RATING: PG-13 for bad language.  No violence to speak of
CATEGORY: Challenge - PQL AU (Project Quantum Leap) 
MAJOR CHARACTERS: Ezra and Vin
DISCLAIMERS: This is fanfiction. No profit involved. This story is based on the television series "The Magnificent Seven". No infringement upon the copyrights held by CBS, MGM, TNN, Showtime Extreme, Trilogy Entertainment Group, The Mirisch Corp. or any others involved with that production is intended.  Elements of this story also reflect the television series "Quantum Leap".  No infringements on their copyrights are intended either.
FEEDBACK: Yes please! comments and suggestions are greatly appreciated.
SPOILERS: For my PQL Stories.  You might want to read them first:  PQL Rodeo Days; PQL Be There; PQL Fair and PQL Bright Part of the Sky.
NOTE:  This is in response to The 1st Anniversary of the M7Challenge:  The following stipulations needed to be answered:  1) it must include an anniversary of some sort, be it a wedding anniversary, remembrance of a major event, the date the team formed, or just the anniversary of the local mall;  2) someone must face some sort of a challenge;  3) it must combine two of the previous challenges! From Sept 2001-Aug 2002 i.e. you could have someone ending up on a edge while five of them are on the way to Tascosa. OR from a villain's point of view in your new AU (you must use the AU you created in January 2002 if you chose this month or create a brand new AU if you didn't participate in that challenge). OR food memories mixed with a physical change. OR a historical figure shows up and does something supernatural. Get it? Take the entire challenge from TWO months and put them together, including everything the previous challenger insisted on;  4) it must contain five of the following words (you only need to use five, you CAN use more if you choose): blackmail, fishy, lonesome, loathsome, leek (or leak), banter, babbling, pop, fuss, cheese;  5) it must contain only ONE of the following (use more than one and you're screwed) and the item should be important to the story: an unhappy duck, a length of rope that's too short, a woman's pink nightie, a heap of toe nail clippings, a device for breathing underwater, too much fudge, an abandoned rickshaw, a clock that has been purposefully set to the wrong time, OR a placebo.  ONLY ONE, dammit!  6) at some point, at least one of the guys....must sing;  7) none of the guys get hurt -- physically OR emotionally - there can be EMOTION, of course, but it shouldn't be overwhelming. This is not be be an angst fest 
SUMMARY:  Vin's on a ledge, and Ezra's there to keep him calm
DATE: January 01, 2003, latest update January 3, 2010 (general housekeeping)

PQL: Outside Denver
By NotTasha...lame title, I know.  Couldn't think of one...


NOTE: This answers the First Magnificent 7 Anniversary Challenge.  You'll notice that this 'note' section will be a bit longer than usual.  That's because there's A LOT of challenge info to get in here.  Okay, first... the Anniversary Challenge is as follows: 1) It must contain an anniversary of some kind;  2) someone must face a challenge;  3) it must combine two of the challenges that were offered between Sept 2001 and August 2002; 4) it must contain five of the following words (I worked in all 11!) - blackmail, fishy, lonesome, loathsome, leek (or leak), banter, babbling, pop, fuss, cheese;  5) one of the following must be important to the story (I chose the rope) - an unhappy duck, a length of rope that's too short, a woman's pink nightie, a heap of toe nail clippings, a device for breathing underwater, too much fudge, an abandoned rickshaw, a clock that has been purposefully set to the wrong time, OR a placebo; 6) at least one of the guys must sing; and 7) (probably the hardest) none of the guys can be hurt

Okay, that being said -- I chose the two challenges that must be included in this story.  First was the January 2002 Challenge, offered by Setcheti -- to create a new AU.  I went back to my PQL AU that I created a year ago.  This AU places the guys in the Quantum Leap universe, where the guys are Leapers (time travelers).  Vin and Ezra are a leaping team - Leaper and Observer (as are Josiah and Nathan; and JD and Buck)  Unlike the TV show, Quantum Leap, the guys switch places after every leap in my AU.  Chris, who came up with all the ideas and was supposed to be the Leaper, is stuck back at HQ - the leader of the group.  You can find my earlier stories to get some background information.

THEN, the second challenge used in this story is the April 2002 Challenge, offered by Meg Tipper, where some or one of the boys are on the edge -- not figuratively, literally -- and the following words must be included: birthday, chocolate, shower and fool -- with extra credit for using 'Cadbury'.

Whew -- that's a total of 16 key words!  Who the hell thought up this Anniversary challenge?  She must like to torture people.


Blue light. There was always blue light.

Vin winced and tried to get a handle on things as the world swirled into focus around him. He was sitting rather uncomfortably on what appeared to be rocks.  He blinked, and looked out into the situation he'd been thrust into.

Blue…green…brown…gray….Blue sky…. Trees… rocks. He was outside, in the wilderness. Not one sign of ‘man’ could be seen -- all about him, the natural world spread out. He smiled, happy to find something he was familiar with. It wasn’t a fancy restaurant this time, not some overstuffed living room, or strange office with unknown globs in indistinguishable bottles, not a pink bedroom with frills and crystal perfume bottles. The wilderness – he could handle the wilderness.

He squinted, bringing it all together. A steady breeze…distant shapes…a hard seat beneath him. Something was fishy about that. He wiggled, trying to get comfortable, but finding that impossible. Rocks, yes there definitely seemed to be rocks beneath him. Now, why would he (or rather the person he replaced) want to sit here of all places? He shuffled to get into a comfortable position, his leg twisted under him.

As he tried to untangle himself, he pitched forward for a moment.  His heart raced as he took in the long drop below him -- a long long drop.

With a gasp, he straightened, grabbing tightly to the rocks around him. "What the hell?" He breathed deeply for a moment or two, his perception finally coming clear enough for him to fully realize where he was, and he looked again, more careful this time.

He let out a low whistle, gazing downward… a long way downward. "Fuck," he muttered. With a quick glance around him, he realized his predicament. He was on a ledge, with a sheer face above him, and a drop into nothing below him. ‘How the hell do I get into these situations?’ he thought, and then reminded himself, ‘Project Quantum Leap’ – the time travel experiment that went awry, slinging him and five other men back and forth through time.

Above him, a rope dangled. ‘Well, that's a good thing,’ he decided. Slowly, carefully, he untangled his legs, scrutinizing his position. ‘Musta come from up there,’ he thought. ‘Probably where I should be headed.’ He stood, steadying himself and reaching toward the rope. He frowned, noting that it stopped at least a foot above his finger-tips. ‘Well, that ain’t gonna do me any good.’

"Hello?" he called, hoping he wasn’t alone . "Hey!" His voice echoed, but he received no further response. "Great, just great," he groused, laying a hand against the stone face. A glance at his clothing and equipment told him that he was a rock climber, but the quality of the gear seemed somewhat wanting. ‘Greenhorn,’ he thought as he fiddled with the harness, finding it inadequate. He had a fanny-pack at his back and no further rope. "Idiot," he muttered. "Just hope you were smart enough to bring a partner with you." He raised his head and shouted, "Hey! Anyone out there?"

"Yes, yes," a familiar voice responded calmly. "There’s no need for continued hysterics." A figure clad in red stepped out of a bright doorway a few feet from him.  The door snapped shut the moment he was clear. The hologram glanced about, noted with some alarm that he was hovering over nothingness, and stepped onto the ledge beside Vin.

"Not hysterical," Vin shot back, glad to see his Observer. "Just tryin’ to figure out if I got anyone with me."

"No, I’m afraid you work solo, Mr. Tanner," Ezra responded. "Or should I say, Mr. Roger Candor."

"He’s an idiot, Ez," Vin decided.

"An excellent assessment and you haven’t even spoken to him." Ezra shook his head woefully, remembering the short conversation he’d just had with the climber in the Waiting Room. "I couldn’t agree with you more." Ezra’s brow furrowed. "Why would a man, of sound mind, throw himself off a mountainside with a length of rope insufficient to reach his destination?"

Vin shrugged. "Well, if ya got the right equipment, it’s kinda fun, Ez. Done it plenty of times myself." He reached up again, standing on his tiptoes to try and snag the rope. The end was enticingly out of reach. "That sucks."

"Yes, indeed," Ezra responded, poking at his handlink. "‘Sucks’ seems to be the word to describe this situation completely. This is the virtual definition of the word ‘sucks’."

"Tell me about it," Vin responded, gazing up at the rope for a moment longer, before looking down again at the long drop below him.

Ezra leaned casually against nothing, seeming to hang precariously over the edge. He poked at the handlink as he spoke. "Mr. Candor struck out just before dawn, wanting to see the sunrise from this mountain-face. He hiked to the location above and apparently, in the dark, he misjudged the distance to this ledge, used the wrong length of rope, and…" He took a moment to jam the handlink into his pocket.  Then he whistled a sound-effect of a falling bomb, dropping one hand violently into the other. "… Plummeted off the end to this location."

"Get hurt?"

Ezra smiled, shaking one hand as if it ached from the demonstration. "No, I’m quite fine." He lifted his hands and grinned all the wider.

Vin shook his head, grinning at the stupid remark. "Ya know I meant Candor."

"He’s fine. His ankle’s a bit sore, and he believes he’s with aliens of course, but he will recover nicely."

"So, what happens?" Vin asked. "Why am I here?"

Ezra recovered the handlink and continued poking. It squawked. He scratched his chin and continued, "Mr. Candor will be reported missing by his mother when he fails to return by the end of day. According to The Clarion, he still lives with Mommy." Ezra shook his head in commiseration. "The poor man. He must be some form of saint!"

"What’s the rest of it, Ez?" Vin asked, feeling a little annoyed. Being stuck on a ledge and waiting for an answer from Standish wasn’t helping his temper any.

Ezra, realizing that it was time to cut to the chase, stated, "A search party was called out the following morning -- tomorrow." He poked a few more times. "Sheriff, deputies, Search and Rescue, news helicopters, Boy Scouts…" Ezra looked up from the device, his eyes suddenly serious. "Roger Candor’s body will be found at the base of this cliff late tomorrow afternoon. Apparently, he attempted to free himself without success."

With a scowl, Vin looked at the tantalizing rope again. He squatted down and leaped -- literally.

Ezra yelped as he watched Vin take air and try catch the rope with his fingertips. His fingers momentarily grasped it, but couldn’t catch enough to form a decent hold. Tanner landed on the rocky ledge, taking a few startled steps to catch his balance again.

"Vin!" Ezra cried, alarmed. "What good will it do if you can barely touch that thing?" He raised a holographic arm, as if it was possible to help steady the Leaper as Vin’s feet skidded on the rocks.

With a grunt, Tanner stilled his forward motion in time to keep himself from taking a dive. "Had to try it," Vin responded finally, dusting at his pants with a frown.

"That’s probably what Mr. Candor thought," Ezra responded. "And it cost him his life!"

"Well," Vin said with a shrug. "I ain’t him."

Ezra shook his head. "Yes, you are." He pointed at the handlink. "At least for the time bein’. All facts say that if you act recklessly, you will plunge from this perch."

"I ain’t gonna fall. I know what I’m doing," Vin insisted.

"I’m sure Mr. Candor felt the same way," Ezra responded.

"Ya know, I’ve done some search and rescue, and done some climbin’, too." Vin nodded to the wall. "I bet I know more about it than he ever did. Don’t got a twisted ankle either."

Ezra indicated the handlink. "Your recklessness won’t improve the matter. The Clarion says to stay put. I’m sure Chris would agree. Do you want me to contact him? Get his opinion on the matter, maybe?"

Vin shot Ezra an evil look.

"If you were to try something foolish, he’d skin you alive the next time you popped into headquarters – that is, if you survived," Ezra continued. "Don’t doubt it!"

"I don’t," Vin murmured. He knew all about sitting through one of Larabee’s tirades. "Bet I could climb out without any rope if there was a good crack or somethin’ for me to get my hands into."

"Bet? Now that might be something I’d ‘jump’ at in most circumstances." Ezra gazed dispassionately at the stone wall. "But since no such features exist, you’d best stop yearning for such, and keep your money in your top dresser drawer back at PQL, inside the red sock."

Vin groaned and crossed his arms over his chest. "So you just want me to sit tight until someone comes looking for me… tomorrow?"

"Yes," Ezra said with a nod.

"A whole twenty-four hours?"

"Actually, more like thirty-two, but there’s no sense in bein' too particular with numbers at this point."

Vin gnawed on his lip, not happy. "Anybody up there?" He nodded upward, to the land above.

Ezra shook his head. "I’m afraid that Mr. Candor choose a rather un-peopled locale for his escapade."

"Ya ain’t gonna even go up there and look?" Vin responded sharply. "The Clarion will have no record of people who are just passing through.  Ya ain’t doin’ me much good just standin’ there!"

Ezra raised an eyebrow at the outburst and, without a word, punched a few buttons on the handlink so that he rose into the air, as if on an invisible elevator.

Vin felt bad about snapping at the hologram the moment he’d done it. It wasn’t Ezra’s fault – it was his job to keep the Leaper on track. Heck, Vin was sure he’d be doing the same thing if their positions were reversed and Ezra was talking about making reckless moves and jumping around on a narrow ledge.

Tanner watched the hologram go, seeing only the soles of Ezra’s expensive shoes as he raised above his head and then stepped forward to the solid earth and disappeared. Tanner sighed and waited, keeping his arms tightly crossed as the wind come up around him. At least the weather was fine – not too hot…not too cold. As he waited, he figured that this wasn’t such a bad place to wait all in all. Could be worse. At least he had a good view.

After a few minutes he glanced up at the rope again, stood on his tiptoes to try and reach it, and failed again.

What kind of fool was Candor anyway? Did he actually try to repel down this mountain with insufficient rope? Idiot, asshole, moron… and here he was, Vin Tanner, mopping up after a shit-head again. Damn him.

Vin felt his wrist, hoping for a watch – and found one. He noted the time and counted off another thirty-two hours. Gawd, he had a long wait ahead of him. He hated waiting. If Ezra had just said, "All you need to do, Mr. Tanner, is find a way to reach that rope and climb out," he would have been fine. He was a man used to physical challenges, used to pressing himself. To just ‘sit and wait’ was a new challenge altogether.

He glanced up again, watching the rope sway in the wind, and then looked beyond it the ledge. "Ezra?" he called. "Hey, Ez?"

There was no immediate answer. With a frown, he cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted. "EZRA!"

The returning voice returned sounded distant and muted. "Just a moment, Mr. Tanner. I’m completing my investigation." The words were half swallowed by the poor acoustics of his situation.

Vin leaned against the wall and glared at the rope. This wasn’t gonna be any fun. Jeez, at least in most circumstances he had something to do! Just waiting around wasn’t his style. He remembered the last time Ezra had told him to ‘wait’. It was in a fancy restaurant where he had to remain in his seat so that his date wouldn't get mowed down by a Dodge Omni. He didn’t like it any better at that time either and he frowned remembering the things he’d learned about Ezra during that leap. He glanced up at the top of the cliff, wondering what the southerner was doing, and wishing he’d come back so that he could apologize.

His gaze traveled as a motion caught his attention. An eagle soared across the open expanse. He watched it moving effortlessly, a flick of wingtips was all it took to keep gliding. A smile finally found him and he relaxed as he watched its calm, quiet spiral. ‘Looks so easy,’ he thought. ‘Peaceful, nice. God, it’s beautiful here.’

He let out a slow breath and then jumped when Ezra appeared in a blink beside him. "Damn it, Ezra!" he barked.

"So sorry, Mr. Tanner," Ezra said, waving his hand over the handlink. "I felt it best that I return to you at all speed. I didn’t want you to become lonely without me and begin misbehaving." He looked defeated as he said, "I did a full circuit of the area above and found no one about. According to The Clarion, Mr. Candor chose a rather ‘out of the way’ section of the Rocky Mountains to play his games, and a Wednesday morning is a quiet day of the week for adventures."

"We’re in the Rockies?" Vin asked, looking about with new respect. "Not the Canadian Rockies, is it? Used to come there with my Dad sometimes." Vin smiled at an old memory.

"Colorado," Ezra corrected. "Somewhere outside Denver."

Vin nodded. "Yeah. I've been to Denver. This place don’t look familiar, though. I always figured there might be some good places for climbin’." He shook his head at that thought. "You ever come outside Denver before?"

"Only the airport," Ezra responded quickly. "I’m not exactly a great outdoors type. Although I do admit to skiing at Vail."

Vin looked at his feet for a moment. "Sorry about snappin’ at you earlier, Ez. Just frustrated, I figure."

"Don’t bother yourself over that, Mr. Tanner. Your outburst was within reason. I know I wouldn’t want to be in your position." Ezra shuddered as he looked over the edge. "And I find this a hardly comfortable place to wait." He gestured to the rocks that would form Vin’s bed. "Hardly the Ritz Carlton."

"Figure I can manage," Vin said, kicking a few of the loose stones out of the way so that he could sit down. He tried not to listen to the sounds the stones made as they clattered down below. He had enough room to stretch out completely, which would be welcome if he wanted to try for some sleep. For now, he sat Indian-style and gazed up at his Observer. "So, what do we do now?"

Ezra shrugged and sat down similarly beside him. Usually Standish brought a chair into the Imaging Chamber so that he could avoid sitting on the ground, but apparently he was willing to make some sacrifices to his comfort. "We wait," he said simply.

"Wait, yeah," Vin sighed. "Ain’t such an easy thing, ya know."

"True, quite true," Ezra replied. "But I will do my best to help you pass the time." He smiled broadly. "I’m sure my banter will make the hours just fly by."

"Yeah, sure," Vin muttered, putting his hands behind his head and leaning back against the rocks. "So I know where I am. When am I?" When Ezra gave him a puzzled look, he continued. "I know it’s a Wednesday…"

Ezra nodded, understanding. "It’s May 26th, 1993," he replied.

"May 26th?" Vin repeated. "Heck, it’s my anniversary!"

"Happy Anniversary, Mr. Tanner," Ezra responded. "Might I ask, what for? It wouldn't be your birthday, would it?"

"Naw, it’s when I joined Project Quantum Leap. Course, it was in 2001, but I guess that don’t matter so much when you’re leapin’ around in time."

"An auspicious date indeed," Ezra responded. "I sincerely hope that we get you out of here before my anniversary comes around in about a month."

"God, I hope so!" Vin gave him an unhappy look, and Ezra smiled an apology for the comment.

"Considerin’ the date, Mr. Tanner, did you ever think you’d end up in such a place when you signed up for the project?"

Vin snorted. "Hell no! It was supposed to be Chris doin’ this. Didn’t half-believe him anyway. Sounded like a lot of hogwash!" He raised his hand, gesturing to the vistas that surrounded them. "Look where that kinda thinkin’ got me!"

Ezra nodded. "Yes, I concur. I fully believed that Mr. Larabee was insane regarding his string theory of time-travel. I would’ve bet all I owned that PQL would come to nothin’."

"Good thing ya didn’t place that bet. Ya would ‘ave lost a bundle, Ez."

Ezra shook his head. "No sir, which explains why I joined you fine men in the first place." His voice became serious. "I was flat broke at the time Mr. Larabee approached me."

"Heard they got you in jail for passing funny-money."

Ezra sighed. "Ah, the company I keep!" he lamented. "I’d been doing my best to stay out of sight. Certain people wanted me dead and a low profile was the best way to stay alive at that time. I’d found a happy little shack in a warm, sunny and out-of-the-way country. I felt I’d found a home until a loathsome cretin attempted to strike up a friendship with me. I did my best to deflect his advances and keep to myself. I felt he was ‘trouble’. He was insistent in getting close to me. The next thing I knew, he’d broken into my home and gone through all my files. At that point he’d detailed to me how he’d broadcast my current location to anyone who’d care to hear it and show them certain ‘evidence’ that many were eager to get their hands on."

"Blackmail?"

"Precisely."

"Yeah, what’d you do about that?" Vin inquired.

"Blackmailed him right back. He dealt in drugs and I still had connections. I had a bigger weight to hold over his head. He gave me money to keep my silence, but in spite of my best intentions, I let something regarding him slip to a certain officer of the law. I set my house on fire and left town with a significant amount of money. He left town in a heavy set of bracelets." Ezra held up his hands as if shackled.

Standish shrugged. "Anyway, the money he gave me was counterfeit. I was arrested once I returned to the country. Once again, certain connections helped speed me through the system. After I was released, no one would hire me until Mr. Larabee asked for an audience."

Vin met his friend’s green eyes. "Yeah, well. I kinda feel the same way. I was just pumpin’ gas at an Shell Station in Oregon." He shrugged. "Still can’t figure why Larabee came lookin’ for me."

"He knew quality," Ezra replied solemnly.

"Never felt that way before," Vin admitted. "Always felt as if I was livin’ on the edge of things. It’s kinda strange bein’ in the midst of it all now, ya know? It’s an odd feelin’, as if I matter."

"But of course you matter, Mr. Tanner," Ezra said with an astonished expression.

Vin shrugged self-consciously. "First time I really felt as if I belonged to something. Kinda nice. This is the best job I ever had."

"Interesting statement, considering your current position," Ezra commented.

"Well," Vin said. "Figure I could do this Leap pretty easily. Won’t be so bad." He stretched out a bit more. "Only a day, right?"

"Thirty-two hours, actually," Ezra corrected.

"Dang, that’s gonna be a while."

"Indeed."

Vin sighed. "Jeez, what do I do if I gotta take a leak or somethin’?" he asked.

Ezra inclined his head toward the edge.

Tanner snorted and nodded. "Yeah, that’s what I figured."

"I read a book once about deaths in the Grand Canyon.  Apparently an unusual number of young men have died doing exactly that.  You'd best be cautious."

"I'll be sure to."

They waited. From time to time, Ezra would go ‘top side’ to see if anyone could be found, but no one traveled along the lonesome dirt road that lead to this lookout. He’d return with a shrug, and continue babbling about anything, just to keep Vin’s spirits up.  Apparently Conklin was being lenient about power usage today.

They talked about their adventures in PQL and those before they met up. Ezra quickly skirted any issues pertaining to his childhood. Vin could appreciate that, since he didn’t want his brought up. When Tanner tried to berate Standish for what had happened in that fancy restaurant on that earlier leap, Ezra quickly brushed the subject away.

"I was fine, Mr. Tanner. And all things considered, it worked out better than you might think. I stayed with an orderly from that hospital, a gentleman by the name of Hanson. He was an incredible man who invited me into his family and kept me safe for several months until school started. I was very happy there." And the subject was dropped.

They sat and waited on that sunny rock. Vin sipped at the water that Candor had been smart enough to bring along. He found a Cadbury chocolate bar and a bag of Cheetos to sate his hunger.

"Not exactly health food," Ezra commented.

"Yeah," Vin responded, peeling back the wrapper of the candybar. "Don’t mean it ain’t tasty."

"What you need is something healthy," Ezra commented. "Perhaps a nice soup."

"I like Campbell’s chicken noodle with a glass of orange soda-pop," Vin replied. "Either that or their cream of tomato, with a grilled cheese sandwich on the side."

"Ah, I’d prefer Mrs. Hanson’s vegetable soup -- homemade, mind you," Ezra raised a hand as if he expected Vin to contest that point. "Filled with carrots and peas, potatoes, corn, green beans, leeks, celery and whatever else she found at the market that day. She was a consummate shopper."

Vin’s stomach growled. "Dang it, Ez. This ain’t helpin’."

"Sorry, Vin," Standish responded. He fussed with his jacket as he tried to come up with something else to talk about. The two men were silent for several minutes. Vin glanced at his watch, noting that four hours had passed. The time had passed rather quickly, all things considered, but he had a long day and night ahead of him. He groaned in frustration.

Ezra, seeing the change in his friend, quickly said, "It certainly is beautiful here, don’t you think, Mr. Tanner?"

"Yeah," Vin admitted, pulling the coat sleeve back over the watch. "Gotta admit to that." He tugged further at the coat. "Good weather, too. It’s really kinda nice."

"True," Ezra commented, bringing up weather reports on the handlink, hoping that an unseasonable snow wasn’t about to descend on them.

"I like the Rockies," Vin said thoughtfully. "Always have." The eagle had returned, continuing his graceful glide. The pair watched it silently for several minutes, entranced by his effortless dance. "Sure is pretty," Vin finally voiced.

Ezra’s voice caught in his throat as he voiced, "Indeed. It’s almost like a dream -- something long remembered – a case of déjŕ vu. Although I’ve never been at this spot, it strikes me as familiar."

Tanner raised his eyes and looked toward Ezra. "Figure that has something to do with that song?"

"What song?" Ezra responded absently as he returned to his research on the computer link.

"That ‘Rocky Mountain High’ song."

The southerner smiled at the thought. "Perhaps," he said. He paused, pursed his lips and came to a decision. In a soft voice, he started singing:

"He was born in the summer of his 27th year,
coming home to a place he'd never been before.
He left yesterday behind him,
you might say he was born again,
you might say he found a key for every door."

Vin smiled, hearing the lyric. "Never really paid attention to the words before," he said when Ezra paused. "Always just thought it was about gettin’ stoned. But now that I listen, it kinda sounds like us Leapers, ya know."

Ezra nodded. "Perhaps Mr. Denver was a Leaper?"

"Ya never know," Vin replied. "Time travel fucks everything up."

Ezra laughed and then continued in the same steady tenor:

"When he first came to the mountains,
his life was far away on the road and hanging by a song.
But the strings already broken and he doesn't really care,
it keeps changing fast, and it don't last for long.
"

It surprised Tanner that the erudite Standish would know the words. Vin had learned it around campfires on camping trips. Of course, there was no telling where Ezra might have picked it up. Nothing about the southerner truly surprised him.

With a shake of his head, thinking of broken strings and the string theory of time travel, Vin joined in:

"And the Colorado Rocky Mountain high,
I've seen it raining fire in the sky.
The shadows from the starlight are softer than a lullaby.
Rocky Mountain high, Colorado. Rocky Mountain high.
"

Standish looked around suspiciously, wondering who was listening in. The gesture made Vin smile, realizing that their situations were completely different at that moment. Vin needed someone to show up and find him, hear him… meanwhile, Ezra wanted to be alone, to keep this singing private and quiet.

"Now his life is full of wonder, 
but his heart still knows some fear,
of a simple thing he can not comprehend.
Why they try to tear the mountains down to bring in a couple more,
more people, more scars upon the land."

As they reached the final chorus, their voices grew louder, stronger:

"And the Colorado Rocky Mountain high, 
I've seen it raining fire in the sky.
I know he'd be a poor man if he never saw an eagle fly,
Rocky Mountain high, the Colorado Rocky Mountain high."

The two men smiled and then laughed self-consciously. Vin cut his chortle short and held up a hand, "Ya hear that, Ezra?" he asked anxiously.

Standish cocked his head. There seemed to be a quiet rumble emanating from somewhere above them. Without another word, Ezra punched the handlink and with a bleep, he disappeared.

Seconds later, his voice called from above, "Vin! Vin! There’s a car here. It just pulled over!"

"Hey!" Vin shouted. "Hey! Help!"

"Vin! There’s three people! They’re out of their car and looking around."

"Hey! You up there! Hey!"

"Louder, Vin!" Ezra’s face peered over the ledge, a frustrated look on his face. Vin could imagine that Standish had been running about, waving his arms and uselessly trying to garner their attention. . "I can barely hear you," Ezra continued. "They can’t hear you at all and they sure as hell can’t hear me!" With a sharp glance over his shoulder, he added, "They’re heading back to the car!" Ezra disappeared from sight again, chasing after the people who Vin couldn’t see. "Stop! Wait!" Ezra shouted pointlessly after the people.

Taking a deep breath, Vin shouted. "Help! Damn it! Help me!" The usually quiet man screamed, his voice echoing through the canyons. "Ya, Goddamn Sons-of-Bitches! Get off you useless, Fat ASSES and look over the fucking edge! HELP!" His face went red as he put everything he could into the call. His voice echoed back to him like a series of gunshots from across the canyon.

In a flash, Ezra was beside him, grinning like a cat. "That did it," he purred, pressing a series of buttons on the handlink. "You should have seen the looks on their faces when they heard."

Vin glanced up again to see three faces peer down at him, all wrapped in black and white. Their mouths opened in matching astonished "O’s". A shower of little stones accompanied their arrival.

"Penguins!" Vin muttered, feeling a blush when he recalled what he was yelling. He waved at them and shouted, "Thank you! Bless you, Sisters!" Between his teeth, he growled. "Nuns!  You should ‘ave told me!"

"But, Mr. Tanner, that wouldn’t have gotten you rescued ahead of schedule. I seriously doubt they would have heard you if you’d tried to address them in an appropriate manner, and I can’t imaging you screaming yourself blue in a Sister of Mercy’s presence."

"‘Spect you’re right," Vin admitted.

"And you survived this trial quite handily, I must say," Ezra stated. "In spite of the horrible fact that you had to wait about and do nothing for a few hours."

Vin grinned. "Oh, I don’t mind doin’ nothin’, Ezra. You’re just so much better at it than me. Figure maybe you should ‘ave been the one on this ledge."

"Heaven forbid!" Ezra said with a shudder.

"Figure we're done here now, huh?" He still held up a hand, waggling it at the women who looked down on him. Their faces bore puzzled expressions under their wimples, apparently concerned that the poor man was talking to himself.

"So it would seem," Ezra responded.

The three women waved back, still looking too surprised for words, and Ezra added a flick of his fingers, too, smiling broadly at the saintly three, before he returned to pressing buttons and waiting for responses on his handlink, but nothing had come to claim them yet.

"Just wanted to say, ‘Thanks’, Ezra. You were right. I just needed to stay put," Vin said seriously.

Ezra indicated the handlink. "It was The Clarion’s opinion."

"Yeah, but it was you that kept me here long enough for someone to find me. Thanks," Vin held out a hand as if he might shake Ezra’s.

Ezra smiled and nodded and stuck out his hand as well. There’d be no contact between them, but as one physical hand and one holographic hand drew close, the blue light came again.

THE END - By NotTasha

Acknowledgments: "Rocky Mountain High" Words by John Denver; Music by John Denver and Mike Taylor. First appeared on the "Rocky Mountain High Album" Original Release Date: August 1972


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