Disclaimer: I don't own High Mountain Rangers, not making any money, just cheap thrills.
Warnings: Violence, Angst
Missing scene from War Games(the one with the family playing paintball games, the father kills his wife's lover, Cody witnesses the murder and they go after him)
The Family That Slays Together
It felt like he'd been running forever, though he knew it had only been a few hours since he'd left his father at their cabin. Cody choked back a pained cry at the thought of his father, images of him lying dead on the floor coming unbidden to his mind. The day that had started out like a dream, the letter from Haley making him feel like he was walking on air, had quickly turned into a nightmare.
He wished now that he had stayed home this morning, if he had none of this would be happening. Images from the meadow flashed past. The young man lying on the ground, dead from a bullet to the heart. Standing around him, a family, it seemed, discussing what to do with his body. Even after what he'd been put through today, he couldn't believe anybody could be so cold-hearted and ruthless. They were though, the girl, so upset over her father murdering the other man, had quickly alerted them to his presence. She must have known what they would do to him if they caught up to him, but she had blithely pointed him out, signing his death warrant. He'd done the only thing he could, ran! One of them had taken a shot at him as he climbed the rocky hillside, nearly hitting him. Thank god he'd missed. He had nearly hit him again, at the cabin, would have if his dad hadn't shoved him to the floor of the porch. "Dad, please god let him be alive," he prayed as he ran, his heart pounding with fear and exertion.
His father was depending on him, had faith that he would be able to bring back help. Cody was terrified that his dad's faith was misplaced. He wouldn't survive it, wouldn't want to survive if they killed his father. No! He wouldn't let them kill his dad, it wasn't going to happen. With renewed determination, he increased his speed, ignoring the soreness in his body as his numerous bruises made themselves known.
With his father's words ringing in his ears, he had ran from the cabin. Only a short distance from the wall he must climb , Cody had thought his run for help was over, as two of them caught up to him. A shot hitting the rocks close to him, too close, had him losing his balance. As the ground fell away from him, his last thought before hitting the ground had been an apology to his dad for failing. Cody didn't know how long he laid on the ledge where he had landed, one of the few on Dead Drop Wall. Not taking even a moment to rest, how could he with his dad's life on the line, he quickly set to work. It didn't take him long, though every second felt like an eternity, to get his climbing gear in order. Making his way down Dead Drop, he had fallen as often as climbed, leaving him with more bruises. Cody never even noticed, his mind, focused on the need to reach his brother and the other Rangers before it was too late, blocked awareness of everything else.
He was so tired, it was getting harder and harder to stay on his feet. Drawing out his father's recon compass, he checked to be sure he was still moving in the right direction. Good, he was still on track. Looking up from the compass, he headed out again. It took a moment for it to register in his tired mind what he was seeing, when he realized it was the Ranger's chopper, he began to run. Truthfully, this final run was more stumbling than running, but it was the best he could do. Something caught his foot, bringing him to his knees, "Matt," he cried out for his older brother. "I need you," he called, though he knew he wouldn't be heard. Trying to rise, he couldn't seem to get his feet under him, falling again into the dirt. Splayed out on the hillside, his hand reached towards his brother, "Dad needs you," he whispered. With a small cry of despair, he watched the chopper begin to rise into the sky. Realizing that he had failed, because of him his father would die, he gave into the welcoming darkness.
"What the...?" Frank Avila cried out as something flashed into his eyes, nearly blinding him. "Matt, somebody's down there."
"Are you sure?" Matt asked. Looking towards the ground, his eyes automatically scanned the terrain for any sign of somebody in need of help. "There," he pointed, spotting a flash of light from the ground.
"Got it," Frank confirmed. Setting the bird down as near as he could, he kept it running as the other's climbed out.
Matt led the way as they hurried towards where the signal had come from. "Oh god," he whispered as he froze in his tracks. Matt had only been truly afraid a couple of times in his life. When his mom was so sick and his dad left during a blizzard to climb Dead Drop, when Merlin Pierce was shot by T.J. Cousins, when his Dad was accused of murdering Cousins. The sight of his little brother lying in the dirt, bruised and battered, topped them all. "Cody!" he yelled, resuming his run and sliding to his knees next to his brother's limp form only seconds later.
"Don't move him Matt," Robin quickly warned. Like all of them, she was shocked and confused by Cody's presence. Falling to her knees, she quickly checked the boy over, relieved when she found no sign of spinal cord injuries.
Matt watched, his heart in his throat as Robin checked Cody over.
"That must be what he signaled with," Jim commented, pointing to the item Cody held.
Matt glanced down, for the first time noticing the compass Cody held tightly in his right hand. Reaching down, he gently removed it. "It's Dad's Marine Recon compass," he softly explained.
"Mmatt...need you," Cody whispered as he slowly began to come to.
"Easy Cody," Matt soothed, laying a supportive hand on the younger boy's back.
"Matt?" Cody questioned, his confused mind trying to make sense of everything. Why was he laying in the dirt? Why did he hurt so bad? With a pained gasp he struggled to sit up as it all came flooding back with horrifying clarity. "Dad!" he cried out as he lost the battle, pitching forward into Matt's waiting arms.
"Easy little brother," Matt whispered, holding his brother in his arms. "Calm down and tell me what's happened?" Man, holding his brother and waiting for his answer had to be the hardest thing he'd ever done, Matt thought to himself.
"They're gonna kill him Matt, you have to help him," Cody rambled, clutching at his brother's jacket.
"Whose going to kill him?" Matt asked, forcing himself to stay calm.
"I don't know...they killed a man...saw them...chased me...shot at me...Dad's pinned down...at home...please Matt help him. Don't let them kill him, please don't let him die," Cody begged, breaking down in sobs as the events of the day caught up to him.
"Shhh, don't you worry Cody, we're going to the cabin right now," he quickly assured his brother. Looking up, he saw the others watching him, their faces reflecting the fear and anger he knew was on his own. "Is it safe to move him Robin?"
Robin nodded, judging by the way Cody was moving he wasn't seriously injured, just bruised and exhausted. Standing up, she backed out of the way, making room for Cutler and Hart. As the two men, picked Cody up, Matt climbed to his feet, quickly taking his brother back into his arms. Following the blond to the chopper, Robin seethed with anger at whoever had done this.
Jim Cutler ran ahead, his mind racing with plans for ways to approach the cabin. Damn, they didn't even know how many there were. That thought had him stopping quickly, turning back to his friends. "Matt stop a minute."
"Jim we don't have time..." Matt began, only to be cut off.
"We need to know how many there are."
Matt hung his head, he'd thought he was keeping his cool. Obviously he'd only been fooling himself. "Cody, can you tell me how many there are?"
Cody stared at him, nearly asleep in his brother's arms, it took him a few seconds to recognize what he was being asked. "Four...two older men, one young and a young woman."
Matt nodded his understanding. "How are they armed?"
"Rifles...have a dog too."
"They have a dog?"
"Cody, can you tell me where they were when you left?"
"Ummm, the men were in front...girl out back. She saw me...hollered at them...two of them chased...thought I was gonna die...failed dad...sorry...'m sorry," he whispered, tears once again streaking his cheeks.
"Shhh, you didn't fail Cody. You got help, we're gonna get there in time. Dad's going to be fine, I promise," Matt vowed, praying he hadn't just lied to his little brother.
Trusting his brother, Cody gave in to the need for sleep. Closing his eyes, he laid his head on Matt's shoulder, knowing he was safe for the first time since this nightmare had started.
Matt smiled sadly as his brother fell asleep in his arms. He didn't know who had done this, but god help them if they had...no, don't go there Hawkes. Dad will be fine, just like you told Cody.
Frank saw them coming, looking over his shoulder as Matt began to secure their victim in the seat, his eyes widened in shock. "Cody? What happened Matt?"
"I'll explain on the way," Matt replied. Quickly securing his brother, he climbed into the chopper, slipping on his headphones. "Head to my dad's cabin," he ordered Frank as the others climbed aboard, securing themselves in the seats. As they flew, he outlined for Avila what they knew of the situation.
Frank flew the chopper with grim determination. He would get them there in time to save Jesse Hawkes, he wouldn't let these people leave his friends without their dad. Understanding the need for stealth, he flew the chopper as close to the cabin as he dared while keeping it out of hearing distance. Landing carefully, he made sure the bird wouldn't be easily seen or found. "What's the plan?" he asked as he shut down the chopper's engine.
Matt glanced at Cody, chewing his lip. "I don't want to leave him alone, but I don't think we have a choice. I may need all of you with me."
"He should be safe here Matt, nobody's likely to stumble across the chopper and we're a little ways from the cabin," Frank pointed out.
"You're right. Okay, we're going to scout the situation and then once we know where all the players are, we'll get into position. Don't kill anybody unless you have to, but the first priority is to protect civilian lives."
"Don't worry Matt, we won't let your Dad get hurt," Jim assured, giving his friend's shoulder a squeeze.
Matt nodded, "Let me wake Cody up and tell him what's happening." Gently he shook his brother awake. In as few words as possible, he explained what was happening, assuring him they would be back soon to get him. He hated to leave him alone, but he wouldn't risk his life by taking him with them. He refused to think about the other reason for leaving Cody behind. Reluctantly turning away, he led the others to the cabin.
Jesse had been fighting valiantly, determined to see the Rassy family brought to justice. For the murdered man in the meadow, but mostly for...his son. Clenching his jaw, Jesse refused to let himself grieve for his youngest until he'd brought his killers to justice. He had sent him to his, he swallowed hard, death. God it wasn't right, he was only sixteen, he didn't deserve to die alone out there, chased to his death by a family of killers. So much senseless death, but he would make sure they paid for what they'd done. "I promise you Cody, they won't get away with killing you," he whispered. An unexpected voice from outside got his attention, Matt? Hope flared to life, if Matt were here maybe they were wrong about Cody. Please god, he silently prayed as he stepped onto the porch. "Cody?" he asked of his oldest, a dozen questions held in that one word. Assured by Matt that Cody was fine, he quickly took off after the father. Determined to bring to justice the selfish bastard who had caused all of this.
Cody sat in the chopper, waiting anxiously. The waiting seemed to take forever as he nervously waited for somebody to come and get him. His head snapped up as a shot sounded in the distance, "Dad!" Ignoring his brother's orders, Cody climbed from the chopper and ran as fast as his battered body would allow towards his home, terrified of what he would find.
Jesse watched dispassionately as Jack Rassy blew his brains out, as selfish in death as he had been in life. Turning away, he walked back to the cabin, picking up speed the closer he got. He had barely arrived back at the cabin when he heard his name being called. Turning, he saw his youngest stumbling towards him. Hurrying forward, he caught him just as the boy's legs gave out. "Cody, son are you okay?"
"Dad? I thought...heard the shot," his eyes filled with unshed tears.
"I'm fine son, not a scratch on me," looking the boy over as he spoke, "which is more than I can say for you. What happened son?" he gently asked.
"Fell...a few times," Cody quietly explained.
It didn't escape Jesse's attention that Cody had skipped any and all details. Deciding not to push the boy right now, he helped him to his feet. "Let's get you inside."
"Okay," Cody agreed, leaning on his dad as they walked towards the cabin. He shuddered when the man who had shot at him glared at him from where he kneeled in the dirt.
"Ignore him son, he can't hurt you again," Jesse softly assured.
"I hope you're happy kid, my brother and nephew are dead and it's your fault," Larry yelled.
"Don't listen to him Cody, the only ones to blame are him and his brother. You did nothing wrong," Jesse firmly insisted.
"I know," Cody quietly responded. Doing his best to block out the hateful things the older man yelled at his back, he let his father take him inside and up to his room..
"Why don't you get a hot shower and some rest," Jesse suggested.
"I think I will," Cody tiredly mumbled.
By the time Jesse had come back downstairs, Larry was gone, as was Hank's body. He looked to his son for an explanation.
"Frank and Jim are taking the bodies to the morgue and Larry to the sheriff's office. They'll come back up when they're done and help clean up. You and Cody can go down tomorrow to give your statements," Matt explained.
"You all don't have to do that, but I appreciate it. Robin, did you check Cody over?"
"I did, he's fine Mr. Hawkes. Bruised and battered, exhausted, but it's nothing that time and rest won't fix," the blonde assured him.
"Thank you," Jesse smiled, relaxing a bit more.
The next several hours passed peacefully, the cabin filled with laughter and teasing as the Rangers went about helping Jesse to put the cabin to rights. Finally everything that could be done that day had been taken care of and they all left, except for Matt. He knew he had responsibilities, but Matt just couldn't stay at the station tonight. More than he ever had in his life, he needed to be here with his family, reassuring himself that they were safe. Soon after the others left, the Hawkes men retired for the night, all of them too tired to stay up.
The sound of screams jolted him from sleep, leaving his heart pounding as he tried to understand what was happening. Before he could react, his father was in the room, drawing Cody into his arms. Matt watched as the older man comforted the boy, assuring him that he was there, alive and well. Seeing his brother sobbing with fear as he huddled in their father's arms had Matt seeing red. Climbing out of the bed, he grabbed his boots and headed downstairs.
Jesse was aware of Matt leaving the room, but Cody needed him more at the moment. "Shhh, you're safe son, I promise nobody will hurt you." He knew where Matt had gone, and why. He didn't blame him, as he held his youngest, listening to him sobbing in fear and horror of the days events, he could feel his own anger towards the Rassy family rising to the surface. "How would you like some hot chocolate?"
Cody sniffled, nodding his acceptance of his father's suggestion. He hated breaking down like this, but the nightmare had been so real. His father's lifeless eyes staring up at him in mute accusation, damning him for failing to get help. He shuddered as the images from the dream began to replay in his mind.
"You lay down, I'll bring it to you in a few minutes." Gently, Jesse lowered him back to the bed, brushing the hair from his face, he offered him an encouraging smile. Standing up, he headed down the stairs. Sighing heavily, he thanked god that he had gotten here in time. "Going somewhere?"
Matt froze with his hand on the doorknob, "Yes sir."
"You can't kill him Matt, no matter how much he deserves it."
"Like you don't want to."
"You're right I do, I want to kill him more than you can imagine. Every time I remember what it felt like to see your brother running towards me, calling for me as that bastard pointed a rifle at his back, I want to kill him. When I think of the way my heart stopped when he told me Cody had taken a long fall, I want to tear him apart with my bare hands," Jesse growled. "The worst is when I look at your brother, see the bruises covering him and the loss of innocence in his eyes coupled with fear, I want to not only kill him, I want to rip his heart out and show it to him as it beats it's last. Do you know why I'm not?"
"Why?" Matt quietly asked, stunned by his father's confession.
"Because if I did any of those things, it would destroy your brother. I won't do that to him, I refuse to let the Rassy family tear this family apart." Jesse waited, not relaxing until Matt took his hand from the door and turned to face him. "I'm making hot chocolate, why don't you go keep your brother company," he calmly suggested.
"Okay," Matt agreed. Climbing the stairs, he smiled sadly at his brother as he walked over to the bed, sitting down on the edge. "Hey Toad, how you feeling?"
"I'm okay," Cody mumbled, "and it's Ace."
Matt's smile became a little less sad. If Cody was correcting the nickname, it had to be a good sign. "Nah, you'll always be Toad to me."
"You're just jealous," Cody countered.
A few minutes later, Jesse stood outside the door, listening to the gentle teasing between the boys. Hearing the way the boys spoke, the normalcy of it, he knew in that instant that Cody would get through this. He and Matt together, would see to that. Glancing heavenward, he sent up a silent prayer of thanks for the two wonderful sons he'd been blessed with as he pushed open the bedroom door.
Hope y'all liked this story. I always did like the episode War Games(not sure if that's the correct title) but I felt a few important scenes were missing. Please feed the muse with reviews.