Title: Chaos Theory, Chapter 7/7 COMPLETE

Author: CSIphile/redwing

AN: Its been an extraordinarily long journey and for that I apologize. For anyone still reading this fic, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I appreciate your support SO much.

Please see notes at the end why this took so damn long to finish.

AN2: If anyone noticed….all the chapter titles are XF ep titles. I little homage to my first (and still favorite) ship.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Chapter 7: Nothing Important Happened Today

Isle Royale

11 am

"It's letting up," she says as she stares into the forest.

"Yeah -- think you're ok to walk?"

"Why wouldn't I be?" she snaps back, suddenly defensive.

"I saw you limping a little, Sam, don't try to hide it." He looks at her with a compassionate expression. He hadn't really considered that her leg might not be one hundred percent until he caught her testing it gently earlier.

"I…it's fine. Not like a have a choice anyway." Her voice is resigned.

"Sam…"

"Let's get going, Jack, I want to get the hell out of here."

He nods slowly; she's right, and it's not like they can sit there waiting for someone. They'd freeze to death first. "Ok, lets go, but take it easy."

She nods and collects the bag, handing it to him as she walks out into the freshly laid snow. the first thing she realizes is it is significantly harder to walk in this snow; she sinks every time she takes a step. Sighing, she points to the south. With any luck they will be on the trail in a couple hours.

Houghton County

Noon

"Ready?"

"Ready," John replies to the pilot as he straps himself into the backseat of the chopper.

The snow had finally let up enough to get a rescue plane out, and they took the opportunity. As they take off, the other copter follows, carrying the two FBI agents. John had been hesitant to let them come, but in the end, he had given in. They may not be coast guard, but they aren't exactly civilians either.

A short 20 minutes later, they are approaching the coastline of the island. John's chopper takes off toward Rock Harbor while the other chopper hits the opposite end of the island to start their search patterns. They will meet in the middle.

Isle Royale

12:30 pm

Sam looks up into the bright blue sky. Once the snow had fallen and the system moved through, there were clear skies ahead. The sun was a nice change from the bleak weather that had been around until now. That's when she heard it.

The roar of an engine.

"You hear that?" she asks.

"What?" He obviously hadn't.

"I swear I heard an engine."

"Sam…." He's about to admonish her until he hears it too.

Chopper blades.

"Oh God, I hear it."

"They found us." Relief is evident in her voice.

"Not yet Sam, but they are here. We need to get into a clearing so they can see us."

She nods and they pick up the pace.

After 30 minutes of hard walking, Sam pauses a moment and looks into the clear blue sky; they had lost the sounds of the chopper 10 minutes ago.

"They haven't left yet? Please tell me they are still here."

"There probably running a search pattern and just aren't near us yet. Let's keep heading for that trail; hopefully, we'll find a clearing soon."

She nods and leads the way, her breath coming out in little white puffs against the cold air. A little more than 15 minutes later, they come upon an area that is slightly less shielded by tree tops; it's not great, but they can see a significant area of blue sky. Both of them look up in the hopes of seeing their rescue appear against the sky. The air even feels warmer here, with the sun's rays making it through to heat the air around them.

Sam is just about to turn back and comment on the warmer temperatures when she unexpectedly loses her footing.

And falls.

She can hear Jack yell her name right before her body comes to a sudden, and painful, stop against something hard; the jarring sensation goes through her bones. Surprisingly, she stays conscious, but there are bright starbursts in her line of sight. Taking a breath, she cries out when excruciating pain radiates through her chest.

"Sam! Samantha! Talk to me." She can hear him, but it sounds like he is underwater or very far away.

As her vision clears some, she looks around. She had fallen into what appeared to be a mine. Well, "fallen" might be pushing it -- she had slid down a steep entranceway, coming to a sudden, and painful, stop against some rocks. Looking in the direction she came, she can see Jack through a small hole in the snow she had punched though.

"Ja-" is all she gets out before an agonizing cough cuts off her words. Coughing once more, she is alarmed to feel blood running down her cheek. Terror grips her, full force.

This time, she just tries to sit up, and finds any movement sends pricks of pain through her chest. Breathing through her nose to keep from panicking, Sam tries to determine if she has sustained any other injuries. From her initial assessment it appears not, but she has a sinking feeling there are injuries she can't see. There is increasing pressure on her chest, and breathing is becoming more difficult every time she inhales; plus, she can feel an odd warming sensation through her abdomen. Swallowing hard, she closes her eyes against the raging pain and hopes for mercy.

Jack is on his hands and knees digging in the snow, his fingers quickly going numb from the cold. He is making the hole she had fallen through even bigger, so he can see her. She hasn't responded to her name yet, which sends a wave of alarm through him. She could be unconscious, bleeding, she could be…

"No, Jack. No. Just keep digging," he tells himself, and goes back to the task at hand.

Over Isle Royale

"Ok, Nick, take us to search area D5. They aren't near Rock Harbor."

"Yes, sir."

John looks out his all-glass door as they approach the area. Nothing but trees and more trees and snow. Neither they nor the other copter had seen a sign of them. He is beginning to wonder if his instincts were wrong when a clearing appears ahead of them.

Isle Royale

Siskwit Mines

He almost doesn't hear it. Jack is so focused on the sight of Samantha that he nearly misses the distinct "whoosh" of chopper blades. By the time he looks up, the chopper is maybe 100 yards off the ground and closing fast. The hood on his coat is swishing violently in the air in time with the blades.

They touch down a few seconds later, and cut the engine. Jack couldn't be more relived; he was sure they would die out here, his wife and kids never knowing what happened. Jack takes another glance down the mine: he still can't see her and she'd stopped moaning a while ago. When he turns back, two unfamiliar men are jogging to him, ducking to avoid the still slowing blades.

"Jack?" the older one calls out once silence reigns again.

"Yes…" he says and stands slowly, his lower legs frozen from kneeling in the snow and ice. "You have to help her…"

"We will, Jack -- first let's take a look at you." He nods at the other man who pulls out a first aid kit. "My name is John, by the way. We were very lucky to find you."

"NO, no…she's been down too long."

"Samantha?"

Jack looks at him, surprised. "Yes, Sam. She fell about 15 minutes ago."

"Ok, why don't you stand over there with Nick and I'll see what I can do, ok?"

"Thank you…" he practically whispers, his voice sore from yelling to her and the cold. "You have to help her."

"I'll do my best, Jack."

John looks into the small hole that the woman had fallen through. Digging in his large coat pocket, John pulls out a Maglight and shines it into the darkness. It takes him several passes, but finally he spies a bit of blonde hair in the corner of the beam of light. Moving to the left slightly, he finds her. Lying prone on the hard mine floor, he can see the blood matting her hair from a head wound, but that's not what concerns him. It's the trickle of red flowing down from her mouth that inspires him to jump up and call for the basket.

They have to get her out, and fast. She's bleeding internally, most likely.

Nick reacts quickly to the request, however, and is back to John within seconds -- the basket in one hand with the cord hanging behind him, attached to the copter.

John just gives Nick a glance. "I'm going down, start 'er up."

Nick nods and heads back, starting the motor on the electric pulley system. Again, he returns quickly, the shin-high snow doing very little to impede his progress.

John finally turns to the other man, who looks to be frozen to the core; he is shaking and pulling his coat around him. "Jack, I'll be right back with her, ok?"

"Please. She can't die."

There is a hint of desperation in his voice, covering something John easily puts a finger on: love. He's in love with this girl, probably has been for a good long time too. "Do my best."

He gives Jack what he hopes is a reassuring smile and slowly lowers himself into the hole, flashlight in one hand, his two way radio in the Carhart's pocket. Despite the Maglight, it's pitch black in the shaft. He has a hard time finding purchase on the surface; it's covered in ice and coal eroded to a slick surface.

John digs his heels in with every step, sending little pebbles of rock and dirt down the hole. After a few minutes, he realizes the pebbles aren't traveling as far when he kicks them down; he has to be close to her. Moving the light from the slope, he searches ahead and sees her. She is in the same position as before, but now he can really see the dark blood congealing in her long blonde hair that is spread out around her head like a halo. Her right arm is bent under her body at an unnatural angle, and the blood he thought he noticed running down her face is more noticeable now, and much redder, fresher.

Reaching out, the first thing he notices is that she is warm to the touch and her pulse, while slow and somewhat erratic, is not bad, all things considered. Her breathing is labored, but her skin isn't blue -- another good sign.

If she just started bleeding, we have time,  is his only thought as he pulls the two way out of his pocket and tells Nick to send the basket down.

Within minutes, he grabs the edge of the metal basket, which is long enough to fit one person , and lays it as flat as he can on the mine floor. He contemplates the best way to move her before deciding to just pick her up and lift her in. He can't help whatever further damage it might cause; getting her out is better than leaving her to bleed out.

Taking a deep breath, he speaks to her in a low tone.

"Ok Sam, I'm just going to pick you up and move you a bit. It's going to hurt, but you've gotta stick with me -- it'll only be a second." Carefully, he places his strong arms under her body, shifting her just slightly. "Ready, one one. Three…two…one."

On one he lifts her, and a small moan emits from the young woman. "Well that's a good sign, Sam. Keep on moaning."

Easily, he places her small frame into the basket, covers her in the thermal blankets- wrapping her like a newborn - and snapping the harness around her. It's a short trip back up, but he really doesn't want her to slide out.

John double-checks the ties and calls up to Nick. "Let 'er rip, Nicky. She's ready. Nice and slow."

Almost instantly, the basket starts its ascent back up the grade, John following slowly, maneuvering her around protruding rocks and making sure she continues to breathe. Occasionally, he has to stop his feet from slipping and once he felt like he was heading down to where she came from.

After what seems like an eternity, they make it to the entrance. Nick and Jack are there, pulling her through and setting the basket on the hard snow.

As John pulls himself through, the first thing he sees is Jack hunched over Samantha's prone body, touching her brow lightly, almost reverently. For a moment he pauses and watches them, fascinated by Jack's attention to the woman.

"Jack…We have to go."

"Yeah, ok." The other man steps away and lets them lift her, taking her to the helicopter.

Jack watches them lift and carry her, then turns his attention back to the hole. He had been so afraid she would die down there, and leave him. At that moment, Jack realizes how much she really does mean to him, more than he was willing to admit before.

John's voice brings him out of his thoughts. "Jack, come on. We gotta go."

Jack quickly follows the men and climbs into the passenger seat of the copter. John is flying and Nick is in the back, doing what he can to keep Sam alive until they get to the hospital.

Through his headset, Jack can hear John communicating with the other helicopter. "Roger 316, we have them, going straight to Keweenaw."

"Roger that, 245, we will TD in Houghton and meet you at Keweenaw."

"Copy."

"How long to Keweenaw?" Jack asks.

"About 25 minutes," John responds and banks the aircraft to the left, heading to the mainland.

"That long?" Jack turns to the backseat and observes Nick starting a fluid line.

"Closest we got that can handle trauma like this. They'll probably stabilize her and then transport again to a bigger facility like Ann Arbor."

Jack says nothing for a moment, staring at her. "How is she?" he finally asks and Nick looks up at him, his face unreadable.

"Stable for now. Her pulse and BP are erratic, but still there."

Jack nods solemnly and looks out the window. It's a beautiful view, clear blue water all the way to the horizon, where he can just make out a white landmass. Houghton.

The men make the rest of the journey in almost complete silence; the only words spoken are when John communicates with the hospital. Jack can't believe they were finally found. He was sure they were going to die out there, their bodies found frozen in the spring, eaten by… Jack stops the train of thought and shudders slightly at the visual. Not that he would've ever admitted any of this to Sam.

Fifteen minutes into the flight, Jack leans his head back on the headrest. He wonders how Marie and the girls are doing. Hopefully someone has called them by now and they aren't panicking. Poor Marie, she must have been ready to plan a funeral. The girls were most likely unaware of exactly what was going on exactly, but they knew their Dad isn't there.

He must have drifted off, 'cause the next thing he knows, John is starting to bring the bird down in a large parking lot. Panicked, Jack looks in the backseat to see Nick's previously stoic face with a ghost of a smile on it. He returns the smile as John shuts off the blades and jumps out, yelling at the crew standing at the hospital entrance.

Swiftly, the group breaks into two, the majority wheeling a stretcher to Samantha and placing the basket on the stretcher. Instantly, they go to work; checking her vitals, the doctor of the group shouting orders as they wheel her through the double doors.

The smaller group, consisting of a nurse and a doctor, approach him and help Jack into a wheelchair -- following the same route Sam had taken, but with less urgency. Through all the attention,  Jack keeps trying to get information about Sam, but to no avail; they won't answer him.

Twenty minutes later, he is in his own room -- fingers and toes covered in protective bandages to keep infection from setting into his slightly frostbitten appendages. There is an IV running antibiotics and fluid into his system. He has a nice spot of frostbite on his left ear, but they are leaving it alone for now, hoping they won't have to remove the skin. He is trying not to scratch at the ear when Viv walks into his room followed by a very tired-looking Danny.

"Hey Jack." Viv's voice is relieved.

"Hey guys." His voice is rough.

"How are you doing?" she asks, concern written all over her face.

"Not bad, all things considered," he answers slowly. "Have you seen Sam yet?"

Danny offers Viv the chair next to Jack's bed before leaning against the foot and answering. "We just talked to them. They did a CAT scan and she has some internal bleeding. She's in surgery right now; they are going to sew up the hole as best they can, make her stable for transport and  airlift her to University of Michigan for further evaluation. They've already spoken to an internist at U of M."

"Good." He nods. "Has anyone called Marie?"

"Yup, Martin is at your house now."

"Thank you," he practically whispers. "Is she going to be ok?"

"She's shaken up, Jack, but she and the kids will be fine," Danny answers, and Jack sees Viv cringe; she knew what he was talking about.

Viv answers the question again for him. "They think she will be fine, Jack. A cast on her arm for a while and some time to recover and she'll be fine."

He nods silently and for a while no one speaks until Jack breaks the silence. "Can I see her?"

Viv smiles slightly. "I knew you would ask that. Once she is in recovery, the nurse will come get you. They said you were both very lucky, Jack."

"Yeah, I know. Trust me, I know."

"Why don't you get some rest, it will probably be another couple hours until she is out of surgery."

He nods and puts his head back on the pillow. "Thanks, guys," he says and closes his eyes as they exit the room.

Before Jack has a chance to talk to her, or even see her for that matter, Sam is air lifted to Ann Arbor. The doctors had decided that she was stable enough, but needed further attention that the larger hospital could provide and there was no need to wait really.

So now he stands in his own room, putting on clothes that Danny had provided for him: jeans, a long-sleeved shirt, thick socks and a new jacket. He couldn't bear wearing the other one -- it was covered in his, and some of her, blood from the initial crash.

Tying up his Timberland boots, Jack hears a knock on the door and instructs the other person to enter.

"You almost ready?" Danny asks. He is similarly attired in jeans and a t-shirt. They are driving down to Ann Arbor today, which is nearly a nearly 8 hour trip; no need to be uncomfortable in a suit. Besides, shortly after they had been rescued, a cold snap had hit the area, dropping temps into the negative 30s with windchill on the mainland. On the island, it would have been much colder. Jack chooses not to think about that too hard.

"Yeah, let's get out of here," he says and grabs his coat, following the younger man out of the room.

Nine Hours Later

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Despite its small appearance on the outside, University of Michigan hospital is enormous -- a fact that now annoys Jack. They had followed a maze of directions and after two wrong turns he, Viv and Danny finally arrived at Samantha's unit.

Jack lets Viv do the talking; he's afraid anything that would come out of his mouth would involve how they need GPS devices to find places in here. And since they are here outside visiting hours, he doubts that would get them in any faster.

Viv turns to him and merely nods to her right. Apparently, the woman used her persuasive techniques to their advantage.

Jack slowly follows her down the hall, somewhat lagging behind his coworkers. All he has wanted for the last few days is to see Samantha, but now that he is a few yards from her door, apprehension sets in. Jack is carrying a lot of guilt; even though he knows they made the best of the situation, he can't help wondering if there was something more he could have done. Rationally, he knows that there was nothing he could do -- he couldn't have anticipated an entrance to a mine hidden under 18 inches of snow -- but that doesn't stop another part of him from feeling guilty.

He walks through the door to find her sitting up in bed, looking pretty good considering the past week. While she is pale and her hair is limp from inattention, her eyes are sparkling and bright, and she is smiling at them.

"Hi guys!" Her enthusiastic tone makes up for the lack of volume --her throat scratchy from the intubation during surgery.

Viv is the first to walk up to her and give her a small hug. "Hey, girl, how are you feeling?"

"Not too bad. Tired, mostly." She smiles. "I'm just happy to not be cold anymore."

"I can imagine," Danny says, and repeats Viv's gesture -- only hanging on a little longer, giving the small woman a hug. "We were all worried about you guys."

"I know…thanks." She gives Danny's hand a squeeze before looking right at Jack. "How are you doing?"

"Fine, fine. A couple bumps and bruises." He approaches her carefully, moving to the spot where Danny had been, but instead of hugging her he places a light kiss on her forehead. "Just glad you're ok."

"Me too." She smiles slightly at him.

Jack just stares at her, taking her in, alive and well. They could have easily lost her down that mine, too easily by his estimation. Danny's voice breaks the silence, and pulls him out of his trance.

"Well they say you can head home in a few days. Viv and I have to fly back tomorrow. Apparently Van Doren would like someone besides just Martin in the office."

Sam laughs slightly. "I think Martin can handle it." She pauses and furrows her brow. "Oh man, what about Jenna -- the girl we came here for?"

Viv answers quickly. "They found her alive and well the day after you should have arrived. Apparently she and her boyfriend decided to take a little vacation to Traverse City, without telling her parents. They figured no one would squeal on them, but I guess they didn't count on the friends parents actually wondering where she was."

"Nice." Sam says and shakes her head.

Just then a nurse comes in and interrupts. "I'm sorry, but everyone has to go now. Ms. Spade needs her rest."

Jack watches quietly as Viv and Danny say their goodbyes, promising to have Martin call when they return. Jack hangs back, wanting to talk to her alone. As the door swings closed, he sits on the edge of the bed, entwining her fingers with his.

"You scared me, you know." He looks down, watching their fingers -- his still covered in bandages.

"I scared me, too," she responds quietly.

"I'm sorry, Sam."

She puts a finger under his chin and tilts it up so he is looking her in the eyes. "Why?"

"You could have died out there, I just…I feel like I should have done something."

"What could you have done, Jack? Nothing, that's what. Doesn't matter -- we are both alive and well and that's what is important here."

He sighs and purses his lips into a thin line. "Yeah, yeah. You're right." He pauses for a bit. "So, are we back to normal now?"

She smiles at him. "Define normal for us, Jack…"

He chuckles. "I don't think I know anymore, Sam.

"Well, how's this. We go back to what we were before….friends, co-workers."

"Who just happened to have slept together? I don't know if I can do that, Sam. You mean more to me than just a co-worker."

She swallows hard. "You mean a lot to me too, Jack. But if I've learned anything from this, it's that the relationship doesn't matter to me, as long as I have you in my life."

He pauses and considers her words; she is right. The nature of their relationship is really irrelevant -- the point is she is IN his life. "You're right, as usual."

She gives him a small smile. "Good, now go get some rest. Looks like you need it as much as I do."

He nods and stands slowly, before leaning over again and kissing the top of her head. "I'll see you tomorrow." At that he moves to the door, turning back at the sound of her voice.

"Night, Jack."

"Night, Sam," he replies and leaves the room, quietly closing the door behind him and walking toward the elevator.

They had started their trip to Michigan as near enemies, but they realized that regardless of what had happened between them -- be it fights, sex, or near death, all that really mattered is that they are there for each other. On any level. And that's more than Jack could ever want.

Fin

Ok, here is my pitiful excuse for taking so long….I was debating killing Sam, and someone who shall remain nameless wanted me to do it. So for like 4 weeks I hemmed and hawed, I wrote her death even. But in the end I couldn't do it. I couldn't kill her without there being a warning at the beginning of the fic of a character death. That's just too much of a huge surprise to jump on J/S shippers. I hope you enjoyed the final product. Im pretty pleased with how it came out.