Rating: PG-13 Language, Violence, disturbing content
Warning: I'm not labeling this as a Deathfic anymore. I really don't think it is one. But, I do want to make sure that you know it has VERY disturbing content - may not be suitable for all readers.
Disclaimer: The Magnificent Seven is owned by Trilogy, Mirish, MGM. No money is being made. This fanfic is purely for entertainment purposes.
Author's Notes: Thanks, as always, to Mog for starting the ATF/AU. This story was inspired by the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Normal Again". I was blown away by this episode, which, I think, is one of the best hours of television ever made. I wanted to see if I could rework the ep into something M7. So all credit for the main idea goes to "Normal Again".
I cannot express enough how disturbing this story is. You've been warned, please read at your own risk. Constructive feedback is welcome, and needed, but flames will not even be given a second thought (I might use them to start a fire to roast marshmallows, though. So thanks for that, at least.) A huge thank you to Heather who read this and let me know what she thought. This is not a documentary, it's a work of fiction. This story has not been beta-ed (that counts for half of the disturbing content in it! LOL!).
Feedback is always greatly appreciated.
Here or There ATF/AU
"Kid?" Buck narrowed his eyes, as he looked JD up and down. "Kid, ya all right?"
JD pursed his lips, swallowing hard the bile that was in his throat. "I'm sorry, Buck." He cast his eyes down, staring intently at the floor.
"Sorry for what?" Buck suddenly grinned. "Oh no, whad'ya do this time, kid?" His grin slipped a little when JD wouldn't look back up and meet his gaze. "Couldn't have been that bad. Right? JD?" He took a few steps closer to his best friend. Reaching out, he was about to lift JD's chin when JD finally looked up at him, his eyes shiny, pain-filled.
Buck ran his hand through his hair. "JD? What's going on? What are you sorry for?" He frowned when he saw a look of intense sorrow cross the young man's face. The sorrow quickly turned to unwavering determination.
"I'm sorry for this," JD answered.
Buck heard the words in the same second that his peripheral vision caught something-shiny coming up fast towards his head. He didn't have time to move or think. Something hard slammed into the side of his head and he fell to his knees.
Dazed, Buck reached slowly up with his left hand and touched the spot above his ear, bringing his hand away and staring at his blood-covered fingers. He blinked twice and then brought his eyes back up to meet his roommates.
JD stood over him, holding his bloody police-issue in his shaking right hand.
"JD?" Buck's breathless voice hissed out.
JD sniffed loudly. "I'm sorry, Buck. God, I am. But it's the only way to get rid of you."
"Get rid of me?" Buck's head was spinning. His vision was starting to waver and he couldn't make much sense out of what JD was telling him.
JD smiled sadly, his voice almost nonexistent. "It was nice while it lasted, Buck." JD brought the weapon up, pointing it at Buck's heart. "But it's time to say goodbye. You're not real."
Buck only had a second to think about the fact that his best friend, his little brother, was about to kill him before the gun fired.
JD watched with little emotion as Buck's body rocked back with the force of the bullet and then lay, unmoving, on the hard floor, a crimson puddle slowly growing around it.
"You're not real. You're not real. You're not real," JD chanted as he stared down at his best friend. A knock on the door caught his attention.
JD quickly tucked the gun in the waistband of his jeans, pulling his shirt down to cover it. He opened the door slightly to find a wide-eyed Mrs. Smilltin, he and Buck's next door neighbor. He stepped out into the hallway, but left the door open a fraction behind him.
"JD? Are you all right?" The kind older woman asked breathlessly.
JD allowed his face to blush as he looked down. "God, I'm sorry, Ma'am. I was cleaning my gun and it went off. But no one was hurt," he was quick to reassure. "Please don't tell anyone," he begged, "I could lose my job over it."
She smiled then, reaching out and pinching his cheek. "Then who would we have to protect us from those criminals out there? Hmmm?" She grinned and turned to go, but suddenly turned back. "I won't tell anyone, but you be more careful in the future." She pointed her finger at him. "You could have really hurt someone."
JD glanced back into his apartment at his roommate's bleeding body that was just out of Mrs. Smilltin's line of site. A viscous leer crossed his face, quickly disappearing before he looked back at her. "You're right."
She gave him a motherly pat on the cheek before walking back down the hall to her own apartment. JD was lucky that only her place and his and Buck's were located on this side of the apartment complex. He hoped no one else heard the gunshot, and if they did, hopefully they mistook it for something else, like a car backfiring. He'd have to be more careful next time.
He gently shut the door and walked over towards the telephone, picking it up and mindlessly dialing a number. When it was picked up on the other end, JD spoke hurriedly into the phone.
"Nate? Can you come over? Buck's had a little accident. No, I don't think it's too serious." A pause, and then he replied, "Sure, bring Josiah with you." JD hung up the phone. Rubbing his hands together, he spoke quietly to himself, "Two birds with one stone."
He knew he'd have to move Buck's body so it wasn't the first thing the two older agents saw when they walked into the apartment.
It took every ounce of JD's strength to pull the heavy body as far as he could, but at least it was out of site from the door. He grabbed the heavy rug from the kitchen and pulled it over to cover the large bloodstain in the carpet.
He knew he couldn't give the two ATF agents enough time to think about the rug being in an odd spot. As soon as they came in the door, he'd have to kill them.
Walking over to the small closet behind the front door, he picked up his old, wooden baseball bat and sat down in a kitchen chair to wait for his two friends.
When JD opened the door to let Josiah and Nate in, he wore a concerned expression on his face. Quietly shutting the door behind the two men, he turned the deadbolt, taking in a couple deep breaths and letting them out slowly.
"They're not real," JD whispered to himself before turning around and slamming the business end of the baseball bat into the back of Josiah's head.
Nathan whirled around, his eyes wide, his mouth open. Josiah was still falling towards the floor, and the ex-EMT tried to catch his best friend. Both men went down, Nate trapped underneath Josiah's large unconscious body. Looking up frantically, he met JD's eyes with his own. "Wha-?" he started to say, but was cut off when JD lunged for him, swinging the bloody bat in a wide arc that missed Nathan's head by less than an inch.
JD overbalanced and fell hard on the ground, his breath coming in harsh gasps, his eyes wide, maniacal.
Nathan had just enough time to pull his body out from underneath Josiah's. He was happy to notice that his best friend was still breathing, but he had bigger things to worry about right now - namely, a black-haired ATF agent who was, for some reason, trying to kill him.
"JD?" he spoke softly, wishing that he'd thought to bring his gun with him. Stepping away from Dunne, who was already back on his feet, he put his hands out in front of him. "Now, JD, I don't know what's going on, but," his voice drifted off as he watched JD slowly walk towards him, a deep frown on his young face, his dark eyes glassy with pupils so large they overtook the iris completely.
"JD, boy, have you been drugged?" Nathan asked as he backed away from the smaller agent.
JD shook his head. "You're not real, Nathan. I wish you were, but you're not." He grasped the bat more firmly in his hand as he moved closer. "I have to get rid of all of you." He glanced over to the couch. "I already got rid of Buck."
"Buck?" Nathan squeaked. "Buck's here?"
JD looked back at Nathan, his eyes flickering with pain for a spit second. "Buck's dead," he informed him.
Nathan gasped, looking over at the couch himself. With his hands still out in front of him unthreateningly, he kept a close eye on Dunne as he backed towards it. When he was standing up against the back of the couch, he glanced over his shoulder, catching site of Wilmington. Nathan's heart fell and he lowered his hands dejectedly. "Oh, Buck," he whispered, his eyes filling.
Wilmington's body lay face-up on the other side of the coffee table, a large pool of blood soaking into the carpet around him. Nathan didn't see any signs that told him the scoundrel was still alive, and by the amount of blood on and around his body, Nathan didn't hold much hope to that effect.
He looked back to see where JD was and gasped, jumping back into the couch when he found that younger man was right in front of him. The look on the kid's face filled with such utter despair that Nathan's heart broke. The look quickly disappeared to be replaced by an unemotional mask that Ezra would have been proud of.
"I killed him." JD told Nathan matter-of-factly. "I had to," he reached up and ran his hand under his nose, sniffing. "He wasn't real. He's not real. None of you are. None of you are real."
Nathan brought his hands back up, keeping them to his side. JD held the bat with a firm grasp and Nathan knew he wouldn't be able to escape the blow this time, should JD decide to try and clobber him with it. Surreptitiously balling up his fist, he spoke softly to the young man. "JD, may I take a look at Buck, just to make sure he's not suffering."
JD frowned, glancing behind Nathan and then back up into Jackson's eyes. "He's not suffering. He's dead. You don't suffer when you're dead," he told him.
Nathan knew he couldn't argue with that, so instead, he nodded his head and at the same time brought his fist up, smashing it against the kid's cheek. JD whirled around, the force of the blow sending him sprawling across the floor.
Nathan jumped over the couch, landing on the coffee table and rolling off it to land on the floor beside Buck's body. He was expecting the blow, but didn't count on it to being so hard. The bat slammed into his shoulder blades and he fell hard on top of Wilmington, Buck's blood immediately soaking into his shirt. Nathan looked up when he heard JD walk around the couch and come to a stop beside him, reaching down and picking up the bat from the floor. The kid's face was dark, his eyes evil-looking.
"That wasn't very nice, Nathan," JD stated as he brought the bat up to strike again.
Nate knew he wouldn't be able to escape the blow. Instead, he covered Buck's body with his own, hoping to, at least, save the dying man any more pain. But the pain didn't come and he looked up to see JD's body wavering in front of him, the young man's mouth moving, his head shaking back and forth, his eyes squeezed tightly shut. Finally, Nate was able to hear what JD was saying, in that soft, plaintive voice.
"They're real. They're my friends," he seemed to be arguing with 'someone'. "Please, they're my friends. I don't want to do this."
Nathan used the moment to look over Buck's wound. Buck was still alive even though JD had been adamant that he'd killed him. The bullet had hit him high up on his left shoulder, like maybe JD had been aiming for his heart, but something stopped him from making the killing shot. Whatever the reason, Nathan was relieved that his friend was still alive. He pulled his jacket off and pushed it against Buck's wound. He heard a low, pain-filled moan and regretted causing the pain that Buck was feeling, but knew it had to be done.
He glanced up at JD to find the boy still 'arguing' with whatever voice was telling him to kill them. Nathan wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth. He knew if he went for JD, by the time he could get anywhere near him, JD would have him out cold, so he decided that he would fix Buck up and then try to get over to take a look at Josiah. He wasn't sure if Sanchez was carrying his gun off-duty, but he could only hope.
He was almost done caring for Buck when he heard JD's voice harden, the begging tone gone, replaced by a deep, menacing voice that Nathan would have never associated with the kid if he hadn't heard it for himself.
"Okay." JD nodded. "I know. They're not real. I have to get rid of them." His posture was resigned, his face free of emotion.
Nathan's heart pounded when JD walked towards him with the bat already swinging at him. He didn't have enough time to get away, all he could do was cover as much of Buck's body as he could with his own. The first blow caught Nathan across the shoulders, but the second blow slammed into his head, filling his vision with red and then black.
JD wiped his bloody hands on his jeans as he walked over to the telephone. Picking it up, he dialed a number he knew by heart.
"Vin?" He spoke tiredly into the phone. "Can you come over? And can you bring Ezra and Chris too? I need you guys."
JD's fingers flew across the keyboard, the report seeming to type itself while his mind wandered. The bust had gone better than expected. Not one person had been hurt. Not one bullet had been fired. It was amazing, really, as far as his team was concerned. He chuckled. They usually couldn't go anywhere without some sort of immediate medical attention needed.
"JD, do you have the file on the Kendrick's case?" Chris asked from his office door.
"Sure thing, Chris," JD called out as he saved his report and grabbed the requested file. He was on his feet in a second and on his way to his boss's office. He'd just reached his hand out, offering Chris the file when a vision flashed through his mind. His body crumbled and the only thing keeping him from hitting the ground hard was Larabee's hand under his arm, easing him gently to the floor.
"Nathan!" JD heard Chris yell somewhere in the back of his mind. Slowly, he floated away until the scene in the ATF office seemed to be a million miles away.
Suddenly, bright lights blinded him and his body jerked to awareness. Looking frantically around, he found his body being restrained by two large, white-coated men. One man held his arm behind his back while the other held his body up against the wall as he yelled for a sedative. JD's mind reacted violently and he started fighting even harder.
"No. No," he heard himself whimpering.
"Easy, John," one of the men spoke soothingly to him while he held his arm behind his back in a painful position. "Easy, son." The man turned towards the doorway, yelling out for the sedative again.
"No, please. No sedative," JD begged. He knew how his body reacted and didn't want to go through that. "Buck?" he called out, as scared as he'd ever been in his whole life. He didn't know where he was or what was going on, but if he could just see his best friend's face, he knew everything would be okay.
"Calm, calm," the larger of the two men chanted into his ear, sounding much like Vin did when he was quieting a wild horse. "Here comes that sedative. Easy now, son."
JD caught a glimpse of a tall, gray-haired black man in a doctor's coat. His face was turned away and then he felt the prick of a needle in the inside of his elbow. He heard himself whimper and then suddenly everything felt heavy, like it was in slow motion. Like he was moving in slow motion. He couldn't feel his legs and he fell heavily into the two men's grasp. He could feel them pick him up and carry him over, placing him in a soft bed. JD floated for a while, faces coming and going in his vision. A bright light in each eye, soft, concerned voices. Then he just floated away into nothingness.
"Nathan!" Chris held JD's convulsing body in his arms as he yelled for the ex-EMT.
Nathan dropped down beside him before Chris had the chance to yell again. "He's seizing," Nathan said as he gently moved JD out of Chris's grasp and placed him on the floor.
The rest of team seven gathered around the horrific scene. Buck was out of his mind with worry, yelling at Nathan. Chris finally had to stand and grab Buck around the midsection, dragging him far enough away so he wasn't in Nate's way. "He's taking care of him, Buck. Nate's got him."
"Jesus. Oh, God!" Buck stared at JD's still-convulsing body. "What's wrong with him, Chris?"
"I don't know, Buck. But Nathan's taking care of him."
"I called 911," Josiah said as he knelt down beside Jackson. Nathan looked up at him, his eyes filled with worry.
Just as suddenly as the seizures started, they stopped, and JD's body lay still, unmoving, seemingly lifeless. If the men thought that the seizures had been scary, the vision of JD lying death-like was much, much worse.
Nathan frantically searched for a pulse. "He's alive," he breathed out. "He's breathing."
Color slowly returned to JD's face and he moved slightly, his features twitching and his fingers moving. His eyelashes fluttered and he looked up into six worried faces. He tried to speak, but Nathan hushed him.
"Lay still, now, JD." He tried to reassure him. "You've had a seizure. I know it's scary but you're okay. Just let us look you over, okay?" Nathan glanced up at the paramedics that were rushing into the room then back down at the young agent. The EMT informed the two new men of the situation and then moved back, letting them take over.
JD looked around in panic until his eyes met Buck's. As soon as he saw his best friend, he knew everything would be okay. A vision swept over him of a scared boy in a stark white room thinking the same thing and JD squeezed his eyes shut in pain and fear.
"...d?" he heard the muffled voice. He didn't want to open his eyes because he wasn't sure where he would be. There, or here.
"JD!" he heard Nathan yell at him and he could hear panic welling up in his usually calm friend. He slowly opened his eyes to find Nathan kneeling over him, penlight in hand. Relief flooded the tall black man's face and JD suddenly felt bad that he had caused him so much worry. He let him check his eyes and then tried to smile. His mouth twitched up at the corners as he said, "Sorry, Nathan."
Nate smiled at him, shaking his head. "Don't be sorry, kid. It's not you're doing." He looked over at the paramedics who were getting JD ready for transport then glanced back down at JD. "We're gonna take you to the hospital, see what in the heck is going on, okay?"
JD knew he didn't really have any say in the matter but liked that Nathan gave him the feeling that he did. "Sure, Nate," he rasped out.
He felt them move him over onto the stretcher and he looked around again trying to find Buck. When their eyes connected, he settled back into the hard mattress and tried to get his breathing under control. He'd hate for the men to know how scared he was. But he was scared - terrified, to be more exact. But, they didn't need to know that. So he used the little bit of strength he had left to try and get his panic under control. Before he knew it, his eyes were drifting shut and darkness overtook him.
When he woke up again, he was in the white room. That same gray-haired black doctor was standing at the end of his bed, looking at a chart. He must have made a noise, because the doctor glanced his way and smiled. Closing the chart, he walked over to stand beside the bed.
"John," he greeted him, "my name's Doctor Johanson. Do you know where you are?"
JD looked around, remembering the scene from his mind, the one with the white-coated men holding him down and this man pricking him with the needle. He shivered uncontrollably with the memory of the sedative, how it made him feel.
"Please, no more," he coughed and the doctor poured him a small glass of water from the metal cart next to the bed. After taking a couple long sips, he coughed again before repeating. "Please, no more sedatives."
The Doctor smiled sadly at him. "Well, John, we'll have to see about that one. But, if you remain calm, I don't see any reason why we would need them." He adjusted the blanket around JD's shoulders when he shivered again and for the first time, JD realized that his arms and legs were tied down.
The doctor must have known what to expect because he suddenly placed his hand on JD's stomach, holding him down. "Now, don't try and fight the restraints. They're there for your protection."
JD glared at him while he tried to move his arms and legs out of their confinement.
The doctor chuckled. "Somehow, I knew you were the stubborn type." He reached out and placed a fatherly hand on JD's forehead, pushing the short, black hair back.
JD moved his head away, still staring daggers. "Where's Buck?" he asked.
Doctor Johanson smiled sadly as he sat down on the bed next to JD's knee. "John, I need to talk to you about something. But I need you to remain calm, can you do that?"
JD narrowed his eyes in suspicion. "Where's Buck?" He asked again, his voice rising in alarm. "Where's Chris and Vin?" The doctor pursed his lips and JD started to really panic. "Ezra? Josiah? Nathan?"
The doctor pulled in a long, deep breath and slowly let it out. "John, those people don't exist."
JD stared at the man open-mouthed. "Shut up and tell me where they are, you son of a-"
The doctor held his hand up. "Now, John, if you become unreasonable, you'll have to be sedated." His words had the desired effect and JD closed his mouth with an audible snap. "Why don't you let me explain this all to you before you get upset, all right? Give me a few minutes to try and get you to understand, then you can ask all the questions you want."
JD stared at the man with what he hoped was a fairly good replica of Chris's deadly glare, but the doctor only chuckled again and ruffled his hair.
"John, you've been here for three years." Doctor Johanson laid the chart on the bed and made himself more comfortable. "Do you know where 'here' is?"
JD glanced around the bright room and then back to the tall man. Swallowing hard, he frowned. "No."
The doctor sighed. "You're in the Massachusetts Mental Institution, outside of Boston."
JD's eyes widened. "What?" he squeaked.
"Do you remember any of this?" the doctor asked.
JD shook his head warily.
"Three years ago, when you were fourteen, you collapsed at the high school you attended. You were brought to the hospital, but you didn't regain consciousness, instead you regressed into a deep comatose state. You were under a tremendous amount of strain at the time, your mother said. She'd been going through a tough illness, you'd been working almost non-stop trying to pay the bills and keep up with your schoolwork while taking care of her. It was just too much for you, at such a young age. Heck, it would have been too much for anyone at any age. At the hospital, when they couldn't find any physical reason for your comatose state, they brought you here, hoping that we would be able to help you. In the three years that you've been here, this is the first time that you've been lucid and aware. Any other time that you've been awake, you've been in 'some other place in your head'."
The doctor gave him a serious look. "Do you know where that other place is?"
JD's brow furrowed, wondering if Buck and the guys were somehow playing a viscous practical joke on him. Though, he had to admit this would be too harsh even for them.
"JD," the doctor's voice brought him out of his musings, "in your mind, you've created a scenario where you're living in Denver, Colorado and working for the ATF. Do you know what 'ATF' stands for?"
"Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms," JD answered without having to think about it.
"That's right," Doctor Johanson smiled. "And in this scenario you've created, you're the youngest on a team of seven ATF agents. Basically, what you've done is surround yourself with friends, brothers - people who watch out for you. I'm not sure if you were so afraid that you were losing your mother, or if you just needed male role models in your life, but needing comfort and love, you created these people, these men. You even aged yourself in the scenario so that you could work with them. You call them 'Team Seven,' sometimes, 'The Magnificent Seven.' They're superheroes. They solve all their cases. They're the best of the best. And you're a part of them." The doctor shook his head, his mouth lined with grief. "In your mind you're a part of them. Do you understand what I'm saying?"
JD stared at the doctor, his mind going over the story that he'd just been told. Buck, Chris, Ezra, Vin, Nathan, Josiah - figments of his imagination? Anger suddenly overtook him. How dare this person, this man, say that about his best friends. If his arm was loose, he'd hit the man, but he had to be content with what he could do.
JD started screaming at the top of his lungs. Calling out for Buck. For Chris. For any of his friends to come and get him. His body shook with rage as he tried to pull out of his restraints.
He didn't see the sad look on Doctor Johanson's face as the older man reached into the front pocket on his white coat and pull out a syringe full of liquid. "I'm sorry, John," he said as he inserted the needle into JD's vein.
"JD! JD, calm down!"
JD woke with a start, the scream dying on his lips. He looked around and found Buck standing over him, his face white, his eyes rimmed in red with black circles underneath. "JD? Can you hear me, kid? Calm down, now," Buck soothed as his hand rubbed circles on JD's chest.
Finally, JD came to his senses and the panic flooded out of him. "Buck?" he asked, unsure of where he was.
"Yeah, kid," Buck answered, a smile lighting up his tired face. "And Chris too."
JD followed his best friend's line of site and found Chris Larabee standing on the other side of his bed watching him with concern. Chris didn't look much better than Buck. "Chris?" JD's voice cracked.
"Yeah, kid." Chris smiled down at him. "You okay?"
JD swallowed hard, grateful for the straw that was immediately at his mouth. After taking a few long sips, he settled back into the bed. "Bad dream." He shuddered.
"Must have been," Buck smiled sadly. "You was screamin' so loud, I thought for sure Vin could hear ya all the way out in Purgatorio."
JD smiled slightly, relief flooding his system. The dream had seemed so real. Sighing deeply, he let Buck's smiling face overtake the memory of the dream. Before he knew it, he was snoring softly.
Buck shook his head, glancing over at Chris and catching the frown tossed his way. The doctor's words from earlier filled his mind.
' "Nothing physical to account for the seizure. After a night of rest, he's allowed to go home as long as he has twenty four hour supervision." '
Chris must have read Buck's mind because he walked over and laid a hand on Buck's shoulder. "We'll get him home tomorrow. After a few days of sleep, he'll feel good as new."
Buck smiled over at his friend, hoping that he was right. "Yeah, Chris." He agreed as he sighed softly. "I just wish I knew why it happened."
"You know what Nathan said. There are a lot of different reasons why people have seizures, but he's been checked over and he looks good. Chris shook his head. "He's been working too hard lately. I know he takes his work home with him, we'll just have to nip that in the bud. Make sure he takes off-time away from work." He looked down. "I know how much being on this team means to him and he tries every day to prove his worth here. Most of the time, he tries too hard - doing the job of three men. He's been staying up way too late working. Not eating. Not sleeping. We'll just have to keep a close eye on him, make sure he takes care of himself from now on." He looked over at Buck again, his face serious. "In the back of my mind, I knew what was going on, but we had so much work to do, I have to admit, I didn't mind really the kid doing a lot of it. He's got so much energy, it just seems unending. That was wrong. I should have stopped him, and next time, I will." He pursed his lips as he watched JD sleeping. "He doesn't need to be proving himself to us. I think it's time that I made sure he knows how much a part of this team he is. How much he adds to the team."
Buck grinned. "That'd be good, Chris. Real good."
Chris smiled sadly at Buck. "Sometimes, I just need a kick in the ass." He looked down at JD's pale face. "Sure don't want anymore kicks like *this* one." He shuddered at the memory of JD's convulsing body in his arms.
"I'm with ya on that one," Buck patted him on the back.
A WEEK LATER
"How ya feelin', JD?" Vin asked on his way by to get another cup of coffee.
JD rolled his eyes, "I'm fine, Vin. It was just a freak thing."
Vin rolled his own eyes as he leaned down to glare at the young agent. "JD, having a seizure in the middle of the office is *not* a freak thing. Something was wrong, and you just have to be careful now."
"I know, I know," JD sighed. "I've heard the whole 'be careful' speech. Don't take my work home. Don't try so hard. Don't be an ATF agent twenty-four seven. Take some time to myself. Make sure I take care of myself. Eat right. I've heard all of it." He grinned up at the sharpshooter. "Geesh, Vin, you'd think you were my mom or something." Suddenly, JD's face blanched and he squeezed his eyes shut, reaching out and grabbing hold of the edge of his desk with white knuckles.
"JD?" Vin asked, concerned. When he didn't get an answer, he yelled. "JD!"
JD opened his eyes to find Doctor Johanson leaning over him again, watching him with a concerned look. "John? Can you wake up for me? Look at me, now."
This wasn't what JD wanted to see again. He groaned loudly, looking away from the doctor. He gasped when his eyes met brown eyes he never thought he'd see again.
"JD?" His mother stepped towards the bed, her tear-streaked face pale in the bright light.
It was her voice he'd been hearing. She must have been calling his name for a while. Her voice, so sweet, like a melody. God, he missed her.
Missed her? But here she was, right in front of him. Looking just like she used to, only healthier and just a little older.
"Mama?" JD's voice was raw and scratchy. Clearing his throat, he tried again. "Mama?" He tried to move but found that he was still tied down.
She moved closer to him, taking his face in both of her hands and leaning down, kissing his cheek. "My baby. Oh, how I've missed you." She kissed him again.
JD shook his head. "But, but, you're dead."
She smiled sadly as she looked up at the doctor and then back down at JD. "No, baby, I was sick, but I didn't die. I didn't die."
He shook his head harder. "No. No. You're dead." He looked up at the ceiling. "You're dead!" He started to yell, his voice breaking with emotion.
She stepped back, her hand covering her mouth as new tears sprung to her eyes. "Oh, JD," she cried.
"John!" The doctor grabbed JD's face in his hands and pulled him over so he had to look into his face. "John, you're mother's not dead. She's not. That was in your mind. In your mind she died and you went to Colorado. But it never happened. It didn't. None of that exists. You're life in Colorado doesn't exist. Those ATF agents don't exist. They're not real, but your mother *is*. Your mother is here. Right here! She's alive and she wants to see you. But you're upsetting her. Do you understand me?"
JD gulped hard, trying to move his eyes enough that he could catch site of his mama again. He looked back up at the doctor who still had a hold of his face. Finally, he nodded once and was immediately let go. His mama was by his side again in a second. She laid her body down over his, hugging him through the blankets. "JD, please stay with me. Please don't go back 'there'. Please, son. I need you. I need you to be here with me. I love you, baby. You have to fight it. Please, fight those people in your head. They're not real." She cried harder. "Oh, baby, I've missed you. Please stay with me."
JD cried. "I've missed you too, Mama. I've missed you so much."
"JD!?" Nathan was yelling at him again. JD blinked his eyes open to find all six of his teammates gathered around his desk with worried looks on their faces. Slowly, he released his death grip on the edge of his desk. Glancing around at his teammates, he blushed slightly. "Um...sorry guys."
"Sorry? SORRY?" Buck yelled. "Kid, you about gave us all heart attacks, and you're *sorry*?"
"I just," JD shook his head, his brow furrowed. "I just had a daydream. It was just a daydream." His mother's face entered his mind and he suddenly moved back, away from his desk, ducking his head before the men could see the tears on his face. "I...I gotta go to the bathroom." He stood quickly, swaying. Nathan reached out and steadied him, looking at his face intently.
JD shook his arm out of the tall medic's grasp. "I've got to go the bathroom. I think I can do that by myself!" He huffed out, twirling and heading in that direction.
Chris shook his head, giving Nate a pointed look.
Nate nodded. "I'll keep an eye on him."
Nathan followed JD to the bathroom and Buck looked over at Chris. Chris shook his head. "I don't know, Buck. I just don't know."
"Something's wrong, Chris. Something's really wrong." He shook his head, his face red. "He needs to be back at the hospital."
Chris frowned. "You know what they said. There's nothing wrong with him."
"Well, maybe he needs to see a different doctor." Buck raised his hands in the air as he practically yelled.
Chris tried to calm his friend down. "Okay, Buck. Okay. Talk to Nathan about it. See what he thinks."
Buck dropped his arms to his sides, nodding. "I'm gonna do that, Chris. Something's wrong with the boy."
The group dispersed before JD came back out of the bathroom. They didn't want him to come out and find them still standing around his desk discussing him.
JD splashed water on his face. Grabbing a paper towel, he dried his face and then wadded it up, tossing it into the nearest trashcan. He glanced up, catching Nathan looking him over in the mirror. JD sighed deeply before turning around. Jumping up onto the counter, he wiped his hands off on his pants before looking up and meeting Nathan's gaze. "You think there's something wrong with me?" he asked the medic.
Nathan frowned as he too walked over and, after wiping the counter off, jumped up to sit next to JD. Reaching over, he hit JD on the leg. The kid looked over at him and he smiled, trying to reassure him. "JD, I..." he paused, thinking about what he was going to say.
"I keep seeing things, Nate. Like..." JD's voice drifted off. "Like dreams, only more real." 'And I'm having a hard time figuring it out what's real. There, or here.' JD wanted to add, but knew how that would sound.
Nathan pursed his lips. "I don't know, kid. Maybe you need to talk to department's psychologist. I still think you've been working too hard lately and not taking care of yourself," he admonished. "But, it can't hurt to go talk to the doctor about these dreams."
JD shrugged, his face growing red as he stared intently at the drying spots on his pant legs.
"JD, it ain't nothin' to be ashamed of." Nathan reached over and hit his knee lightly with his fist. "Don't mean you're crazy if you go talk to the psychologist. Just means that you're trying to help yourself."
JD shrugged again, but looked up and met Nathan's eyes. "I might." He looked back down. "I just might."
Nathan smiled, patting him on his back as the two of them jumped off the counter and made their way back out to the office.
JD walked over to his desk, sitting down hard. He could feel the other men's gazes on him, but tried to ignore it. Leaning over, he opened his top left hand drawer and pulled out the worn photo in the shiny silver picture frame. His mother's face stared back at him. Young, lovely, just how he tried to remember her. Not sick and dying. Skin and bones, her skin yellow, her cheeks hollow, her body writhing in pain.
Then another picture of his mother entered his mind. Healthy. Alive. Here and now. Or, 'there'. Where ever 'there' was. Boy, he wished it was real. That his mama was still alive. He thought again about that dream. His mother beside his bed. Her kiss on his cheek. The smell of her perfume. With a sweet smile on his face, his mind drifted off again.
"JD, honey, are you awake?"
JD awoke to his mother's melodic voice. "Mama?" He called out.
She was by his side, brushing the bangs from his forehead. "I'm here baby, are you 'back'?"
He looked up at her, his eyes wet. "I'm 'here', Mama. I'm 'back'."
She smiled deeply. "Oh, son, I'm so happy." She went to the door and caught the first nurse she could find, sending him off to find Doctor Johanson.
JD and Susan Dunne both sat in front of the doctor's desk in soft, over-stuffed chairs. Doctor Johanson glanced through his file before looking up and smiling at JD and his mother.
JD was suddenly back in he and Buck's apartment, sitting in the kitchen. To tell the truth, he couldn't even remember getting home. Which was scary, considering he'd taken his Ninja to work that morning. Had he come home with Buck? One of the others guys? The last thing he remembered was walking out of the bathroom at work with Nathan beside him. Then sitting down at his desk, thinking about his mom, and then - he was here. And he got here how? He had no clue. Did he drive all the way here on that 'suicide machine' as Nathan likes to call it without really being aware of what was going on? That was a scary thought. But not as scary as some of the other things that had been going on in his head.
His mom was alive. The guys weren't real. *This* wasn't real. Sighing deeply, he shook his head. But of course this was real! How silly, to think that this wasn't - then he heard his mama's voice again.
' "I need you, baby. Please don't leave again." '
JD shuddered, goose bumps rising on his arms. He missed her. Mere words couldn't describe how much he missed her. How much he wanted her back. What he would do to get her back.
So which was it? 'Here' where he was in his early twenties, working for the ATF. Or 'there' where he was a seventeen-year-old boy in a mental institution, conjuring up this make believe reality in his head?
They couldn't both be real. One or the other. Here or there. Which one would he rather be true? He loved the guys, God he did. But, it was his mama. His whole life.
If he had to choose. If he had to pick between here or there, between his friends or his mother, which one would he choose?
His head hurt. It was too much thinking and it was making his head hurt. He wasn't really one who got headaches, but it seemed the last few days, along with the voices and visions in his mind, he was getting pretty bad headaches. Hmmm. Just another thing to ask the department psychologist about when I go see him, he thought.
"JD?" Buck called from the other room.
JD glanced up but instead of his apartment, he found himself in Doctor Johanson's office instead.
"JD?" His mother's voice asked.
"John?" the doctor called to him.
He glanced up and found the doctor watching him with a critical eye from behind his desk. Taking a look beside him, he found his mother also watching him concerned. Frowning, he shook his head to get rid of the cobwebs.
"You left for a little while, there, John."
JD swallowed hard and nodded. Clearing his throat, he winced when he heard his raspy voice. "Yeah, I was-" but he paused, not sure what to say next. 'I was back there?' 'I was in the reality, and *you're* just a figment of my imagination.' Or, 'I'm slowly going insane and I can't take this anymore!'
He decided on, "I was thinking."
Dr. Johanson smiled sadly. "Were you with your 'friends' again?"
JD looked sharply up at him, not liking the way he said the word `friends', like JD was a little kid with an imaginary friend. Or, was he?
Dang it! What was real? He just needed to know what was real.
"JD," his mom spoke softly from beside him. "JD, I thought you wanted to try and stay 'here'?"
His breath caught in his throat when he heard the longing in her voice. She needed him. And no matter what, if she needed him, he'd be there. He nodded as he looked down at his white pant leg. "I do. I want to stay here. But, they keep calling me back." He shrugged as he looked up, not able to hide the helpless feeling. "Every time I think that I'm going to stay here, I suddenly find myself there and," he shook his head hard, feeling frustrated. "I'm tired. I just want it to end." He looked at the doctor, catching his gaze and holding it. "I just want it all to end."
Dr. Johanson scooted forward in his chair. "It can end, John. But you've got to make it end. *You* control the voices in your head, not the other way around."
JD shut his eyes and dropped his head. His friends were just 'voices'. The men that took him in, made him a part of their team, kept him safe, kept him alive, were there when he needed them - they weren't real. Just voices. Voices in his head that told him what to do. JD was a smart enough kid to know what they called that, he just didn't want to use the word, the word that described what was wrong with him. If he used that word, if he said it out loud, then that would mean he was crazy. He didn't think he could deal with that. Not right now. He needed to get past this. Get it out of the way, then he could try and label his condition, but not before.
The doctor's voice brought his head back up. JD nodded. "I want them gone," he answered the doctor's unspoken question. "Please, I need to be here with my mama. I want to do whatever it is that will make the voices stop."
A wide smile broke out on Doctor Johanson's face, mirrored by his mother. Both adults looked thrilled that he was making the final step.
"What do I have to do?" JD asked, looking from his mother back to the doctor.
"John, this is a big step you're taking here."
JD glanced over at his mother, reaching out and grasping her hand. "I know, but I want to be 'here'. I've missed my mama so much, I can't imagine giving up this chance to be with her." He smiled before looking back over at the doctor and asking, "What do I have to do?"
"Well, JD," the doctor smiled gravely. "For starters, you're going to have to get rid of the people in your head."
"JD?" Buck called from the other room again.
He slowly stood. Picking up his gun, he held it inconspicously behind his back as he went to talk to his roommate. He met the tall ladies' man as he was walking across the front room towards the kitchen.
"Kid?" Buck stopped in his tracks.
JD looked up at him, not liking what he was about to do, but knowing that it needed to be done.
"Kid?" Buck narrowed his eyes, as he looked JD up and down. "Kid, ya all right?"
JD pursed his lips, swallowing hard the bile that was in his throat. "I'm sorry, Buck." He cast his eyes down, staring intently at the floor.
"Sorry for what?" Buck suddenly grinned. "Oh no, whad'ya do this time, kid?" His grin slipped a little when JD wouldn't look back up and meet his gaze. "Couldn't have been that bad. Right? JD?" He took a few steps closer to his best friend. Reaching out, he was about to lift JD's chin when the kid finally looked up at him, his eyes shiny, pain-filled.
Buck ran his hand through his hair. "JD? What's going on? What are you sorry for?" He frowned when he saw a look of intense sorrow cross the young man's face. The sorrow quickly turned to unwavering determination.
"I'm sorry for *this*," JD answered.
After hanging up the phone with Vin, JD wondered if it wasn't a big mistake asking all three guy to come over at the same time. He'd have had an easier time with them one by one instead of all three together. But, Doctor Johanson told him that this needed to be done, and he'd rather get it over with quick. He'd just kill them as quickly as he could, and then be done with it.
How did he get back there then? And what did he do with *his* body here? Did he kill it? Get rid of it like he got rid of the guys? He really wasn't sure. And now the rest of the guys would be here any moment, so he couldn't go ask, even if he knew *how* to. It wasn't like it was a conscious decision to go the other place. He just went. Just like he came 'here' without thinking about it. It was all too confusing and his head hurt.
He looked over and saw Josiah still lying facedown on the rug he'd used to cover up the bloodstain from Buck. The missionary's son hadn't moved a muscle. JD could only hope that he was dead. He didn't want to have to do anything more to him.
The doctor had convinced him that the voices in his head, the guys, didn't have his best interest at heart. So, he'd had a sort of mixture between wanting to kill them, feeling pleasure in getting rid of what had stolen three years of his life. and feeling so damn bad about it. Now, he didn't know what he thought. Except that he was tired. He wanted it over and over now. He just wanted to get back to his mom.
There was a knock at the door and JD slowly pulled himself out of the chair. He was suddenly so unbelievably tired and his head hurt so bad. Glancing again at Josiah's body, he wondered what Chris, Ezra and Vin were going to think as soon as they walked in and saw the older agent lying dead on the carpet. AT least they couldn't see Buck and Nathan's bodies, though they'd find them soon enough, JD knew.
He wasn't really sure what he was going to do as soon as they walked in the door. With the other guys, he at least had some sort of a plan. But he wasn't so damn tired then. Now, he could hardly keep his eyes open and his head was killing him.
A knock again and than a three loud bangs. "Buck! JD! Open up! It's Chris!"
Hearing the team leader's voice gave JD chills. This was the one man he'd wanted more than any other to respect him. And now, now he was going to kill him. In cold blood.
But he wasn't real. He wasn't!
"He's just a voice. Just a voice," JD whispered to himself as he opened the door, swinging it open wide and stepping back to let all three men through. He heard Vin's gasp but didn't turn around. Slowly, with great care, he shut the door silently. Again, he gained his resolve while staring at the back of the door. "Just voices."
Turning, he found Vin beside Josiah's body, his fingers on the larger mans' throat, checking for a pulse.
JD could see the top of Chris and Ezra's heads as they checked on the other two fallen agents. Pulling up his shirt, he grabbed his gun from where it was tucked in the waistband of his jeans. He'd left the bat on the table, forgetting to pick it up when the men came to the door. And it wasn't like he had to be quiet now, it was all going to be over soon and it wouldn't matter.
He watched as Chris slowly stood, his green eyes blazing fire at him. JD took a step back, running into the door, and for a moment almost lost his determination. Chris was walking towards him, around the couch and then straight at him. JD'd never seen the look on his face. Rage, vehemence - those words couldn't begin to describe it. It was almost demonic in its hatred.
"JD, what the fu-" But Chris's voice was cut off. JD'd raised the gun and fired without another second's hesitation. From the corner of his eye, he watched Vin bound to his feet, howling in fury.
Chris was falling, the red blotch on the front of this shirt growing exponentially in size. He hit the ground, hard, and Vin was at his side in a second.
Vin looked up at JD from where he was kneeling beside his best friend. His eyes were hard flints. JD moved the gun enough so that it was now pointing at the sharpshooter instead of Chris.
Vin's face hardened, his eyes growing even colder if that were possible. Chris's wet, labored breathing, the only sound in the room.
JD lined the site on the gun up with the middle of Vin's forehead and then started to pull the trigger. There was a blur and suddenly he was flying back, the gun fired.
Dazed, JD lay on the floor for a moment before he realized that Standish was on him, screaming at him, shaking him by his shirt.
JD tried to get up, but just as quickly sagged back against the floor. Damn. He needed to get this done. He was tired. But he needed to finish this. Chris was dying. Josiah, Nathan, Buck - all dead. All he had left was Vin and Ezra. But he'd missed Vin and now Ezra had him by the throat. Fool, crazy Southerner, you never knew what he was going to do.
He watched Ezra's face become pale, white and then a pasty gray color. The Southerner looked just as surprised to find himself slowing, stopping, then sitting on top of JD looking down at the bullet hole in his own chest. With one last hate-filled look at JD, the undercover agent toppled sideways, falling helplessly to the floor with a loud thud.
JD smiled. It was almost over.
He only had Vin left.
When he finally made it to his feet, he found Vin in the exact same spot he had been. Only now, his head was lying on Chris's chest.
JD picked his gun back up and slowly walked over to him. "It's okay, Vin. He's not real," he told his friend.
Tanner looked up at him, Chris's blood on his forehead. "Go to Hell, JD," he growled.
"You're not real," JD said again, only this time louder. "You're not real. You're not real. None of you really died. I just got rid of the voices in my head."
Vin shook his head. "We were more than voices, JD. We were your friends. We helped you. Took care of you. Saved you."
JD scoffed. "You stole three years of my life."
Vin shrugged then. With a sneer, he said, "Do what'cha got to do, then."
JD frowned, his lips pulling down deeply at the corners. "I loved you guys, I hope you know that." He pointed the gun at Vin's head and pulled the trigger.
Someone was shaking him.
He heard a scream. A horrible, gut-wrenching scream. Someone was shaking him hard now and he realized that *he* was screaming. He opened his eyes to find Doctor Johanson squatting beside him, his hands on JD's shoulders.
"JD?" he asked.
The scream died on his lips, replaced by a sob. "I killed them. I killed them," he cried.
Doctor Johanson nodded his head in approval. "That's what you needed to do, son."
"No!" JD yelled. "You don't understand. I needed them. I loved them. They were my brothers."
"They weren't real, baby," he heard his mother say from where she kneeled next to his chair.
Doctor Johanson stood up, backing away a step to let Susan Dunne get closer to her son. She scooted over so she was kneeling right in front of him, eye level.
JD looked hard at her, tear tracks on his pale face. "I love you, Mama. You know I do. But, God, I want them back. I don't want them to be dead."
She ran her hand over his forehead, pushing his sweaty hair off his face. "I know, son. But you'll get over it. Sometimes, you've got to do things that you don't want to. But you're here now, you're back." She smiled warmly.
He turned away from her, the vision of his six dead friends filling his mind. Dead. He'd killed them all. The feeling crushed him, like the feeling when his mama died, only...worse. His best friends. His brothers. His family. He loved his mother, but...he knew in his heart that *they* were his family now.
Reaching out, he grasped her hand in his, bringing it up to his mouth and kissing it. "You know I love you, right?"
She smiled from ear to ear. "I love you too, baby."
He nodded, slowly releasing her hand. "I hope you'll forgive me."
A frown creased her forehead. "What?"
He pursed his lips as he settled back into the chair, letting his body go slack. "I'm sorry." He looked at a spot behind her, his eyes starting to glaze over as he said softly, "Goodbye."
"JD?" his mother called. "JD?!" she yelled.
The Doctor stepped forward, shining his penlight into JD's eyes, shaking him by the shoulders, trying to get a reaction. He sighed deeply as he shook his head, looking away. "We've lost him."
"What?" Susan Dunne yelled. "What?!"
He walked over to her, pulling her up to her feet and then away from her catatonic son. "He's gone. He went back. He's gone now. He's made his choice and he went back to them, back 'there'." He held her sobbing body close to his own as he said softly, to himself. "And I don't think he'll be coming back."
She fought him, trying to get back to JD's side. "No. No, my baby!" She sobbed. "JD!"
"Hey, JD," Buck called from the kitchen where he was making dinner. "The guys are comin' over to play poker, think you can clean the table off?"
JD sat stock-still on the couch, his mother's screams still ringing in his ears. He hated hurting her. Hated it more than anything else in the world, except taking the lives of his six best friends. But he had them back now. They were *his* voices, he could do whatever he wanted with them.
Smiling, he stood up and walked towards the kitchen. *There* might be real. But *here* is where he wanted to be.
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