A/N: This was written in honor of Valerie's birthday. I actually managed some power writing last weekend and am trying to continue that trend, so the second and final part should be finished today. It was inspired by the huge ice floes covering the park behind me, where a sudden thaw caused the frozen river to overflow its banks and deposit them. Since both Valerie and I are winter babies (and Aquarians) it seemed like an appropriate theme. This is set pre-show, during Don's fugitive recovery days.
"I said 'halt'!" Don stumbled on the bumpy, frozen chunks of snow. Yeah, right, Eppes - that's a lot more convincing if you're not sitting on your ass in a snow bank when you say it. He slid a few steps before finding his balance again. "Give it up, Chambers! There's no place to go!"
He saw the fleeing figure glance back over his shoulder, then add an extra burst of speed, stumbling some himself before skidding onto more level ground.
Shit. Just great. This guy obviously had better boots than he did, or better snow skills, or something. Now he was going to lead him out onto the frozen freaking tundra, and he didn't have any choice but to follow. Why was it that fugitives couldn't stick to some nice, temperate climate, instead of dragging them all the way to Minne-goddammed-sota, the land of 10,000 over-rated chunks of floating ice? And where the hell had Coop disappeared to?
"I said 'halt'!" He found solid purchase on the rocky ice and raised his gun warningly, still holding his fire. Chambers, not bound by procedural niceties, turned just long enough to clip off a shot. Don ducked into a crouch automatically, but the hastily aimed bullet went wide.
The distraction, though, gave Chambers time to fuss with something in the ice encrusted bushes. Don heard the roar of an engine, staggered to his feet just in time to see Chambers drag a small snowmobile free and mount it.
Don swore under his breath. That thing could take Chambers right across the not-so-distant border into Canada, and the Canadian government was notoriously reluctant to extradite death penalty candidates. Still, he wasn't going to be outrunning a snowmobile, even on less slippery ground. He raised the gun again, hovering his aim at the snowmobile's sleek metal side. "Halt or I'll shoot!"
Chambers gunned the engine, lifting one hand in a mocking farewell, then twisted the snowmobile in a turn that sent it skimming over the snow.
Don resisted the urge to clip off a shot in sheer frustration, still looking for an opening, ducked again when another crack split the icy air. It wasn't until the snowmobile unexpectedly canted at an odd angle, pointing abruptly nose downward with skis hanging in the air, that he realized that that hadn't been gunfire. The snowmobile sat poised for what must have been the merest second, then slid from view.
Huh? Don lowered his gun, rubbing an ice-stiffened glove over his eyes to clear his vision. What the…? It took him a heartbeat to see the dark grey stain growing where the snowmobile had disappeared, another to realize what it meant. He had holstered his gun and was running forward, feet slipping and sliding, almost before the information landed. He had half-closed the distance to the wet dark spot when a red knit knob bobbed to the surface, running with water that was almost immediately crusting with ice on contact with the air.
"Hang on!" he called, not even sure Chambers could hear him. Jesus, that had to be cold. "I'm coming!" Of course, it would help to know where the body of water began, but he had a suspicion he was already on it anyway - that it started where the ground flattened out, even if he couldn't see it under the coating of snow. "COOP!"
He was close now. He could see Chambers face, weirdly purple-blue and fixed in a grimace, could see where the snow melted into wetness. He slowed. Hard to see where the ice suddenly got weak, but it seemed to support a man, if not a snowmobile. This was a far cry from the hockey and ice skating rinks of his youth, though, with their coat of ice over concrete. "Don't let go!" He had some vague memory of spreading mass and increasing contact to reduce weight - sort of like quicksand - and lowered himself carefully to the snow, bracing himself with his hands and pushing forward. Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit…cold, cold, cold…he hated, HATED, the cold! He took a couple of short, quick breaths through his teeth, then managed to pry them apart long enough to say, "Okay - I'm almost there. Just hold on." Chambers looked barely conscious.
He fumbled for Chamber's arm, outflung on the ice, grimaced as slush sloshed into his gloves. "Don't come out here!" he yelled back, scrabbling for a grip. "I'm not sure the ice will hold all three of us!" The ice groaned as he tightened his hold. He had no leverage from this position - the best he could do for now was hang on. But Chambers wouldn't be able to take much of this cold - getting him out somehow was a priority. Death penalty or not, this was a hell of a way to go…
"Can you get him out? I've got a big branch here - I can probably drag him in if you can."
He snuk a look at Chambers' face - it was hard to imagine him being much help, but otherwise he was probably a goner. "Chambers!" He put as much force behind it as he could manage. "Hey - I'm going to try and pull you out, but I need you to help me!" He shook the arm he was gripping slightly. "Hang in there - try!"
"I've called for help!" Coop's voice from behind him was a comforting lifeline. "They're on their way! Try to get him out, but make sure your ass doesn't end up in there with him!"
Yeah. Easier said than done. He shivered as the snow soaked into his jacket everywhere the ice made contact with his chest. Still, if he was cold, it had to be a thousand times worse for Chambers. He choked up further on Chambers' arm, was encouraged to see a flicker of reaction in his face. "Good. Grab my arm with your other hand. Pull your way up."
Chambers blinked, his expression glazed. Crap. Don inched forward, used his free hand to grab hold of his lapel. The fabric crunched under his fingers, crisp with ice and oozing chilled water. He tugged at it, hampered by his prone position. "Chambers!" He yelled directly in his face. "Help me help you!"
Chambers twitched and shivered, his arm rigid under Don's grip. Then he slid downward, dragging Don with him.
Don wasn't sure if the yell came from him or Coop - maybe both. He felt the buttons of his coat poke into his chest as they scraped across the ice, tried to dig in with his boot toes to anchor them both against Chamber's inexorable weight. He hissed involuntarily as his forearms dipped into the icy water, mindlessly maintaining his grip on Chambers, burrowed his knees into the crunch of snow covering the ice to try and halt their progress. He got his knees under him, struggling to sit up, hoping the momentum would pull Chambers with him. Chambers was heavy, bigger than him and inert and soaked through with icy water, and the lake fought him, tendons burning at elbows and shoulder sockets. Still, all those pull ups and push ups had to be worth something and he gritted his teeth until they ached, pushing his knees forward and rearing his shoulders backward.
Man, this is going to hurt afterward, he thought involuntarily.
His ribs hit his knees as Chambers' weight yanked him forward again, his grip sliding, his body skidding closer to the yawning break in the ice. The ice moaned again, like a waking beast. He thrust his hand deeper into Chambers lapel, under his arm and inside the shoulder of the coat, didn't give himself a chance to catch his breath but threw himself backward this time, feet folded under him, giving a yell of mixed frustration and determination. He felt something pull near the base of his spine as he toppled backward, arms leaden and on fire at the same time, shoulder blades slapping bruisingly against the ice, head bouncing off the frozen surface, snow and rime digging into his hair. Something heavy and wet and frozen pinned his lower body, seeping icy water into his jeans, but the drag on his arms, at least, was less.
Instinctively, he tried to shift his knees, to get his legs out from their cramped position under him, but they were held fast. He tried to move a hand to that throbbing spot on the back of his skull, but they seemed to be entangled as well. He thought maybe he had managed to get Chambers out - at least part way. He should check to see - see if he was even still alive - start first aid - and he was going to do that, too - just as soon as all those bouncing stars stopped blotting out his vision.
After a minute he became aware of a far away voice yelling and made out the sound of his name. He tried to respond, but somehow or other he was still just lying there, the cold and the weight on his lower body immobilizing him. There was another sound now, one he realized he had been distantly aware of for a while, and the air above him stirred, a strong wind blowing the snow around him and freezing the wetness against him. It took him another second to identify it as a chopper. Oh. Probably what Coop was trying to tell me.
The wind got closer, loud and oppressive, tearing at his clothes and driving the frigid air into ever crevice of his body. He clenched his eyes against it. Jesus, was this supposed to be helping? He managed to move his arms, threw them over his face to block out the sound and the wind.
"Don't move!" The sound of the bullhorn bounced deafeningly against the ice.
Yeah. No problem, Don thought, shuddering so violently now that he could hear little else over of the slamming of his own teeth against each other.
"We're lowering a harness. We're going to lift him aboard."
Huh. Okay good - I must have gotten Chambers out. Not that the poor schmuk stood much of a chance anyway - that water had to be…well, if his arms were any indication, deadly.
"Once we have him secured, we'll harness you as well. Are either of you hurt, agent? Can you tell us?"
Okay, this is where a real professional would have a helpful answer ready. Scraps of possibilities flew through his mind, but he still just lay there, shivering. Something slapped against him and he lifted his arms just high enough to peek. The wind battered his eyelids with ice crystals and he lowered his arms protectively again, but not before he'd caught a glimpse of a sturdy ladder of nylon rope.
"Just hang in there, Donnie! They'll have you in a second!"
Coop. Jeez, if that was his idea of a pep talk then it was just as well he didn't make a habit of them. He tightened the folded arms over his eyes, felt the weight on his legs shift. He couldn't make out any additional weight on the ice under him, so they must be trying to airlift them without actually touching down or dropping a man - a good idea, since that hole in the ice could only be growing. Just as he'd told Coop, the weight of three men here wasn't a good idea.
The weight on his legs moved again, seemed to unspool. Something hard and rounded rat-a-tat-tatted against his thigh and he peeked again, saw Chambers' boot toes swinging above him. They work fast. Must not be their first time. He tried to stretch his stiffening, frozen limbs, free from their pinning weight, tried to get some blood flow moving again, flopped over onto his stomach, wondering if he'd be able to get up by himself. The ice groaned again and he stilled instantly, barely breathing.
"Don't move, agent! We'll be back for you as soon as we have him loaded!"
He didn't need telling twice. He stayed sprawled on the ice, hands under him in the arrested action of pushing himself up, lifted his head and caught a glimpse of Coop, standing on the shore. Not as far away as it had seemed.
Coop looked pale, despite the wind-reddened skin covering his freckles, his mouth tentatively curling upward in the start of a grin. He cupped gloved hands around his mouth and hollered, "Shit, Eppes! Can't believe you got 'im! But don't you LA boys know it's not swimming season everywhere year round?"
He felt a smile tug at the cold-stiffened corners of his own mouth, grabbed a breath to answer.
A crack of thunder interrupted him, so loud and close that he ducked his head instinctively. When he looked up again questioningly at the sky all he could see was the rope ladder flapping in the wind of the helicopter rotors, and Chambers' crumpled form, dangling limply from the harness, being guided into the copter door by two men in parkas with identifying armbands.
His eyes sought Coop's, quizzically, saw the blank, horrified expression on his paling face, just as he felt the ground underneath him begin to part.
Coop's mouth was open in a silent yell - a rounded "oh" that could have been a howl of protest or maybe his name.
He tried to answer - tried to sit up, grab for something - maybe the dangling ladder - made a snatch at it and felt it bump his gloved fingers just before the wind tore it out of his grasp and the growing schism beneath him split and swallowed him whole.