The Best of Intentions

by Heather M.

Part 1 | Part 2-3 | Part 4 | Part 5 - Epilogue

Part 2

Somewhere in the back of his mind Nathan realized he had lost the battle. Barely conscious now he was trying desperately just to float on the surface of the water.

The small circle of light from above was getting bigger now, it seemed to be coming closer. He thought of how people who report near death experiences spoke of the light. Was this what it was like to die? Rain, forgive me. I’ve wasted so much time

The light was speaking to him, calling his name.

"Nathan! Nathan! Damn it! Chris, he’s looking right at me but I don’t think he can hear me," reported Vin. "I’m not even sure he can see me. He’s barely moving. It looks like he’s floating in some water. His headset is gone, probably lost it in the fall. Drop me lower, I can’t reach him yet!"

"Will do junior," Buck’s calm, reassuring, voice came through Vin’s ear bud.

"I’m there Buck. Shit this water’s cold. No wonder Nate seems so out of it, the water’s freezing."

Using his right hand to hold onto the makeshift harness, he used his left to adjust the too large helmet on his head so that the miner’s lamp would spotlight Nathan so he could get a better look at him in depths of the dark hole.

"He looks to be in one piece except for some blood on his face."

"Come on Nate, help me out here. Hang on to me, will ya? Whoa there Nate … you’re slipping - Nate, grab on to my hand dammit!"

Vin made a lunge for the hook on the back of Nathan’s vest.

Up above a grim faced Larabee watched as the line from which Vin was dangling bucked wildly.

"Vin… have you got him?"



"Stop yellin’ at me, I’m a little busy just now," muttered the annoyed sharpshooter into the darkness.

"Say again Vin… Have you got him?"

"Yeah I got him." Vin’s tone of voice was heavy with concern. "Chris he just started to slip under the water. He didn’t even try to reach for me and he’s not reactin’ to anything I say."

"We’ll send a second line down."

"Hurry Chris, he’s dead weight."

JD, Ezra and Josiah arrived from the clean up to hear the last comment. They exchanged alarmed glances but kept silent.

"JD call an ambulance," ordered Chris tersely. "No! Make that an air ambulance."

"Now! MOVE SON!" bellowed Chris at JD’s momentary hesitation.

"Consider it done Chris!" JD yelled over his shoulder as he took off back the way he had just come.

The second line arrived. Vin used his free hand to loop it under Nathan’s arms and across his chest. He hissed at the freezing temperature of the water as he eased himself further into the water behind Nathan, he grabbed Nathan in a bear hug to make sure he wouldn’t slip out.

"Okay, we’re set. Pull us both up together!"

"Hang on Nate," whispered Vin into bigger man’s ear. "We’re almost home."

Vin turned his head to look skyward, the over-sized helmet fell off backwards and splashed unheeded in the icy water below as he and Nathan both began to slowly ascend toward the light.

~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~

Christ he hated this place!

He hated the clinging smell of disinfectant, the silence of rubber-soled footwear on polished floors. The background murmurings of people who never seemed to move fast enough to suit him when it was someone he cared for. God how he hated this place!

Why did it seem they always ended up here?

It hadn’t taken long to find the old well. Flashlights shone down the well, detected movement but not much else, shouts down the well went unanswered but the long strides of running boot prints in the dirt ended abruptly at the hole. The decades old wooden cover had rotted over time. According to Max Harvey, this was likely the well from the Harvey family farmstead, the property the warehouse was built on. The well was fed from an underground spring that originated high in the mountains. The water ran ice-cold with the springtime melt at this time of year. Nathan just happened to step in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Chris had to hand it to Peter Harvey and his shift crew though, once they realized what was needed, they swung into action quickly improvising a hoist for Vin and Nathan using a fork lift and loading dock harnesses. The short argument as to who was going down the well was settled by Peter Harvey urging them, for safety reasons, to keep the load light since the equipment had never been used for this function before.

The helicopter had arrived eleven minutes after Vin and Nathan emerged from the old well.

Eleven long minutes.

They had stripped Nathan of his wet clothing and wrapped him in emergency blankets all the while he shivered uncontrollably. He didn’t speak, he didn’t seem to recognize any of them and seemed not to have any understanding of his surroundings.

Buck and Josiah helped the paramedics load Nathan into the air ambulance, but there was no room for any of them to travel with Nathan. He would have to go alone.

Chris took two quick steps toward the air ambulance as if he was going to argue the point. Vin and Ezra each grabbed for an arm. Chris shook them off and rewarded them each with a withering scowl but he stayed where he was.

They all stood, with their faces skyward, watching as the helicopter grew smaller.

One by one, Buck, JD, Ezra and Vin looked down and turned to walk back to their vehicles. Spying Chris, Buck caught Vin by the arm and tilted his head in Chris’ direction, Vin eyes followed Buck’s nod. Without looking back at Buck, Vin nodded before turning and walking back to stand behind Chris.

"Chris," said Vin quietly to the still watching Chris.

Chris made no indication that he had heard Vin’s words.

"C’mon Cowboy, we better load up."

The annoying nickname grabbed Chris’ attention, he turned his face from the sky to the sharpshooter and silently nodded in reply.

Vin could see it. The guilt Chris tried to hard to hide flickered behind the mask.

"How are you?" Chris cast a concerned eye over the sharpshooter as he stood beside him in wet denim and a blanket wrapped around his shoulders.

"Okay. Just wet. Ezra’s gonna take me home so I can change into some dry clothes. We’ll meet you there."

Chris nodded.

It’s not your fault.

The hell it’s not!

Vin turned and walked back toward the communications van. Josiah was the only one left watching now.

Chris walked over to stand beside him, "Josiah."

There was no indication the profiler had heard him.

"Josiah, we have to go, we have to get to the hospital."

Though the helicopter was gone from view Josiah was still looking skyward. He acknowledged Chris with a nod and then he tore his eyes from the sky to look down at the boss.

"We do this way too often, brother."

"Ya got no argument here."

~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~

"Are you the gentlemen with Nathan Jackson?"

They all stood at once to greet the bespeckled young man in the grey Oakland Raiders jersey and the Eminem hairstyle.

"You are a physician?" Ezra made no attempt to hide his disapproval of the appearance of the man who had greeted them.

"Chad Sexsmith, resident in emergency medicine."

"How is he Doctor?" Chris’ expression was grim, partly because of his concern for Nathan and partly because he shared Ezra’s opinion, this doctor was far too young and far too casual for his liking.

"Mr. Jackson is recovering nicely." The young doctor smiled reassuringly. "His body temperature is almost back to normal and other than extreme physical fatigue and a minor scrape on his forehead; I can find nothing else to be concerned with."

"He’s gonna be okay then?" asked JD anxiously. He wanted specific confirmation that Nathan was going to get well. None of them had missed that fact that JD had been jiggling while he sat waiting with them, a sure sign that the kid was on edge.

"He should be fine in a day or two. He’ll be stiff and sore for a while because of the prolonged physical exertion in such cold temperatures. The kevlar vest likely saved his life. Keeping it on kept him from going into severe hypothermia, but having to tread water with the extra weight of the vest, not to mention his boots, for over an hour, as I understand it, exhausted him. I’d like to keep him 24 hours for observation."

"Ya just said he’s gonna be fine," questioned Vin suspiciously.

"It’s simply a precautionary measure."

"Doc, they usually let us take the patient home …" explained Buck, figuring the young doctor was new and didn’t understand how things were usually handled.

"Nathan’s staying," Chris stated sharply before the doctor could reply.

"Brother Nathan isn’t going to like that," rumbled Josiah.

"Too bad. If this had happened to any of you, you’d be allowed to go home because we had Nathan to keep an eye you," Chris growled irritably. "Which one of you is qualified to look after him?"

Chris received five expressions full of regret. None of them could do for Nathan as he had always done for them in this situation. "My point exactly. He stays."

Chris then turned his ire on Dr. Sexsmith. "When can we see him?" he demanded. The doctor said everything was fine but Chris had to see for himself.

Someone must have warned the young physician because he seemed surprisingly unperturbed by Chris Larabee’s abrupt manner. "Give it twenty minutes to get him settled in his room."

~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~

He looked to be asleep until the door made a soft thud as it eased slowly closed behind them. He turned his head towards them, opened his eyes and smiled weakly.

"Hey Nathan," said Chris softly as he walked toward the bed. "Good to see you in the land of the living."

"Chris." Nathan replied to the greeting in a barely perceptible rasp.

Chris was immediately alarmed, the kid-doctor never said anything about Nathan not being able to talk! Somehow he managed to keep his concern off his face.

"What’s with yer voice pard?" asked Vin sensing Chris’ concern.

"Throat… sore." He swallowed painfully, the effort to speak was obviously hurting him. "pro’bly… swallowed…. water…" The effort to speak was fast using up what little energy he had.

"Rest easy brother," Josiah took Nathan’s hand in an arm wrestler’s grip and was relieved to find there was strength in Nathan’s grip as he returned the modified handshake before letting go, "for a change we get to tell you what to do."

Nathan smiled more broadly this time, rolled his eyes and shook his head in mock resignation.

"Mr. Jackson, I am pleased you did not take your leave of us earlier than anticipated, sir."

Why the hell was Ezra bringing that up for now? Chris wondered, annoyed with undercover agent.

Ezra wasn’t finished though. "Should one of us inform Miss Rain of your little mishap?"

Nathan he shook his head quickly. Then he spied the worried young man beside Ezra. "JD?" The sound was strangled.

"Nathan, I am so sorry!" The kid’s voice was trembling with remorse. "I was the only back-up you had and I almost got you k…"

Nathan frantically shook his head while mouthing "No" as the other five men reacted with alarm. Only now did they realized that JD’s anxious state had as much to do with guilt over a perceived failure as it had to do with concern for Nathan’s injuries.

"Kid, you’re not to blame for what happened," said Buck quickly, wanting to put this incident in its proper perspective for his partner. Guilt did not serve an agent well, "it was an accident is all."

"But I was the only one who had any direct contact with him, none of you were with him!" JD’s distress was obvious in his face now. "I saw his personal signal disappear. When I couldn’t raise him I should have notified one of you sooner but the bust was going down..."

Before any of the others could protest the kid’s reasoning, Chris put his hand on his shoulder and turned the young man to look him.

"JD the responsibility is mine," said Chris firmly. "You did your job, you alerted me to Nathan’s disappearance the first chance you had, son. If anyone’s to blame here it’s me, Nathan didn’t have sufficient back-up."

"But Chris…"

"No buts." Chris’ expression was stern now. "JD, I’m the boss, that makes it my responsibility."

Chris held the kid’s gaze for along moment and wondered again at the wisdom of having a team member who was so young.

"Understood Agent Dunne?"

He watched as JD raised his chin slightly after a moment’s thought. The distress in the young eyes had disappeared.

"Yes sir."

"Excuse me for interrupting," they turned as one to see a nurse standing in the doorway holding the door open, "but Mr. Jackson needs his rest…"

"Say no more…," Buck’ face broke into a charming smile as he walked over and took the nurse’s hand. "Barbara isn’t it?" he asked as he tucked the nurse’s hand under his arm, "we were just about to leave."

"Have I ever told you how pretty your eyes are Barbara?" They could hear Buck before the door closed behind him as he squired Barbara out of the room. They would leave, they just weren’t ready to yet. Buck had given them a few more minutes.

"JD," Nathan’s strained voice whispered as he reached up and grabbed the kid affectionately by the back of his neck with a big gentle hand. "Okay?" he mouthed as his voice failed him again.

"Yeah," smiled JD looking down at Nathan through his dark bangs.

Nathan smiled and tugged gently at JD’s neck before letting him go. Everything had been said now.

JD moved away from the bed so Vin could move up to the healer’s side.

"Hey Nathan, how’s about we bring ya some real breakfast in the mornin’," asked Vin as he and Nathan clasped thumbs and then followed up by bumping their fisted knuckles together gently. Nathan smiled and nodded in agreement. With that Vin and JD moved toward the door.

"Gentlemen?" asked Ezra holding the door for Josiah and Chris after Vin and JD had left.

"You boys go ahead I’ve got some things to do yet." Chris wanted to talk to the doctor and find out about Nathan’s throat.

"I’m going to keep Nathan company for a while," said Josiah.

"Very well, tomorrow morning then Mr. Jackson," nodded Ezra as he two-finger-saluted the man in the bed in a farewell greeting and left.

~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~

Ezra had purposely picked this time to question Nathan, when he was at his most vulnerable. Ezra had seen it in Nathan’s eyes when he had mentioned leaving. Just as I had suspected!

Nathan, after not even attempting to reply to the two previous questions and despite the discomfort, had spoken to JD, to divert attention away from Ezra’s question about notifying Rain. Most interesting!

Twenty four hours the doctor had said… That didn’t give him much time.

~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~

"Miss Rain, I do not wish to alarm you but there was a problem with the operation yesterday." The tragic tone of his voice embellished on the truth more effectively that any lie could have. It was done with polished ease as he had done so many times before.

"Nathan! Is he alright?" Rain struggled hard to keep the panic she felt from taking over.

"My dear, I will not misrepresent the situation to you… we are very concerned for Mr. Jackson’s well-being."

"Why aren’t Chris or Josiah telephoning me?"

I knew you were an intelligent woman, you are also cool under stress, an admirable quality my dear. "I volunteered to contact you Miss Rain as they wanted to remain by his side until …"

"…Until what? Tell me Ezra!" she demanded. Ezra could hear it in her voice. Rain was fighting valiantly to keep her fears at bay.

"Miss Rain he can hardly speak. I think it may not be long before he cannot speak at all. I fear for his …" The consummate actor let his voice break and he paused meaningfully. Then in a whisper, with just the right amount of urgency in his voice, "My dear, can you come now?"

"Yes, yes of course." Ezra could hear it now. Rain was beside herself. The guilt was almost more than he could bear. He steeled himself with the thought that what he was doing was necessary for the good of the team!

"I will call cab for you from here and I have already taken the liberty of arranging an airline ticket for you at the AirTrans desk on the 5:15 a.m. flight. I will meet you personally upon your arrival in Denver."

"Yes, yes… Thank you Ezra." Ezra didn’t have to see Rain to know that tears were now running down her lovely face.

"God’s speed my dear."

Ezra ended the call on his cell phone and quickly re-dialed, this time contacting a taxi cab company in Kansas City. After completing the second call Ezra sagged against the wall, cell phone still in hand, and dropped his head. He felt weary with the effort of lying to her. He regretted upsetting her. She would understand he told himself, he would meet her at the airport and explain everything to her.

"Emotional attachments will get you killed." His mother’s voice echoed in the back of his mind but he pushed the thought away as he hurried out of the hospital to his car.

Part 3

Damn! Since when are planes early? fumed Ezra.

Having checked flight schedules he had determined the 5:15 a.m. flight would be the best one for her to take. He had returned to the hospital at 3:00 a.m. to call Rain. The sounds of the hospital in the background of the call would serve to add credibility to his misrepresentation of the truth. Waking at 3:30 a.m. Rain would undoubtedly be a little disoriented. Her disorientation would aid him in his little scheme.

He had then gone directly home from the hospital to shower and change and had left for the airport shortly afterwards with plenty of time to spare. An accident on the interstate and then line-painting on the throughway had slowed his progress significantly and he arrived at the airport a full thirty minutes after the flight’s estimated arrival time only to discover Rain’s plane had been twenty minutes early.

He spent twenty minutes looking for Rain but he really hadn’t expected to find her. Convinced that Nathan was dying, or at very least that he was in grave condition, he did not think it likely that she would have waited for him. He was regretting the fact he had exaggerated so completely.

She had an hour’s head start on him. He was not optimistic that he would reach her in time. He knew if he did not intercept Rain before she reached Nathan and the others, his life would not be worth much. He only hoped that Josiah would find it in his heart to give him a suitably dignified eulogy.

~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~

Unlike the traffic traveling in the opposite direction, the taxi carrying Rain Cooper moved swiftly in the early morning rush hour. She stared out the window at the commuters in the other cars as they ate their power breakfasts and drank coffee out of their travel mugs while they listened absently to the morning news reports. She envied them. When they awoke up this morning, they had the same dreary morning routines to look forward to. How she wished the same was true for her… She might be losing Nathan today. It didn’t seem possible, yet the fear clutched at her heart. Her chin trembled as her eyes filled with tears again.

The cabbie looked back at the beautiful woman through his rearview mirror. She was crying silently to herself again. He depressed the accelerator a little more. She had wanted to get to the hospital; she said it was an emergency. That’s all she had said. Such a lovely young woman; the only thing he could do to help was to get her there as soon as he could.

~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~

Josiah stretched and yawned, it had been another all night vigil. For a change though, it was a vigil without the often-present fear of impending death. Even so Nathan had not slept soundly. Mutterings of "Rain" and "Denver" was all Josiah had been able to discern from Nathan’s restless words. The quiet words "I’m here brother" from Josiah had been sufficient to settle the fretful man.

Chris had left about midnight. Dead on his feet, he knew he had made a serious, almost fatal, mistake in leaving Nathan without back-up. He and Josiah had talked. Chris could have spared one of the men from Team 8 or requested one more agent for the operation. Josiah and Chris both knew Chris could quite possibly have to face disciplinary action from Travis.

Josiah only hoped that this incident didn’t mean any more calendars for charity. Josiah had to admire A.D. Travis. The man was creative. When traditional methods of discipline hadn’t worked with Team 7, the "Special Projects" file had proven especially effective.

Josiah, personally, had been skeptical of the interest anyone would have in his 52 year old body and was subsequently quite flattered at the number of women who had stopped him on the street, at the supermarket, dropped into their office… to compliment him, not mention the others. But the unexpected fall-out as to unknown owner of the naked backside as well as the number of men who had shown a similar interest had proven… interesting for the Team.

Josiah got up and stretched again, rolling his shoulders and walking around a bit to work out the aches and kinks from his big frame. He checked his watch, 7:15 a.m. Chris and the others would be showing up shortly with breakfast before going into the office. Breakfast together and then Buck would take over the watch while Josiah went home to catch a few hours sleep before heading into the office himself at noon. He still had a report to write.

Josiah turned back around at the sound of a low groan. Nathan was blinking sleep filled eyes. Josiah smiled. "’Morning, brother."

Nathan let himself fall rather than roll over onto his back. The action quite obviously had taken a lot of effort and wasn’t without some discomfort. "It wasn’t a dream." rasped the resident healer, the voice was better but far from one hundred percent.

"What wasn’t?"

"…Nearly freezing to death."

"Fraid not," replied Josiah ruefully.

"I feel… awful."

Josiah had to work to stifle a smile. It was interesting to see the shoe on Nathan’s foot for a change.

"…every part of me … hurts," he moaned.

"Not surprising after going for a swim in ice cold water dressed in full gear, might be a bit of a work-out don’tcha think?"

"Stop laughing at me and help me out here will ya?" The hoarse whisper persisted.

"I’m not laughing, brother."

"Yo’ Mama!"

"Well, maybe a chuckle or two," chuckled Josiah. "What do you need here?"

"I just want to sit up, but my stomach muscles don’t seem to be working."

"Here," Josiah handed him the remote for the bed.

"Thanks," Nathan took the remote and examined it briefly before pressing the appropriate button to raise the head of the bed to a partially reclined position.

"You need your pillows fluffed? How about I hold your glass so you can sip some water?"

"Get away from me!" Nathan ordered in a strangled whisper.

"I guess the old adage is true?"

"What adage?"

"Healers make the worst patients." Josiah’s Cheshire cat smile was annoying as hell and Nathan could only defend himself by glaring back at him but even that made his face ache.

Josiah pushed and poked at the pillows behind Nathan until he seemed to be comfortable. "The rest of the troops should be here with breakfast soon. I’m going to make a pit stop and grab a coffee from the cafeteria before they show up."

"Yeah, sure," Nathan waved the remote absently in the air.

"Need anything from the nurses? Painkiller? A bucket to upchuck into after the painkiller? Peppermint tea for the whoopie stomach after you upchuck?" Josiah teased.

"Get outta here," rasped Nathan. He directed a scowl at Josiah as Josiah retreated out the door chuckling again.

Nathan closed his eyes and let his head fall stiffly back against the pillows. He hurt. He ached everywhere. Man, this is gonna be awful, they’re never gonna let me live this down.

He heard the door open and then light footsteps. Oh no, a nurse to interrupt the last peaceful moment I’m going to get in the next few hours just to take my temperature I’ll bet! Maybe if I pretend to be asleep, she’ll go away, he hoped.

He lay still as the footsteps approached and then stopped beside him. A small hand slipped into his larger hand. A second small hand covered his and the owner of the hands raised his up and placed a gentle kiss on his fingers. He then felt a soft smooth cheek caress those same fingers. Nathan froze. He was flabbergasted, caught completely off guard by the inappropriate behaviour of the nurse.

A gentle sniff broke through his stunned stupor and he turned his head toward the nurse and opened his eyes. To his astonishment a tearful Rain stood beside him.

~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~

The taxi driver had made record time in getting to the hospital. She had fumbled with her wallet. The driver was so concerned for her he had taken the $20.00 bill for the $27.00 fare and told her it was enough. "Was she alone, was there no one here to meet her?" he asked. "Yes, yes there was," she had assured him, "she would be fine."

It hadn’t taken long for Rain to find Nathan’s room, but she found that as she traveled closer to him it was becoming harder to keep a rein on her emotions. She managed to hold it together long enough to ask what Nathan’s room number was at the reception desk in the lobby on the main floor. By the time she reached his floor, the hospital staff was too preoccupied with the morning routine to notice the tearful young woman who walked past the nurse’s station and down the hall. By the time she reached Nathan’s room she was too distraught to wonder why he was lying alone in his room without any the others, or at very least Josiah, by his side.

~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~

"Ohhhh, Na… Na… Nathan," Rain fairly wailed as she broke down into a torrent of tears.

"Rain?" He rasped as he struggled to sit completely upright. It was a pathetic attempt to get protesting muscles to obey and he fell back, limp against the pillows.

"Nathan don’t! Save your strength." She pleaded through her tears.

Nathan blinked once in confusion. Save my strength? For what? What was she doing here?

He blinked again, this time out of concern for her. Why was she so upset? He’d never seen her so distressed.

Nathan’s concern grew. Rain was not a person who was easily shaken. What could have happened to upset her so badly?

He struggled to sit up again, this time sheer force of will won out over his over-taxed body. He reached for her and took her gently in his arms. Whatever the reason for her tears, she needed him now.

"Rain, sweetheart, what’s wrong? What’s happened? What are you doing here?" To his frustration his labouring voice gave out half way through the last question.

She drew back to look at him, her eyes registered her confusion. He wouldn’t let go of her and continued to hold her at arm’s length. "I th... th... thought you were dy... dy... dying," she hiccuped.

"DYING!" The exclamation came out as a squeaky croak.

"Rain, Babe, where’d you get that idea?" Confusion distorted his handsome features.

"Ezra phoned."

"Ezra phoned?"

"He sa.. sa... said that the operation didn’t go well. He sounded so so so concerned…"

She was stuttering, having trouble catching her breath.

"Rain, take your time," Nathan whispered as he drew her close to him again. He rubbed her back comfortingly with one large gentle hand, while the other cradled her head as she nestled against him.

It felt so good to feel the strength of his arms around her after the fear of last three hours. She took a deep breath and reveled in the heat of his body next to hers, he was alright. Oh God thank you, he’s alright.

She took another deep breath and drew back from him again so she could look into his eyes. "He said you couldn’t talk anymore… that he didn’t think it would be long before you couldn’t talk at all. I thought he meant…" She shivered at the thought, "I thought he meant you couldn’t talk because you were… dying. Oh Nathan …" with that she broke into weeping again. This time it was tears of relief.

Nathan held her close against his body again. The pieces suddenly fell together in his mind. For some reason, Ezra, after being told not to contact Rain, did. Then Ezra, for some unknown reason, had felt it necessary to lie to Rain and tell her he was dying.

Confusion became realization which, fueled by his concern for Rain, a moment later became anger. The anger made a short leap to rage. What was that man thinking of? Nathan had never seen Rain so upset. That southern asshole had frightened her into hysterics!

Ezra would get part of his wish, he vowed, someone would be dying alright! He would break his neck for this! No! First he would kick his skinny southern ass until he told him why he decided to scare Rain half to death and then he would break his neck! THAT BASTARD! Trouble from day one! Only ever thinks of himself! And I was gullible enough to think he’d changed!

"Hey Nate, how ya hang …" The cheerful greeting died on Buck’s lips. He was first through the door with Chris, Vin, and JD close behind. They were carrying four-holed cardboard trays of coffee and paper bags from which wafted the appetizing aroma of Inez’s Sunday Brunch special from the Saloon. They stopped dead in their tracks at the sight that greeted them.

Rain stood cradled in Nathan’s arms with her head tucked under his chin, her cheeks wet from tears, her eyes red from crying, she hiccuped softly. Surprised as they were by Rain’s presence in the room, what really drew their attention was the expression of pure rage on Nathan’s face.

There was no mistaking Nathan’s disposition. He was their healer, capable of gentle ministrations to them when they were sick or injured. Never once flinching or taking offence at the curses that came his way when he had to do what he had to do when they were wounded. But, three years of military service, eleven in police work, he was no less capable than any of the rest of them of being tough and brutal when necessary, but this was something different…, this was primal.

"Where’s Ezra?" Nathan ground out hoarsely.

"He’s coming," said Chris, "he should be here any minute. He said he had to run an errand first." Chris blinked. He couldn’t believe the naked hate he saw in Nathan’s eyes. Then his gazed moved back to Rain. The woman looked like she’d just been through hell. What was going on?

"Rain, are you okay?" Buck asked gently. Buck saw what Chris saw but as always, his concern was for the welfare of the ladies first.

Rain sighed deeply and left the comfort of Nathan’s arms to turn and look at Buck. She tried to wipe her tears away with her the backs of her hands. "I’ll be fine," she said in a strained voice, "I just got a little carried away…"

"Here now, come on with me," urged Buck as he handed his parcel off to JD and walked over to put a brotherly arm around Rain’s shoulders. "I know a place where you can get tidied up a bit."

"I guess I’m a mess."

"Now now, you’re as pretty as ever; prettier than a spring day in the mountains. Ya just need a little sprucing up that’s all." Buck gave Rain an encouraging smile as they disappeared out the door.

"What’s going on here?" asked Chris suspiciously.

"Nuthin’" rasped the healer venomously.

It sure didn’t look like "nuthin’" to the boss. From the silence of the two men beside him, JD’s wide-eyed and Vin’s narrowed eyes, both men running reasons and scenarios for the scene they had just interrupted through in their minds, it didn’t look like "nuthin’" to them either.

"Where’s Josiah?"

"The can."

"What’s happened?"

Nathan just directed an angry glare back at Chris and then turned away to stare at the window.

Chris’ decided they weren’t going to get anything more from Nathan. He set his tray of coffee on the roll-away table beside the doorway and he turned and left the room without another word. Vin and JD did the same and followed him out.

Just outside the door Chris turned to face them so that the three of them form a tight little circle.

"Whattya think?" The quiet Texan’s drawl was barely above a whisper.

"I don’t know," admitted Chris as he pushed his hand through his hair. "If this is something between him and Rain, it’s none of our business. But I have never Nathan so… he’s madder than hell."

"Do ya s’pose it has something to do with Ez?"

Chris shook his head thoughtfully. "I’ve never seen him this pissed, not even at Ezra."

"Maybe Josiah knows something?" suggested JD in a similarly quiet voice.

"Let’s find him."

The order was more like an impatient growl. No further words were needed as the three men turned and walked in separate directions.

~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~

Josiah stepped off the elevator with coffee in hand and spied Buck waiting further down the hallway that stretched out in front of the elevator. He heard his name and turned to see JD coming down the hallway from his left. Before JD caught up to him, Vin appeared from the hallway to his right. The three of them walked together down the hallway toward Buck. By the time they reached him, Chris had joined them coming from the opposite direction.

"What’s going on with Nathan?" Chris asked Josiah abruptly, as he and Vin joined the group.

"Nothing," replied the big man with raised eyebrows as he took a sip of the hot liquid. It had been a long night and he was in need of the stimulant.

Chris shot Josiah his patent glare. He didn’t appreciate getting the same answer from Josiah that he’d just received from Nathan. Something was going on dammit!

Looking from Chris’ expression to Buck’s, to Vin’s and then JD’s it dawned on Josiah that he was missing something here. "What’s up, brothers?"

"Nathan’s really pissed, why?"

Josiah shrugged, "He’s pretty stiff and sore like the doctor said he would be but otherwise he seemed fine when I left him."

"This ain’t "stiff and sore" pissed, this is something worse," drawled Vin.


"Yeah, he’s even more pissed than when …"

Before JD could elaborate, Rain appeared from the Ladies’ washroom.

Josiah’s wide smile at seeing the young woman wilted slightly when he realized she’d been crying. Though she looked significantly better for the chance to wash her face and fix her make-up, telltale signs of her tears were still evident.

Nonetheless he still gave her his usual bear hug greeting. Rain was one of his favourite people. "Rain! It’s good to see you!"

"Hello Josiah, it’s good to see you too."

"To what do we owe the visit?"

Her bottom lip began to tremble

"Hey, hey what’s this?" he asked softly. He noticed the trembling lip and took her hand into one of his as he leaned down sideways to look at her. "Rain, are you okay?"

She nodded, "I’m fine."

"Rain?" Josiah prodded gently.

She bit at her bottom lip and glanced down at the floor before bring her eyes up to meet his. "I got a telephone call from Ezra this morning. He, ah," she took a deep breath and continued, "He said Nathan had been hurt in the operation yesterday and asked if I could come. I guess I got things mixed up because I thought… I thought…" her bottom lip began to tremble, she couldn’t continue.

"Now, now, don’t go gettin’ yourself all upset again," murmured Buck in a soothing tone.

"What did you think?" demanded Chris. Buck shot him a look full of annoyance. Chris had made a weak attempt at softening his tone of voice, but the question still sounded like an order from a drill sergeant.

"It was three o’clock this morning." She shook her head. "I just got things confused that’s all; I thought he said Nathan was badly injured and that… that he was dying."

They had all been leaning in to listen to Rain’s quiet voice. At the word "dying" they all stirred suddenly, bringing their heads up to exchange questioning looks with one another over her head.

"Why would he do that!" blurted out JD.

"Ya don’t s’pose this has somethin’ to do with Kansas City do ya?" drawled Vin.

"I’d take that bet," said Buck.

"What about Kansas City Vin?" It was clear from Rain’s tone of voice and questioning eyes Rain was unaware of the job in Kansas City.

Vin was suddenly ill at ease, as he realized he’d just spilled the beans. The rest of them looked at her for a long moment, then they all looked at one another again. They all came to the same realization … Nathan hadn’t yet told Rain about the job in Kansas City.

That was odd, really odd, Nathan and Rain were close, very close. Why would Nathan have kept the Kansas City job from her?

"Rain," Josiah started slowly, he gave Chris a quick unsure glance before turning his attention back to Rain. "Nathan has resigned."

"RESIGNED!" It was Rain stood open-mouthed with surprise as she looked up at Josiah.

"He handed in his resignation day before yesterday."


"He has a job in Kansas City."

"Kansas City," she repeated mechanically. She brought a hand up to rest on her chest. Confusion clouded her eyes as she shook her head slowly. She looked up at Josiah with troubled eyes. "He hasn’t said a word to me about any of this."

They stood considering this last little bit of news when … it was as if a light suddenly went on for all five of them …

"Ya don’t s’pose Ez …"

"…figured out Rain didn’t know …"

"… and used the bust as an excuse to call her …"

"Brothers I think we better go …"

"… save Standish’s miserable life!"

~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~

Ezra took a quick look up and down the hallway before cautiously making his way off the elevator.

All seemed normal for a busy hospital. Rain nor any of the rest of the team appeared to be around at the moment.

Ezra walked purposefully down the hallway taking quick furtive glances behind him as he went. He stopped outside the door to Nathan’s room. He put his hand on the door handle and put his ear against the door listening intently for a moment. No sound. Possibly he was in luck and there was still time to rectify the situation before it got out of hand.

Taking a last quick glance around, he pushed the door open and stepped inside.


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