ATF Alternate Universe
They finally made it back to their camp ~ or what was 'left' of their camp.
The only thing left was the three tents ~ which the intruders hadn't taken the time to disassemble ~ and one sleeping bag that they missed somehow.
"Shit!!" Buck exclaimed.
"B-B-Buck??" JD whined.
"Sorry, kid…didn't mean to scare 'ya." Buck squeezed the kid a little closer to him.
"W-W-What are w-w-we gonna do…B-B-Buck???" JD was crying…the poor kid was so cold.
"We'll be fine…you rest."
"C-C-C-old…" JD shivered.
Vin retrieved and unzipped the lone sleeping bag, spreading it out on the ground. Buck gently placed JD inside it, zipped him up, and pulled him into his arms again.
"I will start a fire." Ezra went in search of firewood.
"You??" Vin turned a surprised look to Ezra.
"I, too, was a Boy Scout, Mr. Tanner," and the Southerner was off.
+ + + + + + +
Ezra soon had a roaring fire going and walked over to Buck and JD. "If I may relieve you of your charge, Mr. Wilmington…I have a warm fire…and I will watch the boy for a while."
"Thanks, Ezra." Buck gently passed the boy to Ezra…who cradled him close…and headed towards the fire.
The whole exchange was accomplished without ever waking the kid.
"Come with me, Mr. Dunne. We will sit by the fire."
+ + + + + + +
Vin had been looking around the camp…looking for anything they could use. There wasn't much...the men that robbed them were very thorough.
"Find anything?" Chris asked, coming up behind Vin.
"Only one thing, really," Tanner said.
"That being?" Chris asked.
"The raft." Vin had found it…just where he'd left it…in perfect condition.
"Well…Goddamn. They didn't take it, huh?" Chris was amazed. The men thought they had left the agents without anything to help themselves.
"Nope…it's still tied up at the river. I guess they didn't think about it." Vin said.
"Can we use it to get out of here?" Chris knew JD needed help right away.
"I'm going for help as soon as it gets light." Vin turned to go check on the kid.
Chris grabbed Vin's arm. "You're not going by yourself…I'll go with you."
Vin would be grateful for his best friend's company…but he knew Chris was needed elsewhere. "You need to stay here with the kid, Chris. He's gonna need you and Buck with him."
"I don't want you goin' by yourself," Chris worried.
"Hey…I pull rank on this…or did you forget that?" Vin smiled. He had made many trips up and down this river by himself.
"OK…you got me there, pard. But you need someone to go with you." Chris was determined that Vin would not make the trip alone.
"I'll take Josiah." Vin finally realized it would be quicker to just give in. He knew Chris' mind was set.
"OK…how long you think?" Chris wondered.
"Hard to say…maybe ten hours on the river…two hours hiking to the ranger's station…one hour back here by chopper," Vin calculated.
Nathan walked up on the two. "JD ain't got that much time. He's gonna bleed to death before that."
"What?" Chris gasped.
"Internal bleeding, Chris…it's serious. He's got…twelve hours…tops. We can't wait till morning…and we can't wait for you to go alone and come back. We're gonna have to take him in the raft…NOW."
"Vin?? Is this possible?? At night??" Chris asked.
"No…but I wouldn't want to think about living without that kid…either…so, what the hell?" Vin smiled. He wasn't going to lose JD…not if he could help it.
"I'm gonna go check on the kid…help Buck get him ready," Chris said.
+ + + + + + +
Chris had to smile when he came upon the two 'brothers'. It looked like Buck was holding a big, green caterpillar. The kid was in the sleeping bag…just the very tip of his black hair showing over the top. Buck was sitting with JD in his lap…rocking him back and forth…his arms wrapped tightly around the boy.
Chris walked up and reached down and stroked the top of the boy's head…"Hey…son."…his eyes filling as he felt how sweat-drenched the hair was.
"He's so sick, Chris," Buck cried.
"C-C-Chris??" JD's teeth were chattering.
"Hey, JD" Chris smiled. "Buck taking good care of 'ya?"
"Yeah…h-h-he's a g-g-great b-b-brother," the boy croaked.
"Well…you're a great brother, too, son," Chris told the boy…patting the top of his head.
"He's gonna freeze on the river." Buck was scared just thinking about the trip.
"We'll just have to try to keep him as warm as we can…and hopefully…dry." Chris said.
Chris looked over to see Josiah ripping one of the tents apart with his bare hands…the only tools he had to use. "What's he doing?"
"Mr. Sanchez is hoping to use the tent panels to keep our young friend here as dry as possible on our journey." Ezra leaned down and peered into the sleeping bag. "We can not afford to let our precious cargo get wet."
JD was seized by a coughing fit. "B-B-Buck???!!!"
"Yeah, kid…oh… Christ!! Nathan!!" Buck realized that JD was coughing up blood.
Nathan came running up to check on the boy. He stood shaking his head…"Vin's got the raft ready…we gotta go…NOW!"
Buck stood up and hurried JD towards the raft. "You ready, kid?"
"Me neither…so…let's go," Buck smiled at the boy.
JD trusted Buck…completely. If Buck said…'let's go'…then there was no doubt in the kid's mind…it was the thing to do.
"OK," the boy whispered.
+ + + + + + +
Once everyone was situated in the raft, Vin took command.
"This is gonna be tricky in the dark. We've got a good two hours till sunup. It's gonna be hard. Hard to see…hard to maneuver…hard to watch the river…watch the raft…and watch JD."
Vin looked to the boy in Buck's arms and continued. "Number one concern…obviously…is JD. Buck…you and Nathan…don't worry about anything but JD. Don't try to help with the raft…don't watch the river…just watch the kid…and hold on to him real tight. It's gonna be a rough ride and he can't do anything for himself to hang on."
Listening to Vin describe the journey was making Buck more nervous than he already was. He pulled JD a little closer to his chest. He thought he heard the kid mumble something from under the sleeping bag. "You say something, kid?"
"No…" JD whispered. The boy was barely conscious. He was so weak he couldn't hold his head up.
"S'OK, kid…you just lean on 'ol Buck."
Vin continued giving instructions. "Ezra…I want you on the left side…with me. Josiah…you and Chris on the right. Everyone, please…just hang on…and do 'what' I tell 'ya…'when' I tell 'ya. If we're lucky, it'll be getting light before we get to Devil's Gap. That's the first real rough part of the river we'll be coming to." Vin looked to the others…"I guess that's about it…any questions?"
Everyone was silent. The others basically felt they didn't even know enough about what they were heading into to ask an intelligent question. Finally, Chris broke the silence…"I guess if we think of anything…we'll ask you while we're trying to hang on for dear life."
"Funny, Chris…real funny…" Vin stepped over to check on JD before pushing the raft off. "Hey, kid…ready for Mr. Toad's Wild Ride?"
"S-S-Sorry…you g-g-gotta do this…V-V-Vin," JD said through chattering teeth.
"Hey, kid…this is what we came here to do…remember?" Vin smiled at the kid, brushing his sweat-soaked hair from his face. He handed Buck one of the panels Josiah had ripped from the tents. "Try to keep him covered with this…keep him dry…if you can."
"Sure, Vin…" and Buck grabbed Vin's arm…"Thanks, Vin."
"Sure, Buck…I love him too…'ya know."
+ + + + + + +
As Vin had been hoping, it was beginning to get light and they were approaching Devil's Gap.
"OK…it's gonna get rough…get a good grip on the oars. Buck…hold the kid real tight. Nathan…you hang onto him, too." Vin turned his attention from the boy back to the river ahead.
Buck and Nathan were both wrapped tightly around the kid.
As they started through Devil's Gap, the raft was tossed about wildly.
It took about five minutes to get through Devils Gap.
"I am ecstatic that we have emerged unscathed," Ezra gloated.
"I wouldn't exactly say that," Buck remarked.
The others noticed that Buck was obviously in the wrong place when JD threw up.
"Don't worry, Buck," Vin grinned. "The next rough section of the river will wash it right off."
"How far till we reach that?" Chris was hoping for a good long stretch of calm river…to let everyone regroup for Devil's Gap.
"About three miles…I guess…to Devil's Drop," Vin said.
"Does everything on this god forsaken river pay homage to Satan in some way?" Ezra questioned.
"You'll think you're ridin' with him…when you get to Devil's Drop, Ezra." Vin directed towards the Southerner. "The river drops considerably…it's real tricky. I want everyone tethered to the raft. I've seen seasoned veterans take a header there before."
"Oh…please…don't sugar coat it, Vin. Just lay it on the line," Buck said, the fear and dread evident in his voice.
"Sorry to scare everybody. It's just…we have to be extra careful. We don't have any time to waste picking up people who fall out." Everyone knew exactly what Vin meant.
JD didn't have any time to spare.
"How's he doin'?" Chris asked.
"Not too bad…considering," Nathan answered. "He's still on fire, though."
"He cough up any more blood?" Chris was afraid to hear the answer.
"Some," Buck said.
Chris slammed his oar on the raft. "Shit!"
JD jumped in Buck's arms. Chris felt a pang of guilt and made his way towards the boy. "I'm sorry, JD. I didn't mean to scare you."
"My s-s-stomach hurts…r-r-real b-b-bad," JD coughed.
"That's 'cause your belly's bleeding, son. You just try not to move around too much, OK?" Nathan was patting the boy's head…trying to get him to settle down again.
"OK…" JD then turned…looking…"V-V-Vin?"
Vin crawled over to the boy. "Yeah, kid?"
"This ain't n-n-nothing l-l-like the b-b-brochure," JD smiled weakly.
"Well, kid…leave it to you to rewrite the book on rafting," Vin grinned.
+ + + + + + +
By the time they pulled the raft to the bank of the river and secured it, the men were all totally exhausted.
"OK, Nate…now what?" Vin was helping Buck, who was still holding the kid, step out of the raft.
"What'cha mean, Vin?" Nathan put his hand to JD's face and frowned at the heat that was still there.
"Do I take off for the ranger station?? Or do we all go?? With the kid??" Vin wasn't sure how Nathan was leaning on this matter.
"How long to the ranger station, you think?" Nathan noticed that JD was much weaker than when they started the trip down river. The ride had definitely taken a toll on the youth.
"Two hours there…by myself," Vin estimated.
"Is it a guarantee that the station is staffed?" Nathan worried.
"Always has been. 'Course…I ain't been up this way in two years," Vin remembered. He'd been so busy with the team the last couple of years that he'd not been able to get away like he used to.
"Oh…God! What if it's not there anymore? What if nobody's there?" Buck panicked. He knew JD was slipping fast and that they had to get some help for him quick.
Buck looked to the kid in his arms and his eyes filled. The boy was either sleeping or unconscious…Buck wasn't sure which. Either way…there was no waking him. He'd been out for about the last hour of the ride…and he never woke as Buck carried him out of the raft.
"I hate to wait here…could be a while waiting on a chopper. JD'll be a lot more comfortable at the station than out here. But…it ain't gonna be easy getting him there." Nathan was so unsure of which way to turn on the issue.
"I can carry him easy enough, Nate. Don't let that worry you," Buck assured.
"We'll take turns with him, Bucklin," Josiah offered.
"Thanks, Josiah." Buck knew the large man adored the kid nearly as much as he did.
Chris weighed everything he'd been hearing. "I say we take JD. Vin…you can travel ahead as fast as you can. Just give us a heading…and mark the trail as you go."
"South-south-west," Vin said.
"OK. You go on ahead. Get as much of a jump on things as you can. We'll be along as soon as we can get there…or you can head back with help," Chris said. "Whichever comes first."
"You can get the ball rolling…so to speak…Mr. Tanner," Ezra said.
"JD…kid…I'll see 'ya real soon…OK?" Vin stooped to check on the kid before he took off. His eyes filled when he received no recognition…no response…at all.
Buck looked up. "He's…he's been out for quite a while, Vin."
Vin knew that Buck was hanging by a thread. "He'll be OK, Buck. He's gotta be…right?"
"Yeah…" Buck grabbed Vin's arm as he started to leave. "You be careful, son."
"Don't worry, Buck. See you guys in a couple of hours," Vin called over his shoulder as he took off.
"We'll rest here for a bit…and then head out," Chris instructed.
"It will not be an easy journey," Ezra noted.
"Any journey worth the trip is rarely easy," Josiah offered. "And this trip…is definitely worth it."
Everyone looked to the object of their concern.
Chris pulled Nathan aside. "How is he, Nate? Really…?"
"Honestly, Chris? As far as I can see…the only thing keepin' him alive is that big 'ol bear holdin' him. That boy's got more of a will to live around that man…can't explain it. It's like…like JD'd be scared to let Buck down…so he beats the odds. Every time."
Josiah joined the two. "Those two are…I do believe…one person, split in half."
"Judging from JD's stature…I'd say someone was a little 'off' in their measurements, Mr. Sanchez," Ezra observed.
"Yeah…" Chris grinned. "But…if you're talkin' about energy , enthusiasm…and aggravation…JD got more than his share."
Buck had laid JD down to let his arms rest a bit. He'd been holding the boy since they'd left camp…nearly 'six' hours ago. But he kept 'in touch' with the kid…either holding his hand…or stroking his hair…or placing a hand on the boy's chest. Anything to let the kid know that his 'big brother' was there. To let the kid know that he was not alone.
Buck knew the boy was unconscious. But he also believed that he and JD could communicate beyond words. A look…or a touch…between the two was more than enough sometimes.
Buck was hoping that this was one of those times.
Chris squatted next to JD and placed his hand on Buck's knee. "You OK, Buck?"
"No. How can I be OK…with the kid like this?" Buck cried.
Chris could tell that Buck was beginning to lose hope. Hope that JD would come around and get better…hope that they'd get help for him in time…hope that JD would make it home alive.
"We should probably get going. I'll carry him for a while," Chris offered.
"No. I have to…I have to do it, Chris." Buck was not willing to let go of the kid. As if he was afraid to let go of him. Buck was afraid that if he'd let go of the boy…he'd never get him back.
"You don't have to do this all on your own, Buck. We'll all help." Chris was worried about Buck. The man was close to exhaustion. He was so busy taking care of the boy…he was forgetting about himself.
"No. It's gotta be me, Chris. Me and the kid."
"Chris…please. Don't act like I'm being unreasonable about this…please. It's…it's just…it's gotta be me and him," Buck explained.
"I ain't gonna criticize 'ya, Buck," Chris sighed.
Chris pushed himself up. "When it gets to where you can't carry him any more…say something. OK? Don't just drop."
"I'll let 'ya know, pard."
Chris leaned over and brushed the hair from the boy's eyes. "Hang on, son. You're gonna be home soon."
JD began to stir. "Buck???"
The voice was so weak, the men barely heard him.
But…to Buck…it was the sweetest sound on earth.
"God, kid…it's good to hear your voice again," Buck choked.
"Welcome back, son," Chris smiled.
"Did I…go…somewhere?" JD whispered.
Stupid little shit…always with the dumb jokes.
"You been dozin', sleepy head," Buck teased.
Chris left the two friends. "I'll tell the others we're ready to go."
"Well, kid…we're gonna be headin' out," Buck said, the sound of renewed faith in his voice.
The kid's gonna make it.
"Where…where…we goin'?" JD yawned.
"Headin' for the ranger station, son." Buck studied the boy's face.
"Why?" JD had a pained, confused look.
"Why? To get you some help, kid," Buck smiled.
"Vin's already gone on ahead," Buck revealed.
"By himself?" JD panicked.
"He's a big boy, JD."
"I guess I better get up," JD said.
"Huh?" Buck obviously…hadn't heard the kid right.
"You said we were leaving…" JD was shifting around.
"And you were plannin' on doing what?" Buck laughed.
"Well, Buck…I'm goin'…ain't I?" JD acted like Buck was being totally clueless about the whole situation.
"Yeah…in my arms," Buck said, firmly.
"You ain't carryin' me, Buck. I ain't no baby."
Oh great. Kid's gettin' uppity now.
"No…you're just as weak as one," Buck reminded. "JD…you've been out for hours…how the hell you think you're gonna walk? Be reasonable, for God's sake."
JD tossed the sleeping bag aside and stood.
"Cut it out, kid." Buck grabbed the kid's wrist.
"I'm gonna walk, Buck." JD was trying to struggle against the larger man.
"Don't fight me, kid. You ain't gonna win on this."
Nathan walked up behind the kid, placing a firm hand on the boy's shoulder…startling him. "JD…what the hell 'ya doin'?"
JD spun around, almost toppling over.
"Whoa!" Nathan grabbed the kid. "You need to lie down, JD."
"I've 'been' layin' down, Nate. I'm tired of layin' down," JD argued.
"C'mon, kid." Buck grabbed the boy.
"Shit, kid…don't do this…you're just gonna get yourself all worked up…come on…" Buck knew the kid didn't have the strength to put up this kind of fight.
"What the hell's going on over here?" Chris walked over and demanded.
"Kid's being headstrong," Buck said.
"JD…do as you're told. Lie down, son," Chris said.
"Chris…please…" JD pleaded.
"Don't give me that 'look', kid," Chris said, turning away.
"What look?" JD asked.
"Never mind," Chris said.
"Why can't I walk? I'm feelin' a lot better," JD stated.
"Until you take two steps and fall on your face," Nathan said.
Nathan refused to give in to the kid.
"Chris…???" JD begged
"I told 'ya…don't look at me. Now…do what Nathan says" and Chris walked away.
"What look??? What's he talkin' about?" JD was so confused by this 'look' that everyone was always talking about.
"JD…son…you got to take it easy…" Buck stressed.
…and then the boy passed out in Buck's arms.
"Why's he so Goddamn stubborn?" Buck was at the end of his rope. The whole trip had been an emotional roller coaster for JD. And…whenever the kid was involved…Buck's emotions usually mirrored the boys.
"'Cause he's a kid, Buck. Kids are stubborn," Chris explained.
"No…kids are a pain in the ass…that's what kids are…" Buck trailed off.
"Mother hen upset with the chick?" Ezra approached the group, and looking at the boy, asked…"How's he doing?"
"Chick's feelin' a little hen-pecked," Chris grinned.
"Can't imagine…" Ezra scoffed…and escaped the menacing glare of Buck.
"Let's get started." Chris knew the kid passing out again was not a good sign. They needed to get help fast.
"Let me carry him for 'ya, Buck," Josiah offered.
"I don't know…not right now, Josiah," Buck whispered. "Maybe…maybe later."
+ + + + + + +
After about two hours, the boy started to stir in Buck's arms.
"Wait up, guys," Buck called to those ahead.
"You OK, kid?" Chris came back to check on Buck and the boy. "How 'ya feelin' right now?"
"Sick…" JD whimpered.
"Put him down, Buck," Chris said.
Buck sat the boy down and gently propped him up against his chest. JD was ghastly pale from the massive blood loss of the internal bleeding…he was red-hot with fever…and now the kid was nauseous to boot.
Chris took the boy's face in his hands. "JD?"
"Sick…" JD moaned.
"JD?" Chris repeated, moving his head side-to-side a little to get his attention.
JD started to sway, but Chris held him steady.
JD threw up…and much to Nathan's worry…it was mostly blood.
"Think we should go on, Nathan? Or wait here?" Chris wondered.
"We should only be about what?…an hour?…you think," Nathan fretted. The boy was getting worse by the minute. Everyone kept asking Nathan what he thought. The only thing Nathan could think was…the boy needs a hospital.
"That's about what I figure," Chris estimated.
Nathan looked at JD. "Is he asleep, Buck?"
"I say as long as he's asleep we keep moving. If he wakes up…and he's sick…we'll stop." Nathan figured they would be able to make some time when the boy was sleeping. And there'd be hell to pay when he was awake.
"Sounds good. Let me take him for a while, Buck," Chris said. He knew Buck was about to collapse. But…he also knew that Buck would not give up the boy without a fight.
"I…I don't know…" Buck, who was still holding the kid in his lap, shied away.
"C'mon, Buck. You've gotta be ready to drop," Chris told his oldest friend.
"OK…I'll walk right next to 'ya…in case he wakes up."
"Wouldn't expect you to be anywhere else, Buck." Chris' eyes filling as he looked from the boy…to the man who adored the boy so much.
"Pretty predictable, ain't I?" Buck ran his hands down his face.
"Where JD's concerned??? Yeah," Chris agreed.
After walking about another thirty minutes, the group suddenly heard the most beautiful sound in the world…
…rotor wash from a chopper coming over the trees.
Over the helicopter's speaker they heard a shout of…"Hey, kid!!"
It was Vin.
The chopper landed and Vin, a ranger…and thank, God a doctor jumped off.
Chris gently laid JD down and the female doctor did a quick exam.
"Get him loaded. We'll head for Aspen General. They've got the best gastric-intestinal department in the state," the doctor yelled to be heard over the rotors.
The men loaded JD…Buck never letting go of the kid's hand as he jumped in beside the stretcher.
"There's a ranger coming in a jeep," Vin advised. "But there's room for one more in the chopper. Who wants to ride with the kid besides Buck?"
"I think Nathan should…" Chris said.
"No…Chris…he's got the doctor," Nathan interrupted. "You go…he may need you."
"You sure?" Chris asked.
"Yeah…go on," Nathan assured.
Chris climbed in and the chopper took off, leaving Vin, Nathan, Ezra and Josiah to wait for the ranger that would be coming at any time in the jeep.
"I'm sorry. I never introduced myself out there. I'm Dr. Susan Whittley." The woman offered her hand to Buck and Chris. "When did he get hurt?"
"Well…the internal bleeding…probably about twenty-four hours ago now. Then he kinda got worked over later…" Chris explained.
"We had a run-in with some good 'ol boys. They took our van…all our gear…our cell phones…everything. And they beat up our kid here," Buck fumed.
"Sounds like the Anderson boys. Were there four of them…one really huge?" the doctor asked.
"That would be them," Chris said.
"You're not the first people they've done this to," Dr. Whittley informed the two. "They've done the same thing to several other camping parties over about the last four to five months."
"And nobody's been able to do anything about them?" Chris couldn't believe that garbage had been getting away with this for five months.
"No…not yet," the doctor said, examining the boy as she talked. "Seems nobody wanted to take them on…too mean, I guess."
"Well…we'll be taking care of them…after we take care of JD." The look on Larabee's face said more than his words.
They're gonna pay for messing with 'our' kid.
"You might just want to forget it," Dr. Whittley suggested.
"I don't 'think' so…" Chris said coldly.
"I know I'm not telling you anything you don't already know…" Dr. Whittley said…"But…they're a pretty mean bunch."
"So are we…" Chris seethed.
The ranger sitting up front with the pilot turned to the men. "Your stuff will probably never be recovered."
"I don't give a shit about the stuff. Just JD. He's all that matters right now. Is he gonna be OK?" Chris asked the doctor.
"He should be OK. A few more hours…he…he wouldn't have made it," the doctor revealed. "I think he'll be OK, though. Provided we get this infection and fever under control."
Buck was gazing out the window…mindlessly stroking the kid's hair…suddenly…his face beamed. "Look, Chris…'city'…"
Thank, God. Chris closed his eyes and offered a silent thanks to the man upstairs.
"He's going to be going straight into surgery," Dr. Whittley said. "There won't be any time to waste."
"Doctor…?" Buck grabbed Dr. Whittley's arm.
"Yes?" the doctor turned to Buck and saw a look of total fear on the man's face.
"He's…he's…pretty…" Buck stammered.
The doctor put her hand over Buck's shaking hand. "He's pretty special?"
"Yeah…" Buck sobbed.
"I'll take good care of him…don't worry," Dr. Whittley assured both men.
"Hey, Chris…" Buck called, noticing they were landing on the heli-pad at the hospital.
"Next time…let's just work on the holiday. It's a lot safer," Buck said.
Buck sat in the hospital room…where he'd been since JD came up from surgery. They had to remove a pretty long section of the kid's intestine…and a portion of his stomach…but the doctor's were predicting a complete recovery for the boy. He would have to stay in the hospital for probably a week…and then at least six weeks of rest.
Kid didn't know how to rest. Practically the only time the kid rested was when he was unconscious from 'yet another' injury.
Buck watched all the dials and numbers…beating and ticking…waiting for the kid to wake up.
C'mon, kid. Wake up and start yackin'. Give me another chance to tell 'ya to 'shut up, kid'.
Buck missed the boy's ever-constant chatter. A million questions…about at least two million things…a day…every day.
"C'mon, kid…it's been six hours, here. Give the old man a break…c'mon, kid." Buck was stroking the kid's forehead. He noticed the boy had a low-grade fever…but the doctor's assured him it was nothing to worry about.
Buck knew that before the day was over…the kid would be roughly as hot as a blast furnace. At least that's what always happened in the past…and the kid was nothing…if not predictable.
"You know, kid…when you're out like this…I have just 'way' too much time on my hands. Gets me to thinkin'…and you 'know' that's dangerous, son. So…why don't you help old Buck out here…and wake your little ass up?"
The doctors said it could be up to eight hours before the boy would wake up. Nothing to be concerned with.
"You know, son…every time them doctors say not to worry about you…you go and do somethin' that costs me ten years off my life." Buck laid his hand on the boy's chest and was comforted by the rhythmic rise and fall…and the steady heartbeat that he could feel through the kid's slight frame.
Another two hours passed…Buck pacing…the others all popping in and out…checking on the kid…checking on Buck…offering to stay if he wanted to leave.
They all knew there was no chance of the man actually leaving the boy's room. Not until he saw those hazel eyes open and alert.
'Course…there was no guarantee that Buck would leave then, either. Then the reasons would be…'kid might need me'…'too weak to call the nurse himself'…'can't leave him alone for ten minutes without him getting himself into a situation'…all perfectly good reasons.
Just not the 'real' reason.
The 'real' reason…was Buck absolutely adored the kid. JD was the most important thing in Buck's life right now. And rightly so.
JD had managed to steal a good size portion of Buck's heart…and his heart ached when the kid was hurt or sick…or if he just wasn't around. Buck was not whole without JD beside him.
And the kid fared no better. He was totally devoted to his 'big brother' Buck. He often felt smothered by the older man…but he wouldn't trade the security…and love…that Buck gave him for anything in the world. Buck was…very deservedly…the most important thing in JD's life.
"Jesus, kid…you gonna sleep all day…???" Buck cried, his head resting on the bed rail.
"Not…with you…yackin'…I…ain't" the faint voice came.
"Kid!!" Buck practically squealed. "Thank, God."
"Geez, Buck…God…probably heard 'ya…" JD gasped. "I feel…like…crap…so…be quiet…OK?"
"Sure, kid…I'll be quiet. Doctors say you're gonna be fine, kid." Buck rubbed the kid's forehead with his thumb again…helping the boy relax and helping himself feel just a little less helpless.
"For what, son?"
"You…know…" and the boy was asleep again.
Buck did know.
THE END ~ AGAIN
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