WARNING: Basically a G story..very smarmy I've been told. My beta's (Leslie and Lynene have requested I post a tissue warning..' no fair..making your beta cry'.. I guess that means it's teary<g>. There is a part that may be 'disturbing'
NOTES/COMMENTS: I have to give a big thanks to the beta's again!! Lynne Leslie..you are making me a better writer..is hard enough to find one person who knows what you are trying to say..let alone two..but I've got 'em!! Lynne thanks for making my sentences make sense<g> the furrowed brow thing just didn't work<g> And Leslie...Thank you for 'making' me write those parts..they needed to be done now..not later and you know it<bg>. Thanks again ladies..my hats off to you guys. I raise a glass to you in honor of future collaborations. Actually this story IS a collaboration..I just came up with the idea and you two helped make it a great story that makes sense..I know..I'm repeating.. but You guys have a tough job and you do it well..Thanks a mil!! Oh one more thing..the OC of Domonique is spelled just that way..I had a friend who spelled it that way, I liked it so I used it.
Chris smiled as he heard laughter and the clanking of dishes in the kitchen. Vin and JD were sharing dish duty after supper. It had taken close to a week for JD to start acting normal' again after the guilt he felt over forgetting his mother's birthday. Buck squeezed Chris's shoulder as another round of laughter was heard from the kitchen.
"Nice to hear him laugh again," Buck smiled.
Chris nodded his agreement.
"Guess you were right about him not stayin' home from school," Buck sighed. He'd fought Chris tooth and nail about making JD go to school the Friday after his mother's birthday, but Chris had stood firm, citing besides two exams, he needed the distraction..getting through the weekend would be hard enough. Chris had been right, JD barely spoke during the whole weekend, almost smiled twice, and had no appetite whatsoever.
Monday couldn't have come sooner, school providing just enough of a motivation for JD to crawl out of bed and start his morning routine. Every day became easier; today he smiled his good morning', and now was washing dishes and laughing.
+ + + + + + +
"We expecting kids?" JD asked, looking out the window and seeing a set of headlights coming down the mile long drive from the window.
"Don't think so, can ya' tell who it is?" Vin asked, putting the towel down on the counter.
"It's Mrs. Travis," JD said with surprise. He wiped his hands on the towel, keeping his eyes on the car as it stopped. The door opened and the dome light inside revealed a small passenger in the back.
"I'll get Dad," JD said. Vin nodded as he headed for the front door.
+ + + + + + +
"Something wrong?" Chris asked as JD jogged to a stop in the living room.
"Mrs. Travis just pulled up, Vin's with her," he said quickly, hitching his thumb in the direction of the door.
JD followed Chris out of the living room and to the front door. He held it opened as Chris went down the steps and stood behind Vin. Vin was squatting next to the open car door, Mary Travis to one side, trying to coax the passenger out.
Vin held his hand out, like he was trying to get near a skittish horse. The child shied away from the extended hand. Vin stood, shaking his head as he did. Mary stayed with the small child while Chris and Vin stepped up on the porch. The others were there as well, JD still holding open the front door.
"I hate to drag her outta there Chris," Vin said softly.
"What happened?" Chris asked, trying to gauge if dragging the child, now known to be at least a girl, was the only way of getting her out of the car.
"Little girl hadn't shown up at school for 4 days, school called the home..got nothin' but the answerin' machine. They kept tryin' all day..finally the little thing picks up the phone..tells the woman on the phone her Mommy's sleepin' an' she can't wake her up," Vin sighed, took a breath and continued to inform the others of what Mary had told him.
"School called the cops to go check on the little girl and her mother, kept talkin' with her till the cops got there. They found the mother on the couch, been dead since the first day the girl missed school..been dead for nearly a week, they called social services, and Mary brought her here," Vin finished.
"Figure out cause of death?" Chris asked, looking towards the occupant of the car.
"She was diabetic..she was tryin' to give herself an insulin shot, found the needle stuck in her leg," Vin sighed.
"Poor child," Ezra whispered.
"I'll..Uhm..I'll get some coffee going," JD stuttered, then looked towards the car as well. The little girl took that opportunity to look towards the group on the porch, JD could feel her eyes on him and him alone.
The others noticed a movement in the car. Mary moved to look in the direction of the porch but remained close to the girl. She asked the girl a question, then looked back quizzically to the men.
"JD," Mary said. JD turned from entering the door and looked to the others, then to Mary, then back to the others. He'd always stayed back and out of the way when kids' arrived, after all..he wasn't trained, like the others had been, to deal with anything like this; technically he'd BEEN one of them.
"Me?" JD asked, stepping from the safety of the men, meeting Mary on the fourth step.
"She wants you," Mary stated, then looked to the group standing behind him.
"Mrs. Travis..I don't know..I mean..I'd like to help..but I don't know.." JD stammered.
"Go ahead, JD. See if you can get her into the house," Chris said, his lips pursed. It beat dragging the poor kid out of the car.
"But...what if I say the wrong thing and she starts to freak out?" JD asked, really not wanting to do this.
"If she starts to scream and cry..just hold her tighter," Josiah smiled, "Just keep talking to her and don't let go."
"What's her name?" JD found himself asking, while his head thought when I said freak out..I meant hitting and kicking.... I didn't mean scream and cry!
"Domonique. She just turned 6 two weeks ago," Mary smiled.
"You sure about this?" JD asked looking at Chris, hoping he wasn't going to add more misery to the already miserable 6 year old.
"I'm sure," Chris nodded.
"Okay," JD sighed, then took a deep breath and walked down to the car.
Hi Domonique, I'm JD..You want to come inside?' oh yeah..like that's gonna make her feel safe, sounds like something Chester the Molester uses as a pick up line. JD mentally practiced several ways of beginning to talk to the girl to try and get her from point A (the car) to point B (the house).
He shouldn't have worried. He never had the chance to say a word to the scared young girl. He squatted down in front of the open car door, but before he got out the first word, Domonique flung her arms around JD's neck and held on for, what he was sure was, dear life.
JD put his hand on the girl's back and began to rub it, trying to comfort her. Suddenly he stopped..maybe he wasn't supposed to do that..The others knew what was allowed, what wasn't. He became worried that he would do something wrong and get Mary and the others in trouble. Then the grip tightened around his neck and instincts took over..To Hell with the rules. JD thought, feeling the girl ease and relax as he began to rub her back again.
"Let's get you inside," he said softly; he felt the nod on his shoulder and picked her up. His hand continued to rub the girl's back, the other arm wrapped around her legs.They walked up the stairs and passed the men and Mrs. Potter, who was holding the door open.
"Paperwork or coffee?" Ezra asked Mary as she entered the house with the rest of the men.
"Both? I'm afraid it's going to be a long night," she said.
"You planning on any more surprises tonight?" Josiah asked.
"God I hope not, this was bad enough," she sighed.
+ + + + + + +
JD stood in the living room holding Domonique. He continued to rub her back until the small tremors began to ease.
"Chair by the window or rocking chair by the fire," he asked gently.
"Window?" she answered in a question.
"Window it is," JD said, walking to the window.
"Domonique..you're gonna have to let go for just a sec so I can sit and not bend you in half," he said softly. He felt the hands ease and he sat down, situating Domonique on his lap, her head leaning against his chest. JD carefully and gently wrapped his arms around the little girl.
"I fink.." she started, but stopped.
"What?" JD encouraged, "It's okay..you can tell me".
"Are the ambuwance people gonna fix my mommy?" she asked, looking into the hazel eyes for the answer.
"They couldn't fix your mommy Dom," JD answered.
"It was my birfday a little time ago," Domonique said.
"I heard that," JD smiled.
"Mommy said she'd get my presents soon, so ya fink that's where she is?"
"No.. Dom, I don't think so," JD said, placing his chin on top of the blonde hair, he squeezed her a little tighter, as if his embrace could keep all the bad things away.
"I didn't fink so eifer," she said.
JD stayed quiet, as did Domonique, rocking her slowly. He was thinking of his mother and how it had felt to loose her. JD knew his mother wasn't well. Had he known how ill, he never would have left her. Knowing didn't ease the pain though, she'd sent him away, out to the Ranch, and he was deprived of those last three weeks with her. He envied Domonique in that respect, at least the little girl was there. He pitied her for the same reason.
She must have been so scared; waking up, seeing her mother laying on the couch, thinking she was asleep and then not being able to wake her up. How do you make sense of death to a 6 year old? Hell, he was 16 and still didn't understand why good, caring people were taken away; he doubted if even Chris understood it.
Mrs. Potter entered, setting down two mugs of hot chocolate and a plate of cookies on the table next to where the two rocked slowly.
"Thanks," JD said with a warm grin.
"Your welcome." She lay a comforting hand on the girl's head and leaned over and kissed JD's cheek, then patted his shoulder lightly and left the room.
"She your mommy?" Domonique asked, turning her head to eye the cookies.
"Mrs. Potter? No, she cooks for everybody here," he smiled, grabbing one of the cookies and handing it to Domonique. He smiled again as she took it and bit off a piece.
"The bwond wady your mommy?"
"Is your mommy here?"
"No..my mommy died," JD said.
"How long ago?"
"About six months ago"
"I miss my mommy," she said turning to bury her face into JD's chest, finally letting loose the tears she'd held for so long.
"I know, I miss mine too," he whispered, blinking quickly to hold back the tears. He held the little girl in his arms tighter, kissing the top of her head. He let her cry, no point in telling her to try and stop. God knows he hadn't been able to stop when Chris told him his mother had died; how was a 6 year old supposed to?
+ + + + + + +
Chris walked into the kitchen, joining Mary Travis and the others at the table as Mrs. Potter puttered, pouring coffee and making sandwiches. Mrs. Potter never waited on the men; they often fended for themselves unless a child arrived in the evening or in the middle of the night. She had been with Four Corners long enough to know when to expect long nights.
"How they doin'?" Buck asked, raising his head from the notepad where he was taking notes about the little girl.
"She started crying a few minutes ago," Chris smiled sadly, he knew the release was a good thing; it was the beginning of dealing with her mother's death and the traumatic experience.
"How's the boy holding up?" Josiah asked.
"Pretty good," Chris sighed.
"I shouldn't have involved him," Mary shook her head.
"You didn't, Mrs. Travis..that little girl did," Ezra smiled his reassurance.
"I know he won't do anything..but..I think it'd be a good idea to have someone in the room, who knows what a judge will say if Domonique says they were left alone," Mary said evenly. She knew the response wouldn't be good.
"He 16 years old..she's 6..he ain't that kind of a kid!" Buck whispered out harshly.
"I know that..it's just..Mr. Wilmington, I have to think of the girl's safety," She said, suddenly in Social Worker mode.
"I assure you, there isn't a safer place than in that young man's arms," Ezra said, his tone soft and steady. He liked Mary well enough, they all did..but when she was in professional gear', she could be down right insinuating and somewhat insulting.
"I'll stay with them," Vin said quietly, standing from his chair and heading into the living room before any protest could be given.
"I can't believe you," Chris said with a feral laugh.
"Mr. Lara.." Mary tried.
"He's the only one who could get her out of the car..it was okay then, but now he's a danger to her?" Chris asked, not able to hide his anger at what Mary was conveying.
"Chris, I have to think of the child," Mary stood firm, her face a rock.
"How many little girls have you dropped off here? Not once did you have a watchdog standing guard," Chris said.
"Chris, JD isn't licensed and he doesn't have any training to deal with grieving children," Mary remained stoic.
"I'd say you're wrong there Mrs. Travis," Josiah said calmly, rising from the table to refill his cup.
"Excuse me?" Mary asked.
"Who better to deal with a grieving child, then one who is grieving as well?" Josiah asked evenly, his eyebrow raised.
"No offense Josiah, and I see your point..but Domonique thinks her mother's gone to buy her a birthday present. She's denying the fact that her mother's dead," Mary said urgently, "I'm not sure if JD is capable of forcing her to face reality."
"She's well aware that her mother is no longer amongst us. I believe that Mr. Larabee informed us that girl has begun to cry, correct?" Ezra reminded her.
"Yup," Chris nodded, he bowed his head as a smile formed, leave it to Ezra.
"She's scared," Mary tried, thinking that the tears were for anything but grief.
"She knows Mary," Chris said sternly, becoming aggravated with the woman. Her heart was as good as gold, but one thing Mary wanted was control, they had discovered that early on in dealing with her. Once that control was gone, and she wasn't the hero', so to speak, she became defensive.
"Well if he told her, then maybe ..."
"Dammit Mary..can't you, for just once, accept the fact that someone else knows what's best here?" Chris asked sternly, he doubted anyone of the others would have been able to break through to Domonique so quickly. Without JD's help, Chris knew that by morning they would be seeing the shell of a young girl, still in the throws of shock.
"We've been here for three hours..it's almost midnight and everyone's tired. I think we just need to leave things the way they are..Vin's in the living room with them, he won't let anything happen. If JD gets nervous about handling her, Vin will help him through it," Nathan voiced his opinion. Mary was still unwilling to accept that someone else was in control.
"I lost my husband, Chris you lost your wife and son..we've all lost people we care about; we all know what she's going through," Mary said.
"No we don't Mary, don't you see that?" Chris contradicted.
"We have no idea what she's going through, JD does, he knows exactly what it's like," Chris added.
"He's too emotional," Mary said, now grasping at straws.
"Exactly," Josiah smiled.
"I give up," Mary sighed, she had lost many a battle with these men, always feeling like she had surrendered, "You win," she said.
"This isn't a contest, Mrs. Travis. This is a child's well being at stake, does it really matter who comforts and talks to the child as long as the outcome is the child's stability of her emotional state?" Ezra asked, his feeling of disgust covered by a dismissive laugh; he dealt with most things in life as if it were a game, but he was unwilling to put a child's welfare in that category..the stakes were too risky and not to be gambled with.
Mrs. Potter was thankful she was keeping herself busy at the sink. She applauded the woman's profession, but the woman herself and the way she carried herself sent tremors of frustration through the cook.
She felt a comforting hand rub her back, turning to see Buck. He knew that the woman would get riled. She usually went on a verbal tirade after Mary left. He kissed her forehead then spoke softly.
"She'll be gone in a bit. Ezra's doing the paperwork faster than he was before," Buck smiled.
Gloria nodded, then pushed away the tear that began to fall from her eye. It hurt to have this woman, who always seemed to bring the children here because it was the best place, cut these men down..and tonight, her comments about JD. It just wasn't right.
"Mary ain't gonna hurt JD, don't worry," Buck reassured, he seemed to be able to sense what was bothering the old woman., "Chris won't let her," he added.
+ + + + + + +
"Cute kid," Vin smiled as JD eased the sleeping girl onto the couch, then covered her up with the blanket that normally lay on the back of it.
"Yeah," JD's voice was soft, but hoarse.
"I'll stay with her, why don't ya' head up to bed..it's nearly 2," Vin offered, his hand on JD's back.
"Naw..I'd rather stay here, if it's okay," JD shook his head, not taking his gaze from the tear-stained little cheeks.
"That'll be fine," Chris said as he made his way to the two standing near the couch, "You okay?" he asked, knowing how mentally and emotionally draining dealing with a grieving child could be.
"Yeah," JD said quietly, moving to the end of the couch, curling up and resting his head on the back, never taking his eyes from the little girl.
Chris sighed, "What do you have for school in the morning? Any reports due?"
"Yeah, but I got it done a few days ago. It's up on my desk," JD said, "The stuff I brought home isn't due for a few more days," he said, curling tighter into a ball.
"I'll see if Ezra can drop it off for you on his way to file the paperwork," Chris said, knowing that JD wouldn't be in any shape for school in 5 hours; he doubted the boy would sleep much at all tonight.
JD didn't even acknowledge the offer, his focus was on the sleeping girl. Chris put his hand out to JD, resting it on his head.
"She'll be okay JD," he soothed, looking towards the little girl. "Her father will be here in the morning to get her," he added, hoping that it would ease JD's mind that she wouldn't be placed into a foster home.
"Don't think he heard that," Vin smiled, nodding to JD, eyes closed and breathing easy.
"Surprised he lasted this long," Chris smiled, grabbing another blanket from a chair, and covered him up.
Chris informed Vin that Mary was gone and they headed for the kitchen.
An hour later they were alerted as a shrill scream broke through the silence, six men raced into the living room. What they saw broke their hearts.
JD was cradling the young girl, holding her close and firm, rocking back and forth softly saying, I'm right here' over and over. She was sobbing, trying desperately to catch her breath between the heavy sobs.
"What happened?" Chris asked quietly as he knelt next to the couch.
"I fell asleep..I think she woke up and got scared..she was on top of me..ya know..tuggin on my sleeve..tellin me to wake up, I heard her..but ..." JD looked away.
"I was real tired I guess..I tried to open my eyes..but..I think I scared her ya' know..then she screamed..and I finally woke up," JD said softly, trying to hold back his own tears for causing the girl more distress.
"It's okay JD," Chris said, cupping his hand on the back of JD's neck.
"Mrs. Travis was right," JD said. "One of you guys should be taking care of her." Chris sent a look to the others.
"If you heard what Mary said, then you heard what we said. The person that can help her the best already is," Chris said, stating fact.
"JD?" came a soft voice.
"Right here," JD said as the girl pulled herself back from the embrace.
"You woke up," she said, a small smile tugging at the corners of her mouth.
"Yup, sorry it took me so long..didn't mean to scare you," he apologized.
"I fought.." she whispered.
"I know, but not everyone who falls asleep dies. You fell asleep..right?" JD asked, wiping way the tears that still fell from the girl's cheeks.
There was a long silence, Domonique's answer caught all the men off guard.
"I smelled my mommy..that's why I woke up. I thought I was gowing to frow up," she said, again grabbing tight around JD's neck, her chin resting on his shoulder.
"Were you dreaming about your mommy?" JD asked, the men a bit shocked by the question. Buck was about to intervene, but Josiah's gentle grasp on his arm told him to let them be. JD knew what he was doing.
"Uh-huh," she said as she nodded into his shoulder.
"Wanna tell me about it?" he asked, rubbing her back to comfort her.
"We was having a picnic..at the park..she was pushing me on the swing..then we picked some fwowers..then..then she was sweepin..and she wouldn't wake up..the fwowers that we brought home didn't smewl good anymore..it was just me and Mommy..I got a wash cwof to give her a baf..cause Mommy always made me take a baf when I was stinky..but it didn't help..that's when Miss Lewis called and I talked to her..she said to not hang up the phone but she had to call someone to come help..Miss Lewis was reawy nice, she read me stories until the powicemen got there, she told me it was okay to let them in..so I did..I fink they could smell Mommy too, cause they covered their mouf's..the amuwance men came an' took Mommy..One of the powicemen hewped me get some clothes..Mommy wasn't on the couch anymore..but I could still smewl her," Domonique recounted her dream, reliving the nightmare that brought her to the ranch.
"What kind of flowers did you pick at the park?" JD asked. Buck seemed to relax in Josiah's grasp, understanding what JD was trying to do. The others that watched couldn't hide their smiles at the ploy.
"Wiwacs..the purple kind," she said.
"Can you still smell them?"
"Did your mommy like lilacs?"
"They were her favwite fwower," she said, hanging her head.
"You know what I do when I think about my mom?" JD said, gently lifting the girl's chin with his hand.
She shook her head.
"I remember the lavender perfume she used to wear...try thinking of your mommy and the lilacs you picked, can you remember how they smell?" JD asked, seeing Domonique breathe deep and close her eyes.
"I won't forget what the wiwacs smell like," Domonique assured.
"Then you won't ever forget your mommy," JD smiled as he stroked her cheek, pushing back the long blonde curls from her face. Her eyes became heavy and closed. She relaxed more and more until JD was confident she had once again fallen into a deep sleep.
He placed her back to where she had been on the couch before, covering her up before returning to his spot at the other end of the couch.
"Like I said," Chris said quietly as he covered up his son, "The person that can help her the best already is".
JD smiled at the reassurance in his father's words, then rested his head back onto the couch back. His eyes, unable to fight the heaviness, closed, and soon he was asleep as well..the smell of lavender seeping through his subconscious. Chris smiled as he saw a warm smile cross his son's face, then looked at the sleeping child and his heart eased, seeing a familiar content smile etched on her young features.
"She's gonna be fine," he said as he walked to the men. Nods and smiles let Chris know that they all agreed.
+ + + + + + +
Morning came too soon to the house that hadn't slept. JD had woken up and looking towards the windows, he saw the daylight creep through; he turned and saw Domonique still sleeping, and Vin sitting in the chair they had occupied earlier.
"She ain't woke up yet," Vin smiled, letting JD know that he hadn't failed to wake up again.
"Everybody up or they all asleep?"
"We been taking shifts, but none of us have slept," Vin gave JD a lopsided grin.
"Hey..can you take me out to stream?" JD asked.
"Right now?" JD nodded.
"Right now what?" Chris asked, hearing voices as he entered the living room from the den.
"I want to go out to the stream," JD explained.
"Stay here with her," Chris instructed Vin. "Come on," he waved to JD. He had an idea why his son wanted to go to the stream.
+ + + + + + +
Chris stopped the beat-up jeep near the stream and they both jumped out. They went to the back and grabbed the tools they'd brought with them.
Chris smiled proudly as JD broke the earth with the shovel. No wonder I adopted you, you got Sarah's heart and Adam's spirit, I gotta be the luckiest son of bitch... Chris beamed as he joined his son, digging at the earth.
Chris began to think silently with each pitch of the shovel.MY son. I thought that word had gone with Adam, but there he is...standing beside me. I'm someone's father again. Dad', JD had said it so easily. He hadn't called me that after the adoption, never expected him to really. It just happened. I had thought of him calling me dad, and in my head it sounded strange, unfamiliar; but in his room that night, talking about his mother and how he'd forgotten it was her birthday. Thanks' he said, then added Dad' before I left. It sounded right, not awkward like I'd thought. Maybe it was because I wasn't the one saying it..my son was.
Twenty minutes later, the two had loaded their tools and the prize they'd come for.
"Thanks," JD said.
"No need to thank me, JD. I think it's a nice thing you're doing," Chris smiled, squeezing JD's shoulder.
"Just wish it didn't have to be done at all," JD said sadly, his tired mind, body and eyes not able to control a tear or two from spilling.
"I know," Chris nodded; putting the Jeep into gear, they headed home.
"This sucks," JD stated, looking away so that Chris wouldn't see the tears that began to fall freely.
The hand that squeezed the back of JD's neck was one of comfort, support. Chris knew all too well how difficult it was dealing with someone who's parent had died, it's taken all of Chris's strength dealing with JD, the guilt of not letting the kid call home, talking him into believing that he was homesick..or that the time difference was the reason no one had answered when JD'd called back East.
Chris got the feeling that the trip out to the stream and digging up a small part of a lilac bush was just as much for JD as it was for Domonique. Granted, the emotions weren't as raw for JD as they had been, but they were still there, always lurking just beneath the surface.
Chris also saw guilt in those hazel eyes, guilt that maybe JD was somewhat jealous of Domonique. She had been with her mother when she'd died; there would be a proper funeral, not a makeshift memorial service. Domonique would have all the comfort of a father and step-siblings that she knew, and loved.
JD hadn't had any of that; no last days with his mother, no funeral, nothing but chaos for days, and kind words from people he'd only known for barely a month.
JD had survived...and Domonique would survive as well, Chris couldn't be prouder of his son. He had been the life-line to a little girl, able to make some sense of something that made no sense at all. Being a comfort to a frightened 6 year old, a comfort that 6 adult men couldn't be. He knew the emotions would still be there after Domonique left, and they would deal with the impending mood swings JD no doubt would go through. They would deal with them as a family; just as they had done 6 long months ago.
Comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org