aware Josiah and Ezra's lights were greatly assisting.
There was no doubt the reflection was bouncing from a red Chevy.
Vin was already back at their vehicles, picking out equipment and medical supplies. Josiah called it in.
Tanner growled in frustration to see Larabee was already heading down to the stricken vehicle.
"Damn you, Larabee...wait! "
+ + + + + + +
Buck could hardly keep his eyes open. Adding to the chill penetrating his bones, his heart was heavy. The smaller hand he was clasping hadn't responded, much like its owner, for some time now. He knew JD was still with him, he could hear the youth's shuddering breaths, but they were getting softer as Buck's roommate and closest friend drifted deeper into unconsciousness.
Something caught the brunet's eye though at first he ignored it, believing it to be up on the highway.
Then he saw it again, bright, persistent and penetrating, then still... it had found them. Someone had found them.
"JD...JD, can you hear me? Hang in there, kid, help's here...it's coming, boy."
+ + + + + + +
In his unconscious state, JD's mind had latched on to their earlier conversation and traveled back sixteen months, a green, just-turned twenty year-old eager for fieldwork and some serious action.
"Mr. Larabee, I'm ready, I know it, and I believe you know it, too. Please, give me a chance to prove to you I'm up to the job you chose me for."
Chris sighed and gestured for the youth to sit down.
"JD, first of all, I told you to call me Chris. Secondly, while I know you're a capable agent, I took you on primarily as our electronics and surveillance expert, so technically, this is the job I chose you for."
Chris sighed inwardly as he watched the youth's shoulders slump.
"And I've used you as and when necessary to back us up. Kid...you're on a learning curve, embrace it...it'll be over far too soon, and before you know it, you'll be a 'veteran' with the nightmares that go with it."
JD nodded and rose from the chair.
Larabee watched Dunne walk to the door of his office.
The youth turned, "Yes sir?"
"You're doing great, son, I have no doubt you will go on to be an exceptional agent in the field."
JD smiled warmly, accepting the praise with grace. Chris Larabee didn't offer praise often.
Chris sighed as the young agent left his office, knowing only too well how soon he would truly know what fieldwork was like and the toll it would take.
+ + + + + + +
The next day, Buck and JD were doing their final checks in the van as the rest of the team took up their positions. Chris' voice crackled over the headset.
"JD, set things in motion and follow Buck out, I need everyone today."
Dunne gulped, desperately trying not to get excited. Buck didn't seem quite so thrilled.
"Ok, kid, listen up, you stay behind me, you stay sharp and listen to me, ya got that?"
"Yes...no problem, Buck."
"Good...good. Ok, do what ya gotta do here and let's go."
In less than five minutes they were out of the van and in position.
+ + + + + + +
The bust went well and Chris seemed pleased. As JD went back to the van a strange sensation washed over him and he shuddered. He turned right then left, shrugging his shoulders. He did a double-take to his left. There, in the shadows, a man with a gun trained on Team Seven. There was no way of knowing who he was aiming for, but the Team was in danger.
He swiftly snuck around the back of the crates where the man was positioned, but when he got there, the gunman was gone. JD twisted, searching for the gunman when a weight hit his back and he went down, dropping his gun as he fell.
JD spun onto his back to face a wild-eyed man waving a gun in his face, attempting to pin the agent to the ground. Dunne grabbed the weapon and the two wrestled for possession, the youth shocked at how strong the man was.
They struggled desperately, the gun moving down between their bodies and both men jerked as a muffled pop sounded.
+ + + + + + +
As Team Two was clearing the area, Chris was giving a quick field de- brief. All six heads shot up and looked toward the surveillance van as they heard the gunfire.
Buck scanned the area instantly then looked around the circle of agents.
Chris felt something he hadn't felt in a long time, the icy hand of fear as it gripped his heart.
"Oh God...it came from those cases, I think."
In an instant, six men were racing toward the area they believed the shot to have come from, each one calling JD's name. They stopped dead as they rounded the cases to see a stranger laid on top of JD and blood pooling on the floor to one side of the two prone figures.
For a few seconds no one moved, then finally, as one, they all did. JD's eyes were closed and Buck was terrified as he got closer.
Dunne's eyes flew open.
"P...please, please get him off me," he rasped.
In seconds, Josiah and Ezra had pulled the dead gunman off the youth as Nathan crouched down and put his hand on JD's chest, his eyes taking in the boy's blood-stained clothes.
"Lie still, son."
JD grasped the medic's arm. "It's n...not my blood."
That was all Buck needed to know. He took the youth's hands and pulled him to his feet, enveloping the shaking boy in a tight hold.
Chris put one hand on JD's head. "What happened?"
As Dunne looked at Chris, then all of them, his stomach lurched and he pushed away hard from Buck and raced off, his stomach emptying before he got very far.
Chris looked on as Nathan and Buck dealt with JD.
Chris looked down at the body, where Vin was crouched.
Vin pointed, "Morris Simpson, known gun-runner and hit man for Posen's outfit. Looks like we really did get 'em all."
Chris acknowledged the information, unable to prevent the thought forming as to what cost to their youngest, possibly,the team as a whole, as he doubted this was over. Larabee walked over and checked on JD as Nathan came back to look over the body. Returning to the team, Chris nodded to Nathan as the EMT approached him.
"Buck's gonna take JD home. He said he'll bag the kid's clothes for evidence, he just doesn't think the kid's up to a de-briefing right now."
Trying not to show annoyance at the decision being taken out of his hands, Chris nodded.
"Ok, let's wrap this up and get the fuck out of here. Josiah, make sure forensics get shots of this, too." Larabee waved his hand toward the dead body and the gore on the floor. Josiah nodded.
"Ezra, can I leave you to sort out the van?"
Standish nodded, "Consider it done."
Chris walked away, his feelings mixed about the day's events.He sighed heavily.
+ + + + + + +
The first two weeks directly after the incident saw JD slowly returning to his old self. Chris was grateful, he had feared a difficult transition, though Buck was convinced something was wrong. Chris trusted Buck's judgment, but as he had seen nothing too extreme, the blond had decided to let things slide, for now.
Then it happened.
Chris moved to his office door on hearing the arrival of his team. JD looked up from his pc and smiled at the five men who were talking animatedly about their concluded arrests.
"Boy howdy...his face was a picture," Buck chuckled
"I'm guessing it went well?" Chris asked.
Buck nodded, "Oh you better believe it, stud. Porter was all over me like a rash. We were wrestling on the floor, hell I could see the veins in the whites of his eyes, he was so close. Thought he had me beat, too...ha...idiot."
JD went cold as his breathing quickened. He felt cold sweat break out on his forehead as his fingers stayed frozen over the keyboard. He squeezed his eyes closed only to see Morris Simpson's face right against his, then heard a 'pop' and Simpson's eyes widening and bulging as the bullet ended his life.
The youth could feel the weight of the dead man's body pin him and hear the death rattle in the man's throat as his life ebbed away.
Without realizing it, JD had risen to his feet and was standing in the center of the room.
"Well, Bucklin, all I can say is if ya could see the whites of his eyes, he was way closer than he should have been." Vin pointed out.
The men turned to JD, barely hearing the whisper.
"What was that, son?" Josiah asked, frowning as he noticed the slight tremor running through the young man's body. JD held his hands in the air, as if trying to ward off something.
"I said...shut up...SHUT UP...SHUT UP...SHUT THE FUCK UP!"
Chris had started to move, the others all turning or standing from their various positions and slowly gravitating toward the pale youth. Despite his lack of comprehension at that moment, JD sensed the movement toward him.
"No...stay back...stay put...DON'T TOUCH ME!"
Buck had gotten the closest, with Chris right behind, still close to his office door as JD moved back that way.
"JD...kid...what is it? What's wrong?"
Dunne was forcing his hands through his hair as a guttural sound emanated from his throat. As Wilmington's hand touched him, the youth jerked back violently, bumping Chris as he did so.
The young agent felt trapped, hot, cold...frightened, spinning left and right to avoid being touched, and swinging his fists wildly.
"NO...STOP IT...NO...GET OFF ME..."
A wild punch hit Chris' office window and everyone ducked as glass fragments exploded into the air, mostly into the office.
For a long few moments no one moved, the only sounds were tinkling glass and JD's labored rapid breaths.
Dunne stared at the broken window, then at his bloody left hand, not able to separate what he could see and the images of Simpson in his mind. He could hear voices around him but felt unable to respond as his body slowly started turning to jelly. He didn't initially react to someone helping him to a chair or someone binding his hand. All he could feel was...exhaustion.
"Holy crap." Buck held the dripping hand by the wrist as Chris enveloped the younger man's body with his arms and guided him to a chair. Both men were talking, soothing, but it was obvious JD wasn't hearing them.
Nathan had gratefully accepted some towels Ezra had procured from Chris' private bathroom and was binding the bleeding gash on the heel of JD's hand, holding the limb in the air while trying to find out if the young man was in pain.
Vin offered some water while Josiah draped a blanket, from Chris' office, around the young man's shoulders, both men then stepping back to give JD breathing space. Nathan nodded his approval, noticing Buck's curious expression, he whispered just loud enough for the team to make out his words.
"He's in shock, Buck." The EMT looked at Larabee who was examining the damaged window..
"We need to get him out of here."
Buck walked to meet the advancing blond and squeezed Chris' forearm. "Does Travis need to know about this?"
Larabee looked to the others, his eyes resting on Nathan, "Does he need stitches?"
"Possibly, and although my examination leaves me reasonably sure he hasn't, he may have glass in there."
Chris was torn, everything pointed to a trip to the hospital, but as he looked and assessed the condition of the youth, he was in no doubt JD simply wasn't up to much of anything right now. He made a decision.
"Damn. Ok, do what you can for now. I know this goes against standard procedure, but we'll take him out to my place for tonight, give him a chance to get his bearings," he turned to Nathan. "Then, unless there are any problems, we'll run him by the hospital tomorrow. In the meantime it'll give me a chance to think about how much Travis should know."
The five men slowly nodded their agreement and prepared to leave. Chris handed his keys to Wilmington.
"Buck, get JD to my truck and wait for me. Use the elevator to the garage. I'll be right along."
Larabee watched them leave then turned to the team.
"You're welcome to join us, but it's your choice."
The four men stood straight almost as one.
"Your place it is, Mister Larabee," Ezra confirmed, with nods from the others.
+ + + + + + +
Looking around, there was something familiar about his surroundings but his brain just couldn't register what it was or why he was there.
JD turned his head slowly, smiling as he saw Buck's face loom into view.
"Hey," he answered, "What time is it"
"It's 8am, how are you feeling?"
"Tired...8am? Wasn't I just at work?"
Buck sighed, realizing, for now, JD had no memory of recent events or of being put to bed by himself and Vin.
"Yeah, but we're at Chris' now. I'll go get you a drink."
JD nodded, "Thanks." He brought up his left hand to rub his eyes and gasped at the heavy bandaging.
"W...what happened to my hand? Buck...what did I do?"
The brunet stood and tried to reassure.
"Easy now, we'll talk about that in a minute. Let me get you a drink, ok?"
Dunne's stomach clenched as his body trembled, and he had no idea why.
"Be quick, huh?"
Buck smiled, "I will, just rest easy for a minute." He raced off to the kitchen. JD closed his eyes...there was something...right there, on the edges of his mind...what was it?
+ + + + + + +
Chris looked to Buck as he approached the kitchen "He's awake?"
Buck nodded to Chris. "Yeah, just getting him a drink. Nathan, he doesn't recall yesterday at all."
Jackson nodded, "I'm not surprised, traumatic events can have that affect. Trouble is, he will, and it's gonna be just as much as a shock as before, maybe not as destructive, but certainly upsetting."
Larabee stood, looking around at his friends, then to Buck. "Let me go, Buck. I think I should do this."
Buck was about to protest when a small voice came from behind them.
"Do what, Chris?" JD was walking from the stairs and toward them.
Buck growled, "Didn't I tell you to rest easy?"
JD joined them in the living room and slumped down next to Vin, looking around at his friends. "I wanna know what I did to my hand."
Chris nodded his approval and ordered some refreshments be organized. Ten minutes later, drinks in hand, all seven men were grouped closely together in the living room.
"Ok, JD," Chris began, "What do you remember about yesterday?"
Dunne frowned, "Getting to work."
"Do you recall you and I remaining in the office while the others followed a lead for an arrest?"
JD frowned again, then nodded.
"Do you remember them coming back?"
The easterner concentrated, "Yeah...they were real excited, they'd made the arrest...Buck was...Buck...was..."
JD could feel his heart rate and breathing accelerating as he looked to his friends, then Buck, then his hand. Once again, his stomach clenched.
"Oh God," he whispered and attempted to stand.
Chris held him firm, "Talk to me, son...what's on your mind?"
JD ran his right hand through his hair, "I...I can't."
Josiah leaned forward, "If you don't want to share, we understand, but if you can, we all want to help."
Each man nodded. JD tried desperately to hold it together. He wanted nothing more than to show the 'Great' Chris Larabee he was a capable agent. This was not helping.
Chris decided to put his young agent out of his misery by using what he had learned while going over JD's personal file the previous night. Chris looked the young man in the eyes, holding JD's attention while leaning forward slightly as he clasped his hands together.
"That was your first kill, wasn't it?"
As the awful realization hit the rest of the team, JD curled in on himself. "Oh God..."
Buck was instantly there for him.
"Aw hell, kid, you shoulda said something."
JD was distraught and took a while to compose himself, finally looking up at Chris. He swallowed nervously.
"Yes, yes it was, and it was...awful. I thought I was dead when I heard the gun go off. Then...then I saw his eyes...right in my face...and I knew... I knew he was dead. Then that noise in his throat and I couldn't get him off me, and...and..."
He jumped to his feet, startling them.
"What is wrong with me? I'm a Federal Officer, for fuck's sake...I shouldn't be reacting like this...I don't deserve to be here...I...I..."
He looked around as he nursed his hand, his gaze resting on Chris.
"I'm so sorry, guys, Chris." He straightened, despite feeling as weak as a kitten. "Mister Larabee, you'll have my resignation first thing in the morning."
He moved to leave the tight circle of friends and colleagues, very aware of Buck's distraught gasp at his outburst. Chris gripped his arm.
JD appeared about to argue but the look on Larabee's face helped him decide his next course of action. He sat.
Chris leaned toward him, giving him his full attention. "JD, every man in this room is unique, talented, special, part of the reason I chose them for Team Seven and the reason I care about each one of you far more than I could ever care to admit. We each have our ways of dealing with things, most of us have gotten a lot of the worst stuff out of the way years ago, although we still get caught out, occasionally.
When I took you on, the one thing I knew I would be dealing with was your inexperience in the field, and I was more than ready for it. I saw an opportunity for myself and five other men to take what you are and help to make you one of the best Federal Agents on the force. I love that you're willing to learn and take on everything we throw at you, but I admit, I get frustrated when you want to run before you can walk."
JD shifted awkwardly. Chris softened his features.
"I also knew, due to your personality, that there would be many things that would affect you far more deeply than most people, and I was prepared for that too. What I wasn't prepared for, was you not coming to me, or one of the others when you were hurting so badly, and I regret not anticipating that."
JD shuddered and Buck moved in closer to him. The rest of the team were captivated by their Team Leader's speech. They rarely heard Chris open up like this.
"I don't see you as weak if you're affected by something, JD, but you become a liability if you keep something bad to yourself, and what I can't afford, are liabilities. Do you understand what I'm trying to say here?"
Wide hazel eyes stared back at kind green ones.
"You're not weak, just learning, but you make the team weak if you hold out on us, and that goes for any one of us. So, the line is drawn. No more secrets, ok? Unless it's my birthday present."
JD blinked and a tiny smile graced his lips.
"I'm so sorry..."
"Oh," Chris added, "And no regrets. Now, Buck and Vin are going to take you to the hospital to get your hand checked out. Then we're all going to meet back here and chill out for the day. And when you're ready to really talk to us, we'll be here, waiting. Go wash up, kid, the sooner you guys go, the sooner ya get back."
JD nodded and left the room. Buck pulled Chris to his feet and gave him a big ol' bear hug. "Thanks, pard."
Larabee grinned, "I'll allow you that one." His expression became serious, "I'm sorry, Buck, you kept saying something was wrong, I should have listened to you. That will never happen again."
Buck grinned as he saw JD re-enter the room. "Yeah, it will, but I appreciate the words."
+ + + + + + +
Larabee skidded down the last few yards, crashing into the side of the Chevy and almost losing his flashlight. He scanned the inside of the truck for signs of life, deep blue eyes glinting in the beam.
"Buck! It's Chris...nod if you can hear and understand me."
"I'm not deaf, Larabee, just injured."
Chris grinned, "I knew you were too ornery to die." His face dropped, "How's the kid?" His light had revealed the unconscious easterner.
"Hasn't moved for some time now. Chris he's got something stuck in him."
Chris exhaled nervously as Tanner drew alongside him. On hearing Buck's words, Vin walked to the front of the truck and shone his flashlight into the interior.
Chris came around to look. "Damn. Buck, is he bleeding badly?"
"Not so much now, probably the cold."
Josiah joined them, armed with blankets and medical supplies, leaving Ezra to direct the emergency services to their exact location. JD's side of the truck was slightly elevated and Vin found his door opened easily. With great care and attention, Vin placed the blankets over the freezing men.
"Thanks, Vin, that does feel good." Buck got out through chattering teeth.
Josiah had come alongside and was now stroking JD's hair. He leaned in, "Stay with us, John."
The men had been so concerned with making their friends comfortable, they had totally missed the arrival of the paramedics and firefighters. They stepped back as the men got to work. Ezra joined them and was instantly filled in with their possible conditions.
With a loud pop, Buck was freed from the steering column and howled in pain as the circulation began returning to his legs. He protested wildly at having to leave JD's side, but the rescuers assured him it would aid their efforts in freeing and giving medical aid to the young man. As they prepared to carry the ladies' man up to the ambulance, he grabbed at Chris' offered hand.
"Stay, Chris, for me, for JD. Stay and take care of him for me."
Larabee nodded and looked to Josiah, who accompanied the rescue workers and Buck up and out of the field and to the hospital.
In a short time, a shout went out and JD was being moved out of the vehicle, the metal rod now shortened enough to remove him to the hospital safely. Chris touched the side of JD's face, shuddering at how cold he felt.
"Here ya go." One of the firefighters handed Vin and Ezra items from the truck. Tanner unconsciously pulled JD's jacket close to his chest.
A shout of "Let's go!" urged the remainder of Team Seven to follow the stretcher bearers out of the field and to the ambulance. Chris checked his watch with his flashlight, 9.32pm. He found himself fearing how the old year would end and the new one start.
+ + + + + + +
Buck smiled from his hospital bed as his friends entered the ER.
Buck chuckled. "Don't frost it or nothin' will ya, Larabee? Doc says some severe bruising and swelling but it should go down in around a week. Have you heard how JD's doing?" The brunet choked back his own pain as he spoke.
They all shook their heads, more than aware Buck was putting on a brave face for their benefit.
"Not yet," Nathan offered. He had joined them as soon as he heard what had happened.
A small cough drew their attention to a female doctor.
"I understand you're John Dunne's family?"
They nodded collectively, "Yes, how is he?" Chris asked.
She gave a bright smile. "Doing very well, considering. The foreign body has been successfully removed and although it just nicked his liver, the damage has been successfully repaired. Blood loss was reasonably minimal, probably due to the cold and apart from a few bumps, bruises, sore ribs, and mild hypothermia, he's fine. He should be in his own room in a few hours."
They thanked her and congratulated themselves as they comforted an emotional Buck. Larabee leaned in to his old friend and whispered.
"So you can just stop beating yourself up and blaming yourself now, you old fool, the kid's gonna be ok."
Buck looked deep into Chris' eyes, a clear understanding passing between them. They both nodded.
Chris looked at his watch and smiled, 11.59.42 pm, a good end to the old year and a good start to the new year, Team Seven were truly blessed.
+ + + + + + +
Buck glanced across at his sleeping roommate and smiling, picked up a grape and threw it at JD's nose.
"Knock it off, Buck."
"Ha, I knew you weren't really asleep."
"I was trying to be...doc says I should get plenty of rest."
"Hell, boy, ya slept all night. Talk to me."
Dunne opened both eyes, sighed and propped a pillow behind his shoulders for a better position to see his friend.
"Ok, what do you want to talk about?"
Buck frowned. "Aw, well, now you've gone and made me forget."
"Ya took too long to get up."
JD laughed softly, then winced. "Ow..."
"Ya alright there, kid?"
"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine. You?"
"Legs are moving better now. Can't wait to go home tomorrow."
"Well, to Chris' anyway," Dunne reminded.
After a few minutes, JD looked over at Buck.
"I had a dream, y'know, when I was trapped in the truck."
Buck turned to him and raised his eyebrows.
"Yeah? What about?"
"Can't fully recall, but it was back when I first started with you...I think...it kinda got muddled in my mind when I came around."
Buck deliberated. "Well, couldn't have been that important then."
JD nodded, "Nah, I guess not. Hey, I forgot to say, Happy New Year."
Buck grinned, "Same to you, kiddo. I wonder if we can persuade Chris to have the New Year party when we get out of here?"
"Oh that'd be cool. I got a load of new jokes to try out."
Buck groaned good-naturedly and pushed back into his pillow.