Warnings: Language, OCs (a couple of my muses make an appearance)
Jade stood in the kitchen, making lunch for her husband, who was out on his snowmobile in the blizzard securing the property. She'd told him he shouldn't wait until he was done working on that chapter before going out, but bless him, he didn't listen. He rarely did. Now he would come in from securing the shed and tending to the animals all frozen and wet, his greying beard turned white with ice, and stomping snow all over her clean floor. Men.
Betty was Jade's real name, but no one had called her that since she'd severed all ties with her family when she was sixteen. She'd run away to San Francisco and turned out to be one of the lucky few the Haight-Ashbury scene of the 60s had worked out for. When she'd arrived on the scene she'd been noticed and taken in by a small group of artists and poets. The first time she'd entered the house, a hazel-eyed, wiry young man by the name of Mike had taken one look at her and said, "You are one hot little mama." She did have a maternal nature, and when anyone needed some tender loving care, Betty was the first to wrap them in her small arms. Between that and the jade ring she always wore, Mama Jade was born. The ring had long been lost to time, but the moniker stuck.
Mike had been the unofficial leader of the group, and Jade had gravitated immediately to his assertive nature. After the haze of the 60s had blown away, she and Papa Mike got married and started a family. Now her children were all grown, and every day she found more silver in the golden braid that twisted down her back. They'd moved here to the mountains so Mike could get some peace while working on his novels, and Jade was happy to putter around the house in her bare feet and broomstick skirts, living close – but not too close – to the small ski town, with its unique shops and friendly locals. Sure, they got snowed in occasionally, but in Jade's opinion it was better than being destroyed every year by hurricanes or earthquakes.
Jade was cutting bread when she heard the front door open and slam shut. "You want some hot cider, dear, or are you sticking with coffee?" she called.
"Mama, come here!"
Jade blinked at the urgent tone in Mike's voice and rushed to the front door. She was about to loudly ask why the fuck there was a damn wheelbarrow in her house, full of snow and dripping everywhere, until she realized what was in it.
"We got a live one here, Mama," Mike said, kneeling to take the boots off the frozen man he'd wheeled into the house. "If he hadn't been wearing that bright red coat I might not have seen him leaned up against the old maple. He was almost totally covered. By his pulse, we ain't got much time."
Jade took one look at the shades of red and white the poor man's face had turned, and raced off to start a tepid bath.
That had been a couple days ago. Now, Jade sat next to the guest bed where they'd set up the blond after thawing him. She cradled the back of the young man's neck, tipping a cup of broth to his lips. He was barely conscious and delirious from fever, but he managed to swallow a mouthful or two. She took the cup away, wiping the overflow from his whiskered chin. Slow and steady, mouthful by mouthful. Another sip, and suddenly he was doubled over, choking and hacking. Jade held him with a napkin under his spluttering mouth, rubbing his broad back and murmuring soothing words. It didn't last too long this time, though she misliked the way his breath rattled in his chest. She laid him back on the mountain of pillows that kept him upright while he slept, checking the napkin for any traces of red, her mouth forming in a grim line when she found them.
She suspected he had pneumonia and fluid in his lungs, which wasn't surprising. The boy needed real medical attention, but the snow had left them without roads or communication. Fortunately, the phone had come back on earlier today, and Mike was almost finished carving a path to the nearest plowed road with his truck. They'd decided to take him to the hospital themselves, since an ambulance wouldn't get him there any faster and Mike didn't trust the emergency rescue service. "Those jack-offs couldn't find a St. Bernard in a kennel," he'd always say. It was just as well. Jade wanted to see this poor man through to recovery and get him to his family. They must be worried sick.
"What is this about, Tyler?" Chris asked. He sat on the couch with Adam and Jeff, Shane hovering behind them. Matt still hadn't emerged from his room, and John was with him, unaware of the impromptu meeting. The rest of the cabin's occupants looked at Shannon's boyfriend sitting on the ottoman in front of them, expecting to hear the worst. Shannon himself stood off to the side, chewing on his nails and his eyes red-rimmed. Chris's heart felt like it had bottomed out of his chest when he'd seen that. Tyler leaned forward with his elbows on his knees, hands templed in front of his mouth as if in silent prayer before he raised his bald head and looked at the group.
"A few minutes ago, Shannon got a call on the radio."
A sob choked out of Adam's throat and he clung to Jeff's arm. Jeff pulled his blonde closer, petting his hair in what he hoped was a reassuring manner. Shane leaned his hands on the back of the couch and hung his head, not wanting to hear the rest, but knowing he had to.
"Did they find him?" Chris asked in a quavering voice, and Tyler licked his lips.
"Then why..?" Adam started, but Chris interrupted. There was only one reason he could think of that they would call if they hadn't found Jay, dead or alive.
"They gave up, didn't they?"
When Tyler nodded, Adam cried, "No! They can't! Oh god, they can't just leave him! He was waiting for us... we can't..." He trailed off, trembling, and Jeff folded him into his arms. He had no words of comfort for Adam. He couldn't tell him everything was going to be okay. Nothing was okay. For Adam, they might never be again.
"Shane?" Chris said, his voice husky and his empty blue eyes staring at the floor. "Would you be so kind as to get a bottle of GG?"
Shane straightened and started towards the kitchen. Chris hadn't had a drop since Jay went missing, and Shane wasn't going to deny him anything right now. "I'll get two."
"Wait..." Adam said, his voice sounding small and unconvinced. "You guys... you can't give up, too. We have to... do something... something..."
Chris had no idea what he was about to say to Adam when he opened his mouth, but any words he might have had slipped away as his pocket started playing his entrance music. His phone's default ringtone.
Everyone froze. Though they'd all kept their phones on and charged, no one had received a call or had cell service in days. Chris scrambled his phone out of his pocket and looked at the display. "A local number," he said. Probably calling to tell him what Tyler just had. Still, he answered. "Hello?"
"Hello," came the voice. Male, a pleasant tenor with a slight twang. Chris didn't recognize it. "Do you know a William Ress-o?"
"Reso," Chris corrected on reflex, not realizing he'd stood up. "Yes."
"Thank god I finally reached you," the man said. "Been trying since the phone lines came on this afternoon. A couple days ago I found young William out in the snow."
Chris was only vaguely aware of the others staring at him, and brought his fist to his mouth, trying to tamp down the hope that suddenly welled in his heart. "Is he..? Please, god..."
"He's alive, son. I got this number from his cell phone, reckoned from the number of missed calls you two had you'd want to know."
Chris barely heard the man speaking, he was sobbing so hard. He collapsed back on the couch as Adam grabbed his arm.
"Chris?" Adam begged. "God no, Chris..."
"He's alive, Adam! He..." Chris managed to choke out before burying his face in Adam's hair. He didn't even notice how the other man went completely limp in his arms. The words echoed around the room – alive, he's alive – met with whoops of joy and tears of relief. Chris pulled himself together as Jeff directed a dizzy Adam to put his head between his knees.
"Hello? Hello!" the phone squawked, and Chris put it back to his ear.
"Sorry, sorry, I'm here. Where is he? Please, I need to see him..."
"Calm down, son," the voice soothed. "He's not out of the woods yet. The missus and I have been taking care of him, but he's very sick. I just finished digging out the 4x4 and decided to try you one last time before taking him to the hospital. Can you meet us there?"
"If I have to crawl, I'll be there," Chris vowed. "Thank you. Thank you so much, mister..."
"Wheeling. Mike Wheeling. And what's you're name, son? You're listed in young William's phone as Sexy Beast," Mike said, a wry tone in his voice, and a choked laugh escaped Chris's throat.
"Chris. My name is Chris. And we call him Jason. Jay," he answered.
"Ah, the Chrissy he calls for. I should have known," Mike said, the smile evident in his tone. "Well, you'll see your Jay soon, Chris. Gotta go now. The missus has him all bundled up and ready to rock."
"Thank you again, so much. See you soon." Chris hung up the phone and looked at Tyler, who had the biggest vehicle. "Ready to drive us to the hospital to see Jay?"
Tyler flashed a bright white smile. "Absolutely."