"A Winter's Night"
by Greywolf Lupous

Disclaimer: By reading this disclaimer you: (a) Agree to not try to sue the great GL-Sama for all of her worldly possessions -- which are not much, I assure you. (b) Agree not to succeed in sueing the great GL-Sama for all of her worldly possesions (thought you had me there, huh?) (c) You acknowledge the fact that she does not own any of the characters from the TV show Rawhide (d) You will do all in your power to make an attempt at getting the great GL-Sama the cast... or just Rowdy... maybe a decent facsimile (e) You agree to ignore part D of this contract. (f) You will read and enjoy the fic.

Notes: I'll admit it, I was driving home from a long day from working at a mall with extended hours during Christmas, feeling very fed up with many things, while listening to the one of my Due South soundtracks. So I guess you could call it a songfic... even though it really has nothing to do with the lyrics. Which by the way, are located here. I'm considering writing a companion piece to this, but so far, uh, I've gotten a bit stuck.

Thank You's: I also have to thank my wonderful beta-reader, the ever patient, always thorough, and did I mention wonderful, Mirna Cicioni. Without her, well, erk. Let's not go there. We're all glad for having Mirna. :) (There I go, with my multiple personalities again).

Everything was white; the area around him was encompassed with it, engulfed by it. To the farthest horizon it stretched, bounding further than the eye could see. There was only white, nothing else mattered, because nothing else existed.

Distantly he felt something biting at his face, a sharp sting dragging him from the white oblivion. He did not know whether or not to fight it, and so it continued to drag him closer to awareness. Soon the biting sting became a cold wet substance sliding down his forehead. It took several moments for him to find the strength to open his eyes, but when he did, he was assaulted with an endless ice blue sky.

There was a dull ache in the back of his head that sharply contrasted with a pinching agony that felt like it was located in his temples. His thoughts were a jumbled mix of pain and confusion as snow swirled above him violently. Somewhere within the depths of his subconscious, he knew he had to get up and move, but it would be so much easier to lie back down.

"Do you want to die?"

The voice cut through the pain, confusion, and fatigue. It was something he knew; it was a sign of hope, "Boss?"

His only answer was the wind blowing through the trees. The once harmless flakes of snow were now biting into his skin, his thoughts were muddled. Trying to think was like trying to swim underwater.

His mother had needed him to run into town to finish gathering supplies for the extravagant Christmas dinner she planned to cook the next day. He had obliged, feeling trapped in the small house. He was on his way back to his house when the storm had hit. The snowfall had been light and soft at first, but soon the wind had picked up. He guessed that his horse had thrown him, since there was no sign of the animal.

"Well? Get movin'!"

There it was again. The same voice, but his boss was nowhere in sight. He dismissed it and felt himself beginning to lie back down. He'd just go to sleep for a little while, and maybe the pain in his head would have subsided by then.

"You make me want to take a hickory rod to you."

He opened his eyes again, trying to ignore the pain. It was so cold, it would be a lot easier to just ignore the voice and go to sleep. It made no sense for his boss to be here. He was up in Philadelphia, spending Christmas with his little girls. There was no way for him to be down in the panhandle of Texas in the middle of a snowstorm.

It took more strength and willpower than it had last time to sit up. It felt like his entire being was frozen in the position he had been in, and the dull ache in the back of his head refused to go away. The area around him was blanketed in snow. Plenty of snow, but no boss.

"I swear if you don't get movin' soon..."

"Boss?" he called out hoarsely, but again, there was no answer. It took an eternity for his frozen legs to let him stand, and as soon as he was up, he nearly fell back down from the disorientation. The chilling wind blasted against his face, making it hard for him to keep his eyes open.

He began stumbling in a random direction, not knowing where to go, but just knowing he had to. He probably should have headed towards his mother's house, since it was closer than town, but he could no longer tell which direction was which. Everything was blanketed in white.

He wondered if it was Christmas day yet. He could imagine Gil Favor, gathered around a fire in the den of his house in Philadelphia, with his two daughters and sister-in-law gathered close, enjoying each other's company and the season, while he was wandering blindly in a snowstorm. A strong explosion of wind nearly knocked him off balance, but miraculously he kept his footing.

When he thought of past Christmases a bitter feeling filled him, combating with the bits of ice stinging his exposed face and the frigid cold blasting against him. Ever since his father had left there had been a void within him that his mother could never fill, no matter how hard she tried. Christmas was suppose to be a happy time to share with families, not dwell upon past tragedies. He was sure that he was the only one to be overwhelmed by this loneliness, after all, Gil Favor had two daughters who loved their daddy, like any good child should. He knew he didn't love his father; he didn't hate the man, but he certainly didn't love him. All of the sudden he felt envious of the Favor girls, having a father that actually cared for them, and tried to spend time with them.

The pain in the back of his head was a dull throb now, but it was starting to go numb, like every other part of him. He took another step, and found himself flying towards the ground. Stupid root. He tried to force himself back to his feet, but crumpled back to the ground with a cry as a lance of pain shot up his leg.

"Let's go!"

"Damn you!" he screamed into wind.

"Get up!"

"Where are you?!" the voice's owner still did not appear, and he would not budge until it did.

"Rowdy..."

"Go away! You weren't there when I needed you! Don't bother starting now!"

"If you think that..."

He laid down in the snow and ignored the voice. There was no use fighting this, he couldn't win. The wind howled around him as more harmless flakes of snow sailed overhead like bullets. He closed his eyes.

"Damn it you fool! Get up!"

He tried to block out the voice. He wasn't sure where it was coming from, but it couldn't be his boss. His boss was in Philadelphia, warm, secure, and loved. He wouldn't be out here trying to coax his ramrod into staying alive, no matter how much that ramrod wanted it. He let his fatigue wash over him and gave in to oblivion, feeling more alone than he ever had.

Time washed by like a stone in a river. There were several faces, but nothing clear. There was no distinction in voices, just soft hushed tones, and what seemed to be a constant flurry of activity. They barely registered in his mind, it didn't matter much to him. He was already gone.

He continued to drift, not knowing nor caring where he was, or what happened to him. He had tried to find the voices once, but had given up without much of a fight. Most often he heard the murmurings of a familiar feminine voice, something that had comforted him once many years ago. The monotony of his drifting ended when a distinct deep voice took its turn mumbling nonsense.

There was something in that deep inflection that pricked his awareness. The deep baritone voice didn't belong there. Struggling against the lulling sense of nothingness, he tried to grasp onto the words being said. Gradually the nonsense began to make more sense, a word here or there registered in his mind, until he could understand what was being said.

Something about a long train ride, and weird characters in the passenger cars. They were located in The Middle Of Nowhere, Texas. Crazy horses, blonde curls, and cold winter nights in Philadelphia... Philadelphia?

As his eyes fluttered open, the entire world was a blur. After a few moments everything came into focus. Everything including the figure sprawled in the chair next to what he now recognized as his bed. A figure that was supposed to be in Philadelphia, "Boss?"
Gil Favor lifted his eyes up from the floor and regarded his ramrod quietly for a moment, "Your mother and I tossed a coin to decide who would kill you first for scaring us half to death. She won, so you'll live a bit longer."

He frowned, his throat was dry, which made it hard to speak, "You're not supposta be here..."

"I get a telegram and come across half the blasted country to see your sorry carcass, and you tell me to go home?" Favor was already reaching for the glass of water on the small stand next to his bed. "Drink."

He took only a few careful sips, since his boss tipped the glass at such an angle where only that amount was possible, before withdrawing the glass, "Why are you here?"

"Doesn't matter," Favor set the glass back down and started to walk towards the door, "you get some rest. I promised your mother I'd let her know when you woke up."

It did matter though. They were suppose to be thousands of miles apart, not just a few feet, "Wait..."

The trail boss stopped mid-step and turned around, "Yeah?"

It was the perfect opportunity. He could ask him anything he wanted, maybe he wouldn't get all of the answers, but he might get some. But there wasn't anything else Rowdy could ask of him, all that mattered was that he was here, "Thanks."

It was Favor's turn to frown in confusion, "For what?"

"Being there," his boss still looked confused, but there was no way he could explain without sounding like he had lost his mind out in the snow.

"I always am," Favor shrugged lightly before he quietly left the room.

end