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 the wonderful ATF/AU
Thanks always to Phyllis for her advice, her input and her friendship, my stories are all the better for her efforts and contributions.
Special thanks to May Robinson whose generosity allowed me to take a delicious incident and character she created in her wonderful story The Third Sunday in June and expand it, (so most of the wonderful Buck-JD h/c can be found there, although there's quite a bit in mine too!)
Thanks also to my daughter Abbie who has recently acquired photoshop and made a wall for me!
It had...his heart had definitely skipped a beat. JD surveyed the room in astonishment, unable to speak, or comprehend what he was seeing.
Buck and Chris stood at the door with their arms folded, the latter displaying a look of amusement, the former one of exasperation.
"Well, kid?" Buck finally couldn't help himself.
Still looking around but slowly turning toward the two men, the young agent finally found his voice.
"W...when did you do all this, Chris?"
Buck relaxed and chuckled as Chris grinned.
"Well, I didn't exactly do it myself, I sort of left that to the Bureau. I just gave them the recording of the conversation we all had a month ago and they took it from there.
"Recording?" JD frowned.
Buck took up the story. "We all talked a while back, about the equipment we use for surveillance... do you recall the conversation? "
The youth nodded slowly, "Actually, I believe it was mostly me complaining about the archaic equipment I was expected to perform miracles with and the lack of facilities to build and test my ideas and designs."
He spun on the spot as he once again checked out the room.
"Oh!" he said as the light dawned on him.
"I approached Travis about a budget, he agreed and I offered my old workshop here at the ranch for the conversion," Chris informed, "I know it's a little out of the way here, but it's big and it's quiet and you'd be welcome to use it whenever you need to, even if I'm not here, it's fully self sufficient; they even installed a bathroom and kitchen and, with full alarms and keypad entry...you're good to go."
Buck laughed nervously, "Hell, Chris all he needs is a bed and he'll want to move in here." His roommate's look at those words gave Buck cause to pale slightly, but Dunne couldn't contain his mirth and chuckled.
"Hell, Buck...I'm not so obsessed with work that I'd want to live with it...'sides, I don't think Chris would spoil me like you do."
The brunet relaxed, "Yeah...HEY!! Are you saying I'm soft?"
The youth smiled, "Yep, and you know you are."
Buck nodded, "Ok, fair comment."
JD had walked over to the two men and was now standing in front of the man he considered his hero.
"Chris...this is awesome...I don't know how you did this, but...thanks. I can do so much more here, I know it. You won't regret it, and I promise I won't be any trouble when I use it."
Chris stepped forward and cupped the young man's neck.
"Don't make promises you can't keep, son," Chris chuckled, "But I will say this...I'm proud of the way you wanted to tackle this and help bring the ATF into the twenty-first century. And I know Travis felt the same, which is why he approved it. If it helps us get one asshole off the street, it will have been worth every penny."
"Yeah...that and keeping our people safer," Dunne reminded. "Hell, I know the equipment is out there, Chris, but we seem to always be at the end of the line when it's handed out. This will give us equal footing at least."
The blond agreed, "Yeah...absolutely. Right, this weekend we'll move all your paraphernalia here and you'll be set. Now...come on, the others must be wondering where we are."
JD beamed and took one last look at his new surveillance workshop. As he followed the men to Chris' ranch house and the rest of Team Seven, JD overtook them and turned, walking backward as he spoke.
"How did you manage to record a conversation? There's no way you could have known when I would bring the subject up."
Buck caught up with him and turned him around as they continued to walk.
"Don't you recall Ezra's tirade about bulky equipment just before a bust a while back and him pulling his damned Versace suit every which way to demonstrate how cumbersome the equipment is, and then him asking your opinion? And, well, we had to record it...there was no way we'd have remembered all those details"
The light bulb over JD's head went on as he remembered how Standish's dissatisfaction kicked off his own frustrations.
+ + + + + + +
Three weeks later and JD, in his opinion, had successfully modified and extended parameters of several types of directional mics and listening devices, extending their range far and beyond expectations and in secret tests, had successfully captured long-range conversations that in the field would normally have been lost. Ezra now sported a made-to-measure device which slipped comfortably into the lining of his jacket without a pull of any kind, but the young agent's pride and joy was his new computer system, built from scratch and ready for installation in the surveillance van. Its capabilities were way beyond anything they had used before and JD was keen to test it.
No sooner had the thought entered his head, a briefing was called; their new case involved gun runners and a particularly nasty piece of scum by the name of Robert Dexter
+ + +
"Wait a minute, wait a minute...I need to get this straight in my head..." Buck called out. Team Seven looked at him from around the conference table.
He pointed to JD but was looking at Chris.
"He actually wants to stay in the surveillance van? No 'why do I always have to miss out on the action?' routine this time? Holy crap! Are we recording this meeting? I want this for posterity; I want to be able to play it every time we start a new case."
Dunne huffed, "Oh...hilarious... look at me cracking up here...I must jot that down for my memoirs."
"Oh you like that?" Buck winked, "'Cause I got me a stack o' those for ya..."
Chris held up his hand..."Alright, enough you two...we haven't even got this investigation underway yet, although," he turned to JD, "I like the idea of getting something on tape when Ezra meets with Dexter tomorrow." He looked at Ezra, "Pagliacci's on West and 33rd, yeah?"
Ezra nodded, "Correct, we are meeting at seven pm."
"JD...do you need to do any more work on your equipment or are you all set?" Larabee inquired.
JD looked at his Team Leader, "Actually, I do have some fine- tuning... if that's ok?"
Chris nodded, "No problem...ok...what say we take this out to the ranch, later, JD can 'fine-tune' and we can do some final planning ..."
"...in more informal surroundings? " Ezra smirked.
Chris glared, "Thank you...Agent Standish...for so kindly finishing my sentence for me..."
Each man dropped his head to stifle a smirk or chuckle, Ezra simply saluted.
"Just a thought..." Josiah was looking at JD.
"Wouldn't the surveillance van stand out, parked up in the street at that time of evening?"
Almost as if waiting for the question, the youth jumped to his feet and fished out a grid map from his back jeans pocket and laid it out on the table. He pointed to an area that suggested a corner, a block away from the restaurant.
"Not if we park here."
Focusing on the map, JD missed the looks that circled the room.
"JD..." Ezra started, "Son, while I have every faith in your amazing technical abilities, I seriously doubt we can capture anything in the van from that distance without a wire and I am not comfortable using such equipment at this early stage."
Dunne couldn't contain his grin, "Oh no...no wires, Ezra...I promise."
Standish's normal poker face was reflecting concern, and for a few moments, JD's heart sank a little at the thought these men might fear he would fail them.
"Hell, Ezra...what do you think I'm gonna do...stand in the street with a mic, a parabolic dish and a set of giant headphones and just...point?"
The southerner was torn between surprise and amusement at the outburst.
JD sighed, "Just...trust me, ok?"
Standish raised his hand as a gesture. "My apologies, JD...of course I trust you."
Chris could see more questions forming and decided to help his youngest agent out.
"Ok...we'll leave all that up to JD. That's it...get started on the groundwork and we'll put the finishing touches for the meeting in place later."
+ + + + + + +
Buck leaned heavily against the doorframe as he watched his best friend tapping away at his computer. He couldn't help but smile to himself. JD had fully utilized this new room; the young man had been designing surveillance equipment since he was around fifteen to sixteen and was enthusiastic to incorporate as many of them as possible into their fieldwork. Buck wondered if it was simply enthusiasm or more a fear of Travis yanking away the new budget before JD had hardly gotten started. He coughed lightly, causing the young tech to turn.
"Hey yourself. You done now? Your presence is required for the second quarter of the game you said you'd be joining us for during the pre- game analysis?"
Dunne checked his watch, "Shoot...yeah, sorry, I just got so caught up, y'know?"
Buck chuckled and nodded, "Oh yeah...I know...are we all set for tomorrow?"
"Oh sure...this was just another little project I was working on. Just let me save and log off..."
As JD approached him, Buck put his arm around the youth's shoulders and gave a light squeeze.
"Come on little man, all work and no play makes John a dull boy."
JD blinked hard and looked up at his roommate. "Little man? Did...did you just call me 'little man'?"
Buck agreed, "Uh huh...been thinking up some new names...I kinda liked this one."
As the two made their way across to the house, the youth was silent, but as they entered, his voice went up a few octaves.
The rest of the team turned to the pair, in no way disguising their amusement.
"Told ya he wouldn't like it, "Vin drawled.
Dunne turned to them, "Oh I'd like it fine...if I was FIVE!" He took off his cap and started flicking at Buck's head with it, causing the big man to chuckle and duck the onslaught. Chris shook his head with mock disgruntlement.
"Peace is shattered. Hey...Laurel and Hardy...SIT!"
JD deftly hopped onto the couch and settled between Nathan and Josiah, looking back at Buck.
"That makes you the fat one," he grinned bobbing his eyebrows as he scooped up a handful of popcorn from the bowl on Josiah's knee.
"Yeah...well...that makes you the dumb one!" Buck retorted.
"Nah...the cute one, Buck...the cute one...'sides, everyone likes the cute one."
As Buck opened his mouth to reply, Chris pulled him into the chair next to him.
"I said...SIT!" The blond looked over to JD, "You all set for tomorrow, kid?"
JD nodded as his mouth was stuffed with popcorn, "Mmm hmm."
Chris smiled, "Good. We'll load up what you need into Buck's truck after the game."
JD nodded again, still eating. He hadn't realized how hungry he was, and, for that matter, how tired.
+ + +
By the end of the game the others were not at all surprised that Buck and JD had eventually gravitated toward each other, the latter sound asleep and leaning on Wilmington's shoulder.
"How about you stay the night, Buck? We'll load up what he needs in the morning then you guys can head home for a shower and change," Chris offered.
"Thanks," Buck whispered, "...'Preciate it."
The rest of the team said goodbye and headed home. With a gentle maneuver, Buck vacated the sofa, strategically placed pillows under the youth's head and covered JD with a comforter without him so much as sighing. Chris watched and clapped his oldest friend on the back as he drew alongside him.
"I'm guessing that's not the first time you've done that," the blond grinned.
Buck nodded, "Oh yeah...some days he'll just keep goin' 'til he drops... it's best just to leave him."
The two men entered the kitchen where Chris held up a bottle of whiskey and Buck nodded his approval as he watched Larabee pour two glasses then hand him one. They took a seat at the kitchen table and clinked glasses. After a good sip, Chris sat back and looked at Buck.
"I can't believe how well you two get along sometimes, it truly is as though you've been brothers all your lives."
Wilmington looked at his friend. "Yeah," he laughed softly, "I have to admit, he's kinda grown on me...a hell of a lot. Thanks, stud."
Chris chuckled, "Was that sarcasm, Wilmington?"
Buck returned the grin, then his features softened as he looked to the direction his young roommate was sleeping. His answer was barely a whisper.
+ + + + + + +
The surveillance van was flanked front and rear by Vin's jeep and Chris' Ram. Buck was inside helping JD set up; Josiah and Nathan were sitting in the front of the van. The side-door slid open and Chris jumped in.
"Ezra's inside, are you ready?"
Hardly looking up, JD adjusted a long thin directional mic that was pointing toward the general area of the restaurant then both senior agents watched the youth tapping in a series of commands to the computer. The more he tapped, the louder the hiss became over the speakers.
Each agent, bar Ezra, was wearing an earpiece and each agent started feeling anxious as the hiss seemed to remain. Chris was just about to call it off and change location when a few more taps to the computer canceled the hiss and Ezra's voice, along with a few others from the restaurant, came clearly over the equipment, a little quiet at first, then a few more taps and the words were loud and crystal clear as JD canceled out the background noise. Just as the young agent checked the recording equipment was running, Buck slapped him on the back. JD turned and caught Chris' eye.
"Good work," the blond stated.
The younger man grinned, "Amazing what you can do with a voice filter, and it doesn't look as though they have an audio-jammer with them."
Suitably impressed, Chris nodded and jumped out of the van to return to his truck, flashing a satisfied smile, first to Tanner located behind the van, then to Josiah and Nathan sitting in the front.
Vin grinned to himself, "Alright, kid!"
+ + +
The next morning, Ezra sat with the rest of the team in the conference room as JD played back the previous night's recording. As it finished, Ezra got up and walked over to JD, his smile wide enough to show off his gold tooth. He took JD's hand and shook it twice.
"Hats off to you, my young friend. That is excellent work."
JD nodded, returning the grin, "Thanks, Ezra."
"Good work all round," Larabee stated, "Right...so the deal is on. Did it seem on the level to you, Ezra?"
Standish nodded, "Oh yes...the man is an obnoxious slime-ball, but he's a gratuitous, avaricious, obnoxious slime-ball, he is most definitely ready to deal."
The blond shook his head and half-smiled, "Good, tell him it's on and set up a date and time. Time to put the slime-ball away. Buck."
The brunet looked up.
"From now on, you go in as Ezra's bodyguard. JD, I'd appreciate it if you could fix Buck up the same as you have for Ezra."
Wilmington nodded to Chris, then to Ezra. JD silently gulped as his stomach did a little flip. Buck was going to be on the front line. He knew Ezra was also, but it was a given, it was what Ezra did; an extra body meant extra worry. His face must have reflected his thoughts and Josiah gently squeezed his shoulder. JD turned to look at the profiler, a thin smile revealing his true feelings.
"Now then, John Dunne, is that worry I see on your young face? Come on son, we'll all be there to back them up, and now we have this amazing new advantage to work with, it's really just a matter of formalities. "
JD nodded, but as Josiah walked away, both men knew the worry would remain until the final count on the day. The young agent looked at Buck then called to the profiler, chasing after him.
Sanchez turned, "Yes, son?"
"Can I stop by later? I'd like to ask you something."
"Ask away, JD."
"No...not here. Can I come by later?"
Josiah smiled and squeezed the youth's arm.
"Of course...later then." Josiah walked away wondering what could be so wrong that the young man hadn't wanted to talk to Buck about it.
+ + +
Ezra was walking back to the bullpen with Buck.
"You are a very fortunate man, my friend."
The ladies' man frowned, "I am?"
"Oh yes...did you not see the concern on the face of our youngest when Mister Larabee announced you were to assist me on this endeavor?"
Buck shook his head, "No, but I can imagine it. How does that make me lucky?"
Ezra smiled wistfully, "Because I would be honored if someone cared for me in that manner, Buck, truly honored."
The brunet held on to the smaller man's shoulders and turned him to face him.
"Standish...allow me to let you in on a little secret. Do you know why JD has been so dogged in his attempts to improve this equipment?" He continued on, knowing there would be no reply.
"When I asked JD that question, his reply was, 'if just one small improvement protects Ezra, or any one of you and is the difference between not getting him safely out of a situation before he gets hurt and getting him out... it'll be worth it.'"
Ezra choked back emotion.
Buck nodded, "Damn indeed. Now shut the hell up about it and fill me in."
Ezra's smile returned, "Well, first we need to get you suited up."
+ + + + + + +
It took two more meetings to finalize the details but eventually the bust was on.
That morning, in the CDC, JD had watched Buck intently. The man seemed in excellent spirits. No obvious sign of nerves, he was moving about the apartment with confidence and calm, looking particularly smart, JD thought, in his dark navy suit, matching tie and white shirt. Despite every intention of sending his big brother out with a smile and an air of confidence, JD's expression betrayed him and he was suddenly faced with a six foot three man in navy, staring at him.
"Come on, kid...out with it."
JD was irritated with himself for allowing his feelings to show.
"Err...it's nothing, just hoping the equipment holds up is all."
Buck chuckled, "Yeah right, and I'm really the Pope." He cupped his hand around the young man's neck.
"Son, Ezra and me got the best team in the world watching our backs; you want to know the truth?"
JD nodded, his eyes never leaving Buck's face.
"Truth is, you are gonna be safely tucked up in a surveillance van and that my friend, makes my heart soar. Knowing you'll be in the safest place today, will leave me less to worry about and do a top-notch job to boot. Are we clear?"
JD swallowed, "You sound more like my Dad than a teammate, I think, not that I've ever had one to compare with or anything."
The look Buck flashed the young man, JD would learn later, was one of pride. They parted company and adding his gun to its holster, the brunet opened his arms and looked back at his friend.
"So...will I do?"
Dunne bobbed his head, "Oh yeah...you'll do fine."
Buck nodded his thanks and started for the door. "See ya on the flip- side, squirt."
As JD watched him leave he whispered. "Be careful, big brother."
+ + +
Chris was always proud of his team, but he was doubly so on this occasion. Their work, as always, was meticulous and exceptional, but with the new equipment capturing more detail than had ever been achieved before, the team was buoyant in their expectations of success.
He rarely singled anyone out, but he felt he had to approach his youngest as the young man was setting up the surveillance van and the others were getting into position.
Dunne looked up at his team leader and smiled.
"JD, I just wanted to say...what you've achieved here...it's been exceptional and I wanted to thank you. I'm proud of you, of all of you. This is one hell of a team."
JD sat there with his mouth open. No sooner had Chris said his words, he was gone. Chris Larabee had told him he was proud of him...holy crap! The youth chuckled to himself as he started his checks.
Nathan popped his head around the door. "You all set, JD?"
"Sure am, Nathan. Get to your position and I'll do a sound check."
Nathan nodded and secured the sliding door as he left.
JD looked around him. This would be his world for as long as it took to complete the bust, but he was content. It was familiar, despite its compact size. He looked at the monitors and tapped a command on the computer, watching as the camera zoomed in to show Ezra and Buck clearly, the look on Buck's face causing him to be grateful the big guy was on their side. Satisfied with the visual, JD switched to the audio, calling to each agent one by one to check function and clarity.
He smiled on hearing Vin. He was always amazed how the sharpshooter could sit so still, so high up and for so long. The man was an awesome and deadly shot, and was often the difference between the team's total and partial success. Anyone fleeing the Scene of Crime rarely got past Tanner.
Nathan...thank God for him. Not just an awesome agent but a Godsend where Team Seven was concerned. JD wondered if the man had ever regretted declaring he was an EMT.
Ezra...short sharp reply, so the opposite of his normal conversations. But this was Ezra in full agent mode, focused and thorough, no time for pleasantries.
The young agent had campaigned relentlessly for better equipment to keep Ezra and any others with him safer. He smiled at the thought that he had finally succeeded. He really should thank Travis again...or more likely, Chris.
Buck. Buck's return comment made him chuckle and then there was no need to test Chris as the blond came on and told the brunet to can it. JD was looking forward to the weekend; there was something very special he wanted to tell his roommate.
Josiah...the Barry White of the ATF...or at least that's who came to Dunne's mind when Josiah spoke in his deep, rich, soothing voice. Sanchez had been so supportive to the younger man the other day. The easterner recalled how Josiah had seemed so proud of him...telling him that Buck would be honored to receive a Fathers' Day gift from the young man. JD had been relieved...Buck was so much like a brother to him, yet, he was kind of like a father too, or so he would like to believe. He was afraid Buck might laugh at him...Josiah disagreed. JD hoped Buck would like the engraved watch he had bought for him.
Then he heard Chris' voice again. JD cringed as he recalled Chris discovering how the young agent idolized the man. But Larabee had neither berated him or mocked him. He had just simply said, 'just be your own man son...and you'll do fine.' JD had almost wanted to buy him a Fathers' Day gift...but he was partial to the bits Chris might have aimed for with his gun.
"Copy that. All systems operational, Ezra, Buck, I've got you well covered here, guys. Good luck."
"Thank you, JD."
JD smiled to himself as their replies floated through clearly.
"Ok guys, standby."
At JD's instruction, four agents checked their weapons while two mentally prepared for the final showdown. One final instruction from their tech told them it was on.
"Incoming," was the last communication from JD.
+ + + + + + +
Team Three were assisting on this occasion but were only on the periphery. Larabee had made it clear he would instruct them as to when their assistance was required. Team Seven's leader knew they would be needed, he just wanted to ensure their own plans and agents weren't jeopardized by a premature move.
JD could see and hear everyone, although Team Three had strict instructions to maintain radio silence until further notice.
The young agent smiled proudly as Standish produced yet another award- winning performance, while flanked by an unmoving and expressionless Buck, any emotion cunningly hidden behind mirrored designer sunglasses.
A light on a recorder winked at him and Dunne removed the tape and quickly replaced it with a fresh one, marking and sealing the latter in a zip-lock bag and placing it behind a panel in the van's interior.
JD was also making a digital recording, though had decided not to share that information with Chris just yet as it was not an official requirement and he was keen to check its success before disclosing his actions.
Chris' command for Team Three coordinated perfectly with Buck's call of 'ATF...freeze!' and JD's heart leapt to his throat as he watched his fellow professionals... his friends...take their positions in perfect synchronization as they took the bastards down; his thoughts drifting for a split second to wishing he was out there with them.
He stared at the monitor, watching Ezra and Buck safely tackling the bodies around them, although he failed to pinpoint Dexter in the melee. As always shouting accompanied the frenetic activity, but all in all it appeared to be going according to plan. Dunne pulled the camera back to get a wider field of vision as the original small group that included Wilmington and Standish had now dispersed as intermittent gunfire sounded. JD became vaguely aware of more shouting, then the distinctive sound of Vin's M24...closely followed by squealing tires and a loud but distant crunch of metal hitting something solid.
The next moments seemed to happen slowly, frame by frame......more shouting...frantic this time. JD instinctively looked up to the van's roof as an odd 'twanging' sound came from above him.
Just as he frowned, his mind trying to pinpoint the noise, Chris' voice blasted his eardrums as it boomed over his headset.
"JD...get the hell out of there! NOW...GET OUT NOW!"
Reacting to the command, the young agent pulled off his headphones and obediently started for the back doors, his heart racing, but had hardly moved when his world suddenly, and violently, caved in around him, the deafening crunch of glass breaking, and crushing and shredding metal, assaulting his ears.
He barely had time to register the excruciating pain in his back, shoulder and head, before his world went to black.
+ + +
Chris heard Ezra's 'go' word and he gave the command to Team Three to move. Just as expected, seconds later Buck's 'reveal' sounded and the game was on.
Nathan and Josiah flanked their leader as they fanned out to cover the necessary ground. Within seconds, they were returning fire, the gunmen soon surrendering, seeing the onslaught of agents on the verge of overpowering them.
Larabee looked toward Standish and Wilmington and was satisfied they were in control. A screech of tires caused the blond to turn sharply and he cursed as he saw Dexter speeding away. He was just about to call on Tanner when the sound of gunfire from high up told him his sharpshooter was on it. He was shocked as Dexter swerved violently in a futile attempt to regain control of the car.
'Give it up you fucking idiot,' Chris thought to himself but then felt his blood freeze in his veins as the car skidded full pelt into a utility pole. Before Chris could even consider whether the gun- runner had survived, his attention was drawn to the movement of the pole as it lurched forward, snapping off its wires and continuing on.
The huge, solid wooden pole was heading straight for the surveillance van and Larabee found himself screaming at the top of his lungs.
"JD...get the hell out of there! NOW...GET OUT NOW!"
His knees went to jelly as the heavy pole crashed through the roof of the van like a hot knife through butter, slicing the vehicle almost in two from front to back. The now loose wiring danced and crackled on, and around, Dexter's smashed car, causing sparks to fly in odd directions.
As the horror unfolded before him, the blond dropped his hands to his knees, shaking legs barely keeping him upright, his voice now a mere whisper with the shock.
"JD...oh dear God...no."
+ + +
Vin had been monitoring everything through his telescopic sight, firing only when necessary. He noticed Dexter's departure instantly and aimed for the vehicle's tires, successfully taking out the front left and both rear tires.
"Now try and leave, ya bastard," he said to himself, satisfied the man could not, but his euphoria was short-lived as the idiot carried on, clearly out of control.
Vin winced as the car hit the pole but on realizing where the falling pole was heading, his body shook, threatening to topple him from his high perch.
He jolted as he heard Chris scream out, and watched in horror as the pole sliced through the van roof and on through.
"JD..." he breathed.
On hearing the gunshots and the screech of tires, the remaining members of Team Seven watched as events played out, looking instantly to their leader for guidance. They each made a mental note not to approach Dexter's car before an all-clear was given.
Buck's heart was suddenly gripped with fear. It was as if everything went into slow-motion as the car went out of control and hit the pole. He watched in morbid fascination as the pole's wires snapped off and it continued traveling on its destructive downward path. He barely registered Chris' frantic call, despite it resonating in his earpiece, because he was too busy screaming himself, as his body was moving forward.
+ + + + + + +
An eerie silence ensued, save for some distant pops and crackles. For a few seconds it seemed as if nothing and no one moved...and then the pole made one final metal-crunching drop.
And all hell broke loose.
As Buck reached the doubled-over Larabee, his eyes staring in horror at the scene, the shock caused his legs to give out and he landed hard on his knees. As the brunet desperately scrabbled to regain his feet, Chris, on seeing his distraught friend, snapped into control and instantly took charge
"Someone call 911!" he ordered.
"On it!" came a reply. He didn't acknowledge it; he focused on Buck, pulling his oldest friend to his feet.
"Buck...come on..." Chris shuddered at the look on the man's face and prayed he'd never have to see that look again. Both men turned as Ezra, Josiah and Nathan sprinted past them, heading toward the devastated van.
As if needing to see bodies moving to motivate him, Buck was finally on his feet. He gripped Chris' arms so hard the blond winced.
"Chris..." his voice cracked, "Chris, I...I...Oh God..." He looked at Larabee then wailed as he took off. "Nooo....JD!"
The two men were now racing toward the wreck. Team Three promptly took control of the perpetrators securing the area in preparation for the impending rescue from the surveillance van. All they could hope for was that it was a rescue...no one wanted to consider the other option, but no one really believed anyone could have survived the devastation.
Team Seven, who had now been joined by a pale and fast-breathing sharpshooter went first to the back doors, only to find them inaccessible as the long pole extended past the van, effectively cutting off any chance of reaching and opening the crushed doors. It was the same at the front. There was no way to fully see into the van either and Buck screamed his frustration. Then Vin squeaked, causing them all to look at him.
"Th...there...." He pointed a shaky hand as he squatted to see.
Following suit, they all ducked down.
"Oh Lord help him." Ezra whispered.
Chris felt the sting as Buck's fingers dug into his arm. They were all now seeing a hand and the top of a dark head just under the console...they could all see the blood.
As they moved to the side door, Larabee called out again, issuing instructions for someone to check on Dexter and asking for ETAs on the rescue crews.
Each man gasped or balked at the sight of the crumpled side doors, this time showing all too clearly the destruction inside the vehicle. Paper cups, soda cans, equipment, cables and papers littered the floor as the six men scanned the decimated area that JD occupied. Josiah put a hand to his mouth as he took in the sight of JD's chair. The pole lay fully on top of it, but what alarmed them all was the way it had been pile-drived through the van's floorboards.
As images of 'what-ifs' filled Wilmington's mind, he turned and wretched.
"He's too far over," Nathan called.
"What?" Chris asked, stepping closer.
Nathan was tugging at the door, "He's rolled under the console, he's too far away for us to reach...he's trapped."
"We'll see about that," Buck roared and pulled viciously at the other door.
"Kid...JD, can you hear me? Hang in there boy...we're here and we're gonna get you outta there...JD! Goddamnit...MOVE YOU BASTARD DOOR...MOVE!"
Suddenly there was a creak and the pole slipped further into the van, but Buck was oblivious as he continued to tear at the buckled door.
"Buck, stop, it's too dangerous...BUCK! "
Seeing Chris was not getting through, Josiah approached his frantic friend and lifted him up and away from the vehicle.
Buck lashed out, twisting desperately to get away from Sanchez's vice- like grip.
"NOOO! Get your fucking hands off me, preacher...JD...I'm here...don't give up, kid...please..." he started losing his strength as grief overtook him,
"Please...kid...don' t leave me," he sobbed, eventually leaning into Sanchez' broad chest.
The big man soothed his friend but did not release his hold on him, JD's life could well depend on their actions leading to the arrival of the rescue crews. He was unwilling to take the risk of releasing Buck anytime soon.
Nathan was attempting to climb under the debris to reach the downed agent, but despite his efforts he failed miserably and grunted in dismay. His body, while slim, was broad at the shoulders and wouldn't fit through the only available gap. All he had hoped to do was check for a pulse. He slid back out in despair and looked at Tanner.
"Vin...come here...see if you can slip into this gap and feel for a pulse." The EMT was fully out now and had moved back to allow the sharpshooter access.
Until the moment Nathan had called him, Vin had been reeling from the events unfolding.
He had shot out the tires.
Before he could fully dwell on that fact, Buck was yelling...then Nathan was calling to someone...him.
Without stopping to think, Vin was at the van and attempting to edge his way inside. He wriggled so far and when he thought he could go no further he stretched out his arm, grunting with the effort. He cursed as he realized he was still short of his prize, so, with more strength than he knew he possessed, he hauled himself over broken glass and equipment once more, stretching until his fingers reached JD's neck and with one more grunt, found the carotid pulse. The noise behind him was distracting and Vin was getting frustrated and anxious.
The area fell silent and some held their breath as they waited for what seemed a lifetime.
Vin rested his head on his arm for a moment or two to compose himself, his fear of what he might find battling with the blame he had heaped on himself. His shaking hand hovered as he hesitated, finally touching his fingers to his youngest friend's neck.
"Got 'im," he whispered to himself, wilting with the relief. He composed himself then swallowed, realizing his friends and others were waiting on him
"YES! Got 'im."
Those few simple words spurred them all into action as Chris helped Vin reverse out.
"It's there, but it's weak. Nathan," Tanner advised, still panting from his efforts and now nursing a few cuts from the glass and metal that littered the van floor, which Nathan turned immediate attention to.
The sound of sirens came nearer and relief was evident on all their faces. Buck pushed away from Josiah and went to the van, dropping to his knees.
"JD...listen kid, help's on its way...y'hear me boy? Hang in there, we're coming for you."
The brunet maneuvered to get a better look at the prone figure, groaning inwardly at the sight of thick black hair matted and glistening with dark red blood.
'Oh God...if you can hear me...please help him to hang on...please.'
Buck startled at a firm hand on his shoulder.
"Come on, big guy...the fire crew needs to get in there," Chris said softly, as he helped his friend to his feet.
Tears trailed down Wilmington's face as he moved back to the rest of the team. He looked around at the strained faces of his friends.
"You know what's so funny?" he sobbed. "He was supposed...to...be in the safest place today."
Each man put a hand on him to offer what little comfort they could. Chris cupped the back of the brunet's neck, speaking in a low voice.
"Pard...ya got to keep it together...JD needs you...I need you...come on, Buck...stay with me."
Satisfied with the sad nod, the blond left the group to talk to the chief firefighter. He returned a few minutes later to find no one had moved.
+ + + + + + +
Buck couldn't help himself as the sound of metal being sawed and snapped reverberated around them. The Chief had explained to Larabee that it would be safest to take off the side of the van where the console was situated, the area where JD currently lay. As a crane rolled in to take the weight of the pole, the paramedics were attempting to get a safety blanket over the injured agent to offer him some protection from the work about to be undertaken. It had been a difficult task due to the restricted space and danger from the pole and the damage it had caused, but eventually the youth was covered, though they were still unable to reach him sufficiently to treat him.
Chris squeezed his friend's arm as he watched the crews at work, desperately in need of reassurance himself. As if he knew, Tanner was instantly at Chris' side and even though they didn't speak or even glance at each other, each man felt comforted.
A few minutes later saw Vin squatting, Chris and Buck leaning into each other and Nathan and Josiah flanking the silent undercover man.
Nathan was watching with a professional eye, inwardly berating himself for being unable to help JD in any way, while Josiah kept toying with the cross around his neck, occasionally glancing toward his other teammates and whispering prayers to himself.
Standish felt sick to his stomach yet was unable to turn away. All he could focus on was the irony that this young man, who had been determined in his endeavors to update equipment to further protect his teammates, was now trapped, possibly dying, in the very place his efforts had deemed him to be.
It had not gone unnoticed how the southerner's eyes betrayed his inner turmoil and Josiah could see the tremors coursing through Ezra's body as they stood in silence, Standish refusing to acknowledge any comfort as he remained as stoic as his body would allow.
Suddenly a loud screech followed by shouting and frantic activity snapped them all to attention.
The crews had cut through and removed the sheet metal on the side of the van including the support ribs and inner wall covering, to fully expose the console, while the crane took the strain of the pole, preventing it from moving during the delicate operation.
As shouts that the console was out went up, Team Seven changed position and could now see their blanket-covered teammate. The console was maneuvered away from the van and the team stared in horror at the ravaged equipment, the twisted metal telling its own story. Buck's eyes were firmly focused on a dangling headset, still attached to the console and he started to shake uncontrollably as another round of 'what ifs' filled his mind. Seconds later, the blanket was removed and a collective and audible noise went out from the team as, for the first time, they fully saw the bloody mess JD was in.
Buck went to step forward but Chris held firm. Wilmington glared at him.
"Get your hands off me," he growled, "The kid needs to hear a friendly voice."
Green eyes flashed, "You step anywhere near that van before those guys say so and I swear I'll shoot you myself."
Larabee's voice was menacingly low and, under normal circumstances would have cut a man dead. Buck almost tempted fate...almost. Instead, he slumped, fresh tears forming.
"Chris...he needs me," he whispered.
"I know..." the blond agreed, "...and I promise you, as soon as it's safe... he's safe'...he's all yours."
Both men turned back to the scene as Vin and the others stepped closer to them.
+ + +
The paramedics worked their magic, and in minutes JD had been bandaged, intubated, had an IV inserted and a neck brace fitted.
Very carefully, fire fighters were handing out the backboard, complete with JD strapped to it. Seconds later, he was on a gurney, and Buck and Chris were right next to him. Both men were visibly shocked at the young man's appearance, blood covering most of one side of his face and already seeping through the dressing on his head.
"Oh mercy..." Sanchez whispered.
Buck clasped his friend's cold hand tightly, afraid to touch him anywhere else because of any possible injuries. He could barely see the unconscious form due to the stinging tears welling in his eyes. He leaned in.
"You're gonna be fine, son...please believe me...just fine."
Chris shook himself and looked at the paramedic.
The man shook his head, "I really can't say...apart from contusions, cuts and a serious head injury, the only thing I know for sure is he's broken his collarbone."
The gurney was rolling toward the ambulance now and soon JD was loaded in, Buck next to him. With a nod of understanding from the team, and a few instructions to Josiah, Chris joined them and the ambulance pulled away, sirens blaring.
Josiah looked across to Dexter's smashed car and the men working around it and on the driver, and moved in that direction to get an update.
+ + +
Chris had never known Buck so quiet. Whenever their youngest was ill or injured, the youth's self appointed 'big brother' was always first and foremost with the banter and soothing words, but apart from a few whispered sentences as they settled in for the trip to the hospital, he had said nothing. Chris was concerned the big man was going into shock so he nudged him and looked deep into his oldest friend's eyes.
"Buck...we need you, stay with us."
Wilmington sighed deeply, a sob catching his throat, "I...I just keep thinking...God Chris, look at him."
"I know, I know, but he's still here and he's not going anywhere...help him, Buck...help him stay grounded. No one can do it like you."
The brunet nodded and instantly started a litany of soothing, comforting and encouraging remarks. Before they had realized, they were at the hospital.
+ + + + + + +
Josiah shook hands with the rescue crew and walked back to his lift to the hospital. Dexter had not only been crushed in the collision, but the charged wires had done hideous damage to his body.
This had been a day of horrifying imagery and the trip to the hospital was made in silence, neither Ezra, Nathan, Vin or Josiah wanting to speak. Once they had arrived, it only took them a few minutes to locate their teammates and they were soon sitting with them in the surgical waiting room, listening as Chris explained that JD's head x-ray was clear and he was currently having his clavicle braced.
"Of course there's severe bruising to his back, ribs, face, shoulders, legs etcetera, and he's had quite a few stitches in his head, but the doc reckons he should be ok," Chris finished.
The four new arrivals breathed out in relief and started to relax a little, moving toward Buck to offer support as they had noticed he hadn't said a word or looked at them since they arrived. Chris' cell rang and he stepped away from the group to answer it.
Buck looked up at his friends through teary eyes. He looked drained, but he attempted to give them a watery smile in acknowledgement of their concern. They all turned as Chris' voice rose and his call ended with a sharp snap of his phone closing.
He walked toward the group, apologizing in his head even before he spoke.
"That was Travis, he wants us back for a de-briefing...now. I'm sorry, I truly am...Buck, if you want to stay..."
Buck's gravelly voice made his intentions clear, "For all I care, Travis can go fuck himself, I'm not moving from here until that boy looks at me and tells me he's 'fine'."
Biting his tongue in deference to Buck's wishes due to his current state of mind, the blond nodded.
"We'll be back as soon as possible, but we're not going anywhere until he's out of surgery." He looked at the others for confirmation, knowing he didn't really need to and once again took a seat next to his old friend to wait.
+ + +
A half-hour later, Doctor Lorrel approached them.
"I believe you are all here for Mister Dunne?"
A collective nod as they all stood to hear her prognosis.
"Considering his ordeal, he's considerably better than we expected. His collarbone has been braced, his head has been stitched and apart from a concussion he's in remarkably good health, although, he will be in a considerable amount of pain for a while. We thought it best to keep him sedated for now, so he won't be awake for a few hours should you want to go home and freshen up."
"Can we see him?" Buck asked almost before she finished speaking.
The doctor smiled, "Yes, of course. He's in recovery. I'll just go and see if he's ready for you."
She turned and walked to the recovery room.
Six agents sighed in relief and allowed themselves a small smile.
"I can't believe how lucky he is." Nathan said, instantly ducking a glare from Wilmington. "Oh come on, Buck...this is a remarkable escape, I know the kid's hurt but...aw hell...you know what I'm saying here."
Chris looked at Buck then to Nathan. "Yes, of course he knows...let's not dwell on it..."
Before he could finish they were being directed to the recovery room.
+ + +
Buck was in and next to his roommate in seconds; taking up the youth's hand, he surveyed the damage.
"Holy shit," he whispered to himself, but loud enough for all to hear.
Each man took a position and made their own mental notes of the young man in the bed. He was pale with an abundance of bruising and his shoulder strapped, but their attention was drawn to the bandaged head as Buck was absently 'separating' the hair that was matted with blood and sticking up from the bandage.
Ten minutes of near-silence and Chris squeezed Buck's shoulder.
"We'll go now," he spoke softly, "I'll drop by your place and get you a change of clothes, call me if..."
Buck nodded, "No worries, stud...you go see Travis, I'll see ya'll later."
Chris reached out and laid his hand on JD's head for a few moments, then looked at Buck and nodded. "Later."
As they left, each man visited with JD for a few seconds then gestured to Buck with a wink, nod or salute as they exited.
With a deep sigh, Buck pulled up a chair and took his position next to the bed, JD's hand clasped in his own. He would wait...for as long as it took, he would wait.
+ + + + + + +
Sunday evening saw Josiah sitting, watching his young charge's chest gently rise and fall. Buck and him had cleared the air about a few things while waiting for JD to wake up, but now, despite his belief it was the right thing to do for Buck, Sanchez felt tremendous guilt over letting JD down by revealing a confidence. His eyes had drifted to the youth's hand, the next time he looked up, a pair of hazel eyes were staring at him.
"Hello, son...Buck tells me you're doing good."
"You told him."
Josiah shuddered at the hurt in those trusting eyes.
"I can't believe you told him, Josiah...I trusted you."
"But son, I thought Buck explained..."
"Yeah, he explained, and it's kinda worked out, but still..."
Sanchez nodded, "You're right, son...I betrayed a confidence, and I'm sorry, but he was hurting so bad, JD...I just wanted to ease his pain."
"At my expense...thanks, " JD whispered and turned his head. He wasn't really mad at Josiah, but he did feel a little hurt. JD's decision, prompted by his talk with Josiah, to give Buck a Father's Day gift, had been a difficult one to make, one he would have liked to see through himself, but it had now been taken out of his hands by Josiah choosing to reveal JD's intentions to the ladies' man.
The profiler's heart felt the sharp stab of hurt and guilt as he looked at his young friend. "How can I make this right, son?"
JD sighed as he turned his head back to look at Sanchez. "I'm not sure you can...I came to you in good faith, and because I couldn't talk to Buck about it...I know you did it to help Buck, but..."
Josiah swallowed, "I understand, John Daniel, I respect your decision, whatever it is." He noticed JD was drifting back to sleep. Josiah sighed.
+ + +
Ezra was attempting to demonstrate a few sleights of hand to JD as they passed the time between Buck's visits. He could see JD was not concentrating and collected the cards from the bed and popped them into his jacket pocket.
"I'm a good listener, you know."
Dunne looked at him. "What?"
"Whatever it is that has your mind elsewhere...would you care to share?"
"Aww, it's nothing...I was just trying to fit together what happened that day, you know?"
"Oh I fully understand your dilemma, it must be very disconcerting having a portion of your memory missing, but I can assure you, in this case, I believe it is for the best," Ezra assured.
"You wouldn't say that if it was you," JD scolded.
Standish agreed, "Most likely, my young friend, most likely." Before he could ask what he could do to help, Vin popped his head around the door.
"D'ya mind, Ezra?"
The southerner stood, "Not at all, Mister Tanner." He turned to JD and squeezed his arm, "I'll see you later, JD."
The youth nodded and watched him leave as Vin hovered at the foot of the bed.
"Are ya gonna sit down, Vin?"
"Err...yeah...maybe... in a minute...ah hell."
JD observed his friend become increasingly uncomfortable, his brow furrowing as he watched the sharpshooter pace. Suddenly, Vin took a chair and turned it, straddling it to sit facing JD, leaning his arms on the back.
"I'm real sorry."
Dunne looked surprised, "For what?"
Tanner sighed, wiping a hand over his face, "Fer shootin' out the tires...if I hadn't done that..."
"...Dexter would be long gone and probably selling guns again. Vin...is this why you haven't been to see me? I thought we were friends."
Vin looked at JD sharply, "We are...God, kid...I would never knowingly do anything to put you or the others in danger."
JD laughed softly, "Hell I know that. Vin...I'm not holding a grudge here...it was an accident. You did your job, and you did it perfectly. I would expect no less of you, and neither would the others. Does Chris know how you're feeling about this?"
"I think he's guessed, yeah." Tanner rubbed his eyes. "So...are we ok?" he asked, gesturing his hand between them.
"Well, I am...are you?"
Vin grinned widely and grasped JD's wrist, "I am now. Hurry up and get outta here, I need some hockey practice."
JD laughed, "Yeah, Tanner, you do!"
"Hey..." Vin was about to say more when Nathan arrived.
"Is this what you call resting, JD? Vin, you should know better."
Both young men dropped their eyes, more to prevent a giggle than because of the admonishment.
"I brought ya some herbal tea," the medic beamed.
"Err, Vin's not feeling too good either, Nate...can he have some too?"
Vin glared at JD as he rose from his chair, "Nah, that's ok, thanks Nathan, I gotta go...see ya kid."
As Vin closed the door to JD's room he looked back and winked. JD flipped him and Tanner's laughter could be heard in the corridor.
Nathan poured out the tea and raised JD's bed a little.
"Here ya go, son, this'll bring some color to your cheeks."
JD sniffed it and pulled a face, "Oh, yeah...I have no doubts about that," he grunted out between clenched teeth. 'Probably green,' he thought to himself.
Nathan sat next to him, turning the chair the correct way around.
"Drink up," he urged.
"Thanks," JD faked a smile. 'Oh God...this tastes like shit...hurry up Buck.'
+ + +
JD could see the man slumped in the chair next to him, dozing. He wanted to call out, but pride stopped him. His head was pounding and his shoulder burned. The doctor had reduced his meds and he wasn't prepared for the onslaught of pain that was now affecting every part of his body, even his toes. Without realizing it he had groaned and the next time he opened his eyes a pair of green ones was looking down at him.
"Are you in pain, son?"
Chris pressed a buzzer, "What the hell are you sorry for? You have to say if it hurts, JD; the doctor said it might get a little uncomfortable. "
"Sh...she wasn't k...kidding," he grunted. A nurse entered.
"He's in pain," Chris informed, never taking his eyes from the youth.
"I'll get the doctor," and the nurse left.
Chris leaned in to his youngest agent. "JD, I know all your work was demolished the other day, but I just wanted to say how proud I am of what you achieved. You did good, kid."
JD unscrewed his eyes, staring directly into Chris', "You just saying that 'cause I'm in pain?" he gasped.
Chris laughed, "You know, for me to say it once is an achievement, to get me to say it twice...a freakin' miracle...yes...I'm proud of you."
"J...just checking..." JD tried to chuckle, then he looked at his boss, "Thanks, Chris. Is everything gone?"
"Yep, we lost it all, including the recordings."
Chris frowned, "What?"
"I attached a digital camera to the link...if it survived..." he swallowed down the pain, "The memory card should still be inside."
As the doctor entered, followed by an anxious Buck, Chris squeezed JD's hand and whispered to him, "I'll be right back." He turned to the doctor, "Take care of him."
Buck watched him leave and turned his attention to his best friend. "I guess you'll fill me in, huh? What's happened, are you ok?"
JD smiled as Buck gripped his wrist, "I will be..."
+ + + + + + +
Buck couldn't help himself. He stood protectively over the sleeping form of his 'little brother' and gently stroked his head.
'Stubborn little shit' he thought to himself as he tried to soothe away the pain his friend was displaying on his face, despite being asleep. JD had waived an increase in his pain meds in favor of 'toughing it out', hoping that it would encourage the doctor to release him to go home.
Buck was lost in thought...thinking back to the disastrous events of that day. He couldn't believe that, not only had JD survived the ordeal, but had come out of it reasonably intact. He glanced down at his partner and chuckled.
Buck nodded, "Just fine, kid...how are you?"
"Better, I think, it doesn't hurt so bad now."
"Yeah, yeah...you keep thinking like that and maybe you'll start believing it."
"No fooling you, huh?" JD smirked.
"Got it in one, little man."
JD huffed then winced, "Nooo...don't make me laugh. Hey...in my drawer there...take a look."
Buck opened the drawer and saw a package with a bow on it.
"It's for you, you know...for Fathers' Day. Vin picked it up from home for me."
Buck stroked the gift with his thumb, tears welling in his eyes.
"Go on," JD urged, "Open it."
Smiling back at him, Buck tore off the paper and flipped open the black velvet case to reveal, what he considered to be, the most beautiful watch he'd ever seen, let alone owned. He took it from its case and turned it to get a good look at it.
"There's an inscription, " the youth informed.
The brunet flipped it over and caught a sob in his throat as he read it aloud,
"To my ideal father, with love, JD"
"Too much?" the youth asked, concerned at the silence.
Buck coughed and smiled at him through misty eyes.
"No...it's just perfect." He leaned over and gently touched JD's face, "Thank you, son."
They held their gazes until a noise from the corridor alerted them and they both turned to look at the door as the rest of the team entered. They seemed in good spirits as Chris was instantly at JD's side.
"How are you?" he asked, watching as Buck raised the head of the bed a little.
"I'm fine, thanks...something happened?"
Larabee looked to the rest of his team then back at JD, "The digital camera...it was damaged, but not the memory card. We got everything, absolutely everything. Kid...you're a freaking genius."
JD beamed as he shifted slightly in the bed, "Cool...does that mean I get a raise?"
Chris laughed, "Hell no...but you do get this..."
He handed him a framed commendation, "Not from me...from Travis." Chris assured.
"Wow, thanks," he yawned, "Now tell me he didn't cancel my budget."
"Well," Chris started, "He had to cut it a little, but there's still a pot to draw from.
"Great, 'cause I'm gonna need it to re-build that computer."
Chris nodded, fighting with the images in his head, and spoke softly. "Yeah, I guess so."
+ + + + + + +
As ten pm approached, the team gone an hour prior, Buck crept back in to Dunne's room. JD's eyes flickered open.
"Hey, why are you still here?" he whispered.
Buck walked to the bed. "Just wanted to check on you one last time before I headed home." Buck's voice was also hushed.
JD frowned, "Is everything ok, Buck?"
Wilmington bobbed his head, "Yeah, yeah...I...I just wanted to say thanks... for the watch..."
JD waited, he sensed there was more.
"...and to say...getting to know you, to have you as my colleague, my friend, my...brother...has been one of the best things to have ever happened to me. Thanks, kid...thanks for everything."
JD choked back the emotion, "Me too, Buck...the same goes for me, too."
Buck took his friend's hand, hesitating for a moment.
"Don't be too hard on Josiah, will you, he was just trying to help me."
JD winced, "Aw hell, I already forgave him, just haven't had a chance to say so yet. I'll tell him tomorrow, God, I can't wait to get out of here."
Buck grinned, "Yep, and we're heading to Chris'...he insisted."
Shuffling slightly in the bed, JD smiled as he drifted back off to sleep. "Cool."
As he watched JD drift off, Buck sat quietly, eventually dozing off himself, and for the first time since the incident...he slept.