Vin opened the door, greeting Mrs. Travis, a man, woman, and two children. He stepped aside, motioning for the Marshalls to enter.
"Chris and the fellas are in the living room," Vin smiled, "Mrs. Potter will be in with coffee and juice," he added.
"Thank you," the man nodded, following Mary into the room, then came the woman and two boys with Vin bringing up the rear.
Marshall sat on the couch with his family, looking around the roomful of men, noticing that his daughter wasn't there.
"Where's Domonique?" the man asked.
"She's in the den with my son," Chris smiled. Mary cocked her head, all the men were here except for JD, she thought she had made it clear they were not to be left alone, Mary's small glare let Chris know that she wasn't happy.
"I'll tell them you're here," Buck offered quickly, affected by the cold stare, and wanting to escape the tense air.
"I can't thank you enough for being here, when I talked to Dom this morning she sounded pretty good, I've made preparations for her to see a counselor who specializes with grief management," the man said.
"That's a wise thing to do, Mr. Marshall," Josiah nodded his approval.
+ + + + + + +
Buck entered the den where JD was holding a book, and Domonique was doing her best to read it to him.
"JD," Buck interrupted, JD looked up from where he sat, "It's time," he smiled. JD nodded then turned to Domonique.
"Your Dad's here to get you," JD smiled.
"Did he bring Mommy Julie and my sort-of-brothers?" she asked, JD looked to Buck who nodded.
"Yup, you ready?" JD asked, a lift in his voice assuring her that everything was okay.
"I gotta ask you somefin' ," she said seriously, JD looked over to Buck again.
"You got 5 minutes kiddo," Buck smiled, then closed the door and waited.
"What did you want to talk to me about?" JD asked after the door shut.
"Why is your last name Dunne..and not like your Dad's?" They had formally introduced themselves over breakfast. She thought it was funny that JD didn't have the same last name as his father. She did and her mommy did.
"Well...that's cause I'm adopted," JD answered.
"Am I gonna have to be dopted?" she asked, obviously not getting the idea.
"No.. cause your dad is your real dad," JD explained.
"Did your real dad die too?"
"That's a hard question to answer, Dom," JD said, shifting in his seat uncomfortably.
"Why? Don't you know who your daddy is?"
"Ah.." JD seemed to laugh out the stall, feeling extremely uncomfortable, wishing that Buck would burst through the door and save him. "I never met my father."
"That's kinda sad," she whispered.
"Yeah, I guess it is..but you know what?"
"If I knew who my father was..I wouldn't have ever met Chris..or you," he smiled warmly.
"I guess..but..don't ya' wanna know?"
"I read some where once that, Anybody can be a father..it takes someone special to be a Dad," JD smiled, "And you know what?"
"What?" the little girl asked.
"Chris is my Dad," JD said proudly. Domonique nodded, then a smile crossed her face as she grasped the meaning of what he'd said.
"Just like Carson and Jake are my brofers..they're Mommy Julie's sons, but they're my brofers," she smiled.
"Cause you love them," JD nodded.
"Yup, just like you love your Dad," Domonique grinned.
The door opened, "We gotta go..they're gonna send the National Guard to look for the 3 of us," Buck smiled.
"Okay..let's go get you to your family," JD smiled. JD stood, letting Domonique slide from his lap gently; he extended his hand for her to take, his other hand grabbing the potted lilac bush he had given to her earlier, then the two followed Buck to the living room.
+ + + + + + +
JD walked into the living room with Domonique beside him. The minute she saw her father and step mother, she released his hand and ran to her father who waited on bended knee..arms opened wide until Domonique wrapped her arms around his neck. The big arms held his little girl tight.
JD stood where Domonique had left him, watching as the new family crowded around; a woman's hand softly caressing the blonde hair, the older boys patting her back. He heard people talking, recognized the voices of the men of the house and Mrs. Travis, he could hear Domonique and her family, but what was being said he didn't know.
His eyes burned at the word funeral', he placed the bush on the small lamp table and turned to leave the room.
"Where's JD?" Domonique asked, feeling comfortable enough not to be held, but held her father's hand for reassurance that he wasn't going to leave her either.
"Who?" Mr. Marshall asked, wiping stray tears from his face.
"JD..he's Mr. Larwabee's son," Domonique explained.
Chris could hear a door shut upstairs, not harshly, but the house was hardly sound-proof.
"He's in his room darlin'," Buck smiled, also hearing the door shut.
"Is he sad again?" Domonique questioned. Buck smiled. JD and her could be siblings for the way they care about others before themselves, he thought.
"I reckon he is," Vin said softly.
"Daddy..did you bring what I asked for?" Domonique turned to her father.
He nodded, still not understanding why'd she requested the items he took from his pocket. He had called earlier that morning, as soon as they had checked into a hotel, just to see if he needed to bring clothes and ask how his daughter was faring.
"Can you give this to JD for me?" Dom asked Chris, giving one of the items back to her father.
Chris looked to Mr. Marshall.
"Dom, why don't you give it to him, I still need to talk to Mr. Larabee," Mr. Marshall offered. There was obviously some connection those two had and he suspected that this JD' had helped his daughter deal with what had happened.
Dom smiled and ran out of the living room, the sound of her little sneakers hitting every step echoed through the house.
"Mrs. Travis..I have to tell you..when you said that Dom was here, and that there were only men, I wasn't sure if they would be able to help her through this. No offense.." Mr. Marshall added.
"None taken," Chris shook his head.
"Well..I'm happy to say I was wrong..I can't thank you enough for everything you've done for her. I think your son was a lot like Dom at her age," he smiled warmly.
"Probably was," Chris nodded.
"Probably'?You don't know?" Mr. Marshall asked, sounding confused.
"JD isn't Chris' birth son, Mr. Marshall," Mary offered an explanation.
Chris sent the woman a hard glare, why couldn't she just say he'd adopted the boy? Why.. he's not his birth son'?It sounded ..cold.
"I adopted JD about 4 months ago," Chris said evenly, still a bit aggravated at Mary.
"You see, Mr. Larabee runs a camp in the summer; inner-city and underprivileged children come here, JD was one of them," Mary offered.
"No offense Mrs. Travis..but..I wasn't looking for an explanation. I just assumed...I adopted Carson and Jake soon after Julie and I were married; best thing I ever did. They might not be my birth sons' but they are my boys," Mr. Marshall said proudly, as a father should.
Chris's hand seemed to go to an invisible hat that he tipped to Mr. Marshall, the smug smile he hid was just itching to come out.
"I take it that your son connected with Domonique because he understands what she's going through?" Mrs. Marshall said more than asked.
"He looked pretty sad to see us," Carson stated. He'd seen the way JD looked before he left and he didn't even say hi.
"He weren't sad to see ya' son," Buck smiled as he walked over to where the boys stood, he knelt in front of them, hoping they would understand what he was trying to say.
"He's sad, cause..well..he's sad cause he didn't get a chance to do something that your sister is gonna be able to do," Buck said, tilting his head.
"What's that?" Jake asked.
"Say good-bye to his mother," Vin said quietly.
+ + + + + + +
JD stood next to the window, staring out at the landscape but seeing nothing. Seems I'm doing this more and more. He thought to himself, wondering if losing himself with old memories after this amount of time was healthy.
He heard a soft knock on his door, he turned thinking maybe he had imagined it. The knock came again; certain that he really didn't want to talk about it' he stayed where he was.
"JD?..you in there?"
JD furrowed his brow pushing himself from the window and quickly made his way across the room and opened the door.
"Dom? Something wrong?" he asked, urgency in his voice.
"No..I just..I wanted to give you fis..so you won't forget," she smiled, holding out the small heart-shaped potpourri-filled cloth.
JD took the sachet and the smell hit him instantly.
"Lavender," he smiled, batting back tears at the gift. "Thanks Dom," his voice quivered.
"Don't cry, it's supposed to make you happy, like the lilacs did for me," Domonique said worriedly. JD knelt in front of the girl.
"I am," JD smiled, giving the girl a small hug. He sniffed and wiped the tears from his face and quickly stood.
"Come back down..please?"
"Please?" The blue eyes worked their magic.
"Okay," JD smiled, following the little girl who was nearly dragging him towards the stairs.
"Everyone's outside.. Here ya go sweetie..for your trip," Mrs. Potter smiled, handing the girl a bag full of cookies.
"Thanks Mrs. Potter," she smiled.
The two joined the group on the porch.
"This must be JD," Mr. Marshall asked, extending his hand.
"Yes sir," JD replied quietly, shaking the man's hand.
"Thank you for watching over her, and helping her. Your father told me she might still be sitting in the car if it wasn't for you," Marshall acknowledged and credited the teen.
"Glad I could help," JD said, feeling suddenly shy.
"Oh..my wiwacs!" Domonique cried out.
"Let me," Josiah smiled as he touched JD's shoulder, and went back in the house.
"Lilacs..they were Jill's favorite," Mr. Marshall said softly.
"JD got them for me Daddy, can I put them with her?" the little girl asked, breaking the embrace when heard footsteps come onto the porch; carefully taking the plastic pot from Josiah.
"She'd like that," Marshall smiled. He turned back to JD.
"Thank you," he said again, amazed at the young man.
"It was nothing," JD shook his head.
Mr. Marshall suddenly remembered what was said in the living room.
"JD..would.. if it was okay with your father," Marshall sighed and took a deep breath, "We'd like you to come to the funeral."
"Not sure that'd be proper Mr. Marshall, I mean..I didn't even know her mother," JD said shyly.
"I know, 1 o'clock tomorrow at St. Michael's. For Dom," Marshall said. Finding his daughter's hand, he led his family down the stairs and put them into the car. Five minutes later, the dust cleared and the car was gone.
"I uhm..I have to go," Mary sighed, feeling extremely uncomfortable all of a sudden. She quickly found her car and left as well.
"You okay?" Vin asked JD, who was now sitting with one leg up on the railing, looking down at the shrubbery that lined the porch. JD nodded, but didn't verbally respond.
"She'll be fine son," Chris reassured, thinking maybe that was the reason for the mood.
"I know," JD responded.
"Even if she didn't have family, she wouldn't be staying," Chris tried again.
"I know that too!" he spat out, quickly jumping over the railing.
"Dammit..now what his problem?" Chris said under his breath, hating himself instantly for not only thinking it, but saying it.
"Easy cowboy," Vin offered, knowing that Chris was just frustrated.
"Boy just had a whole lot of feelins dredged up, Chris. Give him some time to be alone," Buck said putting his hand on Chris's shoulder as they watched JD enter the barn.
"I know," Chris said.
+ + + + + + +
Chris waited at the table in the kitchen. One thing these men had learned about JD was to give him time to cool off, think things over, and be there to help him sort out his thoughts.
An hour had gone by and Chris was sure that the barn had run out of things to be cleaned. As if on cue he heard the door shut softly, and JD entered the kitchen. Hands in his pocket and shoulders slumped, Chris thought he looked like a sad puppy who'd been beaten, not knowing what it was that he'd done wrong.
"Sorry..again," JD sighed.
"You get things figured out?" Chris asked.
"No..everything's just jumbled," JD said as he sank into a chair across the table from Chris.
Chris remained silent, waiting.
"I.. I think that something might be wrong with me.." JD said seriously.
"Why do you think that?" Chris asked, a hint of worry in his voice.
"Every time I turn around..I start thinking about my Mom..can you believe I was actually..like..jealous of the fact that Dom gets to go to a funeral? I mean..it sounded like she gets to go see an awesome concert and I'm stuck at home..isn't that stupid? Who WANTS to go to a funeral?" he asked his father, hearing it out loud only convinced him that he'd gone insane or something.
"You feel cheated, JD. Nothing wrong with feeling that way. You feel cheated that your mom died, you feel cheated because you weren't there..you feel cheated because there wasn't any funeral. JD..I feel cheated at the people who get to put a body in the ground at a funeral," Chris stated.
"As morbid as that sounds, that's the way I feel, I don't say it..but I think it..and most likely you'll feel that way for a long time," Chris said.
"I still think about her a lot..is that normal?" JD asked, still not convinced he wasn't going nuts.
"Nothing about grief is normal JD. We all do it in a different way, and in our own time," Chris smiled.
"I guess," JD nodded.
"JD," Chris said evenly, his voice serious, "If you feel that strongly that something's wrong with you because of the feelings your having..maybe you should talk to someone."
"I am," JD answered.
"I mean a professional..a grief counselor maybe," Chris said.
"This isn't about me, this is about you and what's right for you," Chris smiled.
JD just nodded, not wanting to commit to anything..If Chris didn't do this grief counselling thing, then he didn't need to go either..Chris turned out just fine.. I just need more time. he decided.
Just how much more time? How long is it going to take so that missing mom isn't the first thing I think of when I wake up, or the last thing I think about when I go to bed? JD sighed, as he felt a reassuring squeeze on his shoulder.
"Hey Dad?" JD asked before Chris left the room
"Would you take me? To the funeral?"
"Sure," Chris said, he turned and continued out of the kitchen. A small smile came across his face as he thought. Time to get some of that closure Josiah's always talking about..it's not complete closure..maybe more like a door that can shut a little at a time
+ + + + + + +
JD and Chris stood a short distance from the group of mourners by the gravesite. JD had foregone the funeral itself, he had been ready to go, but was afraid of making a fool of himself if he started crying or something. He made up some excuse about not having the right shirt and the one he wanted to wear wasn't dry.
Chris knew it was an excuse, but humored JD just the same and waited patiently for the shirt to dry. Chris never made a comment, when they'd left for the cemetery, that JD still had on the same shirt that he deemed unacceptable.
Chris nodded as he saw Mr. Marshall, his wife and the top of the boys' heads, knowing Dom was there, but covered by the mourners surrounding the grave. Marshall smiled and nodded, seeing the two men standing at a distance.
JD walked with his head hanging, his hands in his pockets. He looked up to see the people gathered, opting to stop at a large tree. Chris didn't push his son to get closer, giving JD control.
Soon the service was ending in a prayer, and JD could hear the hum of the hydraulic winch lowering the casket into the space that had been provided.
"Wait..wait!" Dom squealed, the humming of the winch stopped.
It took all of JD's strength to choke back the tears at the little girl's anguished cries. He finally looked away and was about to step away when a hand on his chest stopped him.
"Look," Chris said.
JD turned his head. He saw a little girl, blonde hair streaming behind her, running towards them. He turned the rest of his body just as Domonique stopped.
"Come here," Domonique grabbed the young man's hand and began to pull. JD didn't cooperate like he had last time and he remained still.
"Dom..no..I can't," JD said softly, his eyes casting a look to the crowd of people who were staring, some wiping their eyes at newly running tears.
"Yes, you have to," she ordered, pulling harder.
"I can't," JD said sternly, quiet enough that the people wouldn't hear.
"If I can..so can you," Dom said.
"Dom, people are staring at us!" JD pleaded.
"They won't if you just come with me," Dom stood firm, hardly the weak little girl he'd seen two nights ago.
"Fine..just stop tugging on my arm," he sighed, defeated.
JD was thankful as people started to pass him and Domonique, they'd obviously given their condolences and were filtering out of the cemetery. He sent a cautious look back, glad to see his father wasn't very far behind him, making his way slowly to the grave.
JD was finally allowed to stop. He gave Mr. Marshall a nod of greeting. He noticed Mrs. Marshall sent him a warm, sad smile as she squeezed her husband's shoulder and escorted the boys away.
"Glad you made it JD," Mr. Marshall said as he passed JD, who nodded and shrugged one shoulder.
"Dom..I think I better go," JD said anxiously. He could feel sadness begin to creep up inside him, and the last thing he wanted was to lose it totally in front of a little girl who seemed to be in complete control of her emotions. His mother had been dead for a long time compared to Dom's mother, yet she was totally cool; JD swore she was even smiling.
"Look..it's for your mommy," Dom said pointing to the casket.
JD looked at the casket. On top was a large arrangement of flowers that draped down both sides, on top was a small bunch of purple lilacs tied together with a pink ribbon. On the end of the ribbon was a card, hand written by a child.
For my mommy. Love Domonique'
Above the lilacs was a heart-shaped potpourri pouch surrounded by white lace, it too held a note, written by a 6 year old girl.
For JD's mommy, he misses you lots. Love Domonique'
JD sniffed loudly, trying to gain some form of control.
"I wanted to her to give your Mommy something when she sees her, but I couldn't find anything that smelled JD," Dom smiled. Her smile grew at the sound of the chuckle that escaped the teen's lips.
"Guess Jake didn't want to part with his dirty socks, huh?" JD choked out, partly due to the emotion, partly because he was still laughing.
"Naw," Dom said, turning around, taking JD with her, "You smell more like horses..you must spend a lot of time in that barn," Dom said as she walked them over to meet their respective fathers.
"Yeah, but I don't think I'll be out there much anymore," JD smiled, looking at Chris as he said it.
+ + + + + + +
JD sat on the porch, admiring the stars and the clear sky. He heard the door open behind him, then shut softly. Heard the heavy footsteps stop beside him, before continuing down the first step, then the second. He turned his head and smiled as Chris sat somewhat in front of him, but still beside him.
"How you doing?" Chris asked after taking a deep breath of the fresh air.
"I'm good," JD nodded, surprised that he honestly felt that way.
"Hope you don't mind, Mr. Marshall asked if would be okay if Dom could write to you..or call when she was feeling a little down," Chris said.
"That allowed?" JD asked.
"Nope, but you're just helping out a friend..right?" Chris smiled.
"Ezra and his loopholes," JD smiled, shaking his head.
"Given any thought about what we talked about before?" Chris asked, referring to the counselor.
"Yeah, a little. I'm okay, just didn't think it would hurt so much still," JD said.
"I'm not going to lie to you son. It's always going to hurt..you just learn to live with it. It becomes part of you..just like walking and breathing. Some people learn to live with it a lot sooner than others..and everyone deals with it in different ways. I'd be more worried about you if it didn't hurt," Chris comforted.
"One of those you control it , don't let it control you things," JD stated.
"No..if you try and control it..it WILL control you..trust me on this..I've been there, living with it and dealing with it is a hell of lot easier and a whole lot less destructive," Chris said with a chuckle, not down playing the importance of what he was trying to convey.
"You understand?" Chris asked, looking into the contemplative face of his son.
"Yeah.. I get it,"JD nodded as the words filtered through his head, finally something began making sense.
"Yeah, yeah I do," he smiled.
"Good..now get inside. It's getting late and you have school in the morning," Chris stood up, slapping JD's back as he started back up the stairs.
"I'll be up in a bit," JD said, his head turned as Chris walked up the stairs.
"5 minutes son," JD nodded then looked back out over the dark features of the land.
He rested his chin on the arms that were crossed on top of his knees, and he began to think.
Son. I' have a father..no..I have a dad. Never in a million years would I ever believe that I would have a dad, but I do. I couldn't have been born to a better dad. He's strict, stern, and expects nothing short of a full effort. He's been there for me when facing the hard times..still is. Heck..he'd been the start of the hardest time. He had to tell me mom died. Said a lot of things to him that I didn't mean, but he stood there and took it all. Guess maybe it was because he'd been there already. Then he asked me if he could adopt me. How could I say no? That word never entered my mind. It was funny..the look in his eye's when he asked..that was the first time I found out that he wasn't all gruff. As hard and strict as he can be, he's just as caring and loving. I'm glad he's my dad and I'm glad he chose me to be his son. Josiah said he didn't choose anything, it was meant to be. I could care less either way..I'm just happy I have a home, and a family, and a great dad.
JD closed his eyes as a gentle breeze hit his face as his mind wondered in thought, his warm smile grew as the smell of lavender and lilacs tickled his nose; taking a long, deep breath and inhaling the smells. The comforting fragrances teased him. Thoughts of Chris and the other men left him feeling content for the first time in months. No longer able to fight it, JD slowly and quietly fell asleep.
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III. Land of the Living