AN: Written for the M7 lyric wheel, my lyrics were Mad Season by Matchbox Twenty.

JD restrained himself from throwing the can of Coke in his hands across the break room. I'm 26 for chrissake. It's not like I'm a little kid who needs to be led to the bathroom. I'm trying to live my life on my own, or at least I would if they let me. His fuming continued as he thought back on the incident that had led him here.

Once again the team was about to embark on a rather strenuous case, in California of all places. Completely out of their jurisdiction. Not that it stopped AD Travis from assigning it to them, saying it required Team Seven's particular finesse. A comment that he followed by ordering them to leave JD home. He didn't want any foolish mistakes to ruin this case, only veteran agents were going to be a part of it. Buck and Vin had protested loudly, as had the rest of the team. But both Travis and Larabee had held their ground. JD didn't have the experience needed for this case.

Of course I don't have the experience necessary, JD told himself angrily. I can't exactly get the experience if I get left behind at every sign of trouble. It was with a troubled sigh that he returned to his desk to gather his things. Travis had given him the rest of the day off, presumably so he wouldn't be in the way as they discussed the case.

By the time Monday rolled around he was beyond frustration. Buck had smothered him until he left, telling JD every five minutes that California would be no fun without him. He couldn't help but smile at the fact that the whole team was determined to not have any fun just because he wasn't there. He knew better, they would be too busy to even think about the fact he was missing, but they would have fun doing it. That's part of what made them the Magnificent Seven, they enjoyed their jobs and they were the best.

As a result of his pity party, he almost missed the blinking light on his extension. It blinked slowly, leisurely, a testimony to what his next three weeks would be as he sat around the office waiting for the team to return. One message.

In retrospect, JD would see it as a turning point. He, of all people, knew that he had the experience needed for the case, even if Chris didn't. But, the constant babying on the team's part had begun to eat at his self-confidence. Not that they even realized what they were doing, it wasn't until later that he realized it himself. But, he needed a chance to prove to himself at least that he was capable of much more than running computer checks and sitting in a surveillance van.

"Good morning, Mr. Dunne." JD grinned to himself as he recognized the voice on the message. Nicholas. What the hell was he doing calling him? JD could clearly remember telling them to take their floater job and shove it up a certain portion of their anatomy. Yet, somehow, just now he didn't mind one bit the possibility of rescinding that opinion. "It has come to our attention that you will be experiencing some free time in the immediate future. It has been arranged that, if you chose to accept this assignment, you will be loaned to another team for an upcoming case. Please notify us by the usual methods if you agree to rejoin the force. And, JD, it'll be good to have you back." He was still smiling as he dialed a phone number, hanging up just after the first ring.

It wasn't much longer that AD Travis' secretary called, stating that another ATF team had requested his help with a sizeable case back east. He could hear the confusion in her voice as she bit back any questions she had as to why he wasn't with Larabee in California. JD was the picture of politeness as he informed her that of course he would help the team, it was his duty as an ATF agent. Just tell him when his flight was and he would be there.

There weren't many people in the airplane hanger when he arrived there, 14 hours after he left Denver International. Of course, he had been the only passenger on the small Cessna plane that he brought him there. No chance for conversation, not that he needed it. He had spent the whole flight reviewing the file that had been waiting for him at the terminal in Dallas. He had memorized the entire contents six hours ago, but he still felt the need to review it. It had been three years since he had done anything of this nature, and he was beginning to feel the strain of his absence.

Jim had been there, with the rest of the team waiting to brief him on his role in the mission. He could feel himself falling back into character as he relaxed, knowing that despite everything that happened in Denver, no matter what Travis or Larabee thought about him being too young, he had experience. It's just that it's all classified, very classified.

"Well, JD, you've gotten your instructions. I know that you've been out of the field for a while, do you think you can cope?"

JD just flashed a grin that sent a knife of apprehension into Jim's gut. If nothing else, he had learned a long time ago that with this group, you could only expect the unexpected. "No problem."

As the younger man walked away with Nicholas to get the final touches of their roles taken care of, Jim couldn't help but wonder if Larabee had ever realized what a walking trouble magnet JD was. Or if he realized what a resource he was holding onto, untapped.

One successful mission, one satisfying trip back into his life from the old days before he joined the ATF, JD returned to Denver. And to a very upset Team Seven.

"What the hell do you think you were doing, volunteering to work with some new crack team back east? Were you trying to get yourself killed?" Buck had started in on him the minute he walked into the apartment. And it was obvious there would be no respite. The whole team was there, Nathan was trying to covertly check him for injuries, Josiah was getting ready to wax poetic and Ezra was just sitting there with one eyebrow raised at the sight of his arm in a sling. Chris was glaring at him, though after the mission he'd been through Chris' glare was nothing, and Vin was wearing an expression that was combination of amusement, pity and concern.

"I'm fine." JD shrugged, concealing the stab of pain through his shoulder. He had dislocated it, again. But the mission had been accomplished, an assortment of highly illegal nuclear weapons were safely on their way to being destroyed. And, most importantly of all, he had proven to himself that he was still capable of playing with the big dogs. Yet, he couldn't help but be glad that he didn't have to on a regular basis. There was something kinda good about being the kid of a group. And this was one group that he was glad to be a part of.

He carefully skirted Buck, knowing that they would understand that he just wanted to go to bed and get some rest. Knowing that they would still be there when he woke up. Knowing that even though he wasn't going to be able to tell them the whole truth about where he had been - he wasn't even going to mention nuclear weapons around Buck - they would understand in their own way. Oh, Josiah and Ezra for sure would know that he was keeping something from them, and maybe Vin and Buck as well. But they wouldn't pry; they wouldn't try to make him tell them something he couldn't. And that's why he called them friends.

Just before reaching his room, he turned to look at them. It had taken two weeks with a completely different group of friends. Ones that he neither loved more nor any less than this group to realize that there was something he needed to do. Something he had been trying to avoid for a long time. Despite their overprotectiveness, their smothering, they were still his brothers in heart. "Hey, guys. I just wanted to say thanks."