"RNLI" Alternate Universe
Characters: JD, Buck, OMC
Disclaimer: Just playing. I know I can't keep `em...damnit!
Thanks to Katy for RNLI
Thanks; To Phyllis for betaing this in her usual inimitable way! Love you, girl!
To Katy Mason for all her help and encouragement and the end picture, you're a star, lady! To Mari for the wonderful Wall, love you, Celt.
To Blackraptor for giving my stories a home
Move your mouse over the picture, click on the orange highlights, then click on the circles to view the facilities.
Experience a capsize drill.
View the pontoons.
References in this story are linked to KT's Old Foes
Josiah stared at the little Nativity scene in the corner of the Lifeboat Inn, smiling. Christmas was over and the cleric was wondering when Buck was going to dismantle it.
"I must confess, Buck, I don't think I've ever seen one quite like this."
Buck chuckled. "JD got a little carried away...didn't have the heart to stop him."
Josiah nodded. "Well, it's unique. I wasn't aware Baby Jesus had a visitor in a red suit that day...or any day, for that matter, nor do I recall Bethlehem having snow and reindeer, either. However, the two- foot angel of the Lord dominating half of the scene is a nice touch."
Buck stroked the scene fondly. "He wanted to put in a Christmas tree too, you know."
Both men laughed just as JD entered the bar. "Hello, Josiah. What are you two laughing at?"
Buck turned and smiled widely at him. "Oh, nothing in particular...we' re just...happy."
Shaking his head, JD grinned back and started preparing for the afternoon. Entering the bar to replenish the condiments and cutlery for the day's meals, Inez slapped Buck on the shoulder.
"Are you going to stand there while JD and I do all the work?"
Laughing while taking a seat, Josiah relaxed back as he waited for the others to arrive.
"I am doing something," Buck protested, "I'm adding to the atmosphere." He chuckled as he heard her say something under her breath in Spanish, no doubt in his mind, there was a profanity in there somewhere. In the background, JD was whistling to himself, grinning broadly as Vin, Chris and Nathan came in. A minute later, Ezra entered, carrying the post.
"Postman now, eh Ezra?" Buck nodded as Standish handed him his mail.
"Indeed, how fortuitous for me that I should arrive at the exact same time as our indolent local postman."
Buck checked his watch and nodded. "Ah, Bert's on a promise. Ms Sneed has finally worn him down, and she's about to get a very special package."
All six men howled out at the genial landlord, protesting too much information, Ezra then turned to JD.
"You have a parcel."
JD frowned, thanking him as he took it. Buck raised his eyebrows.
"A late gift?"
JD shrugged. "No idea." Eagerly, he opened it as he wondered why, for no particular reason, he should receive a parcel. He read the card inside and went pale, walking backwards from the bar.
"Excuse me." He turned, left the bar and jogged up the stairs.
Buck frowned, picking up the card to read it. "Shit."
"Problem?" Chris asked as he approached him.
Wilmington tossed the card on the bar top. "It's from his dad."
All five men stiffened, remembering only too well how things had gone the last time that sorry excuse for a man had entered their lives. Buck looked to Chris.
"Can you hold the fort here for a minute? I'd like to go and see if JD's okay."
Larabee nodded. "No problem, take as long as you need."
JD stood at his bedroom window staring out over the pub yard and garden. It was at times like these he wished his room had a sea view. Leaning his head against the wall, he tried to fight the growing knot in the pit of his stomach, rapidly fighting images that were flooding his mind, too, images of a man so drunk he would do physical harm to a toddler and when his mother intervened, to her, also. When he turned three, his father one night, roaring drunk and screaming like a banshee, had thrown him into a wall. JD didn't remember any of it, only the pictures the words created in his head when his mum had told him about the incident a few years ago. That was when his mother, with the help of some good friends, walked out on Sean Dunne, never to see him again. He startled when a comforting hand rested on his shoulder, instinctively leaning back against the strong support of a man who had shown him the love and affection he had desperately missed from a male counterpart, while growing up.
"Sorry I ran off...I know it was childish, but...seeing that card..."
Buck squeezed JD's shoulder. He knew all about Sean Dunne. After their problems with his last visit, JD had shared what he remembered and what his mother had told him about his father with the kindly landlord, the more vivid details revealed over time.
"I don't want him here, Buck."
"All the card said was that he wanted to see you. Just say the word, kid; you've got six men willing to stand behind you if you want to get rid of this arsehole once and for all."
The boy turned to the man as much like family as his own mother. "I watched this film once... it was called 'Parenthood' . Keanu Reeves's character told his mother in law about his abusive father, said something like...'you have to have a license to get a dog...but they'll let any asshole be a father.'" A huge tear dropped from dark lower lashes. "I'd never heard a truer word spoken."
Buck's heart ached to see such despair. He pulled JD in close, smiling to himself as he felt the youth accept the comfort. "Well, you've got me, and five other men willing to be there for you too."
JD squeezed tighter. "I know...thank you."
A few moments later, they turned at a knock at JD's door. Vin smiled.
"Sorry to interrupt, but, JD, I'm taking the Lone Star for a quick run, wondered if you'd like to come along?"
JD swiped at his eyes. "Yeah, I'd love to, thanks. Let me go to the loo, first." As JD left, Buck mouthed the words 'thank you' to the Welshman. Vin winked and left. Looking out of JD's window, Buck's expression hardened.
"You show your face around here, Sean Dunne, I'll rip your fucking head off."
Electing to go with Vin and JD, Ezra chuckled as the yacht cut through the water and he watched JD howl into the breeze, while doing a decent impression of Kate Winslet on the bow of the Titanic.
"My congratulations to you, Mister Tanner. I believe this is just what was required," Ezra called out over the light wind. Vin just grinned in reply, envying JD's position and understanding full well the exhilaration he was experiencing.
"VIN, EZRA! On the rocks ahead...LOOK!"
Both men stared forward. Vin spoke. "Call it in, Ezra." With a nod, Standish picked up the radio transmitter. Tanner scrutinized the surrounding water. "JD...how close can I get?"
"There's loads of depth here, Vin, I can hop over if you aim for there."
Nodding to the direction the teenager was pointing, Vin turned hard to starboard and struck the sails, skillfully maneuvering close to a small outcrop. Seconds later, JD made the easy hop to the rocks and headed for the upturned jet ski. Ezra turned toward Vin.
"There have been no new reports of anyone missing. The coastguard reminded me of the shout that was attended a few days ago. They never located the missing jet skier."
Vin remembered. "They weren't directed to this area. His family seemed to think he wanted to visit St. Just."
"Correct. The coastguard wants to know what we wish to do."
"Tell them to stand by." Vin stared at the overturned jet ski, its location had even been missed by the sweep of the chopper the next day, probably due to the rocks in the cove they were alongside now, being covered at high tide.
Hopping deftly onto the sharp, slippery rocks, JD carefully made his way toward the broken vehicle. As he reached it, he noticed it had settled in a large crevice. He turned toward the Star, Vin and Ezra were talking. With a mental shrug, JD squatted down to wrap his fingers around the handles on the steering column. The ski was jammed, so, taking a deep breath, he tugged, hard. The howl that came from the young navigator was accompanied by a mad scramble to get to his feet. Unfortunately, the movement was so uncoordinated he slipped, not aware of his drop into the water below as his head struck the jagged rocks when he went down.
Turning from his conversation with Ezra, Vin looked back to JD's position, frowning. 'Where the hell did he go?'
Ezra turned back from the radio. "Problem?"
"Where'd the kid, go?"
Standish frowned as he scanned the rocks, turning his attention to the water. "Oh, dear Lord!" He jumped into the freezing water as Vin went pale and called it in, confirming their location.
"Do you require emergency assistance, Lone Star?"
"No, just have an ambulance standing by, ETA twenty minutes."
Ezra reached JD in seconds. The sea was freezing and Ezra was numb as he reached toward JD's bright orange life-jacket. Trying to ignore the blood covering one side of JD's head and face, Standish hooked an arm around the youth's neck and, cupping JD's chin with his hand, pulled him back toward the yacht. In less than a minute, the two were back on board. JD's lips were blue, but he was breathing. Vin tossed several blankets toward Ezra.
"Stay aft, I'm going in full speed." Firing up the engine, Vin turned the vintage yacht hard to port and headed in; the jet ski would have to wait.
Ezra wrapped JD in two of the blankets, wrapping his arms around the boy's shivering form to generate heat. Realizing he was shivering too, Ezra pulled the extra blanket over his own shoulders and proceeded to rummage through the first-aid box. Hissing as he examined the gash to the youth's head, Ezra deciding to wrap the injured head in bandages and let the experts handle the intricacies of, what looked to be, a serious head wound. He scooped the slack body tighter and cradled the youth to him, partly to keep him warm and partly for comfort.
"Hold on, son...we're on our way home."
Chris yawned, looking at his watch. "Our shift finished just before Vin, JD and Ezra took off and I still haven't moved."
Buck, Nathan and Josiah chuckled as they relaxed back in the armchairs placed around the roaring fire in the pub's bar. Buck spoke.
"Ahh so what? Casey's handling the horses. We said today would either be a lazy day or a crazy day...I suppose we got lucky."
They all looked as the bell above the outside door to the bar tinkled, surprised to see relief crew coxswain Peter Kemp walk in. Chris sat up.
"I thought you'd want to know, we just had a call to standby." He hesitated. "It's the Star."
In less than a minute, the five men were out of the door and almost at the lifeboat station.
Ezra glanced toward Vin. The younger man's features set with fear and determination as he pushed his boat to the limit. JD moaned and Ezra held him tighter.
Approaching the yacht's moorings, Vin ignored the small crowd gathering which included their friends and maneuvered into position, allowing the fender to take the strain between yacht and wall as he came bouncing alongside in his haste to get JD attention. Jumping down onto the deck, Vin threw a line each to Chris and Josiah who wound them around the cleats, securing the boat for the ambulance crew to jump on, promptly followed by Buck, then Chris.
"What happened?" Buck's voice was raw with emotion as he question Vin but kept his eyes firmly on JD and the ambulance crew, only changing focus momentarily when Ezra joined them, now wrapped in a foil blanket.
"He must've slipped." Vin answered, finally.
"On the deck?" Chris inquired, concerned at the shocked men before him.
Ezra spoke. "No, we came upon a jet ski, stranded and inverted on some rocks in one of the coves a few miles down. JD hopped over to take a look. By the time I called it in...he had disappeared. I saw him in the water and pulled him out. Vin made excellent time here..."
"I should have been watching him...Dwi'n twp...TWP!"
Chris knew just how bad Vin was affected when he reverted to his native Welsh. He squeezed his arm. "We'll talk later, come on, let's get you two to the hospital."
Tanner pulled his arm away. "Dwi'n iawn, diolch!" he sighed. "I'm okay, thanks."
Chris was already guiding him as Josiah directed Ezra. Buck joined Nathan just as JD was lifted and taken off the boat.
"How bad, Nathan?"
"It's nasty, but I think we can glue it rather than stitch it. He'll need an x-ray, but all his signs are good."
With a nod, Buck followed the paramedics and accompanied JD to the hospital.
Two in the morning and Buck was sitting right next to JD, stroking the youth's pale face with the back of his fingers, his other hand wrapped around the slender wrist. "Come on, little 'un...I know you're just there...on the edge...come on, let's see those eyes." He looked up as Chris and Vin came into the dimly lit room with coffee. JD's x- rays were clear and now there were definite signs he was coming to.
"Is Ezra okay?" Buck asked.
"Yeah," Chris whispered as he handed the brunet a coffee. "He's been discharged...wanted to stay but Josiah took him home. Thought it best. How's the kid?"
Buck sighed, placed his coffee down on the cupboard next to the bed and resumed stroking JD's face. "He's right there...won't be long now, I'm sure."
As he spoke, JD sighed softly. Buck waited patiently and was soon rewarded by a pair of tired hazel eyes trying to focus on him. Buck grinned.
"Had a big day, hmmm?"
"I bet it does. What have I told you about swimming in the sea this time of year?"
Wilmington frowned. "What, you...now, or the sea when you took your dip?"
Buck smiled, pulling the sheet up over the teenager's shoulders, just in case, JD was already asleep again. Relieved, the three men sat back in the hard plastic seats. About 4am JD started mumbling and moving in the bed. His three guardians were dozing, awakening instantly as Vin's name was heard. With a nod from Buck, Tanner moved in.
"JD...JD...kid...what is it? What do you need me to know?" He startled as JD's eyes snapped open and the youth grabbed his wrist.
"A body...Vin...a body..."
They were all on their feet now. Vin continued. "A body...where?" He tried to soothe the young man in the bed.
"Ski...the jet ski...UNDER THE JET SKI!" He cried out in distress.
Buck comforted JD as he moaned with the pain from the outburst. "Okay... easy now, you did really well, kid." As JD's eyelids grew heavy again, Buck looked at Chris and Vin. "Go on home, guys, seems like you may have an incident to look into."
Despite the fact he was asleep once again, they squeezed JD's leg and arm, nodded to Buck and left.
By the time JD was allowed home the next day, a recovery operation had taken place. The report stated it appeared the jet ski went out of control, hit some submerged rocks, flipped and landed upside- down, smashing it's rider into the rocks, resulting in the man's death. Two days of high tides left the shattered body bloated and almost unrecognizable; no wonder JD had been shocked.
On arriving home and seeing the team together in the pub, along with Orin Travis, JD instantly begged Buck to let him stay up...just for an hour. Never able to say no to the kid, Buck agreed, grinning as Inez met them at the door and, enveloping the youth, smothered him in kisses. A hot chocolate in hand, JD was guided to the armchair nearest the fire and once comfortably ensconced, got caught up on the day's events.
JD sat quietly sipping his drink as he listened intently to the details of the recovery operation. Suddenly losing interest in his drink, JD placed it down on the table. "Poor man," he gulped. "And his family...oh God, this is horrible." Running a hand over his face, JD gingerly touched his bandaged head, his eyes wide and filled with horror as he kept them fixed on the mug in front of him.
Orin knew that haunted look and so did the others. They didn't want to lose JD. Travis spoke.
"In a few weeks there's a two-week residential course at the RNLI College in Poole. You'll be fit by then. Can I put you forward for it, JD?"
They all held their breath. The look was still there. In the hospital, JD had been skirting around the downside of the service as it became clear this incident had deeply affected him. He swallowed hard, finally looking up at Travis.
"Can I think about it?"
Travis smiled. "Of course, but I'll need an answer by tomorrow afternoon, that's when applications close."
Nodding, JD stood. "I think I'll go to bed now."
Buck rose to help him. They had just reached the door to the private area when JD stopped and looked around at his friends. He eventually smiled.
"Actually, I'd like to take you up on that offer, please."
They all smiled, relief evident. Orin rose to his feet and made his way to the coat stand. "Excellent. I'll put your name forward immediately. " He felt sure he had seen JD turn the corner. Too many times he saw good crewmen leave the service over a bad shout...but not this time.
Vin joined Buck and JD. "Can I walk him up, Buck?" He turned to JD." If that's okay, kid."
With a nod from Buck and a smile from JD, he and Vin made their way to JD's room.
Once inside, Vin sat next to JD. "I'm sorry you got hurt, kid. I can't remember why I looked away, but if I hadn't..."
The youth grinned. "Hey...not your fault. I'm the wuss here...I'm the one that panicked and fell."
Vin squeezed his arm. "Don't say that. You've got more guts at eighteen than I've seen in soldiers twice your age. You're a good man, JD, and an asset to this crew. I'm glad you're staying."
Again JD grinned. "Yeah, me too." JD started to toe off his trainers. "Vin could you close my curtains, please?"
With a nod, Tanner went to the window, ducking back suddenly. He turned to JD. "Get undressed, I'll go get your medication." With that he dashed out. JD frowned and looked into his hand at the pill bottle. He had his pills.
Five men stood in alarm as Vin raced through the bar and out of the door. By the time they caught up with him, he was standing in the yard, his breath white against the cold evening air.
Tanner looked at Chris. "There was a man, here, in the garden. I can't be sure, but...I think he looked like the man in that picture you showed me, Buck."
"What picture?" the brunet asked, "Who was in it?"
Vin stared at them all in alarm. "Sean Dunne."
Almost four weeks later, Inez was shaking her head at the groups of balloons Buck was putting up around the bar, one long one, surrounded by two round ones.
"Your mind is in the gutter, as always," she scolded. Buck bobbed his eyebrows, tapping a rather large long balloon.
"This could soon look familiar to you darlin'; just say the word."
She huffed, pointing to a trio where the middle balloon had deflated and hung wrinkled and withered. "I think this would be more realistic." With that, she flounced away, Buck's laughter floating over her as she exited.
Hearing the exchange as he carried in a crate of lager, Chris laughed. "If the sexual tension crackled any more fiercely between you two, I swear there'd be sparks."
Buck climbed down from the stepladder as the rest of his friends came into the pub. "Now, that would suggest nothing has happened between us...yet."
Chris looked at his grinning friend for a long moment, finally speaking. "Bullshit, Wilmington...you keep dreaming, old son."
Again, Buck laughed. "Every night, my friend...every night."
"What time's JD getting here?" Vin asked."
Buck checked his watch, "Any time in the next hour." The big- hearted landlord smiled, fondly. Poole wasn't that far, but it had felt as though JD were on the other side of the world. He had often wondered just how much he would miss the young man if he weren't around...now he knew. Inez had been as bad. JD hadn't been with them all that long, but Buck had to agree with her one morning, as, during a way too quiet breakfast, she commented that their little family had bonded well, as if they had been together forever.
"I must say," Ezra interjected, "I thought a welcome home party a little OTT, but now, I think celebrating the young man's return is an excellent idea."
Nathan smiled. "Aaah, Ezra just likes a party."
"Who's having a party?"
They all turned to see JD standing just inside the doorway.
"KID! Damnit...you're early!"
JD frowned. "Should I go out and come back in again?" He chuckled as Buck swept him up in a big, bone-crushing bear-hug.
"Are you kidding me?" He whispered into JD's ear, "Missed you, boy."
Pulling back, Dunne smiled at him. "Missed you, too...and all this..." he looked around the pub and at his friends, squatting down to give an excited Mac a tummy scratch, much to the greyhound's delight.
Inez flew toward JD, wrapping him in an embrace. Stepping back, she frowned. "I need to fatten you up...you have lost weight."
JD didn't think he had, but he liked the idea of eating lots of good home-cooked food. JD worked his way around the other five men as he was welcomed home, eventually the eight of them sitting together to enjoy a meal of fish, chips and mushy peas, followed by triple choc fudge cake and clotted cream. JD sat back in his chair.
"Lord, I'm stuffed." He laughed at Tanner's hopeful look toward JD's unfinished dessert. "All yours if you want it."
With a laugh that almost mocked JD for doubting it, Vin took the unfinished treat and tucked in, while JD reviewed his two week training course.
"...so, even though I knew it was controlled, it was still pretty scary."
Chris nodded. "Capsize drills are pretty scary, but a great learning tool."
Bobbing his head in agreement, JD got up to get in another round of drinks. The pub was empty, but people had come and gone all evening, Tom and Sally happily serving while Buck, JD and Inez caught up, along with the crew of the Saint Nicholas. Now, the bar staff had gone, too, Buck giving them the okay to go a half hour earlier. Hearing the bell over the door tinkle as he poured the drinks, JD waved a hand to acknowledge and serve the new customer before re- joining his friends.
"What can I get you?" he asked, not turning at that point. A familiar voice rooted JD to the spot.
"You been hiding from me, boy?"
The youth spun around, knocking a glass to the floor. Sean Dunne's gaze followed the tumbler's descent, tutting as it shattered.
"Still clumsy, I see."
JD swallowed, his throat suddenly dry. "Wh...what are you doing here?"
"Came to see you, son. How have you been?"
Frowning, the youth fought back tears. "Why do you care? You haven't cared for fifteen years, come to think of it, you never cared much for the three before that. I have nothing to offer you...go away." He tried not to show how much the man terrified him, wishing his friends weren't out of sight, just around the corner from the end of the bar. He watched his father edge menacingly closer.
"Now then, John...is that any way to greet your father?"
Inez had said her 'goodnights' and left the remaining six men to talk. Buck stopped as he heard a glass smash, at first, shrugging it off, they often lost a glass or two though the course of a session, but a long several seconds later, he got up to check on JD, bellowing as he rounded the corner.
"Get the hell out of my pub!"
As Buck strode angrily off, the others frowned at each other, got up and followed him, shocked to see Sean Dunne just inches from a very pale, but resolute JD. Not wanting his friends in difficulties should they intervene, having no doubt this stranger who called himself his father, would sue at the first sign of trouble, JD opened the hinged bar-top, propping it up as he stepped through to face the man. JD staggered back, slightly off-balance, as the larger man took another step toward him. To steady himself, the youth's hand gripped the edge the top had just rested on, his knuckles white with tension. He glared at his father.
"As far as I know, I have never asked you for anything...but I'm asking you this, now...please...go. I don't want to see you. I can never forgive you for what you've done, especially to mum, so just...go."
Six men held their breath as Sean mulled the words over for a moment, relaxing as the man seemed about to back off. Without warning, Dunne senior gripped the upright bar top and slammed it down onto JD's hand, causing the latter to howl with pain, the shock dropping JD to the floor as the man screamed at him.
"Who do you think you are talking to, you little bastard? I'm your father...show some respect."
In seconds, Buck was with JD as Chris body slammed Sean into the side of the bar then down onto the top, pinning the writhing, swearing man's neck with a bony elbow. Larabee baulked as the smell of stale alcohol wafted up from the man's breath.
"You fucking evil, good for nothing, bastard," Chris hissed in his ear. The more the man wriggled and cursed, the harder Chris applied pressure, Josiah and Ezra eventually stepping in before Chris seriously damaged the man. They pulled Sean to one side as the others gathered around JD.
Nathan could see JD was in shock, shaking and hyperventilating. His mouth open, JD cradled the throbbing hand to his chest. Buck talked him through the pain, while Nathan checked out the youth's hand. Vin had dropped to one knee and was watching everything intently, his one hand squeezing JD's shoulder.
As JD finally started relaxing, he whispered, Buck straining at first to catch the words, until JD spoke up. "Please...just let him go...I just want him to go."
Despite every one of the six wanting to punish the man, or at least have him arrested for assault, they bowed to JD's wishes. With a few cursory expletives, Chris and Ezra tossed a howling, stinking drunk Sean Dunne out of the door.
Helping a very shaky JD to his feet, Nathan looked at the others. "I don't think his hand is broken, there's plenty of movement there, but I think it might be wise to have it x-rayed."
JD leaned into Buck. "I'm sorry...I should have seen it coming...I should have known he hadn't changed..."
Buck grasped JD's face, instantly regretting it as the youth inhaled sharply. He relaxed his grip.
"You stop that right now. Don't you dare apologize for the actions of a drunken, violent, lunatic." Buck was so focused on JD, he missed Chris, Vin and Ezra's glances and exit from the pub.
"Come on, son, let's get that hand checked out."
The trio caught up with Dunne senior by the harbor wall, swigging on a bottle of cheap whiskey. He pointed at them.
"Stay the fuck away from me, or I'll call the police."
Knowing Chris and Vin were ready to rip the Irishman in half, Ezra reined in his own emotions and chimed in. "Name your price...what will it take to eradicate you from this municipality and that young man's life?"
Larabee and Tanner glared. Ezra ignored them.
"I want a hundred thousand pounds," Dunne answered, his accent thicker the more drunk he had become.
Ezra met his gaze, the other man shuddering at the affect the piercing green eyes had on him.
"Consider it done. I will meet you here, tomorrow at 5pm. If you show your face here again after that, I will sue your sorry backside until all you have left is skin and hair, do you understand?"
Dunne senior nodded, not quite believing his luck. He flinched as the three men stepped forward.
"Failure to comply with these terms," Ezra added, "will also result in myself and these gentlemen beating the shit out of you."
With one last swig of his bottle, Sean scuttled off into the gloom of the early evening. Larabee eyed Standish, unsure if he was angry or impressed.
"That's a lot of money, Ezra." Vin pointed out, still a little shocked by the offer.
Standish nodded. "Yes it is, but I consider it worth every penny... plus, it means Mother's Christmas gift to me has been put to good use."
The three smirked, turning as Buck's yellow Volvo pulled out of the pub car park, rolling down the hill to pass them and head toward the hospital. Chris gestured with his head.
"Come on, let's go check on JD."
Two days later saw the crew of the Saint Nicholas on duty and cleaning the boat. They had worked their way to the outside and were scrubbing and hosing. Despite the time of year, the weather was warm and sunny, causing them to perspire.
While Vin was hosing the stern of the Severn Class lifeboat, he glanced across to JD. The youth was sitting on the quayside, his left hand pushing hair from his face as he flexed and stretched his bandaged right hand, wincing occasionally. It wasn't broken and a course of anti-inflammatory pills and a gel to draw out the bruising was clearly helping, but JD looked dejected, and it was breaking the Welshman's heart.
He glanced across at Buck and Chris. Only the three of them and Ezra knew about the payoff to Sean Dunne, so were unable to alleviate any fears JD had about his father's return without giving anything away.
Nathan carried his own guilt, sharing it with Josiah through confession to insure breaking a confidence would help him, personally, without going any further. He had succeeded in tracing the hospital close to JD's first home in Ireland, obtaining a copy of the youth's medical records until his third birthday, at which point, he and his mother never returned there.
Nathan had wept openly at the information before him. Numerous x- rays and two CT scans, confirming that JD had suffered many injuries from the age of six months to three years. The records carried a marker to suggest the situation was being monitored. He wondered if that had come to anything, or whether Rachel Dunne had merely disappeared of her own volition. Either way...Nathan was now convinced it had saved JD's life and was grateful the boy had no recollection of that time.
Josiah watched the subdued group. He recognized JD would be mortified if he knew how much his state of mind was affecting his friends. They were used to him being upbeat and full of energy, qualities they had not seen since his father's violent outburst. Father Sanchez took some comfort in that he had persuaded JD to come and talk to him soon and the young man had agreed. Josiah allowed himself a smile. This vibrant, intelligent, innocent eighteen year old stirred up fraternal and paternal instincts in his teammates like no other, yet, was mostly oblivious to it all...and that's what made it so easy to care about him.
Ezra had derived no satisfaction from his meeting with Sean Dunne. The money was of no consequence, but, seeing such personification of evil walk away unscathed, unaffected and practically rewarded for his violent behavior had cut him deeper than he could ever have thought possible, to the point where, he actually now felt he had betrayed JD. Buck, Chris and Vin had accompanied him that day and told him to shrug it off, but it was painfully clear these three proud men felt no differently than he did and were very unsatisfied they had been unable to mete out their own retribution on the odious individual.
Chris already had friends in the police force on the case. He had no doubt in his mind that Sean Dunne was far from the sad opportunist they had once considered him to be, in fact, he was convinced their previous summation of him was the very reason the attack on JD...right in front of them...had occurred. They had been unprepared, expecting a miserable drunk; they had been confronted with a cold, calculating, violent, alcohol dependent monster. Chris looked at JD and sighed inwardly. Adam would have been ten this year. Chris had loved that boy more than life itself and would give his own life in a heartbeat to have him and Sarah alive now. He simply could not comprehend how a father could hurt his own son in any way. Chris sighed, he had dedicated his life to saving the lives of others, but, in the case of Sean Dunne...he would happily make an exception.
Buck was in hell. Every time he looked at JD, his huge heart constricted with pain and guilt. He was convinced if he had told JD that Vin thought he had seen Dunne senior several weeks before, the boy would have been on his guard. Buck couldn't believe the man had violently attacked a boy he looked on as his younger brother, right in front of him...and five other men. The brunet had convinced himself he could have stopped him, though, realistically, he knew he could not have. But that didn't mean there wasn't a minute gone by since that night he wished he had. He missed his...no...their JD and, damnit...he was going to get him back.
Tanner was still watching JD. At almost twenty eight, Vin had seen and done more than JD would probably experience in a lifetime, but, getting to know the teenager had brought out a side to the senior mechanic he had long ago buried deep within him. JD was like a kid brother, and his cohort in many a fun or sport-related incident or excursion. A smile crossed the wiry Welshman's lips and, lifting the hose, he directed the jet at JD's chest.
Sitting down for a few moments in his yellow weatherproof trousers, navy RNLI t-shirt and his navy sweatshirt tied around his waist, JD looked at his bandaged hand and flexed it. It still hurt, but it was much less swollen and stiff than directly after the attack. He pushed dark hair from his eyes. As far as JD knew, his father had never before been to Four Corners, it was a haven...a special place, just between JD and his mum. Alerted by the media coverage of the team's infamous rescue, Sean Dunne would never have known where his son was until then and JD was wondering whether he should move on. The last thing he needed was this spiteful individual wreaking havoc on the lives of men he had grown to care deeply for. He wished he could remember why the man terrified him so. His early years were little more than hazy memories, and he was more than curious why he had blocked out the bad memories that had clearly existed for his mother and why the woman he loved with all his heart had cried for no reason, sometimes. He was just considering when to go and talk to Josiah when something hard and cold hit him in the chest.
The harbor wall was lined with onlookers. Activity around the lifeboat always drew attention, but especially so when the 'Magnificent Seven' were on duty and murmurings moved through the crowd as they watched Vin squirt JD with a jet of water, the young man gasping with the shock as he looked back at his assailant. All the crew looked on, wondering if...even hoping, JD would retaliate. They were not disappointed. With a whoop, the youngest team member leapt to his feet, politely relieved Josiah of his water hose and promptly returned the favor.
Buck howled with laughter and, not to be outdone, lobbed soapy sponges at Vin, but Vin ducked and Chris went momentarily deaf as a sodden sponge hit his head side-on. Picking up his own soapy pail, Chris tossed it over a cackling second coxswain, then growled as water from JD's hose hit him square in the back. Dripping suds, Buck enveloped Vin from behind and directed the hose at Larabee, catching him momentarily before he ducked behind Nathan, Ezra and Josiah, the three men yowling out their disapproval while laughing like fools at the same time. Chaos ensued as the seven battled it out, giving an unexpected show to the delighted onlookers
Thoroughly drenched, Chris called a halt and the hoses were turned off as seven men stretched out on the quayside, laughing. The crowd, of mostly women, was afforded one more treat as all seven men stripped off their t-shirts to the sound of wolf-whistles and rapturous applause, before heading to the boathouse to change into dry clothes.
One man peeled away from the crowd, staggering slightly until reaching his brand new Volkswagen Golf GTi. Getting in, Sean Dunne's hands gripped the steering wheel, his knuckles white with the effort. He had watched Buck put an arm around his son...his son and guide him into the boathouse, the two laughing with the other five men as if they had not a care in the world. That thought angered him more and, starting up the car, he made his way recklessly back to his hotel. He needed to think...and more whiskey.
The last shout of their shift the next day, was at 1.15am, to a request that the all weather lifeboat be launched to assist a single handed 20ft fishing vessel which had reported mechanical failure. The fishing boat's coolant pipe had split, causing the engine to overheat and leaving the skipper no option other than to call for assistance.
Chris brought them alongside the casualty and Buck and Vin passed a tow line to the vessel to haul her back to Four Corners. Later that morning, after a few hours sleep, JD went to meet with Josiah.
"Come in, JD. It's good to see you." Draping an arm affectionately around the youth's shoulders, Josiah guided him into the study, where milk and chocolate digestive biscuits awaited him. JD grinned as he took a seat.
Josiah returned the gesture. "Someone who loves you told me they're your favorite."
JD frowned, then blushed scarlet. "Buck doesn't love me."
Sanchez chuckled, "Of course not...nor you, him." Josiah got comfortable. "He's worried about you, JD...we all are."
The youth toyed with a biscuit before picking it up. "I'm fine... honest." He looked up, wondering why Josiah wasn't speaking, realizing the whole point of his visit was to talk. He licked the melting chocolate off his fingers, put down the biscuit and looked at the preacher.
"Okay, I'm not fine...but I will be. I didn't realize he...dad...had come back. He was so subdued last time we met, but...what he had done...made me sick to my stomach. This time...when I heard his voice just behind me like that...I don't know why, but...it scared me, Josiah."
He suddenly became very interested in his hands, his head bowed allowing black bangs to hide his eyes. Sanchez leaned forward and grasped the hands to still them.
"Don't be embarrassed, John. What I witnessed the other night...well, I must say, I truly admire your mother for breaking away from such a degenerate. Do you remember much about him?"
JD shook his head. "Not really. Mum told me a few things...but in all the time away from him, he never once got in touch. I figured there was good reason, so I never questioned it. I don't really remember missing him either. Does that make me a bad person, Josiah? I can't love my own father?"
"Good Lord, no," Sanchez assured. "From what I saw of him, there's very little to love, if anything. Now, what can we do to help you?"
JD finally picked up the biscuit and bit into it. "You're all already doing it. Everyone's been great, especially Buck, but...I haven't found the words yet...to say...thanks."
Josiah smiled. "There's no doubt in my mind they already know how you feel about them...about us...what we don't know, is how we can make this right."
JD looked at him. "You just have. It feels good to get this off my chest."
"So then, tell me JD...why have you found it difficult to tell all this to Buck? I know how close you are."
Taking a sip of milk, JD smiled, shyly. "What my father and Heather did to Buck hurt him so bad. I was so scared when he disappeared, even though Chris was confident he would come back. I don't ever want to see Buck hurting like that again. I was afraid dad coming back might rake it all up and upset him."
The priest nodded his understanding. "As I recall, you had a pretty rough time too. What's hurting and upsetting Buck is not being there for you."
JD pushed his hand through his hair. "When I go back, I'll talk to Buck and Inez...then the others."
Both men relaxed back. The healing process was well under way.
Buck had cleaned out the pipes and was pumping the ale through. He cursed softly when he realized one tap wasn't flowing. "JD! I need a barrel changed!"
Inez stepped from out of the kitchen. "He has gone to see Padre Sanchez."
Buck checked the clock, 10.13 am. "Oh yeah, hadn't realized he was going so early. Ah well, I'll just have to go down into that dark, damp cellar all by myself..." he grinned, "...wanna come hold my hand?"
She smiled at him, tilting her head invitingly.
Chuckling, Buck made his way to the cellar while Inez went back into the kitchen.
Sean Dunne slipped into the bar. He had been watching from the window and once Buck had disappeared, he snuck in. Placing down the items in his hand, he walked over to the cellar door...and waited.
Five minutes later, Buck, whistling, opened the cellar door. He only saw Sean for a moment before the cricket bat from over the bar slammed into his head, the momentum from the blow sending him down half a dozen unforgiving concrete steps, rendering him unconscious.
"I'm his father, you bastard son of a whore!" Sean called after him. Pulling the door closed, he slipped the bolt, turning sharply as he heard a gasp.
"What have you done?" Inez flew to the cellar door. Dunne senior pulled her back, slapping her face hard. Dazed, Inez felt the man pull her toward the stock cupboard and push her inside. He blocked the door and went back to the items he had dumped earlier, ignoring Inez's pounding on the door as he flicked a lighter to a petrol soaked rag. Smiling, he tossed it onto the cloth seats in one corner of the room, watched it flare up, grabbed a bottle of best scotch from the bar stock and left.
"No one pays off Sean Dunne...no one."
Chris' Landrover stopped just above the mooring for the Lone Star. He called down to Vin. "I'm heading for the pub...you interested?" One of his contacts had called to say Sean Dunne had disappeared again. Chris thought it wise to give Buck and JD a heads up.
From the yacht's deck, Vin looked at the mop in his hand then back to Larabee, already moving. "Oh aye...I'm there!" Hopping over the rail, he jogged toward the Landrover and jumped in. They pulled off, it was only just up the road, but it seemed daft not to jump in with Chris. Suddenly, Chris swerved as a black Golf GTi almost hit them as it skewed across the road, continuing on in the same manner. Chris blew out a breath as he brought the car to a halt.
Vin nodded but he was clearly alarmed. "I'm either really good at spotting Sean Dunne...or I'm hallucinating. "
Chris frowned, continuing on. In seconds of approaching the pub car park, they saw the smoke.
JD walked down the path from the presbytery toward the gate, Josiah walking with him. He turned, hesitated and then hugged Josiah tightly, the big man reciprocating.
"Thank you, Josiah. I'm gonna go talk to Buck, now."
Josiah beamed to see JD's grin return. "You're welcome, son. I'll see you later...at the inn?"
Dunne nodded. "Later, then." He walked across the square. There were few people about, very few tourists at this time of year and the locals tended to go further afield to Asda or Tesco for their shopping. Just before he cut into an alley to get to the pub, JD turned at the sound of a roaring engine, barely having time to register the VW before it side-swiped him, sending him up and over it, to land with a crunch on the road. Panting with the pain, JD tried to move, realizing the agonizing scream was coming from him. Finally unscrewing his eyes, he looked up to see the face of Sean Dunne bearing down on him.
Chris barged open the pub door.
He moved to the bar to retrieve the fire extinguisher while Vin grabbed the hose from the yard. In less than a minute the fire was under control, but the one corner of the pub was blackened. They turned at the sound of pounding on the stock room door. Vin unblocked it, shocked as a weeping Inez fell into his arms.
"The cellar...Sean Dunne locked Buck in the cellar." She was so relieved to see them, she had been frantic, wondering how she could escape and raise the alarm, when she heard them come in.
In several strides, Chris was there, frowning as he realized the door was bolted. He unlocked it and pushed it open, flicking on the light.
"Oh fuck! VIN...CALL FOR AN AMBULANCE!"
Sean yelled into JD's bloodied face, glaring into the pain-dulled eyes trying to focus on him. "Did you really think that fancy friend of yours could get rid of me with a measly hundred thousand pounds... hmmm? Just how clever do you feel now, boy? HUH?" He kicked at JD's ribs, pleased to see the curled up, shivering form on the ground. He swayed slightly as he once more bent over to yell at JD.
"You took her from me...you took my lovely away from me...you stole away my Rachel...she was mine...MINE! Once you were born...she didn't want me. I LOVED HER...married her, even though she was carrying another man's bastard...I LOVED HER!" He snarled, "And you took her. I hope you rot in hell...like your real da is!" With one final kick, Sean Dunne walked unsteadily back to his car and drove erratically away.
A few shocked onlookers had already called the police and an ambulance while one had run to the church. Josiah stepped out to see who was hammering on his door.
"Father, come quickly, a young boy was just hit by a car!"
Running, Josiah followed them, his heart almost stopping when he saw the bloody broken form of JD lying in the road. He dropped down to check on him, just as JD's eyes flickered closed as he lost his battle for consciousness.
"Oh, Father in Heaven...no, John...no..."
Dabbing at her eyes while Vin sat with her, Inez gave her statement to the police, something that would also be needed should Buck choose to claim on his insurance policy. She turned, crying out as Buck was brought out from the cellar on a rolling stretcher. She and Vin looked hopefully toward Chris. The blond nodded as he joined them before leaving with Buck, handing Vin the keys to his vehicle.
"He's drifting in and out...it's looking hopeful but they're concerned about his head and his back so they're taking him to Helston. Vin... round up the others...find JD, he needs to be warned."
Tanner nodded. "I'll see you at the hospital."
Inez shooed him out. "I am fine. Go find the others and let me know what is happening, I'll clean up here once the Fire Department and the police are satisfied."
Too shocked to argue, Vin nodded and left, pulling out his phone. He had to warn JD.
Choked, Josiah held his hand to his mouth as he watched JD placed on a spinal board, bandaged and put into an ambulance. The paramedics knew Josiah would be traveling with them as soon as they had JD stable and ready for transport. The priest turned toward a rather animated conversation.
"I couldn't believe what I was seeing...he'd no sooner hit the poor kid, he was out of the car and screaming at him, then he...he kicked him...the boy was practically unconscious and he kicked him."
"Excuse me..."Sanchez broke in. Something about what the witness was relaying rang alarm bells. "What did the man look like?" He closed his eyes and swallowed the rising bile as Sean Dunne was described perfectly.
"Ready to go, Father."
JD's mobile rang. Josiah took it from the paramedic, relieved at the ID.
"Vin...I'm on my way to the hospital with JD. I can't explain now...call Buck and the others and meet me there, we're heading for Helston." With a nod to the medics, Josiah jumped into the ambulance and left the police with the witnesses.
Vin stared into his phone. What did Josiah mean...'on his way to the hospital with JD'? He suddenly felt nauseous...oh God...was his warning too late? He dialed Nathan and Ezra, then jumped into Chris' Landrover and headed for the hospital.
Trying hard to ignore the throbbing headache, Buck forced his eyes open. He couldn't figure out where he was. Was he at sea? The swaying movement he was experiencing made it feel like he was.
"Hey, Buck. Good to see you."
"Chris?" Buck rasped, "Where am I?"
"Hospital. You were attacked..."
Buck frowned in concentration, then his eyes opened wide. "Sean Dunne! Oh...oh God, Chris..." Buck grasped his friend's arm. "...find JD!"
"Rest now...I'll find JD." Chris hated to mislead his friend, but as Buck drifted off, he knew it was for the best. They had all been relieved to learn Buck had a small head wound, a concussion and bruised ribs. It could have been so much more. Now they were waiting for JD to get out of surgery, the full extent of his injuries yet to be established, all they knew was he had broken his shoulder and had some internal bleeding.
Leaving Buck with Nathan and Ezra to sleep for a while, Chris headed up to the surgical floor to join Vin and Josiah. Nathan eventually sent Ezra after him as he elected to stay with Buck. Chris had promised to return as soon as he had news, or Buck woke up, whichever came first. They were met by Josiah walking toward them.
"He's in recovery. They've braced his collar bone, fixed the internal bleed and they tell me he has two broken and several bruised ribs. The head wound was glued and he has a hairline fracture to the skull but they're not overly concerned. Obviously he's black and blue, but he's already woken up and will be on a side-ward within the hour."
As Chris ran a shaky hand through his hair, he saw Vin turn.
"Where are you going?"
Vin's look was feral. "To find Sean Dunne." He looked at his arm as Chris grabbed it.
"The police are on it, Vin...they have a description of the car...please... God knows I want to rip the bastard into pieces, too, but I think we're needed here more."
Vin stared at the blond, his thoughts conflicting. He desperately wanted to bring Dunne in, but he wanted to be here for his friends, too.
"Until I've talked to JD, then."
Larabee nodded. "Me and you both."
Ezra watched the scene unfold. He wanted to say 'count me in', but all he could think of was how paying Dunne off hadn't helped at all. Nathan came in.
"Buck's awake and demanding to be released. He knows it's too soon, but he wants to speak to JD. Should I tell him?"
Looking to the others, Chris spoke. "Go back and tell him I'm coming to see him and to wait. I'm going in to see JD, then I'll be down."
Nathan nodded and left as Chris walked into recovery, followed by the others.
JD was exhausted but could see Chris' face clearly. "Where's Buck?" he whispered.
Chris smiled. "He'll be here soon, just rest now. The more you rest, the quicker you get out of here."
JD blinked slowly in answer. "What happened to me?"
"Later, okay?" Chris was insistent, "then we'll talk." He waited until JD drifted off, addressing the others. "I'm going to see Buck."
"Get out of my way, Larabee!"
Chris stood firm. "There is no way you're going to see JD until you calm down."
Buck looked at his oldest friend and his face crumpled. "His own father...how could he do that? How could anyone hurt their own child like that?"
Chris nodded, squeezing Buck's arm. "Someone who doesn't deserve to be blessed with such a precious gift." He swallowed hard. "Come on, Buck...JD needs you."
The next time JD woke up, he recognized the face in front of him instantly. "Buck?"
"It speaks! Yeah, it's me, kid. Good to see you."
JD looked around, grimacing as he tried to move and couldn't. "I'm in hospital again?" His eyes widened. "OH GOD!"
Despite his own pain, Buck leaned in. "I know...I know, please stay calm. I promise to answer anything you want, but for now...relax." As soon as JD's sobs began Buck carefully scooped him up. Fuck protocol... JD needed him. They stayed that way until Chris, Vin and Ezra came in, their faces grim. Buck raised the head of the bed so JD could see them as he eased him back against the pillows. Chris looked at Buck, then spoke.
"JD, they found Sean's car. The Saint Nicholas was launched when the coastguard reported a car sighted going over a cliff. They found the car but...there was no sign of your father. I'm sorry."
JD turned his head to face away from them. "I'm not."
Two days on and JD had been told he would be released the next day. Buck was ecstatic. He had been horrified to see the pub and Inez's bruised face when he returned home, but had instantly set about putting it right. Hoping to eradicate all evidence of fire damage by the time JD came home, Buck contacted his insurers, who were more than satisfied with the police report. Local contractors instantly moved in to begin work, content to be reimbursed when the insurers paid out. Being a small community, it carried a lot of trust. Vin had popped in to see JD, relieving a distraught Casey, who was worried about JD's state of mind. After Vin, Ezra dropped by. It was not an easy visit and he soon learned why.
"Why did you do it, Ezra?"
"I beg your pardon, JD?"
"I mean...I appreciate the sentiment, but, why didn't you come to me, first? I could have told you no amount of money would get rid of my father. He's an unemployable leech who had just come out of prison when he tried to sell my story to the paper...that's why he was so well behaved. But he wasn't satisfied with his last settlement...probably wasn't buying him enough booze...so he came back for more." JD fought to hold back the emotion. "You should have spoken to me first," he whispered.
The hurt in JD's eyes shook the ex city-man to the core, catching him uncharacteristically off-guard and causing him to instantly attack. "What else did Vin tell you?"
JD stared, horrified. "Vin knew? Oh God...who else? No...never mind...I can guess." He looked away.
Ezra was in turmoil. He knew Vin had wanted to come clean with JD and, wrongly, had assumed he had done just that during his visit. "JD... it was my decision. I hoped it would relieve you of the burden of the odious individual turning up when least expected. The others were just aware of it...please..."
"Would you leave, please?"
Ezra swallowed. "JD..."
The youth turned to him. "Just go. And tell the others I'm sleeping now...I'll see them tomorrow."
Standish left with a heavy heart. His good intentions had ended up hurting his friend even more. What could he do to put this right?
Undeterred, Buck turned up to visit anyway and watched JD sleep, or at least pretend to. Ezra had told the group what had happened, assured by the others it had been a good idea that, for whatever reason known only to Sean Dunne, had backfired. Buck couldn't wait to get JD home tomorrow...once he was home, everything would be alright.
"What do you mean, 'he's gone'?"
The nurse straightened as she addressed the confused man in front of her. "He discharged himself this morning."
"Alone?" Buck pushed his fingers through his hair. "He's hurt...he's just a kid...he needs..."
"Mister Dunne is eighteen, Mr. Wilmington, perfectly old enough to make his own decisions and kindly refrain from shouting at me."
Buck relaxed, his face softening. "I'm sorry, you're right, he is eighteen and I was shouting. How did he leave?"
"I believe he called a taxi."
Nodding his thanks, he walked out to Chris' Landrover. The blond frowned.
"Apparently, he left." Buck climbed into the car and dialed. "Inez...is JD home? No...no, darlin', don't get all worked up, he can't have got too far. I'll call you later."
Buck shrugged. "He loves the sea. He said it calms him and helps him think when he looks at it."
Chris grinned. JD and Buck were so much more alike than they realized. "Okay...well, it's a start. Let's try the cliff top road; there are lots of places to sit, there."
JD shivered as he pulled his jacket tighter. Thank God Buck had brought his fresh clothes in, the night before. He'd look pretty stupid sitting on a bench on a cliff top in a hospital gown. He'd already drawn a few stares with his strapped arm and bandaged head.
He stared out across the English Channel, wondering if his father had really died out there, or whether he was still alive...waiting for an opportunity to interfere in JD's and his friends' lives yet again. He felt guiltier that he feared that, than he did about the fact his father could be dead. Except...he wasn't his father. JD remembered him telling him his mother was already pregnant when she married Sean. But Sean had also suggested JD's real father was dead, too. He needed a name. Exhausted, he dozed off.
Chris had guessed right. Buck sighed with relief when he spotted the solitary figure sitting on the bench. As Buck got out to go over to JD, Chris dialed the others to call off the extended search, watching patiently from the car as Buck worked his magic.
The brunet smiled in amusement when he realized JD was asleep, only to frown when he touched the boy's face to wake him, JD was freezing.
"Come on, son, you'll freeze out here."
JD blinked hard, shivering. He turned toward the voice. "Oh...hi."
"What the hell are you doing out here? Are you trying to get sick?"
JD shrugged his good shoulder. "I needed to think."
"Yeah, well...you can bloody-well think back at home. Come on." Wrapping his jacket around the younger man's shoulders, Buck gently helped JD to his feet and walked him to Chris' car. With just a nod, Larabee pulled off and headed for the Lifeboat Inn.
The next day, JD came into the bar to find his six closest friends there, enjoying lunch. He smiled.
"Don't you lot ever eat at home?"
Vin grinned. "Then we'd have to do dishes." He watched JD carefully sit down next to him.
"Since when did take-aways come with dishes, Tanner?"
They all laughed, grateful to see JD joking around, becoming more serious as it was obvious JD had something to say. He took a moment to gather his thoughts.
"Just let me say this...then you can chip in if you want to, okay? I'm sorry about all the trouble Sean caused. The man is...was...a loose cannon, always has been. Mum said he was a sweet man until he turned to drinking, which, apparently, was just after I was born." He smiled, shyly. "Nice to know I inspire such behavior. Anyway...in the fifteen years we were gone, he never found us, Mum made sure of that. What I didn't know and what dad chose to scream in my face after he ran me down with his car was that he wasn't actually my father." He paused, smiling inwardly at Buck's expression. The man was about to burst.
"He said he hoped I rot in hell like my father was. Accused me of taking mum away from him. I guess that answers the question as to why he hated me so much. So...now you know...he was spot on when he called me a bastard."
The expression on JD's face as he said the words choked Buck and in seconds he was next to JD and embracing him. He whispered in his ear.
"It's not such a bad club to belong to, you know."
JD spluttered out a teary laugh. "Yeah, I know...it has some great members." He looked across at a distraught Standish, once again composing himself.
"Ezra...I'm sorry I got mad at you. I understand what you did and I'm grateful. If you can help me work out how, I can pay you back..."
Ezra stood. "Please...don't say that. The money was of no consequence to me. Mother gave it to me to compensate for her going away for Christmas. If it wasn't for all of you...I would have been alone. I would like to just forget about it now."
The two locked gazes for several long moments. JD smiled.
"If you insist. I couldn't really afford to pay you back, anyway."
They all laughed. Ezra and JD looked at each other; it was going to be okay. JD yawned, failing miserably to stifle it. Buck frowned.
"Come on, you should be in bed."
JD was about to say 'look who's talking', but the determination in Buck's face made him think better of it.
"I just got up, Buck," he protested, as Buck helped him to his feet.
"And your body's telling you, you need to rest. Come on...we're having the grand unveiling of the newly decorated Lifeboat Inn in two days, you want to be fit for that, don't you?"
JD sighed. "Yeah, of course." He waved to the others. "See you later." They all said their farewells. Ezra looked around.
"Excuse me, gentlemen, there is something I have to do. Josiah, I require your assistance, may I have a word with you?"
Two days later and the Inn was packed. The corner of the room that had been fire-damaged was closed off with sheets. Buck had been very secretive about the whole thing, even JD and Inez had no idea what was behind the covers. Buck smiled to see JD beaming as well-wishers made a fuss of him.
"You were hurt too, you know."
Buck grinned at Chris. "Aah, nothing I couldn't handle. But, when I heard about the kid...Chris, I gotta tell you...I couldn't bear to lose any one of you...or Inez...but him..." he looked back at JD.
Chris glanced toward Tanner, then at the rest of his friends, resting on Buck. "I know exactly where you're coming from, mate."
Buck chuckled and clapped his hands together. "Okay...without further ado, would JD and Inez step up here, please?"
Grinning, JD took Inez's hand and guided her to the rope Buck had erected to remove the sheets from the newly decorated corner. Waiting for Buck to get a hold of JD's digital camera, the gathering counted to three and JD and Inez pulled on the rope.
One huge gasp ensued, followed by silence. Finally JD, clearly choked, as was everyone else, spoke.
The reason relatives had been approached for permission to use photographs for the crew of the Saint Anthony in the last week became obvious. Two whole walls were a giant picture of the two RNLI crews, in their bright yellow all-weather gear, smiling and standing, in glorious sunshine, next to their lifeboats in the harbor, the Saint Anthony crew on the shorter wall, and the Saint Nicholas on the larger. The seats and tables in front of them reflected the leather seats and wooden tables of the lifeboat interior. Two brass plaques recorded the dates of the crews' time in service with their boats, the final dates of the seven's, not yet entered. Inez tugged JD's arm, pointing. A wooden sign hung from the ceiling in the corner where the two walls met. JD gasped as he read it. 'Dunne's Den'. He walked over to Buck and without a thought for how it looked, he hugged the big man with his good arm. Buck squeezed right back, his deep chuckle waking the crowd up as they all applauded, rapturously. The crew surrounded the pair. Chris's smile was dazzling.
"Good work, my friend."
Buck smiled, finally releasing JD. "I had good material to work with." Shouting the first drinks on the house, the celebration began and a wonderful evening was had by all.
Casey was last to leave. JD kissed her goodnight, leaving her breathless and giggly. She liked having her JD back. The Seven sat down and relaxed, their eyes occasionally drifting toward the walls. Ezra approached JD and handed him a folder.
"I hope you won't be offended, but after what you said the other night, I asked a friend in the city to help me. Normally, I would turn to you for this, but in this case, I could not."
JD frowned, glancing at the file. Ezra continued.
"Thanks to your birth certificate, a little net-surfing and Josiah and a wonderful old curator at the church of Saint Agnes in Glenbeigh, County Kerry, we were able to trace the registry books of that church, locating one in particular dated nineteen years ago. One Rachel Elizabeth Murphy and Constable Patrick John O'Rourke announced their upcoming wedding, which was logged in the book. The curator explained the wedding never took place as Constable O'Rourke died in an explosion the week before while saving a young family, getting caught in the blast as he checked the property. One month later, the wedding of Rachel Murphy and Sean Dunne did take place and you were born seven months later.
"He remembered your mother and father were childhood sweethearts, parting only once for three months when your father joined the local Garda which took him away from the area. In that time, Rachel dated Sean Dunne, but it lasted less than a month, resuming her relationship with Patrick when he was appointed to Glenbeigh police station. There are no remaining relatives in the area, I'm afraid. There are, however, two pictures of Patrick John O'Rourke in that file."
Tears were rolling down JD's face, his hands shaking as he opened the file, taking out a picture of a young, smiling, handsome, raven- haired police officer, posing casually, his hat under his arm. It seemed a long time before JD moved to look at the second one of the man standing behind the desk at the local police station. Looking up, he showed the pictures to Buck.
"Do...do you think I look like him?"
Ezra and Josiah were already grinning, they knew the answer.
Buck studied the photos, eventually pulling the youth in close. "Yeah... yeah, I do. Ugly sod, isn't he?"
JD laughed, the sound muffled by Buck's broad chest. He pulled back and, beaming, showed the others. JD stared at Ezra and Josiah as the photos went around his friends. He wanted to embrace them both but wasn't sure Ezra would approve. He stood and held out his hand to Ezra.
Ezra halted him. "There's a little more. The envelope in the file contains a copy of a request from your father to revert back to his own father's name before his and your mother's marriage took place. When Patrick and his brother were still young, their father died of cancer, their mother marrying again within the year. Patrick opted to switch to his new step-father's surname, whereas, his older brother, chose to remain with his original surname."
JD frowned. Ezra concluded.
"Your real paternal grandfather was Albert Patrick Dunne...your father's only sibling...a brother...was Sean Carradock Dunne..."
JD gasped. "You mean...?"
Ezra smiled. "Your uncle took his brother's grieving fiancée as his wife...and his brother's unborn child as his own."
Eyes glistening, JD swallowed hard, a smile slowly forming on his lips. "So...so I really am a Dunne?"
Standish nodded. "Most certainly, yes."
Still reeling, JD once again extended his hand and this time, Ezra took it, pulling JD into a quick but heartfelt embrace which JD happily returned.
The boy spoke close to Ezra's ear. "Thank you," he pulled back to look at both Ezra and Josiah. "Thank you, thank you both. You may never fully know what this means to me."
"It was the least we could do," Standish grinned, releasing the youth to Father Sanchez. Josiah had no problem giving the youth a big squeeze, only holding back a little due to JD's injuries. Sitting back down, JD scrubbed at his face with his hand.
"Wow...what a day!"
Once the others had left for home, Buck looked over to JD, smiling as he watched the youth once more, looking at the photographs. "Hey...Mac needs a quick walk, you want to come with us?"
JD looked back and grinned. "Yeah, okay. Let me get my jacket."
Inez frowned. "I do not think either of you are well enough to walk anywhere...I will take Mac out."
Buck closed in on her. "Careful there, darlin', that almost sounded like you cared."
Inez's face drew closer to Buck's. "Maybe I do..." she whispered, then folded her arms across her chest, her voice a little louder. "...or maybe I just like the convenience of living near to where I work. Do not be long, I do not wish to spend hours worrying about where you are."
Buck's handsome face lit up as he laughed. One of these days...
The two men leaned over the harbor wall, enjoying the fresh air as the breeze ruffled their hair. Mac happily snuffled around as they talked.
"Stop pretending to be alright, Buck. I know how much pain you're in."
Wilmington gave a tight smile. "Yeah, well...it doesn't hold a candle to how my heart's feeling. I wish I had the words to explain how sorry I am you had to go through all this."
JD sidled closer. "Funny...I was just thinking the exact same thing." They both laughed. "You and the guys, Inez and Casey...have all been great, Buck. When I first came here...I had no idea where my life was going. Meeting you...well...let's just say you gave me a reason to get up in the morning." He lightened the moment with a chuckle at the greyhound sitting on his trainers. "And now, Mac does."
Buck laughed. "Yeah, he does love his early morning walks." He glanced at JD. "We are going to get through this...right?"
JD looked out to sea, sighing. "Yeah...we are. As long as I got you, I can get through anything."
Buck snorted softly. "Funny...I was just thinking the exact same thing." Whistling to Mac, they headed back to the pub.
"So," JD said, "was that nearly a kiss between you and Inez earlier?"
"Why is it no one thinks I may have already been kissed by the magnificent Ms Recillos?" Buck smiled at the faint memory of a stolen kiss when he had been injured.
"Well, for one thing, you still have your family jewels intact."
Buck laughed and draped his hand around JD's shoulders. "Fair comment." He held his aching ribs. "Race you home?"
"Okay...give me a head start...count to five hundred."
Buck laughed harder. "Oooh...don't make me laugh, kid."
"Dwi'n Twp!".....I'm Stupid!