Disclaimer: Don't own any of them, wish I did :)
Notes: Thanks to Chrysti (aka CLCurtis) and Katie (aka Rain With attitude) for all your help and support :)
Sometimes I wonder whether fate was throwing me a curveball, by sending me down that road. My department head at the hospital told me, just before I left, that I had everything ahead of me. I graduated from medical school at the top of my class, and the hospital told me that my work with them had been exemplary. I've always wanted to work with children, so when the paediatrician position came up in Raleigh, I applied for it. Having finally managed to finish doing up my car, I figured I'd drive from my home in Columbus down to Raleigh, rather than flying. I told Jessie that the reason I'd decided to drive was that I'd put all my money into my car, but that wasn't strictly true. I still had more than enough money to pay for a plane ticket, I just don't like flying. And that's how I ended up taking a wrong turn on the way and running into Jessie and her friends. What really gets me mad is that if we'd only walked the other way down the road, back the way we had all come from, most of those kids would still be alive. I knew my cell phone would work, if we went back a few miles, but I didn't think of it at the time, because I was in shock. I should have known not to leave the scene, that having just been in a serious accident I wouldn't be thinking straight. But, even being a doctor, I didn't think about the after effects of the accident, I just knew that I had to get to my appointment. Some doctor I'd make, if I can't even tell when someone is in shock.
I knew when we entered that house that there was something very wrong, but I couldn't place exactly what it was. Maybe just a gut feeling, perhaps a buried memory of something I had read. Whatever it was, the moment I stepped through that door, I knew we were in trouble. I just hadn't figured out how much trouble we were in, until I opened the refrigerator. Jars if organs lined every shelf, but my mind didn't want to accept the truth of their contents. It was only when I opened that tub that I'd had no choice but to accept what I was seeing. Human lungs are rather distinctive, and that was exactly what I was seeing in that tub. Scott had scared the shit out of me when he touched my shoulder, and I'd thrown the tub back onto the shelf, slamming the refrigerator door behind me. By then, it was already too late, because the mountain men were returning, towing our damaged vehicles and with their next meal in their truck.
Getting out of bed slowly, to avoid waking the beautiful woman sleeping beside me, I pad silently into the bathroom. Turning on the cold water, I splash the icy liquid onto my face, trying to keep away the thoughts and memories that are threatening to overwhelm me. I look up into the mirror and the face of Francine stares back at me, the mountain men's barbed wire lodged right back to the back of her jaw. Three months later and I can still feel her warm, sticky blood on my hand, and no amount of washing will ever remove that feeling. Both Jessie and I have been trying to cope with what happened out there in the mountains. It was only a few days ago that we were finally able to lay the ghosts of Jessie's friends to rest. After we escaped the mountains, leaving the mountain men badly injured and burning in their ramshackle hut, we reported the location to the police. A few days later, we got told that another ranger had gone missing, and we knew something had to be done. We explained everything that had happened up there, and left it to the authorities to deal with the problem. Four days ago, I got a call from the F.B.I. to inform us that the situation had been dealt with. They told us they'd gone up there with a large team, all armed to the teeth, and had permanently wiped those bastards off the face of the planet. Using DNA to identify owners of the various organs stored in the house, many families had finally been able to lay their loved ones to rest.
A slight sigh escapes my lips as I think of all those people who fell victim to the mountain men. Above all, the faces of those kids haunt me still, even though we have now managed to bury their remains and lay them to rest. Jessie still has nightmares about Carly, and I think she still blames herself for the deaths of her friends. I know I do. One wrong turn took away everything Jessie ever cared about, and tore away the future I thought I'd had ahead of me. The job I'd been going to the interview for was given to someone else, and the bullet wound in my leg has caused permanent damage. The muscle damage means I'll always walk with a limp, but I guess I should be glad I can still walk. A few more months of physical therapy and I should be able to get around without a walking stick, and maybe then I can start looking for another job.
"Chris?!" I hear the shout behind me, and limp back into the bedroom. Jessie is sitting up in bed, soaked with sweat. Her eyes are wild and full of fear. She's had another nightmare, probably the same one she had every night. Climbing back into bed, I gather her into my arms and gently rock her back and forth as she releases her grief. She cries less each night, and manages to smile a little more each day. Perhaps she is finally managing to come to terms with what happened and put it behind her, even if I can't as yet. I know that, when she has dealt with it, she'll be there to help me deal as well. We both lost everything in those few, fateful days, but we gained each other. Both our lives got turned upside down, and neither of us will ever be able to go back to the way things were. But we're strong enough to get through it, and rebuild our lives once more. We're both strong on our own, but together we're unbeatable. That road may have been a wrong turn, but it brought us together at the right time, and now we're together, we'll take whatever life throws at us and overcome it...