TITLE: Boxed Memories
AUTHOR: The Chronicler
CHALLENGE: "Setcheti's September 2003 Challenge
SUMMARY: J.D. receives a package from his home town, from his life before Denver, before the ATF, and before M7.
NOTES: I pulled this out of the closet, literally. It was one of the first ones I worked on, though I finished up the last page just now. So, I seem to be saying this a lot, please forgive.
ARCHIVE: yes, please
COMMENTS: Yes, please, always.
By The Chronicler
"Ouch!" Buck cried after stubbing his toe for the umpteenth time on the large shipping box that had occupied their frontroom for the better part of the week. "Damn it, J.D.!" he hollered, throwing in a few more colorful words to make sure he would get his roommate's attention. He was already late getting ready tripping over his own junk. Now he was tripping over J.D.'s junk...
J.D. looked up at him from where he was laid out on the couch. He had spent the last several hours laying there, his feet resting on the arm of the couch, parted just enough that he could stare at the box. "What?" he wondered in a dull little voice.
Vin chuckled from where he lounged in the big easy chair, waiting for Buck to be ready for their night out on the town. The plan was for he and Buck to go out for a night on the town with a trio of pretty girls. They were already thirty minutes late... and getting later. Not that Vin minded. He'd prefer a quiet night with a good book. But he did promise Buck, thus...
Buck Wilmington opened his mouth for a few more well versed words, but stopped when he saw the boy's eyes drift away, focusing on the box once again. He frowned. J.D. had been acting weird ever since that damn box had been delivered on their door step Tuesday morning. Now, Friday night, he was still acting weird and the box was still sitting just inside the front door, untouched.
If Buck wasn't getting concern, he'd have been getting pissed off.
With a huff, he leaned against the arm of the couch next to his partner's feet. "So, you gonna open this thing any time soon? Or should I throw on a few coasters and a lamp and it can be our new end table?"
The boy didn't respond.
Buck's eyes narrowed. He exchanged a quick glance with Vin, both coming to a silent agreement. Something had to give, and, if they had anything to do with it, it was going to have to be that damn box.
"Fine." Buck spun about, snatching out of the air the pocket knife Vin had tossed him. "I'll open it."
J.D. jumped to his feet on the couch. "No... wait!" he cried, taking a step forward.
But Buck reached back, grabbed a foot, and yanked it out from under the boy, dropping him back on the couch.
Not giving him the time to recover, Buck leaped onto the box and sliced open the top, yanking the flaps open. "Ah-ha!" he cheered with triumph. But his triumph was stopped cold by confusion. With a frown, he reached in, recovered an article, then turned to face his roommate. "A teddy bear?" he asked, astonished at what had upset his partner so.
It was a raggedy old teddy bear with scrubby tan fur, stained here and there, a few bald patches else where. it was missing an eye, and the hand sewn button nose was obviously added by some doll doctor. An inch of seam here and there was sewn with a different color thread, again a home fix-it job. And one ear was just barely hanging on.
Not receiving an answer, Buck glanced at Vin.
Curious, the tracker rose to his feet and stepped over to get a better look at the bear. "Now this little fellow has seen some rough times." he observed. "Wonder what his name was?"
J.D. slowly rose to his knees. "Francis." he answered softly. Hesitantly, he reached out and took the bear from his friend. "He was put in my crib the day I was born." He sat the bear on his stomach and scratched one ear.
Again Buck and Vin exchanged glances, their curiosity peeked.
"Francis, eh?" Vin reached out and scratched the bear. "Pretty scary little critter. If I knew he was in there, I wouldn't have touched
the box either." he teased.
"Don't the two of you worry none." Buck encouraged, patting the side arm tucked away in his shoulder holster. "I'll protect you."
J.D. smiled slightly, but said nothing, his eyes cast down on the stuff toy in his hands.
"So..." Buck prodded, "what's Francis' story?"
The boy shrugged. "He's always been there. When I was a kid and skippin' grades and no one was my age, Francis was my best bud." He laughed softly. "Used to tie him to the handle bars on my bike before riding down Suicide hill."
The older Agents grinned, imagining a little scruffy kid with unruly black curls, screaming a mixture of war cries and cries of fear, as he tried to control an uncontrollably speeding bike down a treacherous hill with the equally scruffy teddy bear strapped to the handle bars. "Suicide Hill, eh? Seen one or two of those in my time." Buck admitted.
"Haven't we all?" Vin added, absently rubbing at an age old scar from one of his youthful adventures down a "Suicide Hill."
J.D. grinned too. But then his eyes clouded over again, and his amusement was gone. "When my mother got sick and I had to leave her alone to go to work, she asked for Francis. Said as long as she had Francis I wouldn't have to worry 'bout her. If he spent so many years looking out for me, he'd do the same for her."
Buck's grin faded into a sad smile.
It had only been a little over a year since the kid had left Boston after burring his mother. She had been all the family he had ever known. And, after the initial explanation, it was a topic J.D. had stayed far, far away from. His friends had left him alone, figuring such a loss had staggered the kid. They knew he'd come around in his own time.
The phone range.
With a sigh, Buck turned away to answer it.
Vin gave the bear a last scratch before turning back to the box.
J.D. started as if to stop him, but stopped himself. With a sigh, he sat back. He knew he wouldn't touch the box if left on his own. And he knew, now that the guys were interested, there'd be no stopping them... particularly Buck. Might as well get it over and done with.
"So what is all this stuff?" Buck asked, returning. He paused to stuff the phone under a couch cushion.
Vin turned the flap of the box to read the label. "From Boston, eh?" He glanced at their young friend. "Your mother?"
J.D. shrugged. "A friend of my mama's packed up our old place after she died. I told her to sell or get rid of everything however she wanted. But..." Again he shrugged.
The tracker nodded. "Probably thought that this is the sort of stuff that YOU should toss... if that's what you decide to do."
Frowning, J.D. mumbled "Should of just tossed it all. I don't need any of it."
"How do you know?" Buck challenged. "Did you look in here?"
The boy glared at him. "I took everything that I needed, and left everything that I didn't need." Rising to his feet he tossed the bear back into the box. "That's just a bunch of... memories." he grumbled before turning and starting off.
He didn't get more than two feet when he was hit in the back of the head with Francis. With a grunt, J.D. turned back to glare at Buck, but stopped when he saw what his friend had retrieved from the box.
Buck held up a large picture of a slim, yet well formed, young woman with long black hair, beautiful hazel eyes, and warring an ankle length yellow dress spotted with purple and red flowers. She was sitting on a stool, her legs crossed. On her back, small arms wrapped around her neck, was a scruffy looking boy with the same black hair and beautiful hazel eyes. They were laughing, both, undoubtedly, loving each other.
Vin leaned back so he could get a good look. He whistled in admiration. "Wow."
"Now, that is a looker." Buck agreed, turning the picture around for another look. "Too bad she's just a useless, no-one-needs memory." His eyes lifted just over the edge of the frame to see what his friend's reaction would be.
"Too bad." Vin glanced back at J.D.
J.D. flinched at the words. His muscles tightened, the instinct to pommel them to the ground making itself very clear. But... Taking a deep breath he explained "Mama." He smiled, undeniably proud. "And, yea, she was a looker." Scooping up the bear, he stepped over to the box and looked over Buck's shoulder. "Guys were always knocking on her door. They'd have given her the world if she'd just offer them a smile. But then they got a glimpse of me and... BANG!" he slid one hand off the other, indicating a fast get away.
Buck chuckled. "Yea, seems I remember having that very same reaction the first time I saw you." He laughed, holding up his hand to ward off Francis as he was swung at his head.
Vin tapped the picture and offered "Looks like you two really got along."
J.D. took the picture. "Yea, well, when all you have is each other, your only choice is to get along."
"Hey!" Buck had found something else of interest in the box. He held up a thick book. "Baby book of one John Daniel Dunne!" He grinned.
J.D. snatched the book away.
"Not a chance in hell." the youngster answered with a smile of his own.
Vin chuckled and eyed Buck, wanting to see what response he had.
Sighing a sigh of momentary defeat (great thing about being roommates is that he could always get his hands on the book later), Buck turned once again to the box.
The door bell rang.
When Buck's head remained in the box and J.D. seemed oblivious to the world for the exception of Francis, the picture, and his book, Vin groaned "I'll get it." and headed into the entry to answer the door.
"Oh, and what is this?" Buck pulled out a little piano keyboard. He eyed his friend. "Now, who was the musical one of the family?"
"Ha! I knew it!" Buck handed him the keyboard. "Play something."
"Play what?" Vin asked as he returned, trailing behind Nathan and Josiah.
"J.D. is a musician." Buck announced. He looked up at his friends. "Did you know that?" He paused, eyeing Nathan and his medic bag. "What's that for?"
Nathan was frowning, looking J.D. up and down. Then turned a suspicious eye on Buck. "Jade called. Said J.D. was dying."
"Dying?" J.D. glared at Buck.
Buck shook his head. "I said he was sick, that Vin and I had to stay home and take care of him."
"Well," Josiah chuckled, "apparently Jade believes that someone has to be dying to break a date with her."
Buck sighed. "Well, you'd near have to be." he admitted. "But, otherwise occupied..." He once again shoved the little piano at J.D.
Not even looking at the instrument, J.D. growled "Oh, what a shame. No batteries."
But Buck was ready for that, whipping out a cord from the back. "Gee, ain't we lucky?"
J.D. groaned. Within half a minute he had the keyboard sitting in his lap, Buck standing before him, his arms crossed over his chest.
"You're supposed to be a genius." Buck was saying. "Bedazzle me."
With one lazy hand, the boy typed out chopsticks.
J.D. ground his teeth. Setting down his bear, picture, and book, he set both hands on the key board and pounded out a verse of "Great Balls of Fire."
Buck's jaw dropped.
J.D. grinned. "Bedazzled?"
"Bedazzled." he agreed. "Why the hell didn't I know you could play like that?" Again he looked up at their teammates. "Did any of you know he could play like that?"
Three equally stunned men offered their negative answers.
J.D.'s grin vanished. "I haven't played in a long time." J.D. admitted, setting the piano aside.
Vin eyed him. "Little over a year?" he wondered. No wonder the kid didn't want to touch the box. It was filled with his mother.
J.D. handed him the keyboard. "It wasn't something I needed to do."
"You know you are one stubborn pain in the butt." Buck growled.
Curios, Josiah peered into the box while Nathan spotted the baby book.
Buck was waving the keyboard in the air. "These aren't just nothings. These are memories. And, whether you like it or not, memories are what make you you!" He dropped the piano in the boy's lap. "You are a musician." He jabbed a finger at the teddy bear. "You were a daredevil." Nodded toward the picture. "Had an awesome mother."
"You were a premature baby?" Nathan asked, looking up from the baby book he had, unnoticed, snatched.
J.D. glanced at him sharply. He made a grab for the book, but Nathan pulled it out of reach.
"Hey!" Buck hooted. "I want a look at that thing!"
Receiving an agonizing look from the kid, Nathan smiled, snapping the book closed. "Not a chance in hell." he informed Buck.
"What's this?" Josiah asked, hefting a large picture bible from the box.
"Oh, man." J.D. breathed. Setting the piano aside, he stepped over and ran his fingers over the white and gold trim of the black leather cover. "Mama used to read this to me when I was little. Taught me how to read out of it."
"She was religious?" Josiah asked.
J.D. shook his head. "She liked the stories. Said it was the best book she had ever read. Full of adventure and stuff. When she was sick I used to read to her every night. She was always awake when I got home from work just so I could read to her." His voice dropped off, happy memories mingling with sad.
Josiah smiled, resting a big comforting hand on his shoulder. "A shared time. Every parent and child should be so lucky to have such time together."
"Too bad such times don't last forever." Vin mumbled, thinking of his own long passed parents.
"Oh, but they do, Brother Vincent." Josiah protested. His head dipped so that he could catch J.D.'s eyes. "They're called memories."
Buck and Vin exchanged glances, both silently wondering how the profiler always managed to hit the topic on the head. Even when coming in in the middle of the conversation. Damn, he was good.
There was a frantic knock on the door, but, before anyone could answer it, Chris, with a protesting Ezra in tow, pushed his way in. He stopped when he saw J.D. not only breathing, but upright. "What the hell is going on?" Chris demanded. "You!" he shoved a finger at the boy. "You are supposed to be on your death bed."
Groaning, J.D. dropped back on the couch. "Gee, wonder where I've heard that before?"
Everyone turned their glares on Buck.
Buck shrugged. "Sick. I just told Jade that he was sick. I had to stay home to take care of him."
Ezra huffed, dropping down on the couch beside J.D. "Apparently the young lady feels that the only legitment reason to dismiss her as the evening's entertainment is if death is making an appearance."
Chris glanced around the room at his gathered team and the little bits of this and that that were now scattered around the room. Then he looked down at the box. "What is going on?" he wanted to know. If his peaceful night was thrown into shambles, he was damn well gonna find out why!
Vin smiled, waving at the box. "We're digging into little J.D.'s
"Little?" J.D. was not pleased with that description.
Buck grinned, ignoring his young room mate. "Wanna help?" he asked Chris, digging into the box and tossing a snow globe at him.
"Hey!" J.D. protested, leaping to his feet. "Don't brake it!"
Buck glanced at the boy. "I thought you didn't need any of it!?"
Frowning, J.D. crossed his arms over his chest, dropping back onto the couch. "I just don't want to end up cleaning up the mess." he growled.
It was such an obvious lie, that, now, Chris' curiosity came into play. He had caught the snow globe with ease. Despite Buck's apparent carelessness, he had been very precise in his toss. He turned the ball over, sending the little white flecks floating around the little figurine within. It was a little cowboy on his horse, bowed over and tired as they pushed through the winds of an apparent snow storm.
"Cute." Chris mumbled. He looked up at J.D. with a raised eyebrow and a silent "Huh?"
J.D. sighed. "We used to love westerns. Watched them every saturday. When I was, like, twelve, Mama was called into work. We couldn't afford for her to say no, so we missed our western. But, when she got back that night, she woke me up and handed me that globe. Said that if we ever missed another saturday western, we could watch the globe any time we wanted."
Chris smiled. It was a nice image, he thought, thinking of mother and son... Reminded him of his own Saturday afternoons with his own son. Those were memories of a time when he had been really happy... `really,' truly, absolutely happy.
Shaking his head to rid himself of those thoughts, Chris spotted something else. "Wow." he mumbled, picking up the picture of said mother and son.
"Yea." Buck agreed. "It's like the first thing that leaps to mind is `Damn, why didn't she have a daughter?!'"
J.D. frowned. His six friends laughed.
But Nathan reminded them that he still had the baby book when he discovered "You had a pilot's license?"
J.D. sighed. "Have." he corrected.
Chris frowned. "I didn't know you were a pilot. Why wasn't that in your file?"
But Buck was back in the box. "Damn, kid, was your mother some sort of boozer?"
"Buck!" Josiah snapped.
"What?" J.D. wondered.
When Buck resurfaced from the box he held three shimmering gold boxes, each holding a rather expensive bottle of wine.
"Hey, my Celebrations." J.D. exclaimed.
Ezra frowned. "Celebrations?" He took one of the boxes and inspected it. "hmm... about $300 a bottle. Not what I would consider celebration worthy." But then he eyed the duct tape on the top of the box. "Master John Daniels Dunne." he read.
"Master?" Chris repeated.
"To celebrate earning my masters from ITT." J.D. explained. He shrugged. "But I never finished."
"You dropped out when your mother got sick." Josiah guessed. Not that it had been a hard guess. Though the reason hadn't been stated, times and dates had been on his profile. It all connected.
J.D. shrugged. "There was one for each event of my life. Graduating highschool, 21st birthday, first job, so on and so forth."
Buck read the label on the other two. "Engagement." Buck frowned. "My, she did have high hopes for you, didn't she?!"
His young partner blushed.
Buck grinned, then glanced at the last one. "Moving on." He glanced up at J.D. "Moving on from what?"
J.D. looked at the box. "I don't know. She always said I'd know when the time came to move on. And that's when that bottle was for."
Ezra had an opinion. "Perhaps it is for moving on from her."
J.D. glanced up at him sharply, but didn't say anything. He seemed to be thinking hard on that... and trying hard to deny it.
Bored with that topic, Buck had moved on. Scratching at the bottom of the box he head come up with the last item. A small ring box. "Ooooh." he breathed, opening it up.
The original ring was long gone, but, in it's place, was a quarter machine, plastic ring. It looked as if it had been sized for a five year old, but the silver band had been stretched for a larger finger, the two ends reconnected by a twisty. The top of the ring was a candy red heart with the word's "Be Mine".
"Such expensive tastes." Ezra mumbled sarcastically. "I am amazed." He received a glare from each of his teammates for his trouble.
J.D. smiled slightly. "I earned a penny for each chore I did. I saved up all my pennies and bought Mama a ring for Mother's Day." He shrugged. "I was a little kid. Looked like a diamond to me."
Chris smiled again with his own memories of Father's Days and the little presents from long time ago. "I would guess that it looked very much the same to her." he offered softly.
Josiah chuckled. "Looks quite a bit the same to me."
Even Ezra smiled, admitting "I can think of no better show of appreciation from son to mother." Silently remembering the time he had conned a real diamond for his own mother. He couldn't help but be a little jealous of J.D. Here his mother had treasured a 25c chunk of sugar, water and food coloring, while his own mother, the infamous Maude Standish, had hocked her $50,000 diamond Mother's Day present for a stake in a poker game.
J.D. glanced about at his friends, each seemingly to have found their own memories to chew on. With a shake of his head, he started to put his memories away, back into the box. "Well, that's that." he started, but Buck snatched the box.
J.D. watched in shock as his roommate yanked open the front door and threw the box out, over the rail, and down into the driveway.
With a satisfied grin, which faltered only slightly when he heard a woman cursing at `freakin' box' that had landed in her garden, he closed the door and turned to face J.D.
"What the hell did you do that for?" J.D. demanded. Not that he couldn't get another box. Hell, a garbage bag would do for what he had planned. It was just the fact that Buck was getting in the way... and that pissed him off!
But Buck faced off with him. "You think you're gonna box up all those memories and you'll just forget them? Not a chance, kiddo. It doesn't work that way. memories don't go away."
"An' why would you want them to?" Vin wondered. "Just 'cause she isn't here any longer to share them with you?"
"That's no good reason." Chris growled. And he should know. He had tried to forget his family after they had been killed. And all he had achieved was making it all worse. 'Course he had had a few more years to get used to the loss than J.D. had.
Scratching his chin, Chris stepped between J.D. and Buck. "Look, J.D., it's none of my business, but..." He held up the globe. "If these things are just things, if they don't make you smile at least a little every time you glance at them, trash them, get rid of them, whatever." He set the globe in the boy's hands. "If they mean more to you, if you see that pretty little lady in each of them, if your chest fills up with all that mama and son love the two of you so obviously had, put them where you can always see her."
J.D. stared at him for a moment. Then looked down at the globe. He frowned, turning it up side down and back, shaking up the snow. "I wonder if Bonanza's still as dorky as always."
Chris chuckled. Taking the globe, he walked across the room and set it on top of the television. "Guess you'll find out next Saturday."
Vin snatched up Francis and started for the door.
"Hey, where you takin' him?" J.D. asked, more than a little alarm with the teddy bears possible departure. "I'm keeping him already!"
Vin grinned back at him. "I know. I was just thinkin', way you whip that Harley of yours around, this little fellow will do his best work on the handle bars."
"Hello." Ezra handed Chris the Baby Book which instantly caught Buck's attention.
Chris glared at him. "Not a chance in hell!"
J.D. smiled at them. Then he spotted Buck moving toward the wine cabinet with his bottles. "Wait." He snatched the Moving On one. He pulled it out of the box.
Buck hesitated. "You sure?"
J.D. just smiled and popped the cork.