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.
How did I get myself into this??? Buck's the one that's good at this comfort crap...not me.
I sit, trying to remember just what day it was that I'd sent Wilmington to Vail.
Four Days Ago
"Boy howdy...ski bunnies...fireplaces...and hot chocolate. Hot damn, Chris...I'm your man!!"
"Remember, Buck...you do have to actually attend the conference."
"Sure, pard...I'll fit it in...somehow..."
+ + + + + + +
When was that??? Three???...no, four days ago.
I find my mind unable to focus on anything, other than the form that is lying in front of me.
The form that is lying much too still.
My head is pounding and my mind begins to wander again. I promise myself that I'm never going to let any of my agents out of my sight - ever again.
Every time I do, nothing good comes of it.
This time - was no exception.
+ + + + + + +
The nurse walks into the room, checking on her patient. She smiles at the deceivingly serene face, then at me, and turns to leave.
She is almost out of the room before I'm able to find my voice. "How long?"
"Doctor says two hours...no more." and she closes the door behind her.
+ + + + + + +
I feel my bones aching as I push myself up from the chair and walk out into the lounge for just a moment. I'd give my right arm about now for some caffeine.
The rest of my team immediately bombards me.
I can tell by the look in Nathan Jackson's eyes that he is almost afraid to ask. "Any change?"
"Nope," I pass along the information the nurse has just given me. "Doctor says two hours...no more."
"Shit!" Vin Tanner crushes the styrofoam coffee cup in his hand and flings it into the wastebasket. "What a time for his cellphone to shoot craps!"
"Any word yet?" I am praying for good news, but don't really expect any.
"No." Ezra Standish nervously tucks his notepad into his suit pocket. "State Police have an APB out...but so far, no luck."
Josiah Sanchez - God bless the man - knows I'm scared and places his firm, but gentle, hand on my shoulder. "We'll find him, Chris...don't worry."
"I just hope it's in time, Josiah." I turn to head back to the room. "Doctor says...two hours...no more...then he's gotta go in...with...or without Buck."
+ + + + + + +
I never hear Tanner enter the room, or walk up behind me. I jump as he says "Ain't gonna go good...without Buck..."
"Just 'cause you lived with Indians...mean you gotta sneak around...everywhere 'ya go?" I snap.
"No...I'm sorry," I apologize. "Just a little...stressed...I guess."
"Guess you got a right to be, pard."
Tanner knows I'm just about at the end of my rope. I've been dealing with the kid, non-stop, since we got here.
And dealing with the kid sure isn't my specialty.
That's Buck's job.
Buck's got an unbelievable way with the kid.
I've known Buck for what seems like nearly all my life and he's always had a way with women and strays.
But I've never seen the man consumed with either the way he is with JD Dunne. JD is damn near Buck's whole world and the boy knows it, too. The kid can play the man like a drum.
So - why am I here instead of that twenty-four-hour-a-day mother hen???
Where the hell are you, Buck???
"...Buck...???" the boy cries out and I am again at his side immediately. Just as I've been all day.
Suddenly I realize I am so bone tired because, in actuality, I've been dealing with JD for three days now.
In one of my self-proclaimed acts of wisdom, I'd persuaded JD to stay at the ranch with me while Buck was out of town.
Seemed like a great idea.
At the time.
But now - looking at the kid - I was kicking myself for my choice.
Sure the kid was lonely at the CDC by himself - and sure the kid was pouting around with those puppy-dog eyes of his - but at least he wasn't...
...what were some of the terms the doctor had used???
time is of the essence
...and the one that sent the lump in my throat plunging into the pit of my stomach...
the boy may die
Ever since we arrived here, JD has been ripping my heart out...
...one pain-filled cry at a time.
...and the fact that I saw the kid go down, doesn't help my state of mind either.
I'm holding the boy's hand. I'm whispering so softly that I'm not really sure if I'm talking to JD or just to myself. "Never shoulda let them deliver that horse while you were there, kid."
My focus is on the boy and I'd nearly forgotten Vin was in the room until I hear him say..."Not your fault, Chris."
Doesn't he understand? This is JD we're talking about. Someone has to be responsible for him. He's only twenty - for Christ's sake. And if Buck's not around, that job invariably falls to me.
"Who's is it, then?"
"Everything don't have to be someone's fault, Chris."
I shake my head. It's my fault...and I know it.
"'Sides..." Tanner continues. "If it's gotta be somebody's fault...I'd say JD's gotta take the blame for this one."
I shoot one of my famous 'Larabee glares' at Tanner.
How can he say that???
"Don't you think he's paid enough?"
"Chris...you told 'im...you told 'im to leave the stallion alone."
I shake my head again. "I shoulda known it'd be too much temptation for the kid."
"He shoulda listened to 'ya."
I ignore Tanner.
I ignore him because..."You didn't see it, Vin."
Tanner pulls a chair up next to mine. "I know."
No - that's just it.
Tanner didn't know.
Tanner hadn't been there when the boy had gone into the corral.
Hadn't been there when the boy approached the horse.
Hadn't been there when the horse reared up violently and struck the boy in the head and then trampled him.
But I had.
I had just come out of the house.
Just in time to see the horrific scene play itself out in front of me.
And that scene, playing over and over again in my head, is what sends me racing for the bathroom again.
Tanner follows me and leans against the door. "He'll be OK, Chris."
"...and if he's not???" I turn to face him. "...and if Buck's not here in time...???"
Tanner knows as well as I do - if Buck doesn't make it before the kid goes into surgery - we'll lose them both.
We'll lose JD because he won't have the strength to fight his way through the surgery without his big brother there to tell him he's going to be all right.
And we'll lose Buck because he won't have the strength to carry on, feeling as if he'd let his little brother down when he needed him the most.
And - who am I kidding???
If the boy dies, I won't be far behind.
One Month Ago
"You sure you wanna pay good money for this horse, mister?"
I turn to JD. He nods.
I was glad to see that I was not the only one that saw the potential in the stallion.
I'd always had a keen eye for horseflesh, but the kid - damn - he put me to shame in that department.
And a way with horses???
I'd seen the boy gentle horses that I, myself, had given up hope on.
Horses that I'd figured would never be of any use at my ranch.
Horses that people told me could never be tamed.
JD would have these horses eating sugar cubes out of his hand in two days.
The even-more-difficult horses - the ones that people told me would have to be shot - took the boy a little longer - maybe three days.
"We'll take 'im," I tell the man.
I turn to the kid and see the gleam in his eyes. "You've got your work cut out for you, son."
The gentleman pulls me aside. "You'd best keep your boy away from this one." he cautions. "He's got a mean streak in 'im 'bout a mile wide."
"Yeah." I nod. I can see that. "But...the boy's got a stubborn streak in him 'bout two miles wide," I smile.
+ + + + + + +
Yeah. Tanner was right.
I'd told JD to stay away from the horse unless I was with him.
The horse was especially aggressive.
Not that I didn't think JD was capable, but the horse was definitely a handful.
But I knew.
I knew what a temptation it would be for the boy.
When they'd called about delivering the horse I should have told them to wait until next week - after JD had gone home.
And - I knew better.
+ + + + + + +
A loud crash sends us racing back into the room.
The boy was crumpled on the floor.
I carefully pull the boy up and lean him against my chest. "JD...son..."
Tanner gently brushes the boy's too-long bangs off his face. "He's burnin' up, Chris."
The nurse comes running in. "What's he doing out of bed?"
Tanner senses my temper about to boil over at the stupidity of the question. He places a calming hand on my shoulder. "Boy fell outta bed." he answers for me, his voice steady.
She stoops next to me. "I'll put him back in bed."
"I've got 'im." I finally trust myself to speak civilly to the woman. The nurse grabs JD's arm.
I clamp my hand on her arm. "I said...I've got him..."
"He needs to be in bed."
"He needs to be...held."
Christ...did I just say that???
Am I really sitting here on the floor, holding JD in my arms, rocking him like a baby???
"He's scared..." I explain. "He got scared because we both stepped into the bathroom...and...he was...alone..."
The nurse looks at me - then at the kid - and notices he seems more calm and relaxed in my arms than he's been all day. She walks to the closet, pulls out a blanket and tucks it gently around the boy.
She points a finger at Tanner. "Make sure he stays wrapped up good."
Chalk up another victory for the kid.
Hospital rules be damned. The nurse was able to see what JD really needed.
+ + + + + + +
"...B-Buck...???" comes the heartbreaking plea again.
"It's Chris, son." I've repeated the words probably a dozen times since we've arrived.
Kid needs you Buck...where the hell are you???
JD stirs in my arms and whimpers from the pain. "...hurts..."
"I know, son."
God, I know.
Tanner shuffles uneasily. Perhaps he's feeling uncomfortable watching the closeness.
"I'll go check...see if there's any word..." he says, leaving me alone with the boy.
Maybe he thinks he's doing us a favor.
Maybe he thinks I'm embarrassed.
Maybe he thinks JD would be embarrassed - if he was coherent enough to feel anything other than pain.
But JD's the type of kid that's never been embarrassed by emotions, or affection, or by the display of either.
And - amazingly - I feel no embarrassment at the situation.
I know that most people think I have a brick wall around me and around my emotions.
But some things are able to penetrate anything.
And JD Dunne is one of those things.
JD had worked his way into my heart not long after he joined the team.
The kid has a knack for touching your heart, grabbing hold and never letting go.
Just ask anyone on my team.
What's JD Dunne to them???
I'm sure - to a man - the answer will be the same.
And whatever the boy needs from us, is what he gets. Be it on-the-job training, advice, support or even the occasional hug, JD always gets what he wants and, more importantly, what he needs.
That's why holding the boy in my arms seems so natural...
My only regret is that I don't have Buck's magic way with the boy. I can still feel JD trembling every so often in my arms.
Kid needs you, Buck.
I cup the boy's face in my hand, turning it upwards to me. His huge hazel eyes that are usually dancing with mischief are now just fever-glazed and distant. He's hot to the touch and yet he feels clammy, too.
Leave it to JD - our little poster boy for medical oddities.
I sit cradling the boy for what seems like forever, when suddenly Nathan sticks his head in the door, his warm smile beaming the good news. "State Police found Buck on the interstate. He's in a chopper...be here in twenty minutes."
I breathe a sigh of relief and rest my chin atop the boy's head. "Big brother's on his way, kid."
"He'll be here, kid...just a few more minutes."
+ + + + + + +
I hear Buck barreling his way into the ER.
The nurse is barely able to push the door open before Buck charges headlong through it.
The big man stops immediately - the fear and pain in his eyes makes me shudder.
"...is...he...???" he finally chokes out. "...he's...???"
"...Buck...???" JD handles the awkward question before I'm able to answer.
The elation and love in the man's blue eyes warms my soul.
I relinquish my hold on our precious little brother and Buck takes my place - doing what he does best.
Taking care of the kid.
My job is done.
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