Title: Oh Yea! The Holidays
Author: Angela B
Characters: All Seven
Disclaimer: Not mine and never will be
Note: Answer to Heather F's Nov. challenge: Okay November is the month of Thanksgiving. :) ( One of the few meals you can eat like a pig and its encouraged!) For this challenge: The seven unexpectedly get to spend Thanksgiving together as a group. It doesn't have to be for a thanksgiving meal or for a jolly good time. They could be in a bind (as in caught by bad guys) and all seven end up caught; They could be doing their own thing on Thanksgiving and end up at the same place. It can be any scenario you want. YOUR DECISION. Only requirement is that they are together unplanned, for Thanksgiving day AND the line "Oh I see that you made it..." is used. In any context you want.
Beth Baker's December Challenge: Okay, here it is. I don't know about the rest of you, but it seems that about this time every year EVERYTHING goes wrong...so, in lieu of that here's the challenge: The 'holy crap it's that time of year again' challenge. I would love to see the guys (all seven) or as close to it as you can come, in a desperate situation—I mean desperate! Either all seven are hurt, or nobody's hurt--and it can be anything from bloodblisters trapped under fingernails to exhausting every nurse and doctor at the local hospital (they don't have to have the same injury, LOL). Any time of year, any AU (as long as it's open)...but bonus points for using The green-river-killer and stocking stuffer in the same sentence!
Chris sat leaned back in the recliner with his eyes closed. When he had taken up the chair five hours earlier it had been relatively soft and comfortable, now it was hard as a rock and his back, among other places, were screaming in retaliation for being put in such an uncomfortable position for such a long period of time. Chris ignored the situation as he readjusted for the umpteenth time. This was not all how he had planned to spend Thanksgiving Day; sitting in a hospital room with seven stitches in his forehead and a twisted knee. The week has started out so benign with each man having his own plans for the four-day weekend.
Ezra was going to go meet Maude in Charleston, or at least that is what he told the group. In actuality, he was meeting her at the resort in Aspen. He had not looked particularly overjoyed at the thought of being with his mother, but no one had said anything about it. Vin had been invited to Thanksgiving dinner by a lady, and by association, her husband, that lived upstairs from the sharpshooter. It was supposed to be their way of paying him back for all the things Vin did to provide safety for their neighborhood, activities for the kids to keep them out of trouble and, Chris had thought quietly to himself, the woman had unofficially adopted the young man from Texas. Buck had met a young lady from the billing department who wanted to go skiing up in the mountains. Buck had surprised the woman with a weekend get-away, where he hoped, would include more than just skiing. JD had been asked out to Nettie's for the one-day feast. The old woman figuring if Casey and JD were getting serious about each other, she better find out just what kind of man John Dunne was. The team had all teased the youngest member about all the things that could happen if the rancher found him unacceptable for her niece. Josiah had planned on working at the shelter feeding the needy, and then driving up to see his sister, Hannah. He had sadly commentated that she wouldn't know if he was there for lunch or not, so he might as well do something constructive with the day. Nathan was planning on spending the day, and hopefully the weekend with Raine. As for himself, well Chris had planned on spending the day in front of the TV watching football and gorging on Thanksgiving dinner picked up from a diner Wednesday night.
That at least had been the plans. Chris chuckled mirthlessly. "Like they say about the best laid plans," he muttered to himself, then quickly looked over at the sleeping form lying in the bed next to him, covered under a mountain of blanket.
It had begun falling apart about nineteen hours before. Wednesday evening. The men had done very little work and had mostly watched the clock waiting for the proverbial `five-o'clock'. Once the second hand spun its way to that magically number, computers were officially shut-off, not that they'd had a lot of use anyway, chairs were shoved up to the desks and jackets had been put on to protect them from the shivering teen degrees outside. The seven men made their way together to the elevator. Once reaching the parking garage, they quickly, with puffed breaths, bid their adieus and walked to their individual vehicle, hoping the dusting snow stayed that way and waited to start sticking until they were all safe. Ezra was to leave that night on a late flight, knowing, like himself, his mother was a night person.
Chris shifted in his chair again and thought about how, not only him, but the rest of his team wound up in this `home-away-from-home' antiseptic place.
Ezra took a deep breath, as he was taxied to the airport, and quietly repeated to himself, as he had been doing for the last three days, ever since being `asked' by his mother to come home for the holiday, that it wouldn't be as bad as he could imagine it was going to be and it was only for a short four days. He had been undercover for weeks, even months. He kept telling himself, he could endure Maude for a couple of days. But, hard as he tried, he just couldn't see an upside to this visit. He had tried telling himself that if he'd stayed in Denver, he would have only wound up alone in his apartment for the day, getting out only to go eat at Furr's, one of the few places opened for the day, for the traditional Thanksgiving feast. He tried not reminding himself that not only had Chris invited him to come out to the ranch and `veg out' with him, but Vin and Josiah had also invited him to share the day with them. He had been in a quandary as to what to say to those invitations when Maude had called and made her request. As for Josiah's invitation, he had nothing against the `less fortunate'. He knew that not everyone in the world caught the breaks in life needed to succeed and be a part of the `civilized' world as some people called it. He had played the part of a homeless vagrant, a drug addict, and a shiftless person. During those times he had gotten to know several people from those scenarios that were basically decent human beings, they just had no hope left in them. It was actually one of Ezra's pet peeves when the general population lumped all homeless, penniless, people all in the same category as worthless and societies problem. Sighing, Ezra realized his mind had sufficiently side tracked off the main thought process. Thinking about Vin's cheerful invitation, Ezra had been tying to figure out how to turn down the man's invitation without insulting him. The truth was he felt very uncomfortable showing up at a stranger's house for a meal as a third wheel. Good manners were deeply ingrained in him, and it was very uncouth to show up at someone else's doorstep without them personally inviting you, much less for a meal. Ezra had been working on a way to disentangle himself from such a run-in with Vin's laid back, `Y'all come on over' attitude. Vin had even invited Chris, but the boss man had simply refused and Ezra had found himself wishing he could say no that easy.
He'd had acquaintances, and even what some people might call friends in the past, but never like these six men. They enveloped him more into their lives than anyone ever had in the past. Therefore, saying no or refusing to do something for them was a terrifying thought to him. To say no might make them want him around less. So, he never said the negative word. Even when he really hated what it got him into, like camping.
Ezra startled when the cab stopped suddenly. He looked up and found the cabbie staring intently at him. Realizing they were at the airport and the man was waiting for him to pay the tab and get out. Ezra exited quickly, reached through the front passenger window and paid his bill. Grabbing his suitcase handle, he made his way into the airport. Tonight was the beginning of one of the busiest traveling periods of the year. Sometimes, Thanksgiving surpassed Christmas in the airline industry of travel.
After checking in and waiting the usual hour or so for his flight, he heard it announced. He couldn't quite muffle the groan when he found out that the passengers of the hop flight would have to walk out onto the tarmac because there was no space for it at any of the terminals. Lugging his carry-on, Ezra gamely followed the rest of the pack of people outside into the blowing snow and biting wind. Being the last one to climb the narrow staircase, Ezra was halfway up to the plane when the woman in front of him stumbled on a step. Quick reflexes had Ezra letting go of the handrail to steady the woman when she let go of her suitcase. The next moments were a blur to Ezra as he felt the suitcase fall back into his legs. Staggering, Ezra's feet lost their traction on the wet, slippery steps. The next instance, the southern felt himself tumbling backwards before everything went dark. He missed the hysterical screaming of the woman who had slipped in the first place, the sudden appearance of the airport ambulance, but most of all he missed seeing the large puddle of blood that had gathered around his head.
Chris knew he should get some sleep. His eyes burned from the lack of it, but he couldn't get his mind to shut down long enough to relax enough. He thought about that morning and the strange unrelated incidents that bought the seven here to this hospital. Chris rolled his neck trying to loosen the tight knot that had enveloped his muscles. The worse part of the entire mess, other than the fact they were all here, was that due to the nursing shortage certain floors had been shut down and the staff had been forced to put patients not necessarily where they belonged, but where empty beds could be found. He thought how this morning had started.
Buck had woke early with a spring in his step and silly smile plastered on his face. To his mind-eye this was going to be a good weekend. At first, he thought the seven might spend the holiday together, but as the time neared it seemed each one fell off to the side with plans of their own. Not to be out done or left adrift, Buck had set out making his own holiday happenings. Finding out through the grapevine that the new and cute receptionist in billings was going to be alone for the holidays, Buck decided she fit the bill to the tee. The charmer immediately went to work on the lady. She never stood a chance against the man. Once he found out that she had wished she could go skiing up in the mountains, Buck pulled a few strings and got a weekend pass. Linda had been more than willing to go.
Buck pulled into the parking lot of the apartment complex Linda lived in, looking forward to spending a couple of days alone with a woman. After helping her carry out her large suitcase and `small' makeup case, the two got into the cab of Buck's pickup and headed off. The scoundrel had purposely not made the cab too warm, so that when she climbed in and shivered, he could suggest she move next to him and cuddle up close. Buck immensely enjoyed the scenic drive up to their destination, driving slowly on the salted roads. He enjoyed the beautiful scenery next to him even more.
Once Buck had them settled into their bungalow, he suggested a few rounds on the slopes before relaxing for the afternoon in the hot tub and a late Thanksgiving lunch. Linda was quick to agree. The first few runs down the slope went well. Buck thought he would impress her by taking a more dangerous route down the hill. Not to be outdone, though, Linda suggested she could take the hill, too. Buck immediately began to worry if he had gotten the woman in over her head and tried to go slow down the hill. Trying to watch the slope and his lady friend at the same time, Buck failed to notice the sharp edge of a rock sticking up out of the snow in time. His skies caught on the pointed uprise and threw him off balance. Falling to the side, Buck knew he couldn't fight motion and tried to relax into the fall. Once he fell though the momentum kept him going. The agent rolling down the hill looked something like a pinwheel. As the gregarious man continued to bounce in a downward spiral with great speed, he lost his skis as they shot through the air. It looked like rotators had come off a helicopter and were spinning crazily through the sky. Reaching blindly for anything to halt his downward decent, Buck's hand felt and then automatically grasped a young sapling. He wasn't able to stop the jaunt, but with a bone cracking, tendon-ripping effort, he was able to slow himself considerably before losing his grip. Instead of flipping wildly through the air, he was now rolling like an elongated tube. Hitting a good size tree with his back, the man finally came to a sudden and thudding stop. By the time Linda managed to make her way down to her date the ski patrol had already been notified of the incident and was on the way to the site. Linda slid to a stop and unlocked her skis, then ran to her beau's side. Buck laid there in the snow, damaged and incoherently muttering, `We weren't even together'.
Chris woke with a start and sat there a few moments before he realized what had woken him. A pain-filled muffle came from the friend beside him. Rising from his chair, Chris patted the arm and soothed reassuring words. The man was hurting. Chris reached for the nurse's button and once he got her attention, asked for some medication for the man that was a brother to him. Once the shot had been delivered and the nurse left again, Chris settled back into the now excruciatingly hard recliner. He wondered how something so comfortable to begin with could end up feeling like a cinder block. Looking at his watch, he realized it was getting late in the evening. He had yet to leave his friend's beside and go hunt down some food. He knew the cafeteria was offering a traditional holiday meal, but he wasn't quite up to it. It wouldn't feel right having the meal without sharing it with at least one his friends. As he sat there thinking about past holidays, he realized he had lot to be thankful for, a good job, good friends and a new family. Though this holiday his family was causing him a lot of stress.
Mid-morning (Thanksgiving Day):
Chris had been out in the barn taking his leisurely time tending to the stock and taking extra time to brush out his horse, something that he hadn't had time to do lately. He had just walked into the house when the phone began to ring. Half tempted not to even answer the thing, Chris begrudgingly picked up the receiver.
"Larabee residence," he said in a flat monotone voice.
"Mr. Larabee!" the female voice on the other end was highly irritated, "Is my son hiding out at your place trying to escape having Thanksgiving with me?"
Chris sighed and cursed himself for having gone against his instincts. "Hello to you too, Maude and no Ezra isn't here," Chris said heatedly, wondering exactly where his undercover agent might have disappeared to. "He left last night headed to see you."
"Well, he never showed," the dominating mother said, her voice changing from irritating to sounding a little nervous and scared.
"Maybe his plane got delayed somewhere. It's snowing here. He could be stuck in some airport," Chris tried come up with a rationale reason for Ezra being missing.
"He wouldn't have had any delays, Mr. Larabee," the voice going back to being irritated. "There's no layovers between there and Aspen," Maude said matter-of-factly, as if explaining to a two-year-old.
"Aspen?" Chris asked in surprise. "I thought y'all were meeting in Charleston?" The tiny hairs on the back of neck slowly began rising.
"I don't know where you got that idea from, but I do know he is not here and I can't reach him on his home phone, his cell or his pager," Maude said, the worry was back in her voice and stronger this time.
"I'll check with some of the other guys, Maude. I bet there is a perfectly good explanation why Ezra didn't make it," Chris said with conviction he didn't feel.
"Yes, well if you do find him, you will let me know? Won't you?" Maude asked, the final words sounding almost like a plea. She had heard the concern in the formidable man's tone and knew he, too, was beginning to suspect something was wrong.
"Yes ma'am. The minute I find him, I'll call," Chris promised, silently adding, `right after I ring his neck.'
"Thank you, Mr. Larabee," Maude said and hung up.
Chris ran his fingers through his hair and tried to figure out who would best know if Ezra had alternative plans. Immediately he called Vin's number only to realize belatedly the sharpshooter would be at his neighbor's. He called the cell number only to get the voice mail. Hanging up, Chris searched through his memory to recall if Vin had ever mentioned the neighbor's phone number. Knowing Vin hadn't, Chris called information and learned the woman's phone had been disconnected. Rolling his shoulders, Chris muttered under his breath about the trouble of having a family as weird as his, as he dialed Josiah's cell number.
"Hello," the profiler answered cheerfully.
Chris wanted to reach through the line and strangle the man. Why should Josiah get to sound so happy when his morning had tanked in three minutes flat. "Hey, Josiah," the blond responded. "I'll make this quick. Maude called. Ezra didn't show. You know something about this?"
Josiah was taken back a minute before replying, "Ezra didn't show?" his tone incredulous. He didn't see Ezra skipping out on his mother no matter unhappy he was about having to spend time with her. Skipping would only bring more misery to his life.
"That's what I said," Chris hissed into the phone with clenched teeth.
Realizing his mistake in repeating what he'd been told, Josiah quickly said passively, "Maybe he's hiding out in his home. You know, he didn't seem to be looking forward to his trip?"
"Yeah, maybe," Chris began. "Listen, you think you could…" Chris hated asking, the man was already generous to a fault.
Josiah smiled on the other end. "No problem. I'll drive by before going to the mission. Gonna take me a little while, though. The snow is beginning to stick and you know how nutty people can drive in this stuff?" the larger man said, agreeing to the favor being asked before the thought was complete.
"Yeah, I do. Drive safe and let me know, okay," Chris said, barely waiting for an `okay' from the other man before hanging up.
Josiah finished getting his stuff together and headed out to the suburban. Hitting the heat on high, he rubbed his hands together before taking hold of the cold steering wheel and journeyed on his way to Ezra's. He wondered where else Ezra could have slipped off to and then quickly realized the futility of that thought. There were a hundred places the undercover agent could go and never be found. Coming to a cautious stop at a red light, he watched the idiot driver beside him gun the gas and slide through the intersection. When the light turned green, Josiah slowly let off the brake and applied the gas. He was in no hurry to have an accident. Reaching his third red light, he was in the middle of slowing down when the driver behind him thought they would both make it and plowed into the back of him, sending Josiah careening into the crossroads and being hit by a dually pickup truck. His suburban spun around and bounced off a light pole like a pinball gone nuts. Slamming his head into the driver's window after his seatbelt yanked him backwards, Josiah could only lean against the window in between conscious and unconscious, where everything is unreal. He wondered how long it would be before Chris started calling him.
Chris was watching one of the many football games being played on TV on mute and wished he were home in his own recliner. He peered up when he heard the swishing sound of the door being opened. JD came through the door pushing a wheelchair bound Buck into the room. Nodding to one another silently, the younger man placed Buck on the other side of the bed and then proceeded to go out to the nurse's station and ask if they could find him a chair. Coming back in, Chris watched with eagle eyes as JD leaned against the wall, trying to hide the grimace that such a move made. Chris shook his head as he took in the wrist to elbow length arm covered in gauze, knowing that it had to hurt, as well as the muscles under the ribs that had been bruised. JD had about as much bad luck as the rest of them.
Right about noon:
Chris had paced the floor about thirty minutes before growing agitated in his wait for Josiah's phone call. Finally in irritation, he called the profiler. He was brought up short when a female answered the phone announcing herself as a nurse at the Four Corner's Hospital. It took very little time for Chris to get the barest of details. Ending the call, he grabbed his jacket and keys and started for the door. He had just pulled it closed when his phone began ringing. Hoping it was either his missing agent, or news on the man, Chris gritted his teeth as he answered tersely, "Larabee."
The female voice on the other end sounded quite timid. "Hello? Is this Agent Chris Larabee? Buck's boss?" the female asked quietly.
Larabee felt his stomach take a plunge. Gripping the phone a little tighter, he went for his best patience tone. "Yes, I'm Agent Larabee. Otherwise known as Buck's boss."
"This is Linda," the female began explaining. "Buck and I…"
"Yes, Linda, I know," Chris interrupted. "Just tell me what happened to Buck," he stated, knowing something had happened to the man and cutting right to the facts.
"Well," Linda started.
"Ma'am, just tell me what happened to Buck and where he is," Chris
"He said to tell you he had an accident and they have flown him back to Denver to Four Corners. He said you would know what that meant," Linda said.
"I do," the blond said wearily, getting into his truck and starting it up. He wondered just how many would wind up there today, under their own tutelage or by his help and then quickly shut down on that thought.
"Thanks for calling, I'll look in on him," Chris said, ready to hang up.
"Uh, sir," Linda paused and then whispered, "I don't think I can drive his truck back on these icy roads."
Chris stopped at the end of his dirt road and laid his head against the steering wheel. "Get a pen and paper. I'll give you a government assess code so you can purchase a ticket back here and then we'll straighten it out Monday," the agent-in-charge directed.
After giving her the code and reassuring her everything would be fine, Chris hung up and then hit speed dial. Dinner with Casey or not, JD would want to know about Buck's and the other's accidents. Thinking further along those lines, he also knew, no matter how much he hated too, he would have to call Nathan and at least update the man on his friend's situations.
The young man sat nervously at the dinner table. Nettie had been given him
some looks that had chilled him to the core every since he had arrived. Now that
the table was set and they were about to give thanks, JD's heart was really
racing. The older woman had asked him to slice the turkey. He had never in his
life sliced a turkey. He had seen it done on TV, but his mom had always sliced
up the small turkey breast she'd fixed every year. Standing up, he took the
pronged fork and long knife and was about to make his first slice when the phone
rang. He had turned his phone off, not wanting it to be bothersome during his
visit to the ranch woman's home. The sudden ringing startled the already edgy
agent and he jumped slightly. Misplacing the knife, he sliced a six-inch
gash into his arm. Yelping in sudden pain, he dropped the knife and fork
and clasped his bleeding arm. Casey ran to the kitchen and grabbed a cup towel.
While Casey was gone, Nettie grabbed a potholder, and fought to get JD's fingers
unclasped from the wound. Once JD let her, Nettie pressed down on the bleeding
with the makeshift padding. Coming back, Casey replaced Nettie's attention, and
wrapped the towel around the arm. From what she could see in those few seconds,
the cut wasn't life threatening.
Having grown weary of the incessant ringing, Nettie reached for the phone. Now was not the time for old busy bodies and their well wishing. "Hello," the feisty old woman answered tersely.
"Nettie?" Chris asked cautiously. He had never known the woman to answer the phone in such an inhospitable way before.
"Oh, Chris," Nettie said, quickly changing her tone to a more pleasant tone.
"Is JD there? I need to talk to him," Chris asked. He cursed the stupid drivers that thought they should be out today instead of home where they belonged. What were so many people doing out anyway, he wondered, as he stopped short trying to avoid one of those stupid drivers. His tires spun momentarily and then caught. Saving him from having a like accident to that of Josiah's and then having to kill said stupid person.
"Uhhh," Nettie stalled, as she watched her niece trying to get her boyfriend to sit down. The ranch woman's expression contorted into a frown, as JD missed the chair and fell backwards onto the floor. Twisting and stumbling as he fell, JD landed on his side. Casey, still holding on to JD's arm lost her balance with him and tumbled down on top of the young man, her bony knee hitting squarely into JD's side with her full weight. The scene caused Nettie to grimace, as JD tried to curl up on himself and hold the hurting side with his good arm while Casey, not letting go of the bleeding arm, tried to raised herself up and off the man.
"He's not able to come to the phone right now," Nettie hedged. "Is this an emergency?" she asked, garnering the younger couple's attention.
"Tell him Josiah's been in a car accident and Buck's had a skiing accident. Both are at Four Corners," Chris said succinctly.
Nettie lowered her chin down. "Oh," she said quietly. "Well, we were just on our way there ourselves," Nettie said softly. "It seems today isn't a good day for Team Seven all the way around."
Chris kept his eyes on the road and fought off the urge to close them. Taking a deep breath, he finally asked, "Do I even want to know?"
"Well, good news is, it's not as bad as it could be," Nettie offered.
Chris made a left hand turn cautiously. Once around the corner, he simple said, "I'll be in the ER or on the Surgical floor."
"See ya there," Nettie said, before hanging up the phone and gazed at the young pair on the floor. Casey had finally helped JD into a sitting position up against the wall and was still trying to stem the flow of blood. Grabbing the coats needed, the older woman said unperturbed and unhurriedly, "Let's go." Looking at JD, she added, "Apparently you'll be in good company."
Helping Casey get JD to his feet without pulling on the sore muscles, the female duo got the friend out to the old rusty Ford truck. Being as old as it was, the truck was made of sturdy iron rather than the newer, lightweight plastic models, and therefore had no problems on the now icy roads. Nettie drove guardedly to the hospital wondering what exactly kind of fate the men of Team Seven had on their side to find at least three of the seven members already being either in the hospital, or on their way. Nettie shook her head. She wasn't sure she wanted her niece marrying into that kind of life.
Chris clicked the `end' button on his cell and then hit the speed dial for Nathan's phone. He knew immediately he had interrupted something when Nathan answered the phone.
"What?!" Nathan growled out angrily into his cell.
Ever since arriving at the hotel with Raine they had been having an argument. Raine had received her extra three days off, but had waited until they had arrived at the hotel before telling Nathan she had given them up so a girl, with less seniority, could spend the days with her husband and children. Raine and Nathan would only have the day and night together. Nathan had bee upset to say the least. He had been looking forward to having four days straight without interruption with his girlfriend.
"Nathan?" Chris asked cautiously. Wondering what else could befall the team.
"Chris?!" Nathan asked in disbelief. His mind having to change gears rapidly. Now thinking of all kinds of scenarios that would have his boss calling him during the holiday vacation. None of them were good. "Am I interrupting anything?" Chris asked, and then realized belatedly how stupid the question would sound.
"Naw," Nathan said, staring hard at his girlfriend. "What's wrong?"
Chris cleared his throat, took a deep breath and took the plunge. "Josiah and Buck are in the hospital, Nettie is headed in with JD, don't ask. I don't know. And Ezra is missing," Chris rushed out.
Nathan closed his eyes and shook his head to himself. "I'm on my way in. It'll take me a couple of hours," he said resignedly.
"Thanks, Nathan," Chris spoke quietly. "And I'm sorry."
"Don't be," Nathan said more sharply than necessary, giving Chris the impression he had interrupted something and it hadn't been pleasant. "See ya in a few," the medic added.
"Okay," Chris replied and hung up.
Chris looked at his watch. Another three hours and this day would finally be over. Not that anything would be any different once the clock struck midnight, barring the fact that this day of fiascos would be over. The blond rolled his head in deep, wide circles trying to ease the tired kinks out of his neck. Tomorrow would only be worse, he knew, because once all the guys had been released they would retreat to the ranch for the rest of the weekend. Chris quit his neck exercises. It was futile to try to relinquish the stress from his body. Staring at the dozing threesome in the room, he wondered how Buck, stretched out in his wheelchair with his wrapped ribs and dislocated shoulder could be comfortable in the position he was in. He was languishing low in the chair, his head resting against a pillow that had been placed of the sharp edge of backing, and his legs propped up narrowly on the bed.
Chris let his gaze slide over to the young gun of the bunch. JD was equally stretched out in his chair. His feet were resting on the arm of the blue chair Buck was sitting in. The threesome, including the slumbering member in the bed, looked like a large twisted human puzzle. The leader was imagining all the pain and soreness they would feel once they awoke. It had been a long day for the threesome, not to be mention the other three members who were elsewhere in the hospital. Chris' mind went back a few hours ago when things had appeared to look like they were getting better.
Chris had finally, and safely, arrived at the hospital and walked into the waiting room expecting it to be dead quiet. Instead he found it alive and humming with activity. Apparently there was no rest for the weary, or the sick, or the dumb. As Chris waded through the chairs, stepping over people's outstretched feet; a sure sign they'd been there awhile, skirting around running, bored children, and attempting to maneuver away from obviously nauseated people; which made him wonder about food poisoning, he finally made it to the Triage window. Without a word, the woman behind the sliding glass windows pointed toward the double doors and pressed the buzzer. Chris walked through the automated doors and headed towards Pod A knowing that unless they had more serious cases than Buck or Josiah's that was where they would likely be. Instead of heading for the nurse's desk and bothering the hectically run staff, the leader began roaming through the halls looking for his men. There weren't but fifteen rooms, it didn't take him long. He found Josiah first. The big man took up the whole gurney he had been sequestered on. It looked rather a site, but Chris held his mirth until he knew how bad off the man was first. Entering the room fully, He noticed the profiler was entranced by a football game. Each room had its own TV. Chris always figured this was too keep patients occupied during their long wait in between doctor visits, and also so they wouldn't bother the nurses.
Josiah looked over to the entering person and a smile blossomed on his face. "Hey, Chris!" Then the smile left and something akin to sorrow replaced it. "Sorry about this. You didn't have to get out in this. I'm gonna be fine," Josiah said, feeling the need to apologize without knowing why. "Good thing I've got a thick skull," he added, patting his head and trying to lighten his mood and play off any seriousness.
"No sweat," Chris replied letting his eyes gazed up to the TV. "They doing any good?" he asked, not needing to mention which team he was referring to.
"Okay," Josiah answered, shrugging at the same time.
The two men watched in silence for a minute before Chris took in a deep breath and turned to his friend. "Buck's girlfriend called. He's been in some kind of accident and supposed to be around here somewhere. I called out to Nettie's to let JD know and she said they were on their way in to the hospital anyway," Chris paused and shrugged one shoulder. "Didn't say why, but I'm supposing it isn't serious." Chris looked down at his hands that were now clenched around the top pole of the side railing. "And I still have no clue about Ezra."
Josiah sat in stunned silence. How had the day gone to pot for all of them so quickly. They weren't even in same region of one another and they still found trouble. Josiah sighed. "Well, I'm just waiting for them to find time to x-ray my skull and then get around to telling me what I already know. Apparently, they're getting slammed pretty good today," Josiah said in way of reasoning for him still lying in bed. "I could do some phoning around and see if I can get some leads on Ezra while you go check on the other two," he offered.
Chris nodded in appreciation, checked the score on the TV one more time before wlaking out the door in search of Buck. Having seen the waiting room minutes before, he knew that unless JD was about to keel over dead, which he doubted from the conversation with Nettie earlier, JD would be in the waiting room when he went back out later. Either that, or he'd be in Pod C since Pod A, and from what he'd seen, Pod B was already full to capacity.
Going to the section where they placed the most seriously ill or injured people, Chris walked past the glassed-in trauma rooms looking briefly into each one. Finally, he came to the right cubicle. He recognized the flaming red ski jacket that was Buck's lying on the floor, having been cast aside by the medical profession when he'd arrived. The man liked to stand out no matter what he did, unless it was uncover work, but that was another ballgame altogether.
Chris stood at the doorframe and knocked gently. The two nurses working on the man looked up simultaneously and grinned. They had wondered how long after the agent arrived someone from the team would show up.
Chris walked into the room and stood at the end of the bed. A sheet had been placed over the muscled legs and pulled up to the waist. Buck still had his head and neck encased in the red styrofoam block that kept it immobilized. The two black Velcro straps, one that went over the top of his head and the other that cut across his forehead was still snugly in place. Chris was unconcerned with that since it was protocol. He was staring at the vivid black and dark purple chest. Buck's whole upper torso was all one bruise, except for the arm that was tightly wrapped and haltered to his chest. The blond couldn't help but think of how much that had to have hurt. Chris finally let his gaze wander further up his friend's body and catalogued all the cuts and abrasions. Ski outfits protected from the cold, not from rocks, sticks and other assorted obstacles stuck in the snow. One of the nurses smiled and motioned towards Buck with her head. Chris began moving to the side of the bed as the same nurse peered down into the patient's eyes and softly announced, "You've already got company, sweetie."
Buck's eyes fluttered heavily opened. "Chris," he slurred out.
Chris came to a stop at the head of the bed and leaned over so Buck could see him. Chris had felt his heart drop into the pit of the stomach when he had walked in moments ago. He had figured at the most, Buck had broken a leg and the blond had expected his friend to be awake and flirting with the nurses. Chris had planned to rip into the man for not being able to stay out of trouble, but now staring down into confused wandering blue eyes all he felt was extreme worry. "Hey, Buck," he stated softly. "I'm right here."
Chris reached out a hand and paused, wondering where exactly he could place it that would be comforting without hurting his friend.
Buck tried to get his eyes to follow his internal commands. The best he got was one blood-shot eye, where the sclera vessels had broken, sliding to the corner of his eye socket. Managing a weak, but sincere, "Hey!" Buck's eyes closed.
Chris looked up to the opposite nurse for details. Knowing what was already bound to come, the nurse was prepared and brief. "Three bruised ribs, dislocated shoulder, torn tendons, and bruised lung. No word back on the MRI yet, but he is responsive, coherent and hasn't had any seizures. He'll need surgery for the shoulder."
Chris nodded once sharply. Looking down on his banged up friend, Chris couldn't help but shake his head. `How could this happen?' he wondered to himself.
Buck's eyes dragged slowly open again and this time he was able to get one eye to cooperate a little better. "Hey, Chris," he said sluggishly.
Chris smiled at the disoriented buddy lying before him. Apparently his version of coherent and the staff's version differed slightly. "Hey, pal." Chris said warmly.
"What were you doing? Trying to show off for the new girl?" Chris joked, trying to ease his worries and let Buck know everything was going to be all right.
Buck smiled weakly and closed his eyes. "Don't have to show off, I got charm," he said, slurring his words into warble.
Chris forced a smile and tried joking back. "Now you got bruises," he laughed lightly.
"Girls dig playing nurse," Buck replied, the end of his sentence sliding into a simple breath.
"Sure they do, pal," Chris said softly, patting the good shoulder. He looked around, found a hard plastic chair, drug it over to the bed and settled in. He'd check on JD and find out about him when he knew some information.
He didn't have to wait. As the saying went `If Mohammed won't come to the mountain, the mountain will come to Mohammed.' Sometime later, Nettie appeared in the doorway. Stepping quietly into the room, she cleared her throat. Chris had the look that said he was a million miles away from where he really was. The older woman glanced at the sleeping man in the gurney and wondered why they didn't make bigger gurneys for men. The lady's man looked downright uncomfortable being squashed into the narrow bed.
Chris roused immediately at the cleared throat. Sitting up, he rotated his shoulders while glancing towards the door. Spotting Nettie, he immediately rose and offered his chair. Nettie stepped further into the room shaking her head slightly.
"JD is in the waiting room still. He asked me to come find Buck and Josiah and see how they were doing. I've already checked on Josiah," she said simply. "He found Ezra," she said, stepping closer to Chris and handing him a prescription paper. On the back was the information. "Says they wouldn't give much detail, but Josiah did find out he's in the ICU."
Chris looked at the scribbled note and muttered under his breath. The news and the name of the hospital across town where Ezra was gave the blond some indication how bad this day was going to be.
"Josiah said you would have to call to get him transferred over here," Nettie spoke softly. "Apparently they gave him quite a hard time."
Chris rubbed his brow and nodded once.
Jaunting her chin towards the sleeping man, she asked, "How is he?"
Looking back at the sleeping man, Chris went into a monotone explanation. "Dislocated his shoulder and tore a ligament. They are waiting for transportation to come take him up to surgery. Banged up pretty good, but only the shoulder requires fixing," he said, giving the run down.
Pausing to look at Nettie, he closed his eyes briefly and asked the question he was afraid to ask. "So, what did JD do?"
Nettie had waited and let the blonde ask when he ready for the information. The man seemed to have a full plate and she knew better than to add to it until he was ready for it. "Sliced his arm cutting the turkey," Nettie said quietly, judiciously leaving out that it was Chris' call that startled the man. "Then he missed the chair." Nettie waved her hand in motion that told Chris things went from to worse then.
"What kind of damage?" the blond asked tiredly.
"Gonna need some stitches. That's about it," Nettie said, and then with a twinkle in her eye, she said, "You might want to quiz him how he wound up with a bruise on his ribs, though."
Chris arched an eyebrow at the older woman, who just smiled mischievously. Chris knew immediately there had to be a really good story in there somewhere. Maybe good enough to keep the kid in line for a while. Chris smiled evilly. "Thanks, I will," he said.
It was then that a young man from transportation showed up and began unlocking the wheels of the gurney. With the assistance of a nurse, the two got Buck's bed ready to roll. Watching his friend being rolled out, Chris took a deep breath. This day was just turning out to be a nightmare. The blond felt the old woman's hand on his shoulder. Looking down on the woman, he managed a bare smile.
"Why don't you go check on Josiah, again and see about Ezra. I'll go back out to the lobby and let JD know how things are back here," she suggested in a commanding way.
Nodding his head in resignation, Chris headed back down the hall towards Josiah's pod room. Stopping at one the many coffee stations located throughout the hospital, Chris poured himself a cup, and then with further thought, poured Josiah one too. Walking into the room, he noticed Josiah had slipped off to sleep. Sitting the coffee down on the short counter each room had, Chris located the hard plastic chair and sat down to watch the game on TV as he dialed the other hospital number. It was a new game, which told Chris exactly how long he'd been there. Josiah woke, feeling a presence in the room. Looking over at Chris, he smiled. "Hey, boss. How's it going?"
Chris, listening to the infuriating computer generated operator on the other end, startled and Josiah apologized for scaring him. Chris turned his chair so he could see the TV and Josiah while continuing to push buttons. Glancing up at the score quickly, he recited what he'd learned.
Josiah shook his head, "Bummer," he said eloquently, causing Chris to smirk. "At least we know Vin's having a good time," the older man added.
"Or at least hasn't shown up yet," Chris quipped.
"So, how did you find Ezra?" the blond asked, being put on hold.
"I just thought about how the rest of the team's luck was going and I started calling other hospitals. Starting with those closest to his house and the airport," Josiah said.
Chris rolled his head at his profiler's logic and hissed, "Figures."
Josiah was about to comment when Chris finally got a hold of a live person on the other end. Chris gave a brief rundown on who he was, who Ezra was and what he wanted. In cold disbelieve the woman on the other end told him, `No.'
"What?!" Chris said, his irritability growing by the minute.
"Sir, I don't know if what you're saying is true or not. If you want Mr. Standish transported to Four Corners, you have to come in person, show us you have the proper authority for such a request and then fill out the paperwork," the woman on the other end explained, also becoming rather ruffled.
"Fine," Chris ground out. "I'll be there in twenty minutes."
Chris hung up looking ready to kill. Josiah held off saying anything. He'd seen his boss in enough of these situations to know it was better to just keep still and breath slowly. Chris' hand finally unclenched the phone and turned stormy green eyes on him. "I'll be back in an hour or so." He ground out.
Josiah simply nodded. "I'll be here," Josiah answered quietly.
Chris strode out of the room and down the hall. Walking through the waiting room, he didn't even look around for JD. He was on a mission and was focused only on one thing. Getting his men all together under one roof and hog-tying them to their beds.
JD looked up when the automated doors swung open and saw Chris striding out like an angry avenger. Having been told by Nettie about Ezra being in a hospital across town, it didn't take an genius to figure out where Chris was headed and with the look of death written on his boss's face someone was going to get read the riot act and JD didn't want it to be him. Prudently, he refrained form drawing Chris' attention towards himself. Let the man take his wrath out on someone else, the young agent hurt enough already.
It took Chris very little time to get across town and even less time to find
the "appropriate" person to speak with. With the anger raging on his
face, it had taken Chris only one time of asking, `Who is in charge?' to get the
right person so he could see Ezra, get the paper work filled out and arrange for
an ambulance to come transport his fallen agent over where he belonged.
After a brief tête-à-tête, Chris convinced the head floor doctor that Ezra, whose badge had been placed his suitcase, was an agent and that he, Chris, had full power of attorney of the man's health issues. It was then reported to Chris that Ezra had fallen backwards down the plane's steps and had suffered a moderate concussion. The landing had also cracked his skull open, which while wasn't good news the damage was minimal. The agent had come to a couple of times, but had become quite agitated and had to be restrained. Chris demanded to see his agent immediately.
Stepping into the ICU room, Chris grimaced and then felt his anger building all over again. Ezra hated hospitals. No matter how many times the man was a patient of one, he always had slight bouts of panic attacks when waking up in one. Restraints, the team had learned early on, only intensify the panic attacks. Chris began speaking softly to his friend as he set to undoing the padded belts that held Ezra down.
Ezra came to hearing a familiar voice. That voice, though he couldn't understand the words, told him all he needed to know. He was safe. Slowly he peeled his eyes opened. There was Chris standing by his side, looking down on him with worried, tired eyes. "Chris," Ezra said, his voice weak and dry.
"Yeah, Ezra," the blond spoke, relieved to see Ezra awake and coherent. "I'm working on getting you transferred, but it'll take a bit.'
Ezra could only nod in acceptance as his eyes slid closed again. He didn't recall why he was here and at the moment it didn't matter. Chris was at his side, so all was okay.
Chris stood at the undercover agent's side and breathed a sigh or relief. Ezra had taken a nasty fall, but from all reports he would be fine in no time. The blond pulled out his phone and dialed Maud's number. After a brief explanation, the two hung up with Maude telling Chris she would stop by on her way home in a few days. By then he should be recovered enough to host company. The tall man held his tongue. Ezra might be asleep, but that didn't mean Chris could badmouth the woman in his presence.
Chris watched Ezra being loaded into the back of the ambulance and promised the man one of their teammates, most likely Josiah, would be on the other end awaiting his arrival. Chris had one more errand to run.
Chris looked at his watch. It was now eleven, almost midnight and this day would be over. No matter what they said, or what plans they made, Chris had already vowed to himself, Christmas was going to be different. He would haul all of them out to his house and imprison them. The blond then sighed knowing that it wouldn't do any good. With these men they would still find ways to get in trouble. The agent-in-charge leaned forward and was watching over the friends that had made it into the room when the room door swished quietly open. Chris looked up and smiled as Vin came hobbling in on crutches. The tall blond couldn't hold back the smug smile he flashed at his friend. It was the troublemaker's fault Chris had stitches in his forehead to begin with, not to mention the twisted knee. Watching Vin struggle to ease his way down onto a hard plastic chair a nurse had graciously bought in for him, Chris felt no compulsion to offer his recliner. Next time maybe the Texan wouldn't be so gung-ho in stepping in where he wasn't asked. Fingering the butterfly bandages covering his stitches, Chris vowed he wouldn't either in the future.
After leaving Ezra:
Chris had decided to swing by Vin's place and let the sharpshooter in on what had been going on. Pulling up to the sidewalk, he noticed a ruckus in the alley. Getting out of the truck cautiously, he spied a familiar figure in the middle of the melee. Cursing his luck, Chris ran straight in and jumped into the fray. Pulling people back left and right, the strong rancher, keeping his profession to himself so as not to become a singled out target, made his way to the middle of the fight dodging fists. Coming up to Vin, he asked snidely, as he threw a punch of his own to an unknown assailant, "New tradition?"
Vin, who had been quietly dining with his neighbors with the gang war had broken out downstairs, had gone down to break it up. Looking at Chris now, tired, weary and more than a bit angry, shot back, "Yeah, What do you think of it?"
Chris ducked a blow from a coming two-by-four and then sucker punched the attacker answered back, "Not much."
The fight continued until police backup showed. During that time, Chris, twisting around, had weaved one way to miss an oncoming fist, only to be hit in the forehead with a board from another assailant. The heavy board knocked the body into untwisting itself and in the process wrenched the kneecap. Though bleeding heavily, as head wounds do, the cut itself was not that deep. Chris had managed to knock the idiot out cold before falling on his hands and one knee, praying he wouldn't black out. Vin didn't come out any better. Someone had hit the agent right above the knee with a pipe hard enough to cause a hairline fracture in the bone.
By the time the ambulance arrived, Chris, having overcome the dizzy spells, refused the ride and ordered the paramedic to patch him up. Driving towards the hospital, he briefly flittered with the idea of just going home, but quickly gave up on that idea, knowing the staff would just call him in when the guys became too unruly for them to handle. Hobbling through the waiting room doors, he was relieved to see that the swell of people had gone down. The staff took him right in with the thinking the quicker they got him out of their hair the quicker he'd be on his way to become someone else's problem.
Vin's arrival could be heard down the hallway. His protests that he was fine were loud and clear. Chris looked at the resident sewing his scalp back together heatedly. The last two stitches were roughly put in, much the chagrin of Chris. He'd have to remember in the future not to growl at the person sewing him up. Once the butterfly band-aids were in place and the knee wrapped, Chris strode down the hall as best as he could on crutches towards Vin's cubicle. Stepping inside, Chris roughly chastised his agent, "Knock it off. There are some sick people in here that don't need to hear you're bellyaching like some little kid." Staring hard at Vin, Chris continued, "And these guys are only trying to do their job, so let them!" This day was becoming a real trial of Chris' patience and he was losing badly.
Vin's head had snapped up at Chris' loud voice and met his boss' eyes. Realizing that he had been louder than necessary and that somewhere in the ER were truly sick or injured people, he looked abash. "Sorry," he muttered to the staff.
The med tech readily accepted the apology and did his best to process the agent as quickly as possible.
One more hour. That's all Chris had to go through for this horrid day to be over. He looked around the room at his sleeping compadres and sighed a relief. Beyond cuts, bruises and little banged up, they were no worse for the wear. They would all be going home tomorrow and by Monday they'd be back to their rowdy, trouble-making ways. A slow smile began to form on his lips. He wouldn't take them any other way. The door slid open and light from the hallway flooded into the room. Chris could hear some nurses laughing down the hall. The bossman watched as Josiah patiently followed a weaving Ezra into the room and then guided him over to a chair. A couple of nurses had already filled the small room with enough chairs for all of them after the agents had slowly began straggling in. The staff knew them a bit too well, Chris thought. Josiah settled Ezra into a recliner then stepped over to Chris and with a grin on his face, whispered, "Wouldn't stay put any longer. Don't hardly know his name, but he knew everyone would be in here and he wasn't going to be left out."
Chris let the smile form fully on his face. Ezra was one of them no matter how much he stated he wasn't.
Josiah looked over at the lone figure in the bed and asked, "How is he?"
Chris looked over at Nathan and sighed. "I think since we're all in here, the nurses might actually quit doping him up and let him come to," Chris said heavily.
"Thank goodness," Josiah whispered with a mischievous smile on his face. "You know what they say, `Doctors make the worst patients," he said chuckling.
Chris laughed softly. "Apparently, so do paramedics.'
Earlier that afternoon:
Nathan had closed his cell and grabbed his and Raine's bags, explaining the situation as he led them out of the room and back to the lobby. After a brief explanation and getting a little nasty, a definite influence of his boss, Nathan got his refund and, after loading the SUV, headed back to town with his girlfriend. The nasty fight with Raine earlier left the trip back to town long and quiet. Raine had been concerned for the men of course, but couldn't help snidely mentioning to Nathan as he had hurriedly pushed her out the hotel room, that it was fine for him to ruin their one day together for his friends, but she couldn't shortened their trip because she had done something nice for her friend.
Nathan was mad but kept himself reined in enough to know to drive carefully on the salted one lane that was open. Coming up on some slow moving drivers, Nathan refrained from honking his horn, knowing if he scared the driver in front it could cause the said driver to lose concentration and have a wreck. Finally, he came to a section of the highway where both lanes were open and made his move. Unfortunately, so did half the other cars, creating a backlash when some tried to cut in front of others. The result was a five car pile up that bottlenecked both lanes. Nathan took a deep breath, as he managed to avoid hitting any of the cars. Sighing heavily, he pulled over on the side of the road as far as possible, killed the engine and began collecting his first-aid gear. Raine was already out of the car and had started triaging before Nathan could join her. It was three hours before all the ambulances; wreckers and the rest of the blocked vehicles could clear a path so that travel would once again commence. By that time Raine and Nathan were to0 cold, tired and hungry to fight anymore and let bygones be bygones.
Nathan made it to Denver without further incident and pulled up to Raine's place. Getting out carefully, he placed his feet carefully on the icy driveway and made his way around the car. Helping his girlfriend out of the car and guiding her guardedly, they made it to the front door. Giving her quick kiss, he said, "I'll be back as quickly as possible."
Raine smiled, she knew better.
Nathan turned on his low beam lights and headed in the dark towards the hospital. Slowing at every light just to be on the safe side, he was greatly relieved when he finally put the car into park in the hospital garage. Avoiding going outside and taking a chance of slipping on icy steps, Nathan took the long way across the catwalk that joined the hospital and the garage. Having called from the wreck, he found that most of the guys were doing reasonably well. He decided Buck and Ezra needed seeing to first off. Stepping into the elevator, he considered himself quite the lucky one, having nothing befall him on this day. Stepping out of the elevator, he turned the corner, ran into the `visitation is over' sign, struggled momentarily with it before his feet became entangled in the steel legs and fell forward still holding onto the sign. Landing face first on the sign, he rose up and clamped a hand over his bleeding broken nose. The guys would never let him live this down.
A nurse had heard the commotion found Nathan still sitting on the floor holding his nose and rocking back and forth. She went back to the desk and instructed one of the others to page Chris Larabee over the intercom, while she transported Nathan downstairs to the ER. Nathan complained and coached the techs and doctors so much, they relieved themselves of the minor irritant by giving the agent a sedative and then assigned him a room upstairs to sleep it off. Besides, the staff knew the group of agents would need a gathering place anyway.
Five more minutes, Chris thought. He heard Nathan muffle something and leaned over the arm of the chair to see his agent finally waking up. Smiling, Chris smirked, ""Oh I see that you made it just in time."
"Happy Thanksgiving, Nathan," the rest of the group quietly chorused.
Chris leaned back and closed his eyes. He wouldn't even think about Christmas. That was just too much. Maybe, he'd give them a free trip to some far off place as stocking stuffers and then run the other way. `Yeah,' Chris said to himself with a smile. That would work.
`Suurree,' a voice in the back of his mind popped up.