Who's the Kid?

ATF Alternate Universe

DISCLAIMER: The following is a work of fanfiction based on the CBS television series, The Magnificent Seven. It is in no way intended to infringe on the copyrights of CBS, MGM, The Trilogy Entertainment Group, The Mirisch Corp., or anyone else who may have legal rights to the characters and settings. I don’t own the characters (although I would be willing to make an offer on JD.) This story is strictly for entertainment. No monetary gain will be made from it.

Note: I took liberties with the time-line of Sarah & Adam's deaths. Just kind of wanted to go that route in this story ~ hope no one minds.

Thanks to Mog for letting me play in this wonderful ATF playground.

Comments and creative criticism greatly appreciated at: ltcpl@icss.net

The elevator doors opened and a dark haired boy stepped off.

The boy was neatly dressed in a pair of tan khakis and a blue polo shirt.

He walked up to the desk closest to the elevator. The nameplate on the desk said "ATF Agent - Buck Wilmington."

"Excuse me, sir," the boy smiled. "Can you tell me where I can find Chris Larabee?"

"Sure I can. And you are?" the man asked.

"JD Dunne," the boy answered, extending his hand to the agent. "I think he's expecting me."

"Wait here." and the tall lanky man walked away.

Buck leaned into Chris' office, rapping on the open glass door. "You been paying your bills, pard?"

"Get to the point, Buck," Chris Larabee bit out ~ not looking up from the papers on his desk.

"I think your paper boy's here to collect."

Chris looked out to see the boy.

"Christ." Larabee said. "Send him in."

Buck went back to his desk. "You can go in now, son."

"Thanks," the boy said. He walked in and shook Larabee's hand and Chris closed the door.

Agent Vin Tanner, a crack sharpshooter with the team walked up and leaned against Wilmington's desk.

"Who's the kid?"

"Here to see Chris," Buck answered.

"Must be some kind of high school work program," Vin figured.

Agent Josiah Sanchez joined the two men.

"Who's the kid?"

"Here to see Chris," Buck answered, again.

"I remember Chris saying something about trying to set up a schedule to go around to the different Boy Scout troops in the city to make speeches. That's gotta be it, huh?" Sanchez questioned.

Next up was Agent Ezra Standish.

"Who's the kid?"

"Here to see Chris," Buck answered tiredly.

"Is Mr. Larabee looking for someone to mow his lawn?" Standish asked.

Last to approach was Agent Nathan Jackson.

"Who's the kid?"

"For the last time…he's here to see Chris." Wilmington snapped.

"Hey…is he that kid that was on the news for starting that anti-smoking program at his high school? I bet that's him." Jackson surmised.

Finally, after about half and hour, the boy in question walked out of Chris' office, got in the elevator and left.

Chris walked over to his team.

"So…Chris…who's the kid?" Buck asked.

"Wants to join the team," Chris said, matter-of-factly.

Wilmington roared with laughter.

"Did you tell him he has to finish high school first?"

"He's twenty-two, Buck. He's been a cop for a year," Chris replied.

"You serious, Chris?" Vin asked.

"Yeah." Larabee said.

"Well…I hope you told him to go back to his mama," Buck said.

"He's very qualified, Buck." Larabee remarked.

"For what, Mr. Larabee? Street crossing guard?" Standish joked.

"He comes with high recommendations. Finished first in his class at the academy. Any of you accomplish that feat?" Chris asked, eyeing his men.

"He can't be twenty-two, Chris…he looks…what???…sixteen???" Wilmington said, looking to the others for agreement.

"Maybe…" Nathan said.

"If that…" Josiah added.

+ + + + + + +

Two Weeks Later ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The elevator opened up and the dark haired boy stepped off again.

He walked up to Wilmington's desk and extended his hand.

"Hi…I'm JD."

"Oh…you're back. Buck Wilmington, kid. What'cha need?"

"I'm supposed to see Mr. Larabee."

"Again?" Buck asked.

Chris then walked up and extended his hand.

"Welcome to the team, JD. Come on in." and Chris headed towards his office.

Buck's chin nearly dropped to the floor.

"Chris??? Excuse me, kid," Buck said, pushing past the boy into Chris' office and shutting the door in the boy's face.

"You crazy, Chris????" Buck bellowed.

"Not last time I checked." Larabee said quietly.

"He's joining the team?" Buck asked.

"Yes," Chris replied.

"I can't believe it?" Buck said.

"Well…believe it, Buck," Chris instructed.

"We're gonna be a bunch of g*dd*amn babysitters," Buck seethed.

"Buck…he was first in the class at the academy…expert marksman…supposedly some kind of computer genius…" Chris began, before Buck interrupted.

"Oh…God…a geek."

"Buck, drop it…will 'ya? I was skeptical at first…but he seems eager to learn…and I think he'll be a valuable addition to the team," Chris said.

"Eager??? Eager???" Buck ranted. "You know what eager means, don't 'ya, Chris? Eager means one of us gets shot in the butt by a damn kid trying to shoot the bad guys."

"Buck…" Chris tried to reason with the agent.

"I don't care, Chris…I ain't gonna watch him."

"Never asked you to, Buck."

"And I ain't gonna like him, either."

"Never asked you to."

Buck stalked out of Chris' office and glared down at the slight boy as he passed him.

"Come on in, JD," Chris called from his office.

"I guess I'm not going to be welcomed with open arms, huh?" the young agent asked as he entered and closed the door behind him.

"You didn't expect to be, did you?" Chris asked with a slight smile.

"No," JD answered honestly.

"Well…they're good men. They'll get used to you. Just grin and bear it for a while, kid."

+ + + + + + +

Chris walked JD out to the others.

"This will be your desk, JD. You can get settled in if you want. I've got a meeting. I'll be back in about half an hour and I'll introduce you around."

"Great," JD said, sitting down at the desk across from Wilmington's.

Buck leaned back in his chair ~ looking at the kid, who was rifling through the desk drawers.

"Look…a badge." Dunne exclaimed.

"A badge…in a federal agent office…who would think?" Buck said, sarcastically.

"Think it'll be mine?" JD asked.

"No, kid. You get the toy badge," Buck smirked.

"Funny," JD replied.

Wilmington got up and stretched. "I'm going for coffee. Vin?"

"Yeah…thanks, Buck." Tanner said.

Buck carried back coffee for him and Vin. He sat down at his desk again, glaring at the kid across from him as he sat down.

"Just how old are you?" he finally asked.

"I'm older than I look," JD said.

"Well…son…you'd have to be," Buck laughed.

"I'm twenty-two."

"Christ almighty!!" Buck wailed.

"What?" Dunne asked.

"I've got underwear older than that!!" Wilmington howled.

"And that's something you're proud of?" the boy quipped.

Vin snickered.

Buck shot a glare at Tanner.

+ + + + + + +

Finally, Chris returned from his meeting.

"Come on, JD. I'll show you around. Let's see…we'll start with the introductions. You've met Buck, right?" Chris asked.

"Yeah…we're gonna be good friends…me and Buck," the kid said with sweet grin as he walked away.

Buck glared at the kid again.

+ + + + + + +

Chris proceeded to introduce the kid to the rest of the team.

Afterwards, Chris took the boy to familiarize him with the building.

Buck exploded.

"Can you believe this? Who do you think he knows? He's gotta be some spoiled rich kid. Gotta have somebody pullin' strings for him."

"I thought he seemed like a real nice young man," Josiah said.

"Yeah…me, too," Nathan agreed. "Ain't his fault he's young, Buck. You ain't gonna hold that against him, are you?"

Buck glared at the two men.

"Give the kid a chance, Buck. Let him 'earn' your 'contempt'," Vin smiled.

"I must agree, Mr. Wilmington. Upon meeting him…he seemed quite refreshing."

Buck glared again.

"Ain't there no size requirement in the department anymore?" Buck asked. "Don't you at least have to be taller than the water fountain?"

Buck turned to see the boy standing behind him.

It was then that Buck noticed…

…the boy's eyes.

They were huge…an interesting gray-hazel color…but huge…with long, thick little-boy lashes.

And they looked…


Buck cleared his throat.

"Find everything to your liking, kid?"

"Yeah…" the boy said quietly…"ALMOST everything."

Buck hung his head as the kid sat down across from him.

The boy was filling out some paperwork that Chris had given him.

His head was down and his hair kept falling in his eyes ~ making him look even younger ~ if that was possible.

After JD had completed the paperwork, Chris came out and checked it over.

"JD…you forgot to fill in 'next of kin'," Chris remarked.

"Don't have any, Mr. Larabee," the young agent whispered.


"No, sir. My mom died a couple of months ago," the boy said, shifting his eyes to the desk.

"You don't have anyone?" Chris asked.

"No sir."

Chris made a notation of such on the boy's file.

"Guys…" Chris called to the group. "We're gonna meet in the conference room in twenty minutes." and he returned to his office.

"So…kid…where you from?" Vin asked.


"Nice place. Why'd you leave and come here?"

"Just wanted to get away…after my mom died. She'd been real sick for a long time. There was nothing to keep me there."

"And how, Mr. Dunne, did you come to favor our astounding municipal?" Ezra asked.


"Why Denver, son?" Josiah translated.

"Oh…I like to read a lot. I've heard of Mr. Larabee…and the great work this team's done. Just wanted to be a part of something special."

"This job could kill 'ya," Buck said.

"I know," JD replied.

"No glory in it," Buck continued.

"I'm not looking for any," JD answered.

"You got an answer for everything, kid?" Buck asked.

"Depends on how long you're gonna grill me…I guess," JD grinned.

Buck stalked off.

"I don't think he likes me," JD said, watching Wilmington walk off.

"Buck likes everyone…give him time." Tanner said.

"And from the looks of you…my young friend…" Ezra said…"time is something you have an abundance of."

+ + + + + + +

The men all went into the conference room.

Chris had an easel set up holding a chart of an abandoned warehouse.

They covered the plans of the operation and Chris gave everyone an assignment…

…everyone except for JD.

JD raised his hand.

"This ain't grade school, kid. You don't have to raise your hand," Buck said.

"Oh…" JD put his hand down. "What about me, Mr. Larabee? What am I supposed to do?"

"You'll be with me, JD," Chris said.

"Oh…OK," JD said, quietly.

"That's it, guys," Chris said, and the meeting was concluded.

"Guess you're teacher's pet, kid," Buck teased.

This time it was JD's turn to glare…at the older agent.

"I'm not a kid," JD said.

"So what are you then?" Buck asked.

"Forget it…" and the boy left the room.

"Buck…" Chris began…"don't push him away. He's a good kid."

"We'll put that on his tombstone, Chris. I can't believe you're letting him join this team."

"If I didn't think he deserved the chance, Buck…I wouldn't have done it."

"Yeah…sure," Buck whispered.

"Meaning?" Chris asked.

"How long's Adam been gone, Chris," Buck looked to his oldest friend.


"You heard me…how long?" Buck continued.

"You know…twelve years," Chris said.

"Let's see…" Buck figured…"that'd make him…what?…sixteen now, huh?"

"Where are you going with this, Buck?"

"Oh…just that this kid don't look a day over sixteen…and's got a look that can melt butter…" Buck stated.

"Go to hell, Buck." as Chris walked out of the room.

+ + + + + + +

The next morning, the kid walked off the elevator carrying bagels, donuts and coffee for everyone.

He was wearing faded jeans, an oversized sweater that hung practically to his knees and a newsboy's cap was perched backwards on his head - all contributing to his, again, looking no more than sixteen.

"Jesus, kid…" Buck laughed…"where'd you get that hat?"

"I've had it for a long time," JD replied.

"Kid…you ain't OLD enough to have anything for a long time," Buck teased.

"Are you gonna ride me all day again? 'Cause it's really starting to get old," JD said, as he slumped down in his chair.

Buck started to stalk off…

"I brought donuts, bagels and coffee," JD called to the man.

Buck turned around…

"And crème cheese?" he asked.

"And crème cheese," JD smiled.

Buck turned around and began digging in the bag.

"Well…let's just have a look-see here," Buck said…rumaging through the bag like a groundhog.

"Kid…we got creamer here…you didn't have to bring the milk," Buck said, pulling a carton of milk from the bag.

"Hey…that's mine," JD said, grabbing the carton from the older agent.

"Don't tell me…you drink that stuff?" Buck asked.

"Yeah…it's good for you," JD said.

"Sure, kid…whatever," Buck said, rolling his eyes.

Chris walked up to the two…"We're moving out in thirty minutes, guys."

"Hey, Chris…the kid brought us breakfast," Buck pointed out, with a mouth-full of food.

"Thanks, JD," Chris smiled.

"Kid's trying to buy our affection," Buck remarked.

JD flashed a hurt look towards Buck…and walked away.

"Buck…" Chris began…"you think you could leave him alone today?"

"Sure…I can leave him alone, Chris…but I ain't watching him."

"That's my job, Buck," Chris said.

"Well, pard…" Buck grinned to his friend…"I do believe you've gonna have your work cut out for you."

Chris stood by Buck's desk for a while…and finally said. "I'm sorry about what I said yesterday, Buck."

"Yeah…me, too, Chris. I had no right saying what I did."

"I'm just hoping you're not right. I'm hoping that wasn't what made me let the kid join the team. I just had a feeling that the kid needed something like this in his life right now. And I really think he'll be good for the team," then he added as he headed for his office…"Hell…what do I know?"

"Who, knows, Chris?" Buck called to him. "Maybe he'll be some kind of boy-wonder and save the day."

"Stranger things have happened, Buck," Chris said as he closed his office door.

+ + + + + + +

Later the agents headed towards their objective…an abandoned warehouse that they were sure was being used as an illegal arms distribution center.

They had all been well briefed on their assignments…except for JD.

The kid was sitting on the first bench seat of the van…next to Vin. The kid was listening to music on a personal CD player. Vin could see the kid's leg jiggling.

The boy was looking out the window when Vin tapped him on the arm…and he nearly jumped off the seat.

"Sorry…" Vin apologized. "What'cha listening to?"

"Huh?" JD said, pulling off the earphones.

"I said I was sorry for scaring you. What'cha listening to?" Vin repeated.

"Oh…Hootie and the Blowfish. You like 'em?" The kid asked.

"Nah…but hey…to each their own," Vin said. "So…you scared, kid?"

"Uhm…yeah…I guess…a little," JD answered.

"Good…I'd hate to think I was the only one," Vin winked.

Truth be told…JD was very scared.

He didn't want to tell the others…but he was definitely scared.

He didn't even know what he was supposed to do. All Chris had told him was…"Stick close to me, kid."

What the hell did that mean??? What kind of an assignment was that??? Sounded like something you'd tell a kid…

…a kid that you wanted to keep out of the way.

JD was starting all over again. He'd proved himself to the men on the force back in Boston. It hadn't been easy…but he'd finally managed to earn their friendship…their trust…and most of all…their respect.

JD knew it was not going to be easy to win these guys over. It was definitely going to take longer than it did in Boston. They seemed to be a pretty tough bunch of men.

But it would be worth it. To be a part of the team with the best record and reputation in the country…he'd give 110%…which would be, he was sure, no less than any other member gave everyday.

Yes…JD knew it would be quite some time before these guys would take a liking to him…but he had plenty of time.

And that Buck guy…geez…JD figured maybe if he could get the other five members of the team to half-way like him…maybe Buck would leave him alone just to please them.

+ + + + + + +

"Are you coming or not, kid?"

"Huh? What?"

"You going to join us?" Buck asked. "It's time to go to work, kid."

"Oh…sorry," JD apologized.

Great…already caught daydreaming…that's really going to get me some points with this guy.

Chris came up behind JD and put his hand on the young agent's shoulder. "Stick with me, JD."

"Yes sir…Mr. Larabee."

"JD…you don't have to call me sir," Chris said.

"Yes…si…I mean…OK, Mr. Larabee."

"The name's, Chris, kid." Larabee grinned.


And the team went in.

+ + + + + + +

It didn't take them long to break up the operation and get everyone in the warehouse in custody.

"Are we sure we've secured the entire warehouse?" Chris asked.

"Can't be 100% sure, Chris…we didn't exactly have a guest list," Vin said.

"The dogs are on the way to search the building, Chris," Josiah said, trying to deter his leader's fear that they were missing something.

Suddenly…Chris' fear was realized.

JD looked up in time to spot a man from a catwalk that was preparing to shoot Buck.

JD drew his gun…

…and amid a hale of bullets…

…his found its mark…

…and the man plummeted to the floor.

Buck turned in time to see JD go down, hit by one of the shooter's bullets.

"KID!!!" Buck screamed.

Buck ran to the boy and grabbed him up, leaning him against his chest ~ there was blood everywhere.


JD stirred, looking up to the larger man…"Buck…you…OK?"

"Fine, kid. Don't talk…God, kid…you saved my life."

"Seemed…like…the…thing…to do." And the boy passed out in Buck arms.

+ + + + + + +

The wait for the ambulance seemed to be hours, although Chris knew by checking his watch - again - it had only been three minutes.

Buck was loosing it.

He had the boy cradled in his arms…whispering a soft litany of comforting and reassuring phrases…like "you're gonna be OK"…"we're gonna get you fixed right up"…"ain't nobody gonna hurt you no more, son"…and the one that made Chris break down…"Buck's gonna take care of you, son."

Buck…who wanted nothing to do with the boy…

Buck…who thought Chris was crazy for letting the kid join the team…

Buck…who wanted no part of baby-sitting the kid…

…now held the kid in his arms…like a baby…

…and Buck was the one crying…like a baby.

Finally the ambulance arrived and they carefully assessed JD's condition and prepared to transport him to the hospital.

"I'm riding in the back," Buck advised the paramedics.

"Me, too," Chris called out as he hurried and jumped in.

One of the paramedics was on the radio advising the hospital of JD's profile and condition.

"We have a white…male…juvenile…mid-teens…gunshot wound to the chest…unresponsive…weak vitals."

"He's twenty-two…" Buck sighed, his head in his hands.

"Excuse me?" the paramedic said, turning to Buck.

"I said…he's twenty-two," Buck repeated, looking up.

"Denver General…correction…please be advised patient is a twenty-two year old male," the paramedic relayed, shaking his head.

Buck had JD's left hand in his…and his right hand was rubbing the kid's forehead.

"JD…son…you're gonna be better soon…we're almost there…and the doctors are gonna take care of 'ya," Buck said…more for his own benefit than the boy's.

JD's lashes began to flutter and then…slowly…his eyes opened. Buck half-stood in the ambulance and leaned over the kid so he could get into JD's line of sight.

"I'm here, kid," Buck said and JD's eyes filled.

Buck wiped the tears as they ran down the kid's pale cheeks.

Buck knew that the kid was scared. Who wouldn't be? Kid probably thought he was going to die.

"You're gonna make it, JD…you hear me?" Buck was back sitting at the kid's side now…so he could speak right in JD's ear…so he could make sure that he was getting through to him…so that the kid knew he was not alone.

"I'm fine…" JD gasped, barely audible.

But Buck heard it…

…and Chris heard it…

…and hopefully…God heard it, too.

+ + + + + + +

The team had all gathered at the hospital. They had been told the surgery would take at least three to four hours…depending on how difficult it was to find and remove the bullet…and how much damage that bullet had done.

Chris sat in a chair, his head in his hands. "Christ…I need to have my head examined."

"This ain't your fault, Chris." Tanner reassured the leader.

"He's just a kid, Vin," Chris pointed out.

"No, Chris," Josiah corrected. "He's a young man. He just looks like a kid."

"Yeah, Chris," Vin said. "He ain't sixteen…just looks it."

"He is a fine young man, Mr. Larabee," Ezra added. "A young man who has earned a place on this team with exemplary credentials. And…hopefully, Mr. Larabee…you are not having any doubts about his place here."

Chris leaned his head back against the wall.

Apparently he was not the only one that had been 'sucked in' by the kid's charm.

The kid had 'gotten' to them all.

"Where's Buck?" Vin asked.

"Buck had to have a little talk with an old friend," Josiah said.

+ + + + + + +

Buck was sitting in a pew at the front of the small chapel located in the hospital.

His face was stoic…except it was betrayed by the tears spilling over and rolling down his face.

God…please help that boy in there. It should be me lying there hurting…not him. I guess he thought I was something worth saving. I know he's worth your trouble, God. Please…he's a good kid.

+ + + + + + +

The doctor came out to the waiting room and was immediately surrounded by the six agents.

"The surgery was successful. The boy's lost a lot of blood…we had to give him four units. I assumed you would need this."

The doctor handed Chris a plastic bag…with a 9mm slug inside.

"Thanks," Chris said. He scrunched the bag up and gripped the slug tightly in his fist. As if he thought he could crush it to dust, like Superman. If he squeezed it hard enough, maybe the bullet would disappear…along with all the damage it had done.

"So…the kid's gonna be OK?" Buck asked.

"Like I said…he lost a lot of blood…so he's going to be pretty weak…we'll probably keep him here for a couple of days. When he leaves…he should really have someone with him for a few days…maybe a week."

"He can stay with me," Chris offered.

"Well…whoever…just needs someone," the doctor said. "He shouldn't really be alone much for about a week. He can't be moving around too much…he's got about twenty stitches and I think ten staples."

"Ouch." Tanner grimaced.

The doctor left the agents to discuss the kid in private.

"Anybody know where the kid lives?" Vin asked.

"Told me he was looking for an apartment," Chris said. "I think he's at the Howard Johsons now."

"Chris…" Buck started. "I don't like the idea of the kid staying at your place. Your place is too far out. What if he gets sick…or busts his stitches…?"

"Buck's got a point, Chris," Vin agreed. "Kid could stay with me."

"Oh…no…" Buck bellowed. "In Denver's local chapter of 'Hell's Kitchen'…no way!!"

"So…where did you have in mind, Buck?" Chris asked.

"Well…my place makes sense…don't you think? I mean…I've got that spare room on the first floor…I'm close to modern civilization…the local gentry won't slit his throat…"

"Yeah…I guess. But you don't want to be watching the kid," Chris threw Buck's words back at him.

"That was just my big mouth talking, Chris," Buck said, ashamedly. "You know better than to listen to me."

+ + + + + + +

They had been waiting for what seemed like hours, when finally a nurse came and told them they could go in to see JD.

The all got up and started for the room…"Whoa!!! Just how many of you are planning on going in?" the nurse questioned.

"Just the six of us, ma'am," Buck grinned.

"Rules say no more than three visitors in a room at one time…" she stated.

"Now, ma'am…" Ezra drawled…"you wouldn't deny us fine upstanding government agents the chance to visit one of our fallen comrades…now would you?"

"My…my…you certainly do weave a pretty sentence…don't you? Alright…just don't cause a ruckus in there," the nurse said.

They all walked in to see the kid…and were taken aback by how bad he looked.

The boy looked so small and fragile in the bed. He was as white as the sheets tucked around him. His hair was hanging in his eyes…as always…and made him look even younger than usual.

Buck was visibly shaken.

Chris placed a firm hand on Buck's shoulder…"You heard the doctor, Buck…he's gonna be OK."

"He's so…so…little, Chris," Buck whispered.

"Yeah…he is…but…little don't mean weak, Buck…remember that," Chris comforted.

"I know…I know. I think I'll stay here for a while, Chris," Buck said.

"Me, too," Chris smiled.

"I ain't got no where I need to be either," Vin chimed in.

"Nor have I," Ezra stated.

"I guess we might as well make it unanimous…right, Nathan?" Josiah suggested.

"Yes…indeed," Nathan agreed.

The six agents paced…and stood…and paced…and sat…and paced…and watched.

They watched the boy for any sign of movement…

…when finally…

…the boy turned his head…and gasped from the pain the movement caused before he could stop it.

"Hey…JD…how you feel, son?" Chris asked, standing by the bed.

JD moaned…and his hazel eyes were tear-filled as he tried to focus.

"Mr. Lara…Chris??"

"Yeah…son…welcome back," Chris felt relieved that the young agent obviously recalled the conversation they'd had earlier about calling him 'Chris'.

JD's eyes suddenly became wide with fear as he gasped…"BUCK!!"

"He's fine, son. Thanks to you," Chris assured the boy.

"You…sure???" JD seemed panicked.

"Sure he's sure, kid," Buck grinned at the boy, leaning over so he could see him.

"So…you're…OK, huh?" JD asked, his voice but a whisper.

"Fine as can be, son. You saved my life. Thank you," Buck choked out.

"You're…welco…" and the kid was out.

+ + + + + + +

Chris was trying - without much luck - to convince some of his agents to leave the hospital and get some rest.

"Don't seem right…leavin' him here…by himself," Vin worried. "He might need something. He's too weak to ring for help."

"I'll be here if he needs anything, Vin," Buck assured.

"I can stay, Buck," Vin said.

"I'LL stay," Chris said. "The rest of you go on home."

"I don't think any of us feel comfortable leaving the lad, Mr. Larabee." Ezra said.

"We could draw straws…" Vin began…

"Looser…stays…??" JD asked, groggily.

"No…kid…" Vin said, moving next to the bed. "…WINNER stays."

JD smiled as he drifted off again.

"We have to watch what we say," Chris cautioned. "The kid has a knack for drifting in and out before we know it."

"Well…I ain't choosing no straw…I'm staying," Buck announced.

"OK…OK…you and me, Buck," Chris said. "Seriously…the rest of you need to go and get some sleep. Somebody's gotta show up at the office tomorrow…or today…what time is it?"

"OK, Chris. I don't like leaving…but you're right," Nathan admitted as he shook each of his fellow agent's hands on the way out.

"You will advise us…Mr. Larabee…of any…developments…with the boy…? Ezra asked.

"Sure, Ezra," Chris said, as he watched the agent leave.

Chris was touched by the southerner's concern. Ezra was a top-notch undercover agent. Not one for letting his emotions get the better of him…and not one for letting people get to him. Ezra had always managed to keep himself a safe distance from people. But…JD…the kid had somehow managed to get to Standish in a matter of less than…what???…forty-eight hours????

Josiah walked over to the bed. The agent - who was the size of a mountain…gently placed his large hand on the small boy's face…"Sleep well, son," he whispered.

Josiah shook Chris' hand…then turned to Buck.

"He's a strong boy, Buck. He may not look it…but he's gonna be a tough one. He'll be fine," he said and he gave Buck's shoulder a firm squeeze as he exited.

Chris eyed Tanner. "You waiting for an executive order, Vin?"

"It don't feel right…leaving, Chris." Tanner said.

"I know…" Chris stated.

"I think I'll just stick around…for a while…if you guys don't mind," Vin smiled.

"More the merrier, Vin," Buck said.

The last three remaining agents made themselves comfortable - they were obviously there for the duration.

+ + + + + + +

Chris awoke to see that Buck had moved his chair right next to the bed. He was sitting with one of the kid's small hands clasped tightly in both of his.

"How is he?" Chris called quietly.

"He's been out…pretty much…except for kind of mumbling," Buck said.

Suddenly…the kid awoke…screaming…and shot up in the bed before the men could stop him.

"BUCK!!!!!!!!!" the boy screamed.

"I'm right here, kid. Calm down," Buck said…taking the boy's face in his hands.

JD was gasping for air…"BUCK!…BUCK!"

Chris grabbed the kid's shoulders…"Calm down, son."

JD's eyes were huge with fear…"Buck…I'm sorry…oh, God…I…tried…"

"You tried to do what, kid?" Buck asked.

"To…help…you…" the boy whined.

"I'm fine, son," Buck reassured the kid.

"No…you…you got…hurt," JD whispered.

"No, kid…you did," Buck reminded.

JD grabbed Buck's arm…"You're…OK?"

"Yeah, kid. Now…lay back down," Buck instructed.

"No…no…" JD chanted.

"C'mon, kid…lay down," Buck insisted.

"OK…OK…" JD laid back…he'd used up all his strength…but still didn't release his grip on Buck's arm. His breathing finally steadied and his eyes closed.

"That was rough for him…" Chris walked back to his chair…shaking his head.

"Yeah…" Vin agreed. "Poor kid."

Vin then continued…"He sure does seem worried about you, Buck. I didn't think he even liked you."

Buck never even heard what Tanner said. He was completely focused on the boy in front of him. Somewhere in the last forty-eight hours this boy had gone from being some kid that was good for a few laughs…some kid that was an easy target for Buck's barbs…some kid that was too young to be on the team…some kid that would probably get them all killed…to being a young man that had saved Buck's life, and paid dearly for the effort.

+ + + + + + +

Two Days Later ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The kid was getting out of the hospital today.

Buck and Chris had come to spring him.

"This isn't my shirt," JD said, inspecting the T-shirt Buck had given him to put on. "Where'd it come from?"

"It's Vin's," Buck said. "The shirt you were wearing when you came in had a 'hole' in it…if you catch my drift, kid. Didn't think you'd want to wear it."

"Geez…you're funny Buck," JD said with a scowl.

"Ow..ow..ow…" the kid chanted as he raised his arms and slipped the shirt gingerly over his head.

The boy shot a disgusted look towards Buck when he noticed how the shirt was literally hanging off of him.

"Sorry, kid…Vin was the closest we could get. Just be glad we didn't get one from Josiah," Buck grinned.

"And be glad your jeans weren't shot up, too," Chris teased as he walked in the room pushing a wheelchair.

"I'm not riding in that," JD said, shaking his head.

"Hospital rules, kid." Larabee said, in his tone that the kid…even in the short time he had been with the team…knew…meant business.

JD sat down in the chair. "Let's just get out of here, OK?"

+ + + + + + +

Buck helped JD get slowly…and sorely…into Chris pickup.

"Belt up, kid," Buck said.

"No…it'll hurt," JD said

"Well…Chris'll hurt you more if you don't belt up, kid," Buck reached over and pulled the belt across the kid.

JD yelped.

"Sorry, kid," Buck apologized. "You OK?"

"I said…no belt…" JD grabbed the buckle from Buck's grasp. "The doctor said so…for at least two weeks."

"Sorry, kid," Buck repeated.

"Slide on over, JD," Chris said. "That way you can just use the middle lap belt."

JD slid over next to Chris and the leader belted the boy in.

Buck got in and the three took off…heading for Buck's place.

"Chris…where you going?" JD questioned. "I'm at the Howard Johnsons right downtown."

"We're not going there," Chris said.

"What do you mean?" JD asked.

"You're gonna stay with me for a while," Buck said.

"No I'm not," JD turned towards Buck.

"Look, JD…the doctor says you have to stay with someone for a while," Chris explained.

"Well…someone sure don't mean Buck," JD lashed out.

Buck looked hurt.

"Why can't I stay with you?" JD pleaded…looking to Chris.

"My place is pretty far out, son," Chris began. "You'd be better off in town…case you have a problem."

"You mean I am a problem," JD sulked.

"C'mon kid…my place ain't so bad," Buck grinned.

"You gonna be there?" JD asked.

"Well…yeah…'course," Buck said.

"I rest my case," JD snapped.

"Well…what's eatin' your ass, son?" Buck questioned.

"You've been on me ever since I got here. Now…now you want to take me home with you??? I don't think so," JD said, shaking his head for emphasis.

"Look, kid…you need to stay with someone…and I'm offering…take it or leave it," Buck was getting aggravated with the kid - hurt or not.

"Well…I'm leaving it. Chris…take me to my hotel…please????" JD's huge hazel eyes pleading…pulling at Chris' heartstrings.

Chris made a sudden right turn…pulling into a park…slammed on the brakes…and threw the truck into park.

"Get out!!" he told the two.

Buck got out and reached in to help the boy.

"I'm fine…I can do it myself," JD insisted.

But it was a four-wheel drive truck…and he couldn't do it himself. Buck could see the kid was going to hurt himself getting down…and grabbed him as he started to topple.

JD flashed a painful grimace at Buck…tears welling up in his eyes…"Thanks." the kid said quietly.

Buck helped the boy over to the picnic table where Chris was already sitting.

"Now…" Chris began…"the way I see it…we can work this out…or we can continue with this bickering crap."

JD finally released all his pent-up frustration…and…exploded. "Nobody even told me that I had to stay with someone. Is it too much to ask to know what's going on?

"I thought you were going to tell him!!" Buck and Chris said in unison…each looking to the other.

"We should have told you, son. Sorry," Chris apologized.

"OK now?" Buck asked, looking to the kid.

"Why do you want me to stay at your place?" JD's eyes pinning Buck down. "'Cause you feel like you 'owe' me? You don't owe me anything, Buck."

"I do owe you, kid…but much more than I could ever repay…so that ain't all of it," Buck said.

"So…what then?" JD asked.

"Kid…you need a place to say…you need someone to keep an eye on you for a bit…and I thought maybe we could get to know each other," Buck confessed.

JD turned on Buck wildly. "No…you don't want to know me!! They never do!! You just see a kid! That's all they ever see!! That's all you'll ever see, too…" he trailed off, his outburst draining the little strength he had.

"Well…yeah, kid," Buck comforted. He could see the kid wasn't going to be able to keep this up much longer. "I mean…c'mon, JD…you look sixteen. But I figure there's more to you than this boy I'm seeing. I figure there's a man in there somewhere…and I figure I need to get to know him."

JD looked at Buck…and shifted his eyes down…the kid was beginning to get choked up. "People don't usually bother…they just pick on me for about six months…and then get tired of it."

"I'm sorry I was teasing you so much, kid. It's just my way…ask Chris…he'll tell you I'm an ass-hole," Buck grinned.

"He's an ass-hole," Chris affirmed.

"But…" Buck continued. "…don't change the fact that you need some help for a little while…and I'm still offering. So…what'cha say, kid?"

"I guess I don't have much choice," JD concluded. "What about my stuff?"

"I'll drop you and Buck off at his place," Chris said. "Then I'll swing by the hotel and pick up your things."

"OK…" JD said…sounding defeated…sounding very young…and sounding more than a little apprehensive.

+ + + + + + +

They arrived and Buck's place and the two men helped the boy get inside.

"Here…have a seat," Buck said, helping the kid to the couch.

"I'll go out and bring in your bag," Chris said.

"Wait up…" Buck called. "I'll go with you. Gotta check the mail. Be right back, JD."

The two agents walked out together.

"Take it easy on him, OK Buck?" Chris pleaded. "You get a good look at him? He's really scared."

"I know…I'll treat him with kid gloves," Buck assured the leader. "Christ…he's such a little thing, Chris."

Chris and Buck went back in…to find the kid still on the couch…but lying down…sound asleep.

Buck walked over and took off his high-tops and tossed them on the floor. He grabbed a throw from the chair and placed it over the top of the boy.

"I'll be back soon as I get his stuff," Chris whispered.

"We'll be here," Buck said quietly.

+ + + + + + +

Buck sat in the recliner reading the newspaper. He looked over to check on the kid and saw that he was awake and watching him.

"Hey…you're awake. How 'ya feel?"

"I'm fine…" JD said, trying to sit up. Buck came over and helped him up and the kid promptly threw up on him.

"Oh…God…I'm sorry, Buck," JD cried.

"It's OK, kid. I thought you said you were fine. If you don't feel good…say so…OK?"

"OK…" and he vomited again.

"C'mon, kid…let's get you to the bathroom," Buck said.

JD couldn't walk fast enough and threw up again on the way.

The boy started to sway and Buck grabbed his arms to steady him. "Whoa…kid…hang on there…"

JD started to go limp…and Buck gently lowered him his knees.

"Buck???" the kid was getting scared.

"Right here, kid. You'll be OK…just calm down," Buck soothed.

"Help me…to the bathro…" the boy got out before he threw up again.

"Just sit for a little bit, kid. You're too weak to get there right now." Buck helped him to sit back and rested him against his chest.

There was a knock at the door.

"Chris??" Buck yelled.

"Yeah." came the reply from the other side.

"Come on in…it's not locked," he knew there'd be hell to pay from Larabee for that, but he was grateful this time that the door was not secured.

Chris walked in and dropped what he was carrying and ran to the two sitting on the floor.

"What happened?" Chris worried, as he knelt next to the two. He placed his hand on the boy's forehead, but felt no fever.

"He woke up and started throwing up," Buck recalled the earlier events.

"I'll call the doctor," Chris said as he rose and made his way towards the phone.

"Buck?" the kid whined.

"Yeah, kid?"

"I'm sorry…but…I'm gonna…"

"Go ahead, kid. It's a hardwood floor…what the hell…" Buck grinned at the boy…trying to lighten the mood a little…the poor kid was so embarrassed.

Chris came back from phoning the doctor.

"Doctor says it's probably a combination of the antibiotics he's on and the sedatives he had been given in the hospital getting out of his system...plus all the activity today. He wants to see him tomorrow."

"Feel any better, kid?" Buck asked.

"No." came the short reply…the kid was almost out.

"Doctor says we should get him to bed, too," Chris added.

"How 'bout it, son…want to lay down for a while?"


"Can't what? Can't make it?" Buck wondered.


"No problem…c'mon…I've got you." and Buck easily lifted the boy and carried him to the guestroom.

He laid him down gently on the bed and Chris covered him with a quilt.

Buck and Chris sat in the room until the boy was asleep. He hadn't thrown up anymore since going to bed.

Chris motioned for Buck to follow him into the living room.

"Maybe I should stay here tonight," Chris suggested. "He might be too much for you."

"Aw, Chris. I can handle him. Sh*t…he's little enough I can tote him anywhere he needs to go if he can't make it."

"Yeah…but…a kid being sick can be hard to handle," Chris continued.

Buck realized that Chris was speaking from experience. Chris had dealt with a sick kid before…and was obviously having to deal with some of those old feelings creeping back. Maybe this was something Chris needed to do.

"Well…suit yourself, Chris. Be happy for the company. Don't appear like the kid's gonna be much company tonight," Buck said.

"OK…I'll stay then. I'll go out to my place and pick up a few things and head back here," and Chris was gone.

"We'll be here…" Buck called after him.

+ + + + + + +

Buck was in the kitchen, bent over, rummaging in the refrigerator. He closed the door and was startled to see JD standing in the doorway.

"Hey…kid…" Buck said. "You scared me."

"Sorry…" the kid said in a faint voice…"do you have any milk?"

"Sure, kid…you hungry?"

"No…no way…just milk," the kid said, obviously not sure the queasiness from before was totally gone.

Buck got a glass from the cabinet and JD groggily made his way to the table and sat down. He had his head propped on his hand.

Buck put the glass of milk in front of him. "Here 'ya go, kid."

"Thanks. Chris leave?"

"He just went to get some things," Buck said. "He's gonna spend the night."

"Gonna be…a…regular…party, huh?" the boy asked, his speech seeming slurred.

"He thinks we might need help," Buck said, watching the kid carefully.

"I'm…a…lot of…trouble…" JD said, slowly.

"You OK, kid," Buck asked.


Buck reached over and pushed the boy's hair back out of his eyes, leaving his hand on his forehead.

"God…kid…you're burning up."

"I'm…fine…" JD said, weakly reaching to grab the glass of milk, but misjudging it and knocking the glass over…milk spreading across the table and onto the floor.

"Sure you are…but…let's just go lay back down, OK?" Buck suggested.

"OK…" JD croaked, and slumped in the chair. Buck grabbed him and carried him to the couch.

Buck picked up the portable phone from the end table and punched in Chris' cell-phone number.

"C'mon…c'mon…please have it on…"

"Yeah?" he heard from the other end.

"Chris…kid's really sick…he's burning up."

"I'm almost there…five minutes tops," Chris said.

+ + + + + + +

As Chris pulled up, Buck came running out carrying the kid. Chris reached over and opened the door and Buck slid in holding the boy in his lap.

"He passed out, Chris. Feel him…he's on fire."

Chris placed his hand on the boy's face…and frowned…and floored it.

+ + + + + + +

JD awoke feeling nauseous and with the sensation of light in his eyes - but he was sure his eyes were not even open.

His eyes fluttered open and the light became almost blinding, causing him to turn his head to avoid it. But turning his head made the nausea come front and center…and the boy became fully awake by throwing up.

"Don't panic, JD…you're OK," said the calm voice he recognized as Chris.

"Yeah, kid…we're here with you." came the easy words of Buck…who was also wiping the kid's mouth with a damp cloth. "How 'ya feel, kid?"

JD answered him by saying "I'm fine."…and then vomited on the man's shoes.

"Get a dish, Chris," Buck called over this shoulder.

Chris rummaged through the cabinet in the emergency room cubicle till he found a plastic dish that would suffice and handed it to Buck. "Kick off your shoes, Buck…I'll wash 'em off for you."

"Don't worry about it…don't matter right now," Buck said.

Chris could tell by the tone in his oldest friend's voice that he meant it.

The man was engulfed in cleaning the kid up again - then proceeded to wipe the kid's face with another cold, damp cloth…trying to keep the boy calm…and focused on something besides how bad he was feeling.

"What happened?" the boy croaked, reaching to shove the cloth away.

"You got sick, son…you passed out." Wilmington explained - watching the young agent's face for a reaction.

"Why?" JD asked innocently.

"Well…the doctor's trying to figure that out, JD," Chris said. "He should be back in a little bit."

As if on cue, the doctor walked through the curtain. "How are you feeling, son?"

"I'm fine," JD yawned.

"Watch him, doc," Buck laughed, stroking the kid's hair. "He told ME he was fine and then he slimed me."

"JD…I'm Dr. Irwin. We're going to have to pump your stomach, son. You're having a severe reaction to some of the medication in your system. For some reason it's accumulating in your stomach and we've got to get it out. I'm sorry, son…it won't be pleasant…but we've got to do it right away."

The look of dread on JD's face prompted Buck to ask, "You've had this done before, son?"

"Yeah…when I was a kid…please…Buck…don't let them do it again," the boy pleaded, sounding so young and so scared, melting Buck's heart.

When I was a kid… Buck thought.  How could the kid be any younger than now?

"They say they gotta do it, JD," Chris walked over and took the kid's hand. He could see Buck was wearing down from the stress of dealing with the boy.

"Gentlemen…" Dr. Irwin said, holding the curtain open…"you'll probably want to have a seat in the waiting room."

"NO…please…Buck…don't leave," JD was panicking - trying to sit up - but only getting half way before he vomited again.

"I ain't going nowhere, kid," Buck soothed, rubbing the boy's arm - trying to get him calmed down again before the doctor started the procedure. "Just settle down, JD. Let them get it over with…then we can blow this pop stand, OK?"

"You've never had it done, have you?" the kid asked.

"No, son…I ain't…and I'm sure it ain't no fun…but I won't leave you, kid…I promise."

JD locked his hazel eyes on Buck's blue ones - and the pact was sealed.

JD gave in. "OK."

"You better leave, Chris," Buck told the leader. Buck figured there was no need for both of them to watch the kid suffer.

Chris placed one hand on Buck's shoulder and wrapped the other around JD's small wrist. "I'll stay." was all he said…and Buck could tell by his tone that there was no need to discuss his decision any further.

"I'll go tell the others," Chris said. "and I'll be right back."

"Others?" JD whispered.

"Yeah, kid…Vin, Nathan, Ezra and Josiah are in the waiting room. There wasn't enough room back here for everybody," Buck grinned.

"They're here? All of them? Really?" the kid seemed amazed…and touched.

"Sure, JD. Where'd you think they'd be?" Buck asked. The boy obviously had no idea of the impact he'd had on the team in the short time he'd been there.

"I'm sorry I'm so much trouble," the boy apologized.

"Kid…" Buck smiled down at the boy's young features, "you ain't big enough to be that much trouble."

+ + + + + + +

Two hours later, Chris returned to the waiting room to tell the other agents that the procedure was over.

The men noticed that the unflappable Chris Larabee looked frazzled and a little green around the gills, and could only imagine Buck's condition…or worse yet…JD's.

"How's the kid?" Vin asked.

"He's getting some well-earned rest. It was hell on him. Buck's probably gonna have to get his hand x-rayed," Chris had a slight smile on his face, but seemed totally exhausted from the ordeal.

"If you look like this…" Josiah observed, "I can only imagine how Buck must look."

It was obvious to all the agents that there was something developing between Wilmington and their newest addition.

"He's drained," Chris said. "I tried to drag him out here…but he's afraid JD might wake up."

"Kid gotta stay here?" Vin handed Chris a cup of coffee.

"I think they're gonna spring him in two to three hours. If all goes well." Chris slowly settled onto the couch and plopped his feet up on the coffee table.

+ + + + + + +

JD woke up to see Buck sitting on a stool next to the bed, his head down and he could feel his hand around his own.

"Buck…" he gasped…he could barely hear the word himself…but Buck managed to hear it…and looked up.

"Kid…it's over," Buck assured the boy.

JD looked to Buck and closed his eyes in relief. "Good. Can I go home?"

Buck stood and pushed the boy's hair back. He'd been through so much in the past few days. And he'd put up a good front. Truth was…the kid just wanted to go home. "Probably when the doctor comes back, kid."

And JD fell asleep again, with a peaceful look on his young face.

+ + + + + + +

About an hour later, Buck and JD walked into the waiting room and were quickly surrounded by the others.

Nathan let out a sigh of relief at the sight of the two. "You really gotta cut this out, son. We're all too old for this."

"Sorry," JD whispered…looking to Buck…"Can we go home?…Please??"

Buck wrapped his arm around the kid's shoulder. "Tired, kid?"

"Yeah…really…tired," JD said, his eyelids heavy from exhaustion.

Chris came up behind Buck and JD, putting a hand on each one's back. "Let's get him home to bed."

Buck turned to the others. "You guys wanna come over?"

They all glanced to each other…and then to the kid.

"Think he's up to it?" Vin asked.

"This kid's up for anything," Buck grinned as he gave the kid's shoulder a squeeze.

"Now take it easy, JD," Chris said, placing himself between the boy and the door, forcing the kid to stop and look up. "Doctor says you're gonna feel kinda crappy for a while."

"Don't worry, Chris…the way I feel…easy's 'bout all I can do," JD said, leaning heavily on Buck to stay on his feet.

+ + + + + + +

When they got to Buck's place, he and Chris helped the kid inside and were followed by the other four agents.

"Let's get you to bed, kid," Buck could see the boy was dead on his feet. He needed to lie down.

"I wanna visit for a while," JD whined.

Great…kid's gonna put up a fight…Christ…he's ready to pass out…but the stubborn little runt is gonna fight me on this.

"No…bed…you can visit later."

"No…I'll visit now…I can rest later," JD argued.

"Son…I really think…" Chris started.

"I don't really care what you think, OK?" and JD stalked off to the kitchen.

"Well…that certainly was brave of the little lad," Ezra observed.

+ + + + + + +

JD had his head in the refrigerator when Buck charged into the kitchen.

He yanked the boy by his shirt, pulling him back and slamming the refrigerator door.

"Just who in the HELL do you think you are?" Buck screamed.

"What???!!!" JD gasped.

"I better never and I mean NEVER…EVER hear you talk to that man that way again," Buck found himself towering over the boy, doing his best to intimidate the kid and he was obviously successful at it.

JD was visibly shaken by Buck's outburst. "But…"

"No 'buts'…boy…got it?"


"Don't tell me…tell him!" Buck snapped.

Chris walked into the kitchen. "Lay off the kid, Buck."

Buck was furious. "No…just 'cause he's sick…don't mean he can get away with being rude."

JD looked pitiful…he was so pale…and looked like he was about to drop. "I'm really sorry, Chris."

Chris walked over to JD and put his hand on the kid's neck. "It's OK, kid. Forget it."

"I'm…just so tired…and I feel like…crap," JD sighed.

Chris pulled JD to him and held on. The boy broke down and was crying into Chris' shirt. Chris looked to Buck over the top of JD's head…and mouthed…'Get Nathan'.

Buck returned with Nathan, who was a registered EMT. "What's wrong, JD?"

"Huh?" JD seemed dazed.

Nathan put his arm around the boy and pulled him from Chris. "What's wrong, son?"

Nathan put his hand to the kid's forehead. "Your fever's back, son. Let's get you to bed."

"OK…" JD headed wherever they led him…he was almost out of it.

The three agents walked the boy to the guestroom and the kid literally collapsed on the bed. They covered him up and stayed until he was asleep and then closed the door behind them.

"It was the fever yelling at you, Chris. Not the boy," Nathan explained. "I didn't think he had that kind of talk in him."

"I know Nathan. That's what I was trying to tell you, Buck," Chris said looking to Buck.

Buck ran his hands through his hair with worry. "Should we call the doctor again?"

"No," Chris said. "Remember…he said he'd be kind of poorly for a couple of days."

Nathan agreed. "I think we can handle it. He just needs some TLC…keep him calm…he's scared."

"And crabby," Buck added.

Nathan shot an accusing glance at Buck. "Like you're fun when you're sick?"

"I remember a real grizzly who had the flu a couple months back," Vin grinned.

"Not to mention…remember…kid was shot a few days ago," Nathan said. "He ain't even over that and then gets the rest of this."

+ + + + + + +

Everyone was on the deck, eating the steaks that Buck had grilled and having a good time…when suddenly the sliding door opened and JD stepped out.

All six men jumped up to help the kid over to a chair.

"What are you doing out of bed?" Nathan worried.

"How you feel, son?" Chris asked.

"Like I'm tired of being asked how I feel," JD snapped.

"Again…a deadly statement," Ezra remarked.

Chris shot Ezra a cross look. "Drop it, Ezra."

Nathan sat down next to the kid. "Think you can eat something, JD?"

"No…I just threw up," JD said.

"Where?" Buck asked.

JD looked embarrassed. "Don't worry…it was in the bathroom."

"Well…that's an improvement," Buck teased as he came over and put his hand on the kid's forehead. "You still feel pretty warm."

Vin walked up and noted the kid's appearance. "Maybe we better get you back to bed."

"No," JD argued. "I want to stay with you guys."

"Vin's right, JD," Nathan pointed out. "Let's get you in."

"No. Leave me alone," JD jerked away from Nathan's grip.

"JD…calm down, son," Buck soothed.

"Leave me alone."

"Calm down, son," Chris said.

JD got up suddenly…and sat back down even faster…as everything started spinning.

Chris grabbed JD's arm and pulled him up. "C'mon…NOW."

"Sorry..," JD said quietly.

"I know, kid…I know," Chris sighed.

Chris led the boy back inside and put him to bed.

"You can go back outside with the others, Chris. I'll stay here…promise."

"Maybe I'd rather stay here," Chris said.

"Sure…'cause I'm such good company, right?"

"Don't be so hard on yourself, kid."


"And stop apologizin'"

"Sor…" JD smiled. "I've just got a lot to apologize for."

"Like what?" Chris asked.



"Well…getting shot for starters…that was a major screw-up," JD shifted his eyes to the bed, ashamed to look at his leader.

"Son…you saved Buck's life," Chris stressed.

"And now I'm screwing up his life."

"How's that?" Chris asked.

"He doesn't want me here…he just thinks he owes me," JD confessed.

"He does owe you, son…we all do."

"Sure…" JD crawled under the covers and quickly fell asleep.

Chris was pulling the covers up tighter when Buck came in.

"He OK?" Buck asked.

"Yeah…he's OK…" Chris said, looking at the boy. "Except he thinks he's messing up your life staying here."

"Why would he think that?" Buck sat down on the edge of the bed.

"I think maybe he's used to feeling like he's in the way…slowing people down." Chris said.

"You think his co-workers treated him like that?" Buck wondered.

"Could be. Anyway…he thinks he's more trouble than he's worth," Chris said, shaking his head.

"He ain't no trouble. No trouble at all," Buck pushed the hair out of the boy's eyes…again…and frowned when he noticed his forehead was still hot with fever.

"Well…now…Buck…it ain't exactly been a picnic for you," Chris reminded.

"No…it ain't been a picnic…but…hell, Chris…this boy here saved my life and paid dearly for it. It ain't been his fault…he's been so sick. You think I don't owe him a little something for all that. I feel I gotta do right by him. Aw…I'm just rambling…just tired, I guess."

"Well…you better start taking your vitamins, Buck…'cause I do believe you have met your match," Chris grinned.

"Meaning?" Buck asked.

"Nothing, Buck…just…I know you…remember? And you've always had a thing for strays."

+ + + + + + +

Two Weeks Later ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The guys were all expected at Buck's for a big celebration dinner in honor of JD being released by the doctor to return to work.

Buck was planning a big BBQ - ribs, beer, corn-on-the-cob, beer, watermelon, beer and beer.

The five all arrived together and as they approached the door…they could hear JD squealing from inside, then a loud crash, followed by total silence.

"Good Lord…Buck's killed him," Ezra surmised, pounding on the door.

Buck answered the door, grinning ear to ear.

"What was all the ruckus, Buck?" Chris asked.

"Oh…just a little accident's all."

They looked past Buck to see JD on the floor picking up pieces of a broken lamp.

"Children," Ezra huffed.

"Hey, guys…" JD smiled, as he dumped the largest pieces of the lamp into the trashcan. "How 'ya doing?"

"What happened?" Chris asked.

"Kid got a little carried away," Buck answered.

"Don't blame it all on me…it was your fault, too," JD grinned, walking back with the broom.

"Hush now, kid. Well, guys…I've got the ribs going out on…" Buck started…

"OW!!!" JD yelped, holding his hand…blood dripping on the floor.

"Kid!!" Buck called.

"Nathan, you better take a look at this," Chris said, holding the kid's hand up to try to stop the flow of blood.

"Christ, JD…what'd you do boy?" Nathan wondered.

"I just cut myself…that's all," JD grimaced.

"JUST!! You're bleeding bad here, kid," Buck worried.

"I'm fine."

"Don't give me fine, kid. I've seen your fine…remember?" Buck cautioned.

"You might need some stitches, JD. Let's get it cleaned up and see," Nathan said, leading the boy into the bathroom…followed closely by mother hen Buck.

The others could hear an occasional 'OW' from JD…usually followed by a 'be careful there, Nathan' from Buck.

Finally, they all emerged, JD's hand wrapped in a white bandage.

"No stitches?" Vin was amazed, considering the kid's track record.

"No…I think it'll be OK," Nathan said.

"Good way to get out of cleaning up and doing the dishes, kid," Buck tousled the boy's hair as he pushed his way past him.

"So…now that the kid's OK…when we eating?" Vin was starved.

"Oh…Gosh…the ribs…" Buck ran to the deck and lifted the lid on the grill…black smoke emerged from the charred remains.

"Goddamn!! JD!! Look at this!!" Buck was fit to be tied.

"It's OK, Buck," JD smiled sweetly at the older agent "Don't worry about it. We can make hot dogs."

"Hot dogs?? Hot dogs!! This is $80 worth of ribs here, boy!!

"Buck…" Chris was afraid of where this was going.

"If you could go one day…just one day without a situation…" Buck was ranting.

"Buck!!" Chris tried again.

"This is my fault?" JD was confused.

Why was Buck mad at him????

"Hell yes…this is your fault…you got me all worried about your hand…and my ribs are burnt to hell."

"Buck!" Chris growled. "Stop it! It's not the kid's fault."

"Stay out of this, Chris," Buck warned.

"But…Buck…" JD started.

"Don't…'but, Buck'…me, boy."

"OK…OK…I'm sorry…it's my fault…that's what you want to hear, right? Everybody ought to be used to hearing it by now. Sorry…guys…no ribs."

"No problem, son," Josiah stated.

"Well…I guess it's a problem for him, Josiah," JD said.

"Damn right it's a problem. you're the problem, kid," Buck wanted it back as soon as it came out…but it was too late.

"Buck!!" Chris snapped.

JD stared at Buck…and took it…and then walked inside.

Vin grabbed Buck's arm and spun him around. "Do you EVER listen to yourself, Buck?"

"Yes, Mr. Wilmington…you have unjustly blamed our young friend for your own carelessness," Ezra pointed out.

"Who did you blame for everything before he was staying with you, Buck?" Chris wanted to know.

"Didn't have anything go wrong till he got here," Buck shot back.

"I'd kick his little ass out, if I was you, Buck," Josiah said calmly.

"What?" Buck was shocked to hear Josiah say that. Josiah adored the boy…and made no attempt to hide it.

"Kick his skinny ass out on the street," Josiah continued.

"Josiah!" Buck gasped.

"Hey…he's nothing but a pain in your ass anyway, right?" Josiah asked.

"Well…I…" Buck stammered.

"Right?" Josiah hounded.

"I…I gotta go talk to JD," and Buck went inside.

Chris patted the huge man on the back. "Nice work, Josiah."

+ + + + + + +

Buck knocked on door. "Can I come in JD?"

"C'mon. It's your house." came the reply from the other side.

JD was throwing things in his suitcase.

"What'cha doing, kid?" Buck asked, knowing good and well the kid was leaving…but trying to put off the inevitable.

"What's it look like I'm doing, Buck. I'm packing my stuff. I'm released to go back to work…so now I can go back to looking for a place to live, too," JD said, slamming drawers.

"There's no hurry, kid. You can't leave with no place to go."

"I'll go back to the hotel. Till I find a place," JD was crawling on the floor, looking under the bed. "Why can't I ever find my shoes?"

"They're in the living room," Buck said.

"Thanks…and…thanks for everything, Buck," JD said, his voice beginning to crack. "It was nice of you to let me stay here while I was laid up…and I'm sorry I was such a pain…and so much trouble…and the lamp…and…and your Goddamn ribs…" but before the boy could finish his list of apologies, Buck had him in his arms.

"I don't care about the Goddamn ribs, kid," Buck said in the boy's ear, his eyes filling as he held the boy tight. "I just worry about you, son."

"You're like a mother-hen," JD fussed, pulling away. "I'm not looking for another mother, Buck."

"I know, kid…I know," Buck hung his head.

"But I could sure use a friend…or a big brother," JD smiled.

"And…you know…I could sure use a roommate…or maybe a little brother," Buck grinned.


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