Meant to Be?
Authors: Teri - Judy - Zarbettu - Robijean
This story is a round robin created on the Vin F&D list. The first part was used as a starting point that created a number of different stories. Limitations: 5 parts, no more than 500 words each. Enjoy.
Part 1 – Teri
"Time to turn in," Chris said to no one in particular.
"It's not that late," JD stated, but the yawn that followed took away any conviction behind his words.
Vin was not about to argue. It had been a long day and he was more than ready to call it a night.
An hour later sleep remained illusive as Vin rolled from his side to his back. Placing his hands under his head, he stared into the black inkiness of night.
The clouds that had been gathering all day had converged and made it impossible for even the soft glow of the moon to filter through. Not that Vin was worried, he had never feared the dark, but rather found the night sounds a comfort.
Listening closely he could hear the sound of a pair of owls calling in the night and the chatter of raccoons as they tumbled through the branches of a nearby tree. Of course there was the ever present chirp of the local frogs and the incessant buzzing of an annoying insect.
In the distance there was a flash of light. "One, two, three," he counted softly until he heard the rumble of thunder. A feeling of calm settled over Vin. He smiled into the darkness and closed his eyes as he breathed in the scent of the crisp night air.
A soft rain began to fall on the roof above him as he drifted off to sleep.
Part 2 - Teri
Ezra lay on the hard surface, in the darkened room, his arms bound to his side as he waited for the torture to continue. The Lorenz brothers stood on either side, evil smirks marred their normally genial expressions. In all of his years undercover Ezra had never known a crime family to use such an outlandish method of interrogation. He waited as another drop of water slowly descended and landed between his eyes with a …
Sitting up suddenly, Ezra tried to remember where he was or, more importantly, who he was as he freed his arms from the twisted sleeping bag. The musty smell of damp canvas assailed his senses as heavy rain and substantial winds buffeted the tent. He laid back down in disgust.
Quite obviously, either his air mattress had developed a leak or his infantile tent-mate, also known as the late Vin Tanner, had opened the valve because he now lay on the hard ground. To add insult to injury a drop of water landed in his face.
As if his ire had conjured his nemesis, the tent flap flew open and a gust of rain dampened wind blew through the enclosure. Vin's body was silhouetted by a flash of lightening as he ducked through the opening.
"Good, you're awake," Vin exclaimed, his flashlight temporarily blinding Ezra, "gotta get up, Ez."
"If you haven't noticed, the heavens appear to have opened and we are in the process of enduring the second great flood," Ezra groused as Vin shoved a pair of hiking boots toward him.
"Ya think?" Vin gave his head a shake and water rained down from his soaking locks.
"Was that entirely necessary?" Ezra asked, shoving his feet into the shoes.
Vin shrugged and smiled, his face cast in eerie shadows by the glow of the flashlight.
"Pray tell, why I am about to step from this…relatively dry tent into a torrential deluge?"
"Got me a bad feeling," Vin murmured half to himself, "if it's been raining like this in the mountains…"
"Surely, our campsite is located far enough from the canyon floor," Ezra stated.
"Not us, I's worried about."
"If not us, then who…" Ezra's face paled as he watched the retreating back of his friend.
Ezra hardly felt the pelting rain as he stepped from the tent to join his friends. His mind saw only the faces of the Carlson's, a young family they had passed down in the canyon earlier in the day.
The men of ATF Team Seven moved down the mountain as quickly as safety allowed and finally reached a ledge which overlooked the valley floor. The beams of their flashlights cut through the downpour illuminating what had earlier been simply a mere trickle, but was swiftly becoming a raging river. Ezra watched in horror as a tent was torn loose of its mooring and dragged downstream by boiling water.
Lightning lit the night.
"Over there!" Vin pointed, his cry accentuated by a crack of thunder.
Part 3 – Judy
A young man, about Vin’s age, stood in the knee-deep, quickly rising water, one arm braced around a thin tree, the other stretched out toward a bit of color in the muddy torrent. Seven flashlights lit the river and seven men gasped in horror.
Anita Carlson and her five year old son, Tommy, held tightly to a fallen tree. The tree was kept from being swept down the valley by only a few large roots that still clung to the ground at the edge of the turbulent flood water. It was obvious that the water would soon dislodge the last remaining roots, sending the woman and her child to their deaths.
Ezra and Vin moved at the same time, the others only a breath behind. They plunged down the steep incline, foregoing the gentler path that would take far too long. Brush and small trees that had taken root in the crumbling ridge caught at clothing, hair and any bared skin, scraping and tearing ruthlessly, as if trying to keep the men from reaching the small family in time.
Vin’s foot slipped on the increasingly muddy slope and he slid several feet on his rear before regaining his footing. It was enough to give Ezra the lead and he was the first to reach the fallen tree.
Ezra didn’t even pause as he jumped onto the foot-wide log and made his way with apparent ease across eight feet of slippery bark. Vin and the others lined up to form a human chain, arms linked, they waded out into the water along the downed tree, so that if the tree went, they wouldn’t be caught up with it.
Ezra knew the others were behind him, but his entire being was focused on getting to the young lady and her son. He sat down, straddling the tree right beside the pair and shouted over the rushing water.
“I’m going to lift your son onto the trunk first and then I’ll help you up,” he shouted. “Don’t let go,” he said, seeing the exhaustion and fear in Anita’s face. She nodded and Ezra gripped the tree with his knees as he lifted Tommy out of the water and sat him on the wet bark. The tree rocked with the force of the flash flood, but held. Ezra held out his hand for Anita. “Okay, grab my arm and I’ll help you up.”
She nodded and reluctantly let go of the branch with one hand, quickly grabbing Ezra’s hand with one then both hands. He grunted with effort, but managed to pull her up onto the log behind him, as he would pull someone up onto a horse. Anita now sat behind him, arms locked around his waist. And in front, little Tommy held on just as tight.
Ezra glanced upstream and then back over his shoulder toward shore, wondering how on earth he was going to get them all back to ‘dry’ land.
Part 4 – Zarbettu
"Schooch back, Mrs. Carlson!" called Vin, reaching out as far as he could, but still a good eight feet away from her.
Anita looked over her shoulder at the same moment the water eddied around the fallen tree, rocking the whole structure. She shot look of terror at Vin and then mashed her face into Ezra's back, squeezing hard around his waist.
The husband shouted, "She can't swim!"
Josiah called, "She'll respond to you, son. Grab on to us and move to the end of the chain. Make her move to you and we'll get her and your boy to the shore safely."
Mr. Carlson nodded at Josiah and moved to the tree clutched in Josiah's massive arm. He saw that each of the men in the chain was firmly grasping the forearm of the men next to him. He entered the water upstream from the men trying to save his family's life, using the current to move him into the living chain. He carefully but quickly moved past Josiah's form, then Nathan's. As he moved to JD, the current rocked the group and he gripped JD hard enough to make the young man wince, but JD didn't say anything.
Ezra could be heard murmuring to both the child clutched in his arms and over his shoulder to the terrified woman. The team couldn't understand what he was saying, but the woman did seem to relax her hold slightly.
Buck encouraged, "You have it, Mr. Carlson, you can do this," as Alan moved past his form and on to Chris.
Chris nodded his support as the young man used his body to move further out along the fallen tree. As Alan crossed the forearm bridge to Vin, the sharpshooter held his free arm out to the young man. Grasping Vin's arm tightly, Alan stretched his lean form out as far as he could reach towards his wife. He was still about a foot shy.
Vin loosened his grasp on Chris's forearm and slid a little further out catching him just at the wrist, calling out, "Loosen it up! We gotta be able to reach further."
Carefully, the six men of Team Seven slid their arms apart, until each man strained at holding the wrist of the man next to them in the chain. The extra bit each man moved weakened the chain a little, but allowed Alan to reach his wife.
Alan grasped tightly on to Alice's arm, just above the elbow, shouting, "Let go, Anita. I have you, but you have to let go!"
With a hitched breath, Anita moved her arm until she was clutching her husband's wrist. Releasing her death grip on Ezra, she slid into her husband's free arm. He held her tight and moved back up the chain to the shore.
Ezra, meanwhile, grasped Tommy tightly in one arm and moved back until he was even with Vin's outstretched hand. His fingers clasped onto Vin's just as, with a thunderous CRACK, the fallen tree broke loose.
Part 5 - Robijean
Ezra's hand was wrenched from Vin's. He did manage to throw Tommy to his friend before he went under the raging water.
Alan had just passed Buck when it happened. Buck and Chris dove into the water. Buck, the stronger swimmer, swam for Ezra while Chris went to Vin and Tommy.
When Tommy was reunited with his parents, the three joined the others shouting words of encouragement to Buck and Ezra as they angled against the current toward land. As long as they weren't hit by any of the flood debris they should make it.
They noticed Buck appeared to be helping an injured Ezra. They raced along the bank following their progress. Nathan bemoaned the first aid kit they'd left behind in their mad dash to the Carlsons.
They reached them as they crawled ashore. Buck held his wet shirt to the small gash near Ezra's hairline. It wasn't bleeding but that didn't matter. They needed to on the road and head to the nearest hospital. Everyone needed to be seen. They'd all spent been exposed to the icy mountain waters for too long. They each had scrapes and bruises and would need tetanus shots.
The following day found them at the ranch. They'd grilled steaks earlier and were relaxing on the veranda enjoying the night air.
JD had been thinking about something. He didn't want the others to think him foolish but he needed to know what they thought. He finally spoke.
"Do you think we were meant to be there? That something made sure we were there?" JD waited for a response from the others.
"Like destiny, you mean?" Vin wasn't sure what JD was getting at but could tell it mattered to him.
The others, recognizing its importance to their youngest, didn't treat it in a joking manner. They'd see where he and Vin went next.
"We've been trying for three weeks to go camping and something cropped up to stop us each time." JD said thoughtfully.
Vin realized where JD was going. "And this week, when we can finally can go, we can't go to our normal camping spot."
Buck chimed in then. "We decide to try that place Rodriguez in Team 3 mentioned while he was trapped in the elevator with Nathan and Josiah."
Josiah was next. "And we decided to hike in along the river rather than down from the parking area. It was longer, we were tired but you two shamed us into it."
"See what I mean, if just one thing had been changed. We wouldn't have known the Carlsons were there or we wouldn't have been there to save them. I think it was meant to be, us being there, the Carlsons being saved." JD had been sitting forward in his seat as they'd been talking. Now convinced in his own mind, he sat back.
The others looked at each other, nodding but it was Chris who spoke, "I think you're right, it was meant to be for them and for us."
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