Chris watched Buck and JD care for their horses from the porch of his ranch house with a pensive look on his face. He felt the profiler move up beside him.
“How are you doing, Chris?” Josiah asked. None of them coped well when there was a rift in their little family, but their leader rarely let his feelings show. This time was different. Chris’ part in the cause of the rift was hitting them all hard.
“Nathan said Abby’s arm was practically healed when he checked her over on Thursday.” Josiah was pleased that the young lady hadn’t been seriously hurt in the altercation at the mission. Xander was still looking a little worse for wear, but the young always bounced back faster.
The silence stretched between them. The smells from the kitchen were tantalizing, Nathan was cooking something this week rather than their usual grill. With two of their number absent no one fancied sticking with the usual Sunday traditions.
Josiah had pulled Buck aside earlier, as the normally jovial man’s subdued demeanor had worried him. Finding out how close their youngest had been to not coming out to the ranch this weekend had answered all his questions but was worrying in its own right. JD’s none too subtle glares at their boss weren’t helping the atmosphere, either.
Josiah failed to hide his soft sigh.
“I suppose you’re pissed at me too?” Chris asked.
“While you handled it badly by the sound of it -- I would have laid you out if you’d acted like that in my house --” Josiah stated baldly, causing Chris to snort. “I have to admit to having some concerns about Abby’s involvement in… whatever it is that Xander’s involved in.” Josiah shifted to face the other man.
“And that, my friend, is the key to the problem. Xander appears to have a sound head on his shoulders. He doesn’t strike me as a vigilante, or reckless with others’ welfare, but neither does it seem right to involve a child, a young woman, in a fight that leaves such terrible scars.
“I also believe that the reason that he’s not telling us the truth of it is less about it being ‘classified’ and more towards an attempt to protect us.” Josiah watched Chris bristle at the idea. “That’s just my opinion, brother. We’ve both seen that boy react like a soldier, a fighter, and we know he respects us and the job we do, and yet still he thinks those things in his past pose a danger to us
“But it’s acceptable to include a girl, a child?” Chris growled.
“I didn’t say it made sense. I’m just telling you what I see,” Josiah replied calmly.
They were interrupted by the sounds of raised voices from the paddock.
“They’re my friends too, Buck! If someone said that about you, I’d, I’d… well, I wouldn’t go ‘round their house and play nice!” JD yelled, storming out the door. He paused upon seeing Chris and Josiah, realising they would have heard him. Nathan had come to the door at the noise from outside.
JD straightened and moved to stand in front of his boss.
“Did you stop to think?” JD hushed Buck’s attempt to stop him. “Did you, Chris? Xander left his friends and family, because he felt he had become a liability, that’s what he called it. He lost his eye and he calls himself a liability. It wasn’t his choice
that it falls to children to fight; children like him
, Chris. Abby told me Xander and his friends they’ve been doing it since they were fifteen. Seven years! That’s longer than I’ve been a cop, let alone an Agent.
“I don’t know what or why they fought. I trust in the fact that my friend is not a thrill seeker or a psychopath; if he says it needed to be done, then I believe him. I don’t ask them, I don’t need to. It’s not about us, it’s about them. They need our support. Abby’s hurting -- she’s having to deal with consequences that haunted me when I was 26.” JD began to pace.
“Xander wasn’t even there! You realize that, right? Abby’s been living in Cleveland; he’d only met her once before she came here. He had nothing to do with what’s going on with Abby. He’s helping her! And what did you do? Accuse him of being a monster, someone who uses children to do his dirty work!” JD stopped suddenly, looking around at the others, before pinning his gaze on Chris once more.
“He doesn’t even blame you, you know? The only reason he’s still angry is because you upset Abby. Ezra’s really worried about him. Vin, too. He took all your words to heart, and every one was like a knife. He takes his responsibilities seriously. He’d do anything for Abby.” JD trailed off.
“I know you think I’m a kid, but the only one who actually makes me feel like that is Xander. Have you ever really looked in his eyes, Chris? Buck? He may be young in years, but Jesus, I hate to think what he’s seen. If you catch him off guard, his eyes are haunted; sometimes worse than yours.” JD sagged, fearing he’d crossed a line.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t… this is your home, and I’ve just done exactly what you did to him.” JD sighed into the still stunned silence from the others. “Please don’t be mad, but I’m going home. It’s not because of you, OK? If Xander can forgive you, I certainly can’t hold it against you. I just really need some time to calm down.”
“Of course, JD. We’ll see you at work.” Josiah spoke for all of them, offered a brief wave as the young man headed off.
“Food’ll be ready in a few minutes.” Nathan looked a little uncomfortable before clearing his throat. “I just have one thing to add. What JD said about not being mad at you, that was Xander’s doing. I overheard part of the conversation when I went over to check on Abby. He wanted to be clear that what was going on between you two shouldn’t affect JD and you. He made a point of making sure I was OK, as well. He even apologized for kicking me out with you. Xander’s a good man, Chris.” Nathan turned and headed back inside.
Chris sighed before looking at his oldest friend. “Do you want to chime in about what an asshole I was?”
“Nah, Pard, you’re doing fine on your own.” Buck grinned.
“Shut up, Buck.”
I’m getting there. The whole Chris/Xand conflict should
come to a head in the next instalment.
Kudos to IndraLeigh whose story On a Strangers Front Porch inspired this series & gave me the idea for the hot choc bit! :)
Thanks to RevDorothyL for all the beta work!
Thanks to you, yes you, for reading and reviewing! Appreciated, even if not replied to, and even used to improve what’s coming next…