by Heather F

Alternate Universe - Star Trek

Disclaimers: Don't own M7 characters... The AU belongs to someone else too.

Acknowledgments: Nancy--- she named the ship..put the characters in their ranks

Medical stuff has been grafted from StarWars etc.

Thanks: Nancy for letting me play within her sandbox... Wendy H. and Mitzi again... .

Rating: PG - questionable language

Warnings: StarTrek fans my apologies for not keeping things straight. Its been along time since I have seen StarTrek and it mostly consists of Captain Kirk and his crew cruising the universe.

Nathan stared down at the shackled wrists and then the face. The eyes were heavy... half hooded. A small smile crept to the corner of his patient's mouth exposing a dimple. A sad half smile that matched the resignation in the blood shot emerald eyes. There was no movement of rebellion from the prone figure on his side... no fight, no indignation. He had nothing left to give.

Jackson moved to step forward, to offer an apology, but a rough, out stretched forearm kept him easily held him back.

Nathan tried to utter words of comfort but the eyes simply closed. Jackson closed his eyes as well... his patient had expected nothing from him... no protection... no protest... nothing... and the healer had fallen to that expectation.

A new anger erupted, a burning fury. Jackson stood with clenched fist not once moving his feet in revolt against the order that contradicted his moral fiber.

With boiling frustration he watched as a small security detail moved their Chief out of sick bay and toward the brig. Perkins strode purposefully beside it.

+ + + + + + +

JD woke up again. He relished the comforting warmth that settled deep in his bones. The sharp gnawing and stinging pain of freezing had finally relinquished its biting grip. The young ensign laid still for a moment. Muscles were too tired to move, limbs seemingly too heavy to shift. JD was content to lay on his side and enjoy the normalcy of Med Lab. Buck lay on the bed next to him. The First officer slept under blankets facing the same direction as JD. Dunne watched the even rise and fall of Wilmington's ribs thankful the big man had survived their frigid ordeal.

With a determined effort JD rolled over onto his back. His downed shoulder had ached somewhat. The Ensign stared at the ceiling and listened to the doctors and nurses as they buzzed about the room. He could not hide the smile of relief that seemed to have taken up residence on his chapped features. He thought for sure they were goners. Who would have thought Standish, of all people, would have come for them?

Dunne rolled his head to the left. It took too much effort to move the whole body again. The last time JD had opened his eyes Standish had occupied the other bed. There had been a flurry of activity surrounding the prone man. The floor had been slick from spillage out of the Bacta Tank. JD had finally gotten Casey's attention... ..Ezra was gonna be ok... she had said... just been down in the cold too long without protection. The bacta tank had saved his life... just as it had saved Buck's and JD's. Casey had urged him to go back to sleep, to get his strength back... everything would be fine. JD had furrowed his brow... .the amount of racing movements and brusque orders from Nathan did not indicate everything was ok over on the next diagnostic table. But JD was tired... Casey would never lie to him... He had drifted back to sleep.

Now Dunne stared at the empty bed... ..empty?... ..empty?!... no sign of its one time occupant. JD raised his head slightly off the pillow and stared around the room. No sign of the security chief... .Maybe Casey was wrong.

JD tried to sit up. Panic hammered his heart. His pulse raced. With waning strength he pushed himself onto his elbows. His shoulders trembled and his neck shook. Ligaments, tendons and blood vessels strained under the skin of his neck as he fought to hold his head up to search the room.

Nathan turned and noticed JD trying to sit up. Jackson sighed and uttered a muted curse. He cut across the room toward his young patient. He could not... .did not... protect one of his charges. He would not stumble again in his responsibility.

"Hey JD.." Jackson soothed as he stood beside the young man. He easily saw the frightened wild look in the dark eyes. "Let's git you layin' back down... .you ain't ready to be up and around jist yet," Nathan softly chastised easing the young man back toward the bed. He felt JD try and fight him but the Ensign had no strength.

JD's efforts were short and weak... .more of an effort Nathan himself had put forth to protect his missing patient... more of an effort than any of them had put forth to shield Standish.

"Ezra?" JD gasped. He stared up at Jackson. Dunne's heart skipped a beat when he noticed the grief in the healer's eyes. "Ohh Gawd Ezra... nooo," JD whispered, unable and unwilling to accept the possibility of losing his friend.

Ezra had found them... saved him and Buck... surely it did not cost him his life? Oh Gawd Ez.

Nathan's smile faltered. He paused trying to garnish what panicked the ensign. The healer shut his eyes briefly and caught his breath. "No JD, he ain't dead." Nathan was hoping it would be enough to soothe the young man, to stop the flow of questions that were sure to follow.

A smile twitched on JD's wind-burned face. "Where is he?" Dunne's voice was soft. The confusion in his words mirrored his expression. He cursed his body for being so tired.

"He's recovering," Nathan danced around the question. He would not lie to his patients and certainly not his friends.

"Where?" JD asked again. He rolled his head left and right searching out the Security Chief.

Jackson caught his breath and stared hard at a spot on the pillow beside JD's head. His heart fluttered in his chest. He would not, could not lie to JD... In the end Dunne would discover the truth and learn of the lie and of Jackson's lack of action.

"The brig." He met Dunne's unbelieving eyes a moment after he spoke. The empty aching hole eaten away by guilt only seemed to magnify after admitting he let one of his patients, one of his friends get torn... .no not torn simply moved out of his protection and care... .He let someone come into his domain... and without lifting one finger of defiance ... let a virtual stranger take one of his charges... to the brig. He allowed a man too weak to defend himself... a person too battered to fight back... to get whisked away and shunned casually behind a restraining field.

Nathan glanced down at JD. He wondered if Dunne's look of revulsion matched his own. He wondered if JD felt as sick at heart as Nathan did.

"Why?" Dunne whispered.

Nathan paused. 'Why'?... why did Nathan let them steal Ezra from his protection... .why did he not raise a hand or a voice to stop the perpetrators? Why indeed.

"Why's he in the brig?" JD felt tears well in his eyes. He was tired. His muscles ached terribly. His cheeks burned from the heat of Med lab. His fingers and toes felt swollen and thickened. His body hurt so bad.

JD had never been that cold in all his life. He had never been that close to dying. Though Buck had been with him... JD had never been that scared in all his short life. He did not want to freeze to death on some barren ice planet... and he almost did... Then like a mirage Standish slipped from the whirling, cutting, flying, shards of ice to save them. Even through the haze of hypothermia JD remembered the cocky smile, the arrogant boasting about having to save their 'arses' again. Dunne remembered wanting to smile, wanting to laugh but his face and limbs had been frozen in place against Buck's chest... .JD wanted to reach out and touch the moving chuckling apparition but he had become frozen within Buck's protective embrace. He had been trapped snuggled in Wilmington's stiffened ice encrusted grip leaning against the first officer who in turn leaned against a wall. Both frozen stiff. Buck's face had turned a bluish grey... icicles hung from his mustache, eyebrows and eyelashes. JD had thought him dead. Dunne remembered asking Ezra if it were true... 'Was Buck Dead?'.

Standish had chuckled again and simply said, 'he had better pray not be... I did not traverse this God forsaken wasteland to retrieve corpses."

JD, if he had the strength, would have cried. Pride be damned he would have cried right there in front of the Security Chief. Dunne had never been so grateful for something or someone in all his life.

Ezra had come for them... .JD realized, staring up at Jackson, that he should never had had any doubts.

Nathan swallowed uneasily. JD deserved nothing but honesty.

"He disobeyed orders... .." Jackson realized his patient did not understand the loose explanation.

"He left the ship to find you against direct orders."

The ensign stared up at Jackson shocked and hurt, "The Captain told him not to look for us?" Dunne felt the blood in his veins freeze all over again. Buck and Chris were friends... He was the Captain... the Captain always watched out for his crew... ..Didn't he?

Nathan shook his head quickly, "No... no JD... Chris wanted to go after you... Him and Vin both... .hell all of us... but Ezra beat them to the punch... ." Jackson smiled somewhat at the memory.

They had been in the 'Ready Room'. Perkins, The Captain, Josiah, Vin, Nathan and Ezra. The Admiral had forbidden any kind of Search and Rescue mission. There were building hostilities in the neighboring quadrant and the Maverick was ordered there... no delays. Chris had damn near come unglued but Vin, with cat like reflexes and Vulcan restraint, kept his Captain in his seat and out of the brig. Josiah had muttered that hostilities in the Alpha Quadrant were nothing compared to what was building in the Ready Room. Nathan knew right then, when Standish had not said a word, had not balked once, that the Wild Card from Vegas Colony had a plan up his sleeve.

And a plan he did. With out a word to the Captain, the Security Chief simply left the ship. Nathan was not sure who helped Standish plan his little rescue mission but he imagined it was Tanner. The Vulcan was loyal... loyal to a ferocious degree. With Vin's help Standish pinpointed a location Buck and JD were most likely to be found.

Jackson felt his features burn with shame.

The healer was somewhat surprised the Navigator did not accompany the Security Chief... but then againTanner had been found sedated in his quarters not long after it was discovered Standish had left the ship. The anger that had emanated off the Vulcan ,when revived,had been tangible... nearly equal to that of the Captain. Standish had probably burned bridges that would not be rebuilt. Jackson imagined the Security Chief acted in the only manner he felt would ensure that Vin remained on board and with a salvageable chance at saving Vin's career. Tanner had controlled his smoldering frustration and followed through with whatever plans the two might have concocted.

Tanner had kept Larabee on the outer fringes of their plans... there was no need to ruin more than one maybe two careers.

With two transponders and a grim expression the security chief had shimmered off the transporter pad into a frozen waste land. No one the wiser... and his only form of back up was one very riled and hungover Vulcan.

What did a man raised in the hot humid clutches of Vegas Colony know of cold climates? What could a southern accented, single minded, gambler possibly hope to gain by disregarding direct orders?

Jackson realized the second Ezra materialized on that planet he had nothing to more to lose. His career was over... maybe Vin's too. If he failed then he not only lost his life but so did Buck and JD... as things stood those two held losing hands. If Standish won... his career would be in ruins, yet he would have retrieved two friends. A gambler, even one as shrewd as Ezra, would recognize a worthy risk. The rewards outweighed the losses.

Nathan bit his cheek and clenched his fists... he let them take an injured man from his grasp.

The Security Chief was a gambler through and through... he could be nothing less having been raised on planet whose sole pursuit was gaming and recreation... .a tourist planet for the gambler in all of them. Ezra had won the game, but as did Vin, both paid a great personal expense. The Vulcan still prowled amongst the crew members a free man while the gambler lay in a semi conscious haze in the brig... very much alone.

JD's soft mutterings brought Nathan back, "Who?" Dunne could not believe that Starfleet would turn their back on their own. Starfleet stood for what was right in the universe... it protected the weak and downtrodden... ..It never left its people behind.

"Admiral Perkins... " Nathan clarified, "ordered Maverick to the Alpha Quadrant... hostilities were building... " Jackson sighed once again realizing his sick weak patient had the tenacity and persistence of a hungry chick calling for food. JD wanted information.

"Vin navigated our course... which pretty much put us in an elliptical flight pattern just out of visual of Barra III. And Josiah and Chris kept the admiral busy until Ezra found ya." It had been a group effort, in a limited sense, save Nathan. They had left him out and it hurt.

They left him out to protect his career. They put his future before their own... even that blasted self centered, lying, conman. They needed Jackson's position intact to pick up the broken pieces of their team. They needed him unmarked so he could fix and protect them. What good would he do them in the brig beside Standish and Tanner... then again... .

His anger boiled... .Standish lay in the brig... unattended... on his own, again.

JD saw the anger cross the larger man's features. "What happened?"

Jackson forced a smile onto his bitter features, "Ezra found ya... activated his transponder. Your com badges weren't strong enough to reach beyond the storm. We beamed you two out... .and after a bit of finagling we got Ezra out."

Nathan remember Vin tearing up and down the transporter room. Poor transporter chief O'Toole had his fingers flying across his console trying to lock onto Standish. The second transponder was not working. O'Toole fought the storm and tried to ignore the growing violent tendencies of the Vulcan beside him. The engineer took great comfort in the swarm of medical personal that worked feverishly over the first officer and ensign. He did not want to be left alone with Lieutenant Tanner.

The Captain had exploded into the transporter room with the same dark intensity as the storm that raged below on the planet's surface. Larabee had murder in his eyes. A flicker of relief flashed when signs of life bobbed on diagnostic instruments. With simple nods of thanks to the Vulcan and Transporter chief, the Captain left the area.

He had a ship to run and an Admiral to face.

Eventually the medical team rushed their patients out of the room and down to Med lab. The doors had whooshed closed muffling the shouted orders of Chief medical officer Jackson.

After three hours the storm below had hit a lull.

They transported up a stiff, blue, frozen Security Chief.

Jackson had just gotten Buck and JD out of the Bacta Tanks just as Vin rushed in with Standish stiffly curled in his arms. Nathan had remembered his first thought... oh Gawd he's dead. Ten minutes later they had him in the Bacta Tank... like the first officer and Ensign... fully clothed. The material had frozen to the skin. Eyes were held open by contracted muscle... ..teeth exposed as lips were curled back by frozen muscle.

A grimace of death.

Three of his friends had come in with it... and two pulled out... he waited impatiently on the third. As he waited... Nathan could not help but wonder what did Standish think when Buck and JD were transported to safety and he left behind. What ran through his mind as he sat huddled by himself in the dark, slowly freezing to death? Did he believe that he was left behind once again... .offered up as a paltry loss because of his disregard of orders? Did he ever consider that they were trying to bring him back? Or were two out of three lives acceptable odds?

Jackson knew the answer... .he saw it when Standish had opened his eyes to the shackles being placed around weakened wrists. The security chief had expected no less than what Nathan gave him... .nothing.

Jackson kept his thoughts to himself. He smiled weakly at JD, "Don't worry JD... we'll take care of him." Nathan spoke the words softly with conviction... .because he would do no less.

+ + + + + + +

Chris glared at Perkins.

The semi-retired Admiral from Pinkerton returned the look with a red vertical stare of his own. The catlike pupils bathed in a blood red iris always unnerved young starfleet cadets. The pale sickly skin... the gaunt features... white hair... but under that frail albino appearance raged a formidable foe... or ally. Poplars... their military... .were single minded in their desire to reach a goal. As a people the inhabitants of Pinkerton were a fiercely loyal citizenry... not a population to be ignored lightly. Their Admiral was no exception.

The Maverick had slowed her speed. They were no longer needed in the Alpha Quadrant... .A Klingon battle cruiser slipping into the area quickly and efficiently snuffed a smoldering flame.

Larabee could have lost two good friends. Now he stood the chance of losing two more good friends. Buck and JD still hovered between exhaustion and unconsciousness, but on their way to recovery. Vin sat to Larabee's left wishing to wipe the table with the Admiral. Standish still lay in the brig just aware enough to realize his life had taken another turn for the worse.

+ + + + + + +

Perkins had been making demands all morning. Larabee had all but ignored the ranting man... up until the Admiral whisked the still damp southerner to the brig. The captain had feared an uprising in his senior bridge crew and was quietly thankful that Tanner had not actually killed the Admiral or Sanchez snap his back or Nathan skewer him with a knife. He felt fortunate his crew left it in his capable hands.

To suggest to leave two men behind... ..Larabee shook his head in bewilderment. If this was what Star Fleet had become then Chris wanted nothing to do with it. He just might hand in his walking papers and join Standish on the next shuttle off the ship.

Standish... how was he going to get that man out of the brig? Disobeying direct orders was not something the admiralty could ignore. The chain of command had to be adhered too. Chris understood this all to well... .but still... .

"I'm goin' to check on Ez," Tanner spat out pushing himself away from the table. Perkins's voice grated on his nerves. The Admiral was demanding Standish's hide... a sacrificial lamb to appease the forces of authority...

Ezra's argument came rushing to the forefront of Tanner's mind as the Vulcan glared at the Admiral. Standish, before leaving the ship, before slapping a hypospray to Vin's biceps, had wove a discourse. Tanner had bristled under the assumed discredibility Standish believed was attached to his name. The Security Chief believed his career was already doomed... Larabee offering him his last and only chance to keep his head above water so to speak. Ezra had argued it was the logical choice for him to go... because his career was already lost... past transgressions and innuendoes had seen to its slow withering death. Tanner, though, had a bright future amongst the Maverick family. With Larabee's friendship and the loyalty of his shipmates, the Vulcan could succeed where Standish only dreamed of reaching. Tanner had become red faced with anger and embarrassment. His hackles had risen in response to the Security Chief's assumed ostracism. Vin had struggled for a response..for a verbal retaliation but words had failed him... Not because he found truth in what the Vegas Gambler believed but because words were not his medium for fighting. As the silence had stretched awkwardly between the two men... a sad knowing smile of wrongfully implied acceptance, crept onto Ezra's face. While Vin fought with himself for a verbal rebuke, a hypospray had been pressed to his arm. Though he had reacted... and violently so, the drug took effect quicker than muscles could respond. Standish had slipped from the Navigator's quarters believing he had severed all ties with his shipmates... ... The Captain would find this inexcusable... Tanner would be not be forgiving... .Nathan would acknowledge his gut feeling being right... ..and Josiah would probably shake his head in shame. Standish left the ship wondering if three people would be brought back.

"You've not been dismissed Lieutenant," The Admiral had had enough of the disrespect from the commissioned officers around him. The Chief Medical Officer had the gall to try and intercede with a direct order... .and now this... this... Vulcan acted as if he ran the ship.

"You're dismissed Vin," Larabee pointedly ignored the older man and kept his eyes on the young Vulcan, "maybe you should bring Nathan with you... make sure he's doing ok."

Tanner merely nodded. He? Who? Ezra or Nathan? Vin figured Chris meant both... Jackson was sure to be beating himself up for allowing Standish to be taken out from under his care.

Tanner left the two senior officers of the ship to battle it out behind closed doors.

+ + + + + +

Nathan and Vin entered the restricted and guarded area of the brig. They walked quietly down the narrow corridor their boot heels rang out in a muffled cadence. The two officers ignored the empty containment cells. Their target was the ninth. The only one occupied at the time. Tanner wondered how long before he too became a resident behind these shimmering fields. The hum of the restraining field filled the small area.

They stopped before cell number Nine. Jackson took a breath and lifted his gaze from his shoes. It was time he did something for his friend and patient.

Vin's soft chuckle was punctuated by a even softer, "Ahh shit."

Jackson let his eyes swim over the small space... the sleeping pallet... and four walls. No place to hide.

The cell was empty.

The doctor leaned against the wall and closed his eyes. Since joining Chris and his team it seemed nothing ever really surprised Nathan Jackson any more. It almost took all the fun out of the day.

+ + + + + + +

The Captain and Admiral stood with Josiah, Vin and Nathan before the empty cell. Three young security guards stood ramrod straight hoping to avoid the wrath of their captain. The admiral though a very senior ranking official did not hold the same kind of intimidation as their captain. Their reaction was spawned simply from the observance of their missing Chief. Standish respected very few people in this universe... Captain Larabee was held in the highest regards. With this knowledge the three young ensigns cursed their immediate boss. How could he possibly do this to them... escape on their shift... why not wait for the night shift or early morning crew... Why now?

"Are you sure you followed proper procedure?" Larabee asked tiredly. He pinched the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes. Why me?

"Yes sir," a young man who could not have been much older than JD answered. Thomlinson... Scott Thomlinson... Chris dredged the man's name from his memory.

"You know his people let him out... ." Perkins stuttered in anger.

The three security men bristled at the brazen accusation. Admiral be damned.

Tanner actually snorted. Jackson elbowed him into silence. Josiah chuckled and shook his head.

"That true boys? You let Commander Standish out?" Jackson asked. He knew the answer but for the benefit of everyone he thought he would clear the table so to speak.

"No Sir," Tim Curry answered emphatically. He was thankful for the presence of the other senior crew members.

"Commander Standish would eat us alive if we did not follow proper procedure," Sean O'Connell stated matter of factly.

"Then would you care to explain to me where your Commander has disappeared too?" Perkins wanted blood. He did not care who's or how he got it. The very thought of being ignored and disregarded would rile anyone. He was an Admiral in Starfleet and his orders were to be followed no matter who the captain was or what the crew thought. Since boarding the Maverick as a retired part in the Admiralty he had faced nothing but disrespect from her crew.

"Where he is?" Thomlinson reiterated, "no sir... .I couldn't even begin to guess."

"Maybe the saloon," Josiah rumbled out. Larabee raised his eyebrows never taking his fingers from the bridge of his nose. He would strangle every last one of his bridge crew at their next meeting. All they had to do was keep their mouths shut and stay put. Apparently his senior officers found that difficult.

"Could be... " Nathan concurred, "he does like to gamble."

Chris raised his eyes to listen to what useless information Tanner had to offer. He had brought the Marx brothers with him. Instead Tanner was staring thoughtfully at the walls of the cell.

The captain in an act born of frustrated irritation tapped his com badge, "Computer please locate Commander Standish." He had repeatedly asked this question for the hundredth time in the last standard hour. Each time the answer had been the same... he expected it to be no different this time... judging by the rumbling of chuckles of his Counselor and Navigator... they too knew the answer.

All he was missing was Buck and JD squabbling over who's job it was to reprogram the computer.

There was a pregnant pause before the soft female computer voice responded back, "Commander Standish is no longer on board ship." Vin ignored the computer having heard that same answer just as many times as Chris had asked it.

Chris shook his head. Why did he even bother? They were in deep space... no shuttle crafts had been launched, there was no where to transport too... ..the damn pain in the butt had rigged the computer as well.

Larabee noticed Sanchez holding back a smirk. Tanner leaned against a wall with arms folded across his chest eyeing the area with amusement. Damn those two for even being here. Jackson appeared relatively concerned... well at least one of the senior staff had an ounce of sense.

"Are you telling me he just waltzed out of here ensign?" Perkins pinned the three ensigns with a hot stare.

Ok maybe the Admiral could be intimidating.

"No sir... if he did that he would've had to have walked right by us," Curry stammered out, "and he wasn't in any shape to walk off anywhere." Why Chief... why do this to us? What did we do to deserve this?

"'Sides,... " Tanner started. His eyes traveled the walls in the cell to the containment field and finally down the far length of the dead end corridor., "Ez is a snake... .he'd slither hiz way out of any mess." The Vulcan let a broad smile crease his face as pieces of the puzzle finally began to fall into place.

Larabee followed the navigators line of thought and almost laughed out loud. Jackson and Sanchez held their tongues. They would wait for an explanation later.

The Counselor followed Nathan back to Med Lab.

+ + + + ++ +

Buck woke begrudgingly. His first realization was he felt warm. A thick blanket covered him, offering a sense of security and comfort. His muscles ached, his feet and hands burned and his face felt as if it had been sunburned. He lay quietly for a few moments taking in the sounds around him.

Med Lab.

He felt his pulse quicken and shifted a leg. It felt heavy and the muscles protested the use. He lay still for a moment trying to dredge up cloudy fragmented memories. At first the recall was slow and murky... like muddy water before a flash flood. And then the flood came. Pictures and memory came crashing down on him almost drowning him in a type of sensory over load.

With a sudden gasp he sat up calling for JD.

His chest hit a pliable force that held him somewhat restrained.

"Easy Brother Buck yer alright... JD's right beside ya," Josiah smiled and slowly pointed to the form on the adjacent bed. Dunne had succumbed to sleep after learning of Standish's self liberation.

Wilmington with eyes still wide and wild swiveled his frantic gaze on 'the kid'. Even with JD's dark long bangs covering half of his young features, Buck could make out the damage down by the extreme cold and wind. The ensign's face was chapped and cracked, his cheeks pink in some spots while in others they were blanched.

"JD?" Buck asked again allowing Josiah to push him back onto the diagnostic bed.

"Is just fine thanks to you," Sanchez responded. When Buck and JD had been rushed in to Med Lab. this morning they were all but dead. Frozen corpses.

Dunne had been protected from the relentless wind and flying ice literally by Wilmington. The larger man had embraced his young friend and shielded him from the harshest parts of the storm. With his back to the lethal torrents of wind blown ice and arms wrapped tightly around Dunne, Wilmington had selflessly sacrificed his body to protect JD.

It was no less than any of them would have done... or so they would have liked to think... but Buck had actually done it. Wilmington had stepped up to the line and gave everything he had of worth to protect his young friend. Buck simply gave his life.

The greatest sacrifice of all.

Except in the end he did not sacrifice his life... In the end another had stepped forward and another until finally a small collection of men acting together for a mutual benefit saved two friends.

Nathan and Chris accepted Buck's actions but were baffled by Standish's motivations, thankful, but confused. Tanner's were obvious to all involved and again they were indebted to the Vulcan.

Two trouble makers put their careers on the line to save the lives of two fellow hell raisers.

Sanchez felt saddened that the Security Chiefs actions came as such a surprise... .even to Josiah himself... .The escape, no. That was Ezra's way of taunting authority figures. One day it would get him thrown out of Star Fleet. The counselor did not think that it would be today.

The captain had bigger dragons to slay.

It seemed so out of character that the gambler, the self-serving conman would actually risk life and limb and career to save two people. Buck's simple actions to protect JD were almost taken for granted. A brother simply watching over his younger counterpart. A duty though benign in itself on a normal day could lead to an awesome responsibility on other days. Buck had done it... and without hesitation. JD was one of the luckiest ensigns in the galaxy.

Where did Standish fit in all this? Brother?... .Friend?... .or just doing what he hoped others would do for him?

Nathan had figured Ezra had acted for the sheer odds of survival. The adrenaline rush of the gamble... .

Josiah could not see the truth behind the remarks. Standish had once remarked he abhorred gambling and as such left nothing to chance.

This was a huge risk... though he survived his time down on that frozen hell... Ezra had stood a chance of losing not only his life but his rank... ..hell he had even drugged the Vulcan... .not something Vin nor Chris would take lightly.

Josiah's thoughts were broken when Buck grabbed at his arm.

"What happened?... I thought, fer sure, we were gonners," Wilmington rasped out. His voice rough from sleeping.

"Ezra went down lookin' fer ya... " Sanchez answered. He noticed the confused expression and sighed tiredly... Did they all think so little of their security Chief... worse yet did Ezra know it? Probably... probably why he was hiding..licking his wounds... Nathan said he was sure to be sick with fever and frostbite and few other medical jargon descriptions that sounded painful. Standish knew what they thought of him and remained out of sight until he was strong enough to face them. He would remain elusive until he was able to slip that cocky smile back into place and greet the world as nothing less than a gentleman gambler.

They would not be finding their Security Chief any time soon.

"Vin and he disregarded direct orders... ." Sanchez went into the story of alleged actions... since no one was admitting to anything.

In the end Buck smiled and laughed, "Never had any doubts 'bout that slippery son of a bitch. He's like tryin' ta hold on to a floppin' fish." There was a pause and Wilmington added, "He really slipped Vin a 'Mickey?" At Sanchez's amused nod, Buck's thankful laughter rolled across Med Lab.

Josiah laughed with him. Buck and JD made a pair..everyone was decent until proven otherwise.

"Counselor Sanchez please report to the Ready Room."

Buck settled back in his bed. He noticed a concerned expression etch itself across Josiah's face. Wilmington merely smiled... the others would do what was right... he had no doubt.


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