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. This story is strictly for entertainment. No monetary gain will be made from it.
Comments and creative criticism greatly appreciated at: firstname.lastname@example.org
~~If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man
who falls and has no one to help him up!~~ Ecclesiastes 4:10
Buck Wilmington pried his eyes open and put his hand to his temple.
He had a headache…and what a headache.
He'd had many a headache in his day ~ mostly as a result of a bottle ~ either to his mouth…or to his head, by a jealous husband or two…but none of them ever hurt like this.
Buck tried to move his head…
He was lying on his back, on the ground…not sure how he got there…or where there was.
He thought about trying to get up, but knew that was impossible at the moment.
Buck finally managed to move his head slightly to the side and saw…
What was that?
He couldn't make it out.
What was that?
His eyes were beginning to focus…
Oh my God!!
* * * * * * *
Buck scrambled to his feet.
The pain was excruciating.
He stumbled over to the small form lying so still...face down in the dirt.
Oh my God!!
"JD??" Buck whispered, afraid to even touch the boy.
Buck placed his hand ever so gently on the teen's back and felt a slight rise and fall.
He pushed the boy's black hair away from his face, looking for any sign of injury.
There was a large, darkening bruise over JD's left eye...which was why the kid was out cold, Buck assumed.
"God, kid. I wish Nathan was here." Buck breathed.
Buck was unsure of whether or not to move the boy.
Still no answer.
Please...God...what do I do? Buck prayed.
Buck couldn't stand the fact that his young friend was lying in the dirt.
Buck had no idea where they were. He didn't know if they were ten minutes from town...or ten miles from town.
Buck realized he'd have to move the boy…if for no other reason than to get him out of the hot sun.
He'd have to move the kid and pray that he was doing the right thing.
He gently rolled the boy over...
The entire right side of JD's face was one...large...bruise.
"Oh...kid..." Buck cried. "What happened to 'ya, boy?"
The sight of the youth's injuries was enough to make Buck light headed.
He had to sit back and reign in his emotions.
Get a grip, Bucklin. Boy needs you strong.
What the hell had happened?
Buck didn't even know what had happened to him...much less the kid.
It'll come to me...just take a few minutes is all. Gotta get myself together.
Buck had to wait for his head to stop spinning before he could attempt to move JD. He sat next to the kid, stroking his hair and talking softly to him as if the youth was hanging on his every word.
He was hoping the boy would find comfort in his touch…wherever he was. It was also helping Buck to calm down, which he greatly needed to do before risking moving the kid.
"Looks like you really gone and fixed yourself good this time, kid. But…don't you worry none…ol' Buck'll take care of 'ya…you're gonna be fine…"
Shortly, Buck was beginning to feel a little steadier. He gently lifted JD into his arms and carried him a short distance to some shade trees, where he carefully laid him down.
The boy never moved.
Buck had not yet been able to locate either of their horses, so he didn't even have a blanket to cover the boy. There was a little creek nearby, so he was, at least, able to wet his kerchief in the cold water.
"JD? C'mon, kid…open your eyes for me, kid…" Buck pleaded, applying the cold cloth to the boy's face.
God…he's much too still.
It scared Buck to think that Nathan was not around to take care of the boy. Nathan was so good at fixing the kid up…and Buck really had no idea of what to do.
Buck knew only enough to know that JD's breathing was labored and ragged.
Kid musta took a nasty spill of'n his horse. Maybe busted a rib or two.
But he couldn't hit both sides of his face fallin' off his horse…
"I've probably already screwed up, kid…movin' 'ya like I did…I just couldn't look at you lyin' in that dirt no more, son…I'm sorry…" Buck said.
Buck was beginning to feel dizzy again, when suddenly…he heard…
"JD!! You lie still now, kid. Don't be movin' around." Buck said.
"I'm here, kid…take it easy, now."
"Oh, God…Buck…my head…"
"I know, son. You musta took an awful bad fall…or somethin'…I know your head hurts bad, kid…I'm sorry." Buck said, his own head beginning to swim again.
"You…OK…Buck?" the kid asked, weakly.
"Ol' Buck's fine…" Buck lied. "You just take it easy…I'm gonna take care of 'ya, son."
"'Kay…" and JD closed his eyes.
Dear God…what am I gonna do to take care of this poor boy? Lord…'ya gotta help me out here.
* * * * * * *
Buck continued to sit with JD. The boy had been asleep with his head in Buck's lap ever since he woke up for those few short minutes.
Is it good to let him sleep…or maybe I should keep him awake…like Nathan says you do for a concussion. Does he have a concussion? How would I know? God…I wish Nathan was here.
Buck decided that since the teen was resting so comfortably, he'd let him sleep for a while longer.
He could use the quiet time to think…
If only he could think.
Buck's head felt like it was splitting open…he'd been so busy taking care of the kid that he'd practically forgotten he was hurt himself.
"Kid…we are a sorry pair…I tell 'ya…" Buck said, stroking the boy's hair softly, trying not to wake the boy, but feeling the need to touch him just the same. "I gotta figure out how to get you home…where ever that is from here…"
About thirty minutes later, JD began to stir.
"Buck??" the kid said, looking up to his best friend.
"Right here, kid. You just lie still." Buck said, placing a hand on the boy's chest, stressing the fact that he didn't want the youth moving around.
"What…what…happened?" JD asked.
"Wish I knew, kid. Damndest thing…I think we both took a good tumble. Fixed ourselves up real good…we did. But don't you worry…you're gonna be fine." Buck assured.
"I…I…feel like…" the kid started.
"Crap?" Buck smiled.
"No…not that…good." JD smiled back, giving Buck some relief that maybe the kid would really be OK.
"Well, I ain't no doctor, JD…but I gotta admit…you look worse that crap, too, son." Buck teased the youngster.
"Thanks…Buck…can…can we go…home?"
"Might have a little problem with that, kid. I ain't quite found our horses yet." Buck said, knowing it would upset the boy.
JD began to panic, trying to sit up, before Buck stopped him. "What'cha mean? Where…where…are they?"
"Don't rightly know, kid. I ain't been too far…didn't want to leave you…but they sure ain't right around here anywhere." Buck said.
"You go…you go…find 'em, Buck." the kid pleaded.
"Just settle down, JD. I'll find 'em. Don't go getting' all agitated on me…you keep still."
The boy relaxed a little, settling back in to Buck's arms. "They…they could…could be…hurt, Buck…" the kid said in a small voice as he drifted off, his earlier outburst draining him of what little strength he had.
"I know, kid…but so are you." Buck said, his eyes filling, as he held the boy a little closer.
* * * * * * *
Buck was really beginning to worry about the kid.
I need to keep him awake, I guess…but he looks so peaceful sleeping…hate to wake the kid.
Buck gently shook the boy. "JD…can 'ya wake up for me, son?"
"C'mon, kid…stay awake…I need 'ya to sit up here for me, OK?" Buck asked.
"Sure…Buck." the teen yawned.
"OK now, JD…I'm gonna look around here a little it, OK? Now I'll stay close…and if you need me, you just give a shout…hear me?" Buck wanted to make sure the kid was fully awake and understanding what he was saying.
"Sure…go on." JD said.
Buck patted the kid on the shoulder as he got up.
Hate to leave 'ya, kid.
"I'll be right back, kid." Buck said.
JD grabbed Buck's arm as the man got up.
"Be…careful…Buck…OK?" JD pleaded.
"I'll be careful, kid." Buck promised.
JD then added, "Stay close…please."
"I ain't gonna leave 'ya, kid. You stay put, hear me? I ain't up to chasin' your pint-sized ass all over creation." Buck smiled.
Against his better judgement, Buck walked away from the kid to see if he could figure out where they were and to try to find the horses.
He was not successful at either.
When he returned about twenty minutes later, he panicked.
Where's the kid?
* * * * * * *
Goddamned…little shit…I told him to stay put…that boy couldn't do what he was told if his life depended on it…
If his life depended on it?
JD's life did depend on it. Buck knew the boy was in no condition to even be left alone…much less be out walking around.
I never shoulda left 'im.
"JD!!" Buck screamed. "JD!! Where the hell are you, boy??!!"
Buck's head ached more with each scream.
If'n that boy ain't dead…when I find him…he'll wish he were.
Who am I kidding?
Buck searched the area. He knew the kid couldn't get far…he was hurt too bad.
Thank you, God!
"JD!! Where are you boy?"
Buck ran towards the sound of JD's voice…
JD's voice that sounded weaker each time he called out.
He found JD leaning against a tree, trying to catch his breath. Buck could tell that if the tree hadn't been there, the kid would have been on the ground.
"JD…" Buck sighed, as he stood next to the boy, ready to chew him out.
"Buck…" the kid gasped, grabbing the man's sleeve. "I…I…was…worried…I had to…find you."
JD locked his huge hazel eyes on Buck's face…and Buck felt his anger drain away.
Buck put his hand on JD's neck and pulled him into a big bear hug.
"Kid…you are some piece of work…'ya know it?"
Buck felt the kid go limp and scooped him up into his arms.
"I got 'ya kid." Buck whispered. "I got 'ya."
* * * * * * *
It was beginning to get dark and Buck knew he had to get a fire going.
Since he still hadn't found the horses, there were still no blankets.
I gotta get the kid warm.
He looked over to check on the object of his concern.
JD was lying curled up, trying to stay warm.
"Bu-Buck??" JD called.
Buck ran over and knelt next to the kid and placed a hand on his shoulder.
"Yeah, kid?" Buck asked.
"I wanna…wanna go…home." the boy cried.
"I know…but we gotta wait till mornin', kid." Buck said.
"No…B-B-Buck…n-n-now…" the boy was shivering.
"JD, settle down." Buck soothed.
"B-u-u-uck…" the kid whined.
"JD…now I mean it…settle down. I'm tryin' to get you a fire goin' and you call me away to do nothin' but argue." Buck snapped, as he got up.
"Sorry…" he heard the kid whisper as he walked away.
Shouldn't yell, I guess…kid's hurtin'. . .
Buck got the fire started and stock piled enough wood to keep it going all night.
He walked back and gathered JD up in his arms and moved him closer to the fire. "C'mon, kid…let's get you warmed up."
"I'm…sorry." JD apologized.
"It's OK, kid. I'm sorry, too. I got no call to be fussin' at you. Just frustrated with myself is all…ain't got nothin' to do with you, son." Buck said.
"What…what are we…gonna do…Buck?" JD asked.
"Well, kid…come mornin'…I'm gettin' you home." Buck promised.
* * * * * * *
Buck awoke with the same headache he had when he went to sleep. He felt as if every muscle in his long body was frozen.
He looked down at the boy he held in his arms and smiled.
Kid looks so sweet when he's asleep…you'd never guess he was such a little shit.
Buck shifted, trying to stretch a little, but not wake the kid.
"What??" JD stirred.
"It's OK, kid. Go on back to sleep." Buck whispered.
"I'm here, kid. Just sleep."
"It's cold, Buck."
"I know, kid. I'll put some more wood on the fire." Buck said, rubbing the boy's arms to try to warm him up.
Uh-oh. Kid feels awful warm.
"You feel OK, JD?" Buck asked.
"Yeah…I'm…fine." JD yawned.
He's fine that'snever good. . .
"You just rest, kid. I'll get this fire goin' good again." Buck said, patting the youth on the head as he got up.
"Buck?" JD called to him as he walked away. "I wanna go…home…you said we could…right?" the boy pleaded.
"Yeah, kid. We're goin' home."
Buck had never lied to JD before.
He hoped he wasn't lying this time.
* * * * * * *
Buck really had no idea how he and the kid would get home.
They had no horses…they had no idea where home was…and they were both hurt.
But Buck had made a promise to the kid…and he intended to keep that promise…or die trying.
Buck knew he needed to get JD to Nathan as soon as possible.
He went over to check on the boy, who was, at least, sleeping soundly now.
He affectionately pushed the hair from the kid's eyes. The bruises on the boy's face were darker than yesterday, making him look even paler than usual.
The kid would tremble every so often…but Buck was not sure if it was from his injuries or from the chill in the morning air.
"I gotta get you home, kid." Buck said out loud…to himself.
"You…go…Buck." the kid croaked.
"Yeah…we'll go soon, son." Buck soothed.
"No…you…you go…Buck. Leave me." JD gasped.
"Oh, yeah…sure, kid. I'd have done that a long time ago…if I had a lick of sense." Buck teased, tousling the kid's hair.
"Go…Buck…you go." the boy was serious. "I…I…can't make…it."
"Sure you can, kid." Buck assured.
"No…you go!!" JD was getting agitated.
"I ain't goin' without 'ya, kid." Buck said.
"Buck…I…I can't." JD cried.
"Maybe you can't kid…but I can…and everybody knows that I means you and me, kid." Buck smiled.
* * * * * * *
Buck was pretty much at a total loss as to what he and the kid were going to do. He was trying to map out a plan of action in his head. He didn't want to start out on this trip half-cocked. JD was in no condition to be wandering aimlessly around the countryside. And neither was he for that matter…his head was aching…and he was not looking forward to the trip home.
Buck knew that JD would do what he could to help…but judging from the boy's condition…the man knew he couldn't really count on the kid to be of much help at all.
He looked down at the boy in his arms. Buck was trying to keep him warm…he was still trembling, and was coming down with a slight fever. But, at least the kid was sleeping…resting…and calm.
Probably the best thing for him…Nathan always says.
Buck hoped that was right, because he could hardly keep the kid awake for more than five minutes at a time before he would drift off again. When JD was awake, he would use up most of his strength getting upset…telling Buck to leave him behind, and Buck would use up most of his patience trying to get him calmed down again…vowing to never leave him.
Buck knew that JD wouldn't be able to get very far under his own steam. That was no problem. Buck could easily carry JD…the boy was light as a feather. It would be slow going…but carrying the teen was the least of Buck's worries.
The biggest obstacle was that Buck had no idea which direction was home. Nothing about their surroundings looked at all familiar. He wasn't sure if that was really true…that they really were in unfamiliar territory…or if the fact that he had hit his head was clouding his memory.
Much to Buck's frustration, he still really had no idea of what had happened to him and the boy.
Not that that really mattered at this point…the only thing that mattered at this point was taking care of the kid…getting him home…to Nathan…and safe.
Buck knew that JD depended on him to make everything right. JD had complete faith that Buck would take care of him…complete…unwavering…faith. Sometimes it overwhelmed Buck to have someone place such complete trust in him. It could be unnerving…if it hadn't been for the fact that Buck was so comfortable in his role of 'big brother'. Buck would do what had to be done…no matter what…to take care of the kid.
And pity anyone…or anything…that got his way.
So Buck was not about to let a little thing like a vast, unknown countryside get in his way of taking care of the kid…Mother Nature was no match for Big Brother Buck.
Gotta get you home, kid. I can plan all day…and it ain't gonna get us home if'n we don't start puttin' one foot in front of the other. . .
JD began to stir…looking up at Buck with tired, hazel eyes…
"Hey, kid…'bout time you woke up. We gotta get goin'. Get you home…let Nathan take a look at 'ya…get some food in your scrawny ass…get 'ya in your own, warm bed…bet that'd feel pretty good, huh?" Buck soothed.
"Guess…so…but…I'm pretty…comfortable…right here, Buck." the boy whispered, keeping a tight grip on a handful of Buck's shirt.
And I'll keep 'ya here kid…and hold on to 'ya…for as long as I have to.
"We better get started, kid. I got pretty ladies waitin' on me…" Buck smiled.
Buck stood up, still holding JD tightly in his arms.
"I can…walk…Buck." JD said, weakly.
"I know 'ya can, son. But you ain't heavy…just let 'ol Buck carry 'ya for now…OK?"
"'Kay…" and the boy was asleep…and Buck was on his way…to…where???
Don't much matter, I guess…kid…as long as we're together…we're goin' in the right direction.
* * * * * * *
Buck couldn't remember having a headache like this before.
Actually, Buck couldn't remember much of anything.
Where was he, anyway?
Nathan's?? Why was he at Nathan's?
Oh…now he was beginning to remember…
He and the kid…
Where's the kid???
Buck sprang up in the bed, only to be met by Josiah's strong arms pushing him back down.
"Relax, Buck. You're gonna be fine." Josiah assured the younger man.
"Josiah?? Where's the kid???"
"Nathan's with JD now, Buck. Don't you worry." Josiah stated. "Nathan's takin' good care of our boy."
"What happened? He's hurt…he's hurt…bad…ain't he?" Buck asked.
"Pretty bad. But he ain't goin' no where, Bucklin. That boy's too sweet to go to hell…and it'd take 20 angels just to keep an eye on him in heaven. God can't spare that many for one small boy."
Buck smiled at the preacher. "He's a handful, alright. Believe me…I should know."
"You rest now, Buck. You've done your part. Let us take care of JD for a while now, OK? I'll let you know as soon as Nathan's through with him." Josiah promised.
Buck laid back and tried to rest. How's a man supposed to rest when he's wondering how his best friend…no…'his brother'…is doing? Buck turned to see that Josiah had left the room. Probably helping Nathan with the kid. Buck took that as his opportunity to get up and see for himself how JD was doing.
The gunslinger managed to sit up in the bed, but getting out of it seemed like a much better idea before he had actually tried to accomplish the feat.
Buck was finally able to lift himself out of the bed. He felt as if every inch of his 6'4" frame had been drug for a mile behind a horse.
What the hell had happened to him, anyway?
And what about JD?
Some things were beginning to come back to him…
Buck remembered yelling to the kid…and running to help him…before everything went black.
Buck slowly made his way towards the back room of Nathan's little makeshift clinic.
Nathan was always reminding them that he "weren't no doctor", but Buck couldn't even begin to count the times the healer had saved one of the other six peacekeepers.
And as for JD…well…Nathan had stitched that boy up so many times. . . he claimed he knew the kid better than his own mama.
Buck turned the knob on the door and opened it quietly, not wanting to disturb Nathan if he was working on the kid.
He could see the boy lying on the bed, whiter than the sheet tucked under his chin.
God…the kid looked pale…and fragile…and his face was so bruised. Buck was afraid to ask how he was…it was pretty obvious…he was not good.
Josiah turned from assisting Nathan to see Buck standing in the doorway. "Buck, you should be in bed. "
Nathan swung around. "Buck…ain't I got enough grief here workin' on this boy…now I gotta wrestle with you, too?"
Nathan seems irritable. Very unlike Nathan. Guess he's worried about the kid.
"Nate…I just…I just wanted to see him. Now…I'm not so sure." Buck said, shakily.
"Well," Nathan replied. "You need rest, Buck. You got a pretty nasty head wound."
Head wound? That's right…but how the hell did he get the head wound?
And, what happened to JD?
"Is he gonna be OK, Nathan?"
"Well…kid's banged up pretty bad. Lots of cuts and bruises…and a concussion. But, JD's a scrapper. So, who knows? He's surprised us all before…I'm sure he'll do it again." Nathan smiled to try to relieve the man's fears.
"What happened, Nathan?"
"Vin said when he found you two, you were ramblin' on about JD bein' hurt. Vin found you sittin' with the kid in your lap…tryin' to take care of him…like you didn't even know that you were hurt yourself." Josiah explained.
"Vin found us? Where?"
"Maybe five miles outside of town." Josiah said.
"What about the horses? Anybody find 'em? They hurt?"
"They're fine. Vin found the horses up on top…that's how he knew where to find the two of you…down at the bottom. He said he found evidence of someone takin' a bad tumble down a hill…judging from the past…I'd say that was probably JD. We figured you musta went after him…and I guess you took a header, too. Vin said you two were a couple of miles from the horses, though. He said you were exhausted…he figures you probably carried the boy the whole way…that right?" Josiah asked.
"Yeah…I guess. JD was in no shape to walk…he could barely hold his head up." Buck remembered. "What the hell were we doin'?"
Nathan, finishing working on JD, turned to Buck. "Chris sent the two of you to pick up a prisoner for the army over in Willow Creek. Shoulda' been a one day trip. But, next day, we get a telegram from the sheriff in Willow Creek saying you two never showed. Needless to say, we all went lookin' for…"
Nathan was cut off by a faint voice…
Thank God, the kid's awake.
"I'm right here, kid. Quit your fussin'" Buck smiled. "Thank God. He's gonna be ok, ain't he, Nathan?"
"Wakin' up's always a good sign, Buck." Nathan smiled.
Nathan began to examine the boy. He was warm to the touch, but fever's to be expected with severe injuries.
"Hey, JD. How 'ya feelin' boy?" the healer asked.
"Is…Buck…OK?" JD asked weakly.
"I'm fine, kid. Can't 'ya see I've never been better?" Buck asked.
"You…sure? You look…like…hell."
"Now, JD, I've told you before…"
"Yeah…yeah…I know." the kid sighed.
"It's you I'm worried about, kid." Buck said.
"JD you feelin' sick, boy?" Nathan asked.
"Kinda." the boy replied, before falling asleep again.
"Let's get you back to bed, Buck." Nathan said.
"No. I'm gonna stay here with JD. I'm fine, Nathan. Really."
"Nathan, I believe the best medicine for Buck is to keep a watchful eye over his 'brother'." Josiah said, winking to Buck.
"Well, when he falls flat on his face, Josiah, I'm gonna need you to help me get him up. He ain't as easy to tote around as JD." And Nathan left the room.
"Thanks, Josiah. Just need to stay with the kid's all." Buck said.
"I know, Buck. I know." Josiah said, placing his hand on the man's shoulder. "Don't you worry. That boy's gonna be just fine. Besides…who'd pester the dickens out of you if he weren't around?" Josiah smiled at his friend, as he, too, left the room.
Buck preferred it this way. Just him and the kid.
When had this little squirt of a kid become such an important part of him?
Buck was friendly to everyone, but he seldom felt that someone was his responsibility. But this kid…this kid seemed to need someone. From the time the boy had come into their lives, the six men had felt an urge to protect and care for him.
But none more than Buck himself.
Buck felt an uncontrollable instinct grow in him, practically from the day he and the kid met. Like it was his job to make sure that JD grew into the fine young man he knew he was capable of being. Kid just had a lot of growing to do. And Buck was damn sure going to do his best to see that the boy lived long enough to do that growing.
Call him a mother hen…call him a worry wart…but, Buck much preferred the words…"big brother."
The kid never had any brothers or sisters. Buck and he both grew up without a father…just their mothers as the guiding influences in their lives. They seemed to have a lot in common…but in some ways…they were as different as night and day.
Buck, being a large man, tended to intimidate people without even trying, while JD's slight frame was very rarely taken seriously.
Not that the kid wasn't good in a fight. Buck smiled proudly when he recalled all the times the kid had surprised them in the past. JD was a lot tougher than he looked.
JD had a good, soft heart and a sweet disposition…but could be a real hellcat if you got him riled.
Buck should know. He was usually the one that got the kid riled.
Buck tried to get comfortable in the small wooden chair next to the bed, but just wasn't able to accomplish that. The big stuffed chair in the corner was much more comfortable, but was too far away. He decided to drag it over to the bed, and then he'd have the best of both worlds…the comfortable chair…and close enough to touch the kid.
He was dragging the chair over when the door opened.
"Buck, what the hell 'ya think you're doin'?" Chris Larabee barked to his oldest friend. "You've got a head injury, for Christ sake. Take it easy, will 'ya?"
"Just tryin' to get this over there is all." Buck explained.
"Here…let me do it." Chris said. "You should be in bed, anyway, not movin' furniture all over creation."
"Well, excuse me. I really don't think from over there to over here is 'all over creation', Chris." Buck said.
"Kid's gonna need 'ya, Buck. You ain't gonna do him no good if'n you're dead." Chris told Buck, giving him an exasperated look.
"I know the kid needs me, Chris. What the hell 'ya think I'm draggin' this chair over here for?"
Chris and Buck both stopped dead and ran to the bed. The kid was trying to wake up, but not doing a very good job of it.
"Yeah, kid. I'm here. You just rest easy now, son. You're gonna be fine." Buck said in his syrupy voice, trying to reassure the boy.
"JD. How 'ya feelin', son?" Chris asked the teen.
"Yeah, JD. You take it easy, OK?" Chris said.
"Chris…is Buck…is Buck…OK?" JD asked, grabbing Chris' arm.
"Yeah, kid. Buck's fine. Hard headed as always. Couldn't hurt his head if 'ya tried." Chris smiled, patting JD's hand and trying to calm down the youth.
"He got hurt, Chris. Didn't he?" JD persisted.
"JD, I'm fine." Buck broke in. "I told 'ya I was fine."
"You…don't…look…" and the boy was out.
"Best thing for him, Buck. He needs the rest." Chris said, turning to look at Buck, who was staring at the boy, a look of concern on his face.
"Yeah…I guess. He's hurt real bad…and every time he wakes up…he's worried about me. Who needs that, Chris?"
"Oh, come on, Buck. You love this mother-hen-little-chick crap. You're good at it." Chris smiled. "Don’t go tryin' to tell me otherwise. I know you, remember? As long as I've known you, you've been protectin' somethin' or another. I guess JD's just the first one that worried back."
"I guess. Little shit."
"I'm sure you mean that affectionately." Chris laughed as he turned to leave. "Take it easy, Buck. Remember, you got hurt, too."
"I'm fine, Chris. But…I'll take it easy. Thanks." Buck called as Chris left.
Buck got settled into the chair. He tried to make himself as comfortable as possible, while still making sure the kid was within reach. He placed his hand on the boy's chest…and left it there…taking comfort in the rhythmic rise and fall…and the regular, easy breathing.
Buck had been sleeping for a couple of hours when he heard the door open again.
"Thought I'd better check on you two before I turned in for the night." Nathan said. "How 'ya feelin', Buck? Any pain or headache?"
"Naw…I'm fine, Nathan." Buck replied.
"Sure?" Nathan asked.
"Yeah. Really. I'm feelin' fine." Buck said, never taking his eyes off the boy. "How about JD? He woke up once, for a couple of minutes."
"That's good. He just needs lots of rest, Buck. So if'n he wakes up during the night, try to keep him calm and get him back to sleep, if you can. If you need me, I'm just in the next room…I'll probably hear him…but if'n I don't…you wake me, if you need me, OK?" Nathan stressed.
"Sure thing, Nathan. We'll be fine." Buck said.
"Yeah…I'm sure you will." Nathan knew JD would be fine as long as Buck was with him. The two were more like brothers than real brothers. Something just clicked with those two…don't happen too often, but when it does…it's something really special.
"He's lucky to have you, Buck." Nathan said, watching how the older man stared at their youngest …willing him to get better…how he always kept a hand on the boy…making sure the kid knew he was there…connecting to him…somehow.
"No…I'm the lucky one here." Buck smiled. "If I didn't have this kid…Nathan…I'd just be walkin' around…doin' stupid stuff…like I used to…just bein'…me. 'Ya know?"
"And…now?" Nathan asked.
"Now, Nathan…I'm this other person…I'm this 'big brother Buck'. Gotta be a little somethin' more than before. Make any sense, Nathan?" Buck laughed.
"I think you mean that JD brings out more in you than you'd have on your own, Buck." Nathan observed.
"Yeah…and for that, Nathan, I'm the lucky one." Buck said, as he drifted off…never once taking his hand off the boy…like always.