Help me!!! Oh, God . . . Somebody help me!! Am I dead? Is this what dead is?
JD Dunne tried to open his mouth to scream but the fire on his lips and in his throat wouldn't let him--a fire that was burning all the way into his belly.
He was in hell. He was burning in hell.
Oh God, what have I done? What did I do wrong? Please, I'm sorry . . .
JD's unseeing eyes bespoke abject terror, and the boy began to tremble.
"JD--calm down. It's Buck. You're all right. Just stay calm . . ."
Buck kept talking while he watched JD's lip twitch with the effort to . . . was he trying to talk?
"JD, you can't talk yet. You've got a breathing tube in your throat."
Could JD even hear him? "Don't fight it. You're all right, son." Buck squeezed his friend's arm. "I'll get the doctor."
Buck stood up to go, but when he released the boy, JD began to jerk.
"Easy, kid." Buck returned his hand and JD settled down--well, slightly. "I ain't leaving you, son."
Maybe JD couldn't see him, or even hear him, but clearly he felt him.
Buck reached up with his other hand and tried to find a place on the boy's face that wasn't hurt. The seasoned agent had to swallow a lump in his throat as he again encountered the extent of his partner's trauma. Finally, Buck touched JD's temple above the broken cheekbone and he let his fingers slide slowly back into the boy's hair. He repeated the action very gently, tenderly, until the boy quit trembling. He watched as the boy slowly came back to him--watching as wide terrified eyes searched his. The terror changed to bewilderment, and as it did, Buck knew he was connecting with his partner.
"Hang on, JD. You gotta trust me. I know you want to talk. I know you're . . ." Buck choked on his own words. "I know you're scared." Buck's voice lowered to a whisper. "I know you hurt, boy."
The bewilderment in JD's eyes turned to . . . pain. "I know, JD. I know. I know those bastards hurt you."
JD's expression didn't change again, but tears welled in his eyes and spilled onto his bruised and bandaged cheeks.
"I know, JD." Buck's own eyes stung. "But you'll get through it. I promise you, son."
Black lashes fluttered for a moment and JD squeezed his eyes closed. When he opened them again, his brows knit for a moment, and JD tried to . . . ask something? To communicate something? He started getting agitated again.
"No, son. You need to settle down now."
Buck thought he heard JD try to speak, but it was more of a scraping sound.
"You can't talk yet. Don't try to talk." Buck slid his hand further into JD's hair, until he was nearly cupping his head. It seemed to calm him again. "That's right. Easy now."
For a moment, JD looked defeated. He looked away from Buck, then he closed his eyes again. He seemed to be in pain.
"Let me go get the doctor, JD. He needs to know you're awake."
JD's eyes shot open and, ever so slightly, he shook his head, no.
Buck bit his lip. "You've gotta let me help you. Please."
No, JD shook his head.
"Yes," Buck countered.
More tears. Eyes again diverted.
Finally, Buck leaned closer. "JD . . ." Buck lowered his voice. "Look at me, boy."
JD slowly drew his eyes back to Buck's and Buck asked, "Do you trust me?"
A sob shook JD and Buck wished he could hold him, without hurting him, but words would have to do. JD looked at him for a moment and nodded.
Buck spoke with certainty. "I'm gonna take care of you. Those bastards can't hurt you now."
JD shook his head in frustration.
"What is it?" Buck almost whispered and JD looked at him intently through tear-glazed eyes.
JD finally nodded toward Buck.
Oh, God love the kid. Suddenly Buck knew, and he smiled sadly. "I'm alright, JD."
JD looked toward the door then back at Buck.
Buck answered. "Everybody's gonna be ok. Chris, Vin, Josiah, Nathan--they're all here. Nathan took a hit, but he's all right."
JD's penetrating look begged one more answer.
Buck continued. "Ezra's ok. He took off to follow a lead."
Concern clouded the boy's face and he tried to communicate his . . . disapproval? Fear? Buck understood.
"I know. . . a damn fool stunt, but he must have a great lead."
Buck watched his friend closely. There were still more tears rolling down his face. JD was in physical pain, but the tears were for the ordeal . . . the frustration . . . the fear . . .
"You said you trusted me," Buck said very softly, and again, JD nodded slightly. "Then you've gotta believe me now, son. It's gonna be all right. We're all gonna be all right."
JD's eyes seemed to search Buck's for a moment, then slowly his lids drooped and he drifted off . . . back to sleep.
Buck watched him for another moment, then disentangled his hand from the boy's hair. Sweet kid. He trusted Buck . . . and now, God help them all, Buck would have to make good on his pomise. Gradually, Buck released the pressure on his friend's arm and stood up to go get the doctor.