The February 2002 Challenge: offered by Heather
Any AU, any setting....Whatever floats your boat so to say. Some of the seven guys are stuck on one side of a water way (river, pool, pond, puddle, bathtub anything with water) and some of the others (one or two or how many you want) are on the other side. For whatever reason, the one group refuses to cross the water and join the others, despite the fact bad guys can be heard bearing down on them.
Race to cross the River
'Where the hell are they?' Chris's worry was turning into a cold fear that clenched his heart. It was hard enough waiting for Vin and Buck, 'they should be here by now!'
'Something's gone wrong.' Josiah added.
'Think they got them?' Vin shifted his arm to try and lessen the pain that was pissing him off more than anything else.
'I hope not,' said Chris.
Two men urged their horses to go that little bit further in a rush to get to safety. They knew the horses had only enough left in them to reach the river; that was all that mattered. They would then leave the horses and swim across the river themselves. Once they were across they would be safe.
The lead rider could see the river in the distance; they were there. It was matter of seconds. He could see Chris as he rose from behind a rock searching for them. He couldn't help but smile at the sight. That smile broke when he felt his horse trip and begin to fall beneath him. He pulled his feet from the stirrups and pushed himself away from the falling animal. There was no fear. As long as he was able to still swim after the fall, then, well, things would be okay.
Someone screamed his name. He wasn't sure who because he had become too concerned about his fall. He tried to roll but was unable to do so and as a result his back struck the hard ground. Then his head, (he now knew it would) hit the ground. Bright lights danced before his eyes. A few seconds later everything turned black when he lost consciousness.
'How did they manage to keep their horses?' Buck wondered out loud. He and Vin had lost their mounts twenty minutes from the river. They had only just managed to reach the safe haven with their skin in tact. As it was, Vin had received a broken arm.
'They're not the same horses.' said Vin.
'Looks like he's hurt.' Chris told the group. 'He's not getting up.'
'How bad?' Nathan also stood up so he could see what was happening on the other side of the river.
'Shit.' Chris turned and fell to the ground. 'We can't help them.'
'We have to do something Chris.'
'Like what Nathan? You tell me what we can do and we'll do it.'
Nathan looked down at Chris and nodded. He was right, they couldn't help them. If the men chasing them found out that they had helped them, then all their lives would be lost.
'Ezra!' JD jumped off his horse while it was still moving and rushed to the gambler's side. 'Ezra?'
JD had to stop and think. He glanced over his shoulder knowing that it wouldn't be too long before he would see a group of riders coming towards them. Another glance down at Ezra told him that they wouldn't be crossing the river anytime soon either. He took a deep breath hoping that it would calm him down. It was up to him to keep Ezra from anymore harm.
He noticed that Ezra's head was turned to the right, his chin nearly touching his shoulder. His fingers reached out to find a pulse. Nathan had shown him how to look for one not long after he'd join the group. There was a pulse, a strong one.
'Okay Ezra, this will work out fine,' said JD. He knew Ezra couldn't hear him but it helped his own state of mind hearing his own voice. 'We'll just wait until you wake up and then we'll cross the river. Nothing to it.'
'How long has it been?'
'Twenty minutes.' Josiah answered Chris's question.
'They managed to get a good lead.' Chris calculated the time it had taken the hunters to catch up to him, Josiah and Nathan.
'Ezra tends to have a few tricks up his sleeves,' said Josiah. He chuckled at thought. Ezra was a gambler, a man who spent a lot of time indoors. He gave you the impression that he wasn't the type of person that could survive the outdoors. But when you got to know him and spend time with him on the trail you found out that he knew what he was doing. The gambler had once told him that he needed to know how to escape from a posse. Josiah had laughed but the expression Ezra had been wearing told him that the Southerner was serious.
'I didn't think he was capable. Thought they would be sending two dead bodies over.' said Nathan. He had changed positions a few times to try and get a better view but all he could see was JD's back and Ezra's feet.
'What's JD going to do if Ezra doesn't wake up?' Buck asked.
'He'll either swim or wait.' Nathan answered.
'He better not be stupid enough to do either.' Chris growled. He was still sitting on the dirt floor with his back against a large rock. 'If he loses control in the water they'll both drown and if those guys catch up to them their dead.'
'He can't stay there and wait for them.' Vin argued.
'He's going to have to swim over and bring Ezra with him,' said Josiah.
'Then what is he waiting for?' Buck asked himself.
'Come on Ezra wake up. Please. Ezra we can't stay here!' JD pushed Ezra's shoulder with more force than was necessary. 'They'll be here soon. Ezra! Wake up!'
'JD, will you please stop yelling at me. Don't you know that I have a headache." Whispered Ezra.
'We have to go Ezra.' JD started pulling Ezra's arm but the gambler wasn't moving upwards. 'Ezra, now!'
'Did we get there?' Ezra looked up at JD through unfocused eyes.
'No, that's why we have to move. They'll be here soon.'
'Okay, just give me a minute first JD,' said Ezra.
'We haven't got a minute Ezra. We have to go now.'
Ezra didn't want to go. His head hurt and his shoulders hurt, it felt like he had landed on something a lot harder than the ground. When JD had tried to lift him upright his head was filled with nauseating dizziness and he didn't want to go through that any time soon.
'They'll kill us if they find us on this side of the river,' said JD.
'Then go over to the other side.' Suggested Ezra.
'I can't go without you.'
'Then let's go.'
'They're moving.' Nathan smiled. They were going to make it. 'They're down again.'
'That mean he's hurt?' Chris had stood up again when Nathan had reported the others were on the move.
'Yeah, he couldn't have hit his head. If that's the case he'll be disorientated, and his vision could be blurred.'
'So JD needs to help Ezra cross the river.'
'Then what's he waiting for.'
'Ezra, I can't do this without you.'
'And I can't swim the river on my own, I can't even get up JD. You go and I'll follow you when I'm feeling better.'
'I'm not leaving you Ezra, I can't leave you here.'
JD couldn't do it, if he tried they would both drown and if they stayed here they would be killed by the men who hunted them. There had to be another way. Maybe they could hide until the men came and went. His thoughts were interrupted when he noticed Ezra trying to get up. He grabbed Ezra's left hand and pulled. Together, they managed to get Ezra on his feet. JD had to hold on to Ezra for a few seconds until he steadied himself.
'I'm ready JD,' said Ezra.
'Sure as I'll ever be.' Ezra lied.
They managed to take a few steps towards the river before Ezra stumbled and fell onto all fours. Skin scraped off his palms leaving marks of raw flesh covered in dirt.
'You okay Ezra?' JD asked but he didn't wait for a reply. Instead he gripped Ezra's left arm and tried to lift him up onto his feet.
'Another minute JD.' Ezra pulled his arm out of JD's hand. 'I actually believe that I'm going to be sick.'
'Not now Ezra, we haven't got time!'
'I can't control it JD!' Ezra growled at him. 'If my stomach wants to throw up it's going to throw up, there's nothing I can do about it.'
'I'm sorry Ezra but these guys are going to be here any minute now and if we don't get away, they're going to kill us.'
'I know, I know.'
'Then help me Ezra.'
Ezra pushed himself up onto his knees but fell onto his side before he could stand up. 'I can't JD. I don't seem to be able to keep my balance.'
'Ezra!' JD was beginning to get impatient. Ezra hadn't stopped fighting since the hunt begun. He did everything and anything to get through this alive. And now all the fight seemed to be leaving him when safety and freedom were only a few feet away. 'Don't give up now Ezra.'
'I'm not giving up . . . I can't stand on my feet without falling over.'
'How do you know that?' After JD flinched away from the glare Ezra gave him he said. 'You've only fallen over once.'
'You weren't standing up the second time.'
'That's not the point.'
'Ezra-' JD stood up and turned his head to put a sight to what he heard. Horses. He could see them, they were coming. He and Ezra had to get across the river now. 'They're coming.'
'You're going to have to help me JD. Without balance I won't be able to swim.'
'I can't, we have to do it together.'
'JD! Look at me! Do I look like I can walk let alone swim.'
'I can't swim.'
'Shit.' Chris swore at what he was seeing.
'You see them?' Buck asked him.
'Then what are JD and Ezra waiting for?'
'Ezra can't stand up, he keeps losing his balance.' Nathan explained.
'Then why isn't JD helping him?' Chris was only managing to hold back on the urge to cross the river and help the remaining two.
'I don't know but he better have a good explanation.' Chris told them.
He knew it would only be a matter of minutes before the riders caught up with Ezra and JD. He was frustrated and angry because the two men were sitting on the bank of the river refusing to cross it. Did they want to die?
'Ezra! JD! What are you waiting for, get your asses over here now!'
'Chris! What are doing?' Josiah grabbed his arm and turned him so they were facing each other.
'They can't sit there and wait to die Josiah, I won't let them.'
'They've still got a few minutes at least.'
'Except they're within shooting range!'
'I can't swim.'
'You can't swim?'
'Men are chasing us, they are about to catch us and if they do they'll kill us, we need to cross the river, and you can't swim.'
'No, I can't swim.'
'And I'm too dizzy to even stand on my own feet.' JD nodded. 'So we're in trouble then aren't we?'
'I guess so.' JD couldn't help but smile.
Ezra searched the immediate for something that would help them cross the river. He didn't have time for anything complicated. They needed something quick and easy.
'JD, get the horse.'
JD didn't ask any questions, there wasn't any need. As soon as Ezra mentioned the horse he knew what he had in mind. This he could do. He could help Ezra now and himself. They didn't have to die. JD didn't rush towards the horse because he knew that would only scare the animal and cause it to run off. He walked slowly towards it, reaching his hand out so the horse could see that he wasn't going to harm it. Soft words caused the animal to lift it's ears towards the sound. JD took the rein and quickly led the horse back to Ezra. He helped the gambler to stand and then held onto him while Ezra put his arm through the stirrup. Once he was sure Ezra wouldn't lose his grip he went to the other side of the horse and positioned himself. He then took the reins and began to walk to the river. The horse started walking with them and JD was grateful for that, the last thing they needed was a stubborn horse.
After they entered the water the first shot was fired.
'Why's JD doing that?' Buck couldn't understand why JD was holding onto the horse. Ezra he could understand but not JD.
'Get down!' Chris ordered them after the first shot.
'What are we going to do if they don't make it?' Josiah was talking to himself but he knew the others would hear his question.
All they could do now was listen. If they heard a cry of pain then one of the two was hit. At the moment all they could hear was the sound of gunfire and the movement of water. The sound of JD's voice urging the horse sounded through the other louder noises.
Everyone was holding their breath in anticipation of Ezra and JD's arrival.
'You still with me Ezra?'
'Yes.' Ezra was holding on with a death grip. He knew if he let go he wouldn't be able to hold his head above water. He would drown unless someone shot him first. The others wouldn't be able to come to his rescue; if they did they would die with him.
'Just a bit longer Ezra, if we can both hold on a little bit longer,' said JD.
Ezra felt a bullet's breath as it shot past his head. He suddenly felt solid ground beneath his feet and a small grin crossed his features. They had to let go of the horse now and make smaller targets of themselves. 'JD let go and crawl the rest of the way.'
'You sure Ezra?'
'Just do it JD, now!'
His face hit the water and he went under. The next thing he knew was someone taking his arm and helping him. He hoped it wasn't one of the others. He broke the surface and found JD next to him. Ezra tried to crawl but the nausea and cold water was beginning to take their toll on his body.
JD had to use all his strength to pull Ezra from the river. When they were dry land he let go fell to the ground next to the gambler. 'We made it Ezra. We're on the other side of the river. They have to let us go now.'
'Don't get to happy JD,' Ezra wiped some of the water from his face and looked up at JD, 'wait until they leave. Men like these are quite capable of changing their minds.'
JD lifted his head and looked for the men responsible for their capture and hunt and said. 'I can't see them.'
'Just like that, they left?'
'Thank god.' Ezra rolled over onto his stomach and pushed himself up onto his knees. He waited for a few seconds then opened his mouth to release the bile that had been sitting at the back of his throat for the last ten minutes.
'You okay Ezra?'
Ezra was relieved to hear Nathan's voice. It meant that he was okay. 'I hit my head.'
'I thought as much. Let me have a look.' Nathan helped Ezra to his feet and guided him to a drier patch of land
'How is he Nathan?' Chris asked.
'Got a large bump on the back of his head. Slight concussion, nothing serious.' Nathan was feeling the back of Ezra's skull, pressing gently against the lump.
'I can't believe they left.' Buck stood next to Chris.
'I can't understand it,' said Chris.
'You sit there and don't move.' Nathan ordered Ezra. 'I'm going to take care of Vin's arm.'
'Is he okay?' JD searched for the sharp shooter.
'He will be.'
'So what are we going to do now?' Josiah joined the group when Nathan had replaced him at Vin's side.
'We go home, rest up, then come back and show them how this game is really played.' Chris growled. 'This time we're going to be in control.'
Maybe I could do a sequel for another challenge. The End.