A Long Winter's Hike

by Patricia

ATF Universe

Part 7

Ezra Standish, was not having a particular good time and would have voiced his displeasure except the only one around in ear shot was Nathan Jackson and he seemed to be in even a worse mood. Both men had been out all day, doing foot work for their perspective cases and had hoped to be relaxing at Inez's bar hours ago, but with JD leaving early they had to sort out and file evidence into the computer system themselves.

"Mr. Standish I have done all I can do until tomorrow, so I am calling it a night as soon as I give this itinerary to Mr. Larabee." Ezra looked up from his desk into the pleasant face of Marcy Tucker, the middle aged secretary, who had been assigned to them on a temporary bases and had proven to be a godsend.

"Please take me with you Marcy," smiled the handsome agent. "Even though your habitation in that breathtaking home, requires a one hour drive through rush hour traffic, and the attendance of your six, I believe you said, children at the dinner table, it would be less traumatic then what is being required of me now."

"Now Mr. Standish, not that I would not love to have you, but my husband gets jealous when I bring handsome younger men home with me, plus I am not sure, but I think my kids and house were both just insulted." Laughed Marcy back at the smiling Ezra. She couldn't remember seeing a single dimple anywhere in the office all day, until now. Even JD and Buck, who seemed to be always laughing about one thing or another, were subdued today. One of the fringe benefits of working in this particular office was all the great smiles Marcy received every day, she was glad she got to end her workday with one.

She had been more than a little nervous when she had been assigned this job. She had been a secretary for over twenty years and knew her job as well as anyone, but these men had a reputation that scared people a lot tougher than her, so she was very shocked when she walked in to the office, and found seven men in complete pandemonium, falling at her feet. It only took one day to realize these were the best people she had ever worked with. Whether dealing with the more quiet, serious agents, or the hyper never sat still ones, she soon found they all had the touch of the devil in them, and no one, including her, escaped unscathed. The men loved it when she started giving back, as well as she received.

She walked over to Chris Larabee's door and knocked and waited for vocal admittance to his office. "Come on in Marcy." Chris answered. Inside Chris and Vin Tanner were going over last minute plans for tomorrow. "How did you know it was Marcy?" Vin asked.

"When's the last time one of you knocked before coming in, or if you did knock, waited for me to answer," Chris said, shaking his head at Vin. "You just start here or what?"

"Well, here is the flight schedule, and itinerary for Vin, Ezra and JD tomorrow. I am heading off now."

"Good Night Marcy, we are just heading out now as well, drive carefully, the snows starting to come down heavier." Chris acknowledged her comment back. "Let's shut this down for the night Vin, tell Ezra and Nathan to pack it up as well. You boys are going to have long day tomorrow."

Vin, JD and Ezra had been ordered to attend a conference in Missoula by the powers higher up. They did not have time for it, or felt they needed it, but were not given any other options. Ezra was ecstatic about his early A.M. wake up call, not!

"Sounds good to me." The agile agent said leaping out of his chair and heading to the outer office.

"Hey Ezra, Nathan, how about last one down stairs buys the first round tonight?" asked Vin as he looked up from his desk and realized he was done first.

"I refuse to participate in your childish and may I say, juvenile games Mr. Tanner, that is better saved for other less mature occupants of this office." Stated Ezra as he nonchalantly moved towards the exit.

"Lord Vin, I been on my feet most of the day, and now you expect me to race you down ten flights of stairs to the garage!" Exclaimed Nathan as he also angled himself towards the exit.

Vin exploded out of his chair at the same time the other two agents lunged for the door, all reaching it at the same time, pushing and shoving each other to get through. The door gave way under their combined weight and all three found themselves sitting unceremoniously on the carpet.

"Would you get your elbow out of my gut Ezra.?" Snarled Nathan.

"I will when Vin gets off my pant leg,' snapped back Ezra, "and you can expect my dry cleaning bill for these pants Mr. Tanner since this little episode was entirely your idea."

"Well, all I know is one of you gents is buying me a beer tonight," said a smirking Chris, as he stepped over all three men and headed for the elevator. "And Ezra, you might want to check your computer, it seems to be possessed, all sorts of weird things happening on it."

"I don't know what you are talking about Mr. Larabee, there should be nothing on my screen, but little bouncing balls," said Ezra wiping some dust off his expensive Italian made suit. "You want me to fall for that line, fine, if your are so desperate to win, I will buy you that first, WHAT THE HECK!!!!"

All the agents rushed in to look at Ezra's screen; files of existing cases kept rolling past. "Someone has hacked into our system, gaining excess to all our current reports, they just downloaded one." Shocked, Esra looked at the other agents.

"Can you stop it?" Asked Chris. "Or at least figure out where it is being downloaded to?"

"No and who ever is doing it must have wanted us to know, because they brought it all up on my screen, I don't think JD could even figure this out, but, ------."

"What Ezra, JD couldn't figure this out, but what?" Chris was starting to panic a bit, computers scared him more then just about anything else and he felt useless to do anything as the screen in front of him continued to roll.

" Whoever is on the other side has just taken one file so far and sent the others back without keeping a record of them, or at least according to my computer they have not stored them into any memory, or on any discs." Ezra was as mystified as the rest.

"I don't get it," said Nathan. "Why would they let us know which files they are taking, if they are smart enough to hack in, they have to know all their work is being recorded by us?"

"I really haven't got a clue, I am as perplexed by this whole occurrence as both of you, I wish JD was here… Whoa, did you just see that?"

"What, what did you see, EZRA?" Shouted Chris.

"Sorry, I was watching for it again, there, see it, in the far left hand corner, a little horse figure made out of a hockey stick. JDs hockey team last year was looking for a logo, they didn't use that one, but I remember JD showing it to us and saying he was going to make a stamp out of it." Excitement was making Ezra talk faster.

"Your right, ever time the kid e-mails me a joke its at the top of the page, I just printed out one the other day to save, kid sends me hundreds, finally found one that was actually funny." Vin rushed over to his desk to retrieve the printout, returning he handed it to Chris.

"Come to think of it, its on everything he sends me too, but why would JD be infiltrating our system and how does he get that image to flash on like that? Vin, phone Buck and JDs apartment, see if they are even there, if this is JDs idea of a joke that boy will be asking do want fries with that shake, because he won't work in law enforcement ever again!"

"On it, Chris," Vin paused to look back at Chris, "The kid loves what he does to much to play games like this Chris and even Buck knows better."

Chris nodded at Vin, then turned back to other agents.

"Ezra, can you figure out which files are being copied? Nathan, I want you to go down to personnel and log in on their system, in case ours as been completely compromised, as we get the data I will bring it down, lets see if we can find out what they are after."

"Chris, there is no answer at the apartment and I can't get them, or Josiah on their cells, want me to head over there?" Asked Vin.

"No, lets wait just five more minutes and see if Ezra and Nathan find anything."

"I have a strange feeling about this, Chris."

"Yeah, I know Vin, me too, me too!"

Part 8

JD put his head down against his fingertips, and closed his eyes to give them a momentary rest; he couldn't believe he had been at this for over an hour already. A headache was starting to pound at his temples, caused by the intense pressure he was under. His chest still made rattling noises when he breathed, and it hurt like the dickens every time he coughed.

JD lifted his head out of his hands and looked over to where his two friends still sat. They did not seem to be faring much better than him, along with bruises; exhaustion was etched on their faces. He turned back to look at his computer monitor as files continued to roll past, he hoped none of the men watching over his shoulder realized the cycle was just repeating itself. JD had retrieved all the information required of him in the first ten minutes, but now was dragging the process out as long as he could, hoping the guys at the office were getting all the data they needed and would dispatch some help their way. He for one had, had enough of the dilemma unfolding in their living room.

Slick sat the closest to the computer, watching every key that got punched, making JD very edgy. The computer was JDs second home; in fact it was his expertise on this particular piece of equipment that got him hired to Chris Larabee's team as an underage agent. However, right now he was feeling the immense strain of having their lives in his hands, because of the job he only was capable of doing.

The shrill of the phone ringing made everyone jump, JD reached out to pick it up, when Macalister's hand covered his. The answering machine came on and Vin's voice could be heard asking them to pick up. After Vin hung up, Macalister released JD's hand and pointed back to the screen.

JD had first hacked into his office computer system and found two computers were still on line, the first one belonging to Chris, the second one was Ezra's. "Thank-you God," thought JD to himself. "You're my hero Chris, but you understand computers like I understand women, we try real hard, but they still manage to confuse the hell out of us."

JD started to bring current files up on to the screen, since he was the one who downloaded most of the reports this last month he could tell at a glance of the file number what each case curtailed. It never failed to amaze Buck, that a person who could never remember where he left his bike keys, or his runners, or his wallet, could remember thousands of file numbers. He stopped each file as it scrolled by only long enough to catch the file number, he was not about to leave information not pertaining to this case exposed on the screen for these men to read any longer than he had to. The caseload the last few days had threatened to bury JD alive, so Marcy had helped relieve the strain by taking over any thing new that presented itself, leaving JD free to catch up on the older stuff. Gradually JD started to come across unfamiliar files and was forced to stop and read. Under the ruse of concentrating he wasted some more precious time.

The idea of flashing his stick horse stamp came out of the blue; unfortunately it showed up on both his screen as well as the one in the office. JD doubted Slick would pick up on this horse figure being of any consequence, but didn't want to make the man any more suspicious than he all ready was, so JD waited until the other man would glance away, than flash it. JD had effectively taken over Ezra's computer, so everything he did on his at home, showed up on Ezra's screen at work. By flashing the horse JD hoped Ezra, or even Vin would pick up on it and recognize it was him working on it from this end and he was in trouble.

JD continued to go through the files, not even looking at them, stalling for more time. Macalister, he kept thinking, where had he heard that name before? It wasn't that common a name. JD had only been with team seven for a little over a year, but still had a pretty strong grip on the major players his team had investigated, or had under surveillance now. He couldn't think of anyone who had a Macalister on their payroll, yet knew he had heard the name somewhere recently. He tried to concentrate, but it was getting harder to sort the files on his screen, and keep his thoughts straight in his head. Gun running, bootlegging, drugs, murder, mayhem, JD was really starting to dredge the bottom of his memory and so far zip, zero, zilch, nothing!

"So JD I bet you wish you were still back in New Zealand right now, I know I would?" A far away voice sounded in his ears. JD turned and gave Josiah a confused look; maybe the gun butt to his head earlier had done some damage to Josiah after all. What the hell was he babbling about, JD had never been to New Zealand?

"Yep," Josiah carried on, as if he was in the middle of a dinner party, instead of being surrounded by five large gun-toting criminals, "JD and his little gem of a girl friend spent two weeks there this summer, surfing and traveling around, yep all the way to New Zealand and brings us back tee-shirts. The only family he has, and we got tee shirts. Couldn't afford more I guess with all the traveling you did. Didn't you surf some place famous while you were there, Diamond Back, or Diamond Head, Or hell's Alley, something like that?" Josiah caught JD's eye and flashed him a quick wink.

"Josiah, your distracting me here and no I didn't get to go surfing, Casey was freaked I would get eaten by a great white shark or something." Responded JD. Thank you Josiah, that's why he had heard Macalister's name before, it was linked to a jewelry store robbery in New York, in which millions of dollars of diamonds were taken, but the robbery itself had happened several months ago. Rumor had it that it was an inside job, but the insurance company couldn't prove it and ended up paying an enormous settlement to the owner of the diamonds. Now it looked like this LaPierre fellow must of somehow ended up with at least part of the stash.

Macalister was getting really jumpy, for this was taking way to long. His retiring to a land of luxury depended on this job getting completed and he had the feeling, though he didn't know how, that these three agents were playing with him. "You have five more minutes then I am going to start removing body parts from your friends, so hurry up!" He hissed at the young agent.

JD nodded his head, and frantically searched his memory for a file that would mention Macalister, so that he could foreword it to Ezra. By the time he remembered what he hoped was the right file number, JD thought his head was going to explode and surely they could all see the smoke poring out his ears. Taking a deep breath he tried to calmly print LaPierre's information on to a disc and hand it to Slick, then while no one was watching sent Ezra the case number that he thought mentioned Macalister name. The boy's were going to have to do some detective work to make sense of all the files JD just provided, but JD had complete faith if anyone could put all the connecting characters together and solve this mess, it was the four remaining men at their Denver office.

Macalister snatched the disc from Slicks hand and placed it in his pocket, then dialed a number on his cell phone. "I have it, I know it took longer than I said it would, these men were not as cooperative, or knowledgeable as I had first hoped they would be, but everything is under control now. I will meet you in an hour." Macalister moved towards the patio doors, "I can't say it's been a pleasure gentlemen." With that he walked out the glass doors, got into a waiting car and left.

The two agents looked questionably at JD, but he just shrugged, he had done all he could think of to get them out of this predicament. Now all they could do is hope the guys were coming. The way this day was going so far, it would be just their luck that only the cleaning staff remained in the office, in which case they were sunk.

Part 9

Like the snow falling outside upon the busy streets, the tension in the ATF office was gaining momentum, but the men were oblivious to the shoppers rushing about below them, or the increasing snowstorm. The three men were so intent on the computer screen in front of them they wouldn't have noticed bomb sirens going off.

"Come on Ezra, what's taking you so long, JD would have sorted this out ages ago." Aggravation at the whole situation made Chris's voice a lot harder than he meant it to be.

"No one would like our youngest counterpart to be here instead of me at this moment, but that does not appear like it's going to happen. I would be more then happy Mr. Larabee to relinquish the control of the keyboard over to your capable hands!" Ezra shot back. "You forget this is not my area of expertise, so I have to ask you show a little patience."

"Your right Ezra, I'm sorry, I know you are all as worried as I am, just do the best you can, no one can ask more."

"These last four numbers JD sent me open up a file to a case the FBI's working on, I am trying to cross reference names and places to come up with something that correlates. It is a bit of a wild goose chase right now, but JD must need us to connect the dots, or he wouldn't have sent this."

Nathan entered the office again having spent the last three quarters of an hour going over data down in the personnel office. "Chris here's the break down on LaPierre, he's a slimy lowlife, who's been involved in everything from auto thief to drug trafficking, his name has been in the system since he was ten years old. Two years ago in prison he hooked up big time, and he's been smuggling military arms out to gorillas somewhere in South America ever since. He was picked up in a sweep at a warehouse the beginning of the month and now is going to turn state evidence on whoever he hooked up with at the big house, in exchange the Feds are putting him in the witness protection program."

"Chris I have a name, but still not sure how to tie it together with LaPierre. Ian Macalister suspected in multiple big money robberies on the east coast. The Feds have him pegged for being involved in that multi million dollar diamond caper a few months ago." Ezra said handing Chris the printout. "They still don't know who he works for, he always hires out for these jobs and he has never too this point done a job on his own."

"Ezra coordinate with the Feds on getting this LaPierre moved to a different safe house, then set up surveillance on the old place in case they slip though our fingers at Buck's apartment. Vin you, and Nathan head over to Bucks, I dispatched patrol cars to their place as well as Josiah's a while ago, but haven't heard anything back yet. Be careful, we don't know for sure what we are up against here and I don't want anymore of you guys at risk!"

The three men nodded their agreement and headed out the door, pulling on winter coats as they went. Chris headed back into his office slamming the door behind him; he wanted to be doing more than sit here, hell he needed to be doing more. In frustration he threw the papers in his hand across the room, for he hated feeling this helpless, but someone had to stay here to coordinate all the different people now involved. He phoned the local police department again to give them the newest update and have them keep a look out for Ian Macalister, as well as to see if the dispatched cars had reported back in yet. Then he phoned a friend he had who worked for the NYPD, to see if they could locate Macalister in New York. Chris didn't want to waste time chasing down the wrong people; his men's lives could be at stake here.

When he finished his phone calls, Chris turned his chair towards the window and stared out, he knew little more now then ten minutes ago. Macalister had been under surveillance by the FBI, but had managed to slip past them in the last week. However an airline employee thought she remembered him from a picture as having been on a flight heading to Denver, except he was listed under a different name. What connection did Macalister, and LaPierre have together and most importantly how were his three agents involved?

"Larabee here!" Chris said answering the phone.

"I got bad news Chris," crackled Vin's voice from his cell phone. "The roads are so bad out here, we have accidents all over the place and the route to Bucks is blocked off with rescue crews. You better see if you can get a squad car over there from the other side of town, some angry commuters out here are surrounding me, I can't get anywhere."

Vin and Nathan sat impatiently in the front of Vin's jeep waiting for Chris to phone back with any news on their missing friends. "Eight o-clock in the middle of the week, with an impending blizzard and the streets are packed tighter than Scrooges money belt, what could this many people possibly be doing out on a night like this?" Vented Nathan. Vin shot a quick glance over at the team's medic; Nathan was usually the last to lose it.

"I'll get it," Nathan grabbed the cell phone out of Vin's hand after a single ring. "Jackson here, go…right, right, okay I'll tell Vin. We'll see what we can do from this end, yeah, we'll get back to you as soon as we can." Nathan disconnected the cell phone, discouragement written into his expression.

"They can't get a car to the apartment, or Josiah's place either, every available officer has been allocated to accident sights, so we are on our own, Chris hasn't even had any luck tracking down any ATF agents from other departments, who might be in their vicinity."

"Then I suggest you do up your seatbelt Nathan, this rides about to get a lot rougher." That said, Vin slipped the Jeep into four-wheel drive and systematically started pushing vehicles out of his way with his bumpers.

Vin and Nathan stood inside the empty apartment; signs of a struggle strewn all around, over turned chairs, a hole in the wall, and dripped blood trails leading from room to room. "Ah hell Chris, we were too late!" Said a subdued Vin into his phones mouthpiece.

Part 10

The back of the van had neither seats, or even carpeting, so the three agents sat huddled on the cold steel floor. Metal mesh separated the front of the van, from the windowless back. Without a view they had no idea where they were heading, they couldn't even agree on the direction they were going in.

Josiah's thigh still burned from the kick he received from one of the gunmen. As he was being removed from the apartment towards the van, he went to shove his shoulder into the man walking beside him, hoping to knock the other man down on the icy step. Unfortunately, the ice patch was wider then Josiah thought and when he went to make his move, it was his own feet that slipped out from under him. While he was down he was struck a solid blow to his leg, another great plan shot to hell.

Bucks head was still pounding and the cut on his jaw would not stop bleeding, he could feel it pooling on his collarbone.

JD kept squirming beside him, one at a time the agents had their hands untied, winter wear put on, then retied again. Rock took great pleasure in tying up JD, his wrists were yanked together and then Rock reefed on the rope as hard as he could. JD yelped as delicate folds of skin were caught up, and pinched by the rope. At first, his fingers were all pins and needles, but for the last half hour he couldn't feel them. He tried wiggling them, but wasn't sure if they moved or not, and he knew his wrists were going to be black and blue.

"JD, would you mind not bumping my leg?" Asked Josiah in a tired voice.

" Sorry, Josiah." Hissed out JD through clenched teeth.

"You okay over there, son?" asked Buck, as he watched JD upper body rock back and forth. His eyes looked like they were closed, but between the dim light and JDs long bangs, Buck couldn't tell for sure.

" Uh, huh."

"Not that you ever look that good JD, but your looking a little rougher then normal," said Buck, placing his shoulder against JDs arm, to get him to stop rocking.

At the contact with Buck, JD stopped moving "I'm fine Buck, just hurting some like you guys."

"We know kid, just hang in there." Leaning past the kid, Buck whispered into Josiah's ear. "Josiah, what's your read on these guys, you think we are in a small creek of trouble here or in a rubber raft with a hole in it, going down the Grand Canyon?"

"Jezz Buck, I can still hear you, would you mind not excluding me from this conversation, I'm sort of involved too."

Buck and Josiah smiled at the scorn they heard in JDs voice; pound for pound JD was as feisty as any agent on the force, a little pain would not slow him down in the scheme of things, any more then it would Buck or Josiah.

"Sorry JD, where are our manners, we'll talk a little louder, I'm sure the guys in the front weren't able to hear us either."

"Funny Buck, just stop treating me like I'm not even here."

"JD Buck, we don't have time for this." Josiah cut in; these two could get into an argument, anywhere and about anything. The, "stop treating me like a child, I am a grown-up ATF agent," usually topping the list.

Suddenly, without warning, the van came to a sliding stop. The three men went flying across the van floor, ending up in a heap against the metal mesh. Before they could get their various limbs untwined from each other, the vans side door was flung open to reveal a still very pissed off looking Rock. Even Buck and Josiah drew back at the venomous glare the enormous man was shooting JD's way.

JD tried to return the glare with a look of distain, but his two friends still heard a small gulp come up from his throat and could feel him melt back between them slightly. Rock pointed a small handgun in their direction and climbed into the van with them.

"You planning on killing three police officers? If you do there won't be a place on this earth you can hide. Our boss won't rest until you're all brought to justice, even if it takes him the rest of his life, you will never know another minute of peace." Josiah said straightening up, meeting the other man's eyes straight on.

The van started moving again, picking up speed on the snowy road. Rock made no statement back to Josiah, but continued to just watch the three men, his eyes starting to show some bruising, courtesy of the kick JD had connected with on his nose earlier.

The large mans quiet demeanor was making JD more uncomfortable then if he had been in a ranting rage. What ever was about to happen, JD got the distinct impression Rock was going to really enjoy it.

Rock slowly descended towards them. "Who would like to volunteer to go first, how about you little punk, you want to be the first too discover the thrill of flight? Rock reached down and grabbed the smaller man by the front of his jacket. Buck and Josiah tried to scramble to their feet "No!" Buck yelled. "Get your filthy hands of him."

Rock laughed and tossed JD against the two other men, knocking them all down to the floor again. "Your concern for each other is touching, but I think I will let him go last, then he gets to watch you two soar and imagine how it will feel when its his turn."

With that he looped his hand around Josiah's arm pulling him to his feet and with three running strides heaved the helpless man out the vans door. Buck and JD never even had a chance to react before their friend was gone from their sight.

Buck and JD tried to regain their feet, but Rock spun around, and caught JD across his mouth with a backhand, knocking him back down to his knees. Buck aimed his shoulder at the Rocks midriff and with his head down charged into the enormous man, both of them ending up against the door side of the van. Rock pushed the agent off him, as Buck struggled to hold the man against the wall. Tittering vicariously at the doors edge, Buck fought to regain his balance when Rock placed a huge hand on his chest, and with a heave Buck also disappeared out the vans door.

"Buck, god no!" Screamed JD, spinning away from Rocks out stretched reach; he scrambled towards the door to follow his friends. Just as he was about to leap an arm snaked out from behind him, grabbing him around his waist. JD threw his head back hoping to catch his assailant in his nose again, but due to the great height discrepancy he just bounced off an over developed chest. Rock increased the pressure around JDs waist, making him feel like he was being broken in two, his ribs crushing under the strain. Slowly he started to go limp, his head falling back on Rocks chest and his legs buckling.

"Having fun yet kid?" Rock breathed in his ear. "Maybe next time you will be more careful whose nose you break." He slowly removed his arm from JDs waist, letting him sink on to his knees. JD rolled his head down towards the floor, rounding over his stomach, his already sore lungs burning as he tried to draw in the frigid winter air.

"Since you were in such a hurry to leave, let me help you hasten your departure." Said Rock dragging him to the doors edge. Fear gripped at JD as he looked out the door to see nothing but the snowy road flying by and blackness. Rock grabbed his coat just below his collar and hung him out the door, letting him dangle above the passing roadway. Slowly he felt himself being lowered until his feet were dragging through the snow, and bouncing off the road only inches from the back tire. Panic bubbled up in his chest as Rocks grip on his coat started to slip. One of his runners was ripped from his foot, as he sank closer to the earth, his knees now plowing through the snow. The back tire kept bumping his bare foot, terrified JD tried to suck his knees up towards his chest as if to raise himself away from the ground.

Just as he thought he was a goner, Rock abruptly tugged him back into the van, holding him against the wall with his giant hand now on JDs chest. Panting, JD looked up into his aggressor's face, which smiled down on him, and then as if JD were a mere toy, lifted him and pitched him from the van. JD was airborne and heading out into the dark snowy night.

Part 11

JD felt like his life was passing by in freeze frame. Rocks right hand pressing on his chest, then his left reaching down to grip his leg, powerful fingers indenting into JD's thigh muscle. His feet leaving the contact of the vans steel floor as his body was slowly lifted over Rocks head, his free leg kicking haplessly out at empty space and a silent scream frozen on his lips. He could feel the wind wisp by his face as he was swirled around ninety degrees towards the black opening, and Rock shrinking down so JDs body would fit through the door. That scenario of, does it hurt more that moment you know you are falling or when you actually hit, passed across his mind?

Then he was sailing through the black void, wind and snow tearing at his clothes and whipping his hair against his face. At that instance he was suddenly thrust into fast foreword, his body propelling down, slamming hard against the earth surface. Snow exploded into every crevice on his body that could be reached as he somersaulted over, and over before sliding up against a snow bank.

The moment you hit definitely hurt more, no question about it. JD lay still for a few seconds trying to get his head to stop spinning before attempting to sit up. His right shoulder throbbed in pain, as it was the first part of his anatomy to have connected with the ground and he struggled to get some air back into lungs that had been knocked out of him. He rolled on to his good shoulder so he could get his knees under him to stand. Once vertical again, he desperately tried to shake the snow out of his clothes, as it was melting where it made contact with his bare skin. In his coat pocket was a pair of gloves and his headband, but with his hands still tied behind him he couldn't get them out. JD was now starting to shiver uncontrollably; he had to find Buck, and Josiah and then shelter of some kind before they all froze to death. JD started to walk, every part of his body ached, but the deep snow had saved him from any serious injuries, after his unsolicited flight from the van.

For once in his life he wished he had listened to Buck and bought a pair of winter boots, so that he could have had a choose of what to wear back at the apartment. His shoeless foot was pounding from the wet cold snow and the one with runner still on was not in much better shape. Stumbling along JD continued to make his way back towards the place where he had last seen Buck, the ruts from the vans tires leading the way. His vision was next to nothing, the snow swirled around him effectively blocking out any light the moon may have provided.

"Buck, Josiah, can you hear me…Buck?" JD kept yelling out, over the gusting wind. Panic was starting to build in his chest as his fear for his friends mounted. He was relatively unscathed, but what if his friends were lying hurt somewhere out here? JD fought down the urge to start running, it was so dark out, he didn't know if he would find them walking, he couldn't risk running past them.

"Buck, where are you? JD continued to call out. "Josiah, answer me please!"

Out of the darkness JD heard a sound, he stopped moving to see if he could locate where it was coming from. Suddenly he recognized the noise a few seconds before the vans lights came into view, duck-tailing back and forth as it tried to grab traction from the icy ground.

JD turned to run as the van barreled down upon him, he fumbled through the knee-deep snow before diving behind a tree. JD could hear laughing as the van was forced to swerve to avoid hitting the tree and drove off disappearing into a powder white cloud.

JD, again had to struggle back up to his feet using the tree for leverage, tears stinging his eyes, but he was not sure at this point whether they were caused by the freezing wind or his emotions. He leaned against the tree for a minute to gather him self together, then sucked it up and headed off again.

He just stepped back into the tire tracks when his foot connected with something, almost tripping him. On the ground, half buried was his missing shoe. He couldn't even shake the snow out of it, but at least he had some protection now. Huddling further into his coat JD continued on, calling out his friend's names every few steps. He had just stopped to catch his breath a second when he heard what was the sweetest sound on earth to him.

"JD over here son… over here!" and there stood his closest friend on this planet waving at him, a shadow against the snowy backdrop.

JD tried to run towards Buck, but the snow was too deep and he was just too tired, so it turned into more of a lumbering jog, but eventually he made it over to stand by his friend's side.

"You okay, Buck?"

"You hurt anywhere, JD?"

Both men managed to get out at the same time. Buck smiled down at his smaller roommate, overjoyed at finding him alive and in one piece. He wished his hands weren't tied so he could pick him up and give him a patented Buck bear hug, which always embarrassed the kid to no end.

"You see Josiah anywhere?" JD asked Buck. Now that they found each other, all their concern was redirected to the one missing man. Buck shook his head no.

"Well we best keep moving, he must still be a head of us, come on Buck hurry up, lets get going." JD stopped walking to look back at Buck, who had not moved a foot yet.

"You're going to have to help me out some kid, my leg and a big old rock became acquainted on my dismount from the van door. I smashed my knee up pretty good."

"Should I go look for Josiah and then come back for you?" JD asked assessing their different options.

"No, we should both go, we need to find shelter fast, I don't want your wasting energy having to come back for me. Just let me lean on you so I can get up."

"Buck, JD, I think I need a hand over here!" The two men whirled around just in time to see Josiah stagger a few feet towards them, before collapsing into a heap.


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