Author's Notes: So sorry for the long delay since the last update. I've been sick with bronchitis and it's been all I can do to make it through a day of work. Therefore writing has taken a back seat to just trying to be able to breathe and not cough up a lung. Hope this is worth the wait. Temperatures mentioned in this chapter are based on the Celsius scale since that's what is used in Toronto. I'll try to make sure that the information is reasonable for the area even though it's completely different from the weather I'm used to. Thanks Tirsh for helping me make it accurate and for helping me catch my other goofs.
Disclaimer: The show Flashpoint and its characters were created by Mark Ellis and Stephanie Morgenstern and belong to them and the networks who air the episodes. Since the show has ended, our only way of getting new Flashpoint is through fan fiction. This story is my attempt to help fill the void, and the only profit I make is the warm fuzzy feeling reviews give me. Anything that does not come directly from the show is my own creation and should not be used without my permission.
Out in the Cold
Greg stepped into the closet and knelt beside Ashley's body. He carefully turned her over so that she was lying on her back. Removing his glove, he placed his fingers on her neck, checking for a pulse. He let out a breath of relief. "She's alive."
He didn't raise his voice, not wanting to traumatize the girl any further than she'd already been. "Call EMS. Ashley, sweetheart, can you hear me? I'm Sergeant Greg Parker with the Police Strategic Response Unit. You're safe now. We're going to get you to the hospital and we're going to call your father and let him know you're okay."
The teenager opened her eyes and stared up at Greg fearfully. She scrambled away from him to the farthest reaches of the closet. How he wished Jules was there to reach out to the girl. How he wished both Jules and Spike were there rather than being driven away in the two vans that initially left the garage. He held up his hands non-threateningly.
"It's okay, Sweetheart. We aren't going to hurt you. We've got medics on the way. It's okay for you to come out of there. We'll keep our distance and none of us will touch you. I'm backing up now; you call the shots here."
He knew it was important considering all she'd been through to assure her that she was in control. He backed out of the closet and motioned for the other men to step back as well. The last thing the girl needed after being traumatized by Dublin and his men was to be surrounded by more men, even ones who meant her no harm.
"Myfaultmyfaultmyfaultmyfault myfaultmyfaultmyfaultmyfault myfaultmyfaultmyfaultmyfault ."
Still keeping his distance, Greg knelt down so that he was at her eye level, trying to present himself in the least threatening way. "What happened to you wasn't your fault, Ashley."
"I killed them; my fault they're dead. Why am I alive and they're dead? He should have killed me too. He was supposed to. Thomas told him to kill me and I thought he was going to and this time there wouldn't be anything I could to stop it."
"Who's dead, Ashley?" Greg kept his voice soft and soothing.
"They were trying to rescue me but I was too scared. Dublin said he'd kill me if I tried to escape so I had to stop them. I didn't want anyone to die. I never should have called my father. It's all my fault. I'm sooo sorry."
Sam's jaw was rocking. Was she talking about Jules and Spike? She sabotaged her own rescue and put Jules and Spike in danger? He knew it was wrong to blame her; she'd been through a traumatic experience and had been threatened, but it was difficult to be understanding given the danger Jules was in. Knowing the room was clear and that the presence of too many men would just make things worse rather than better, Sam left the room. If anyone questioned him about it, he would use the excuse of not wanting to further traumatize the girl as he made his way out of the house.
The truth was he couldn't help but feel restless and almost useless just standing there as Sarge worked his calming magic on the frightened teen. It was a feeling he hadn't felt since his rookie days on Team One. No, he reminded himself; he'd felt almost exactly the same way almost a year ago on a call that felt horrifically similar. The day that Jules had called while taking a rare day off to report that shots had been fired at a local restaurant. Only moments later she had found herself at the mercy of a delusional gunman. What was it about the woman he loved being in danger that immediately transported him back to his rookie days?
You weren't even dating that day at the restaurant, the voice in his head argued. She wasn't just taking a rare day off; she was on a date with another guy at the time. He sat down at the computer in the command truck and pulled up the remote tracking software that was keeping tabs on the sensors Raf had placed on the vans. He tried using that as proof that he wasn't allowing his feelings for Jules get the better of him now because he'd been just as worried about her when they weren't dating.
"Don't kid yourself, Braddock; you loved her just as much that day as you do now. She might have been trying to date Steve but her heart belonged to you the whole time, same as yours belonged to her."
He would never think of her as the damsel in distress sort of person. He could never insult her in such a way; not to mention, she'd kick his ass if he even tried. Still, he felt like he knew her as well as he knew himself, maybe better. She would never cower in the presence of the men who were holding her captive unless not doing so would cause harm to an innocent civilian. He wouldn't put it past her to intentionally antagonize Dublin and his men if it meant protecting either Spike or Ashley, even if it meant risking harm to herself in the process.
He wasn't just worried about Jules, he continued to assure himself. He was worried about Spike as well, though he wouldn't even try to lie that it was the same as what he was feeling about Jules's plight. Still, Spike was his friend and having not really seen his condition, Sam was concerned he'd been hurt as well.
His friend. Sam shook his head as he pulled up the transponder locations on the two missing SRU officers as well. After Matt's death, Sam had sworn he wasn't going to make friends with his new co-workers as he came to work at the SRU. He'd be friendly, sure, but he wasn't interested in making friends or especially in finding a new best friend. After Matt, he didn't think he could afford to. At first, it didn't seem to be a problem; he got along great with the guys he worked with and even enjoyed the times after work when they went for drinks or just hung out together.
Sarge and Ed were older and his bosses, so he hadn't been concerned about being tempted to become true friends with them. Wordy was married with children so his priorities were automatically different. Spike and Lew were closest to his age and while they had a lot of the same interests as Sam, their friendship had already been solidified well before he came along and he didn't want to be a third wheel. Things were the way he wanted them to be, at least with the men he worked with.
Lew's death had changed things, however. Sam could see how Spike had been affected by the loss of his best friend even if it wasn't as obvious to everyone else. Perhaps only someone who had lived through the same pain really could. He could tell the demolitions expert was adrift; at a loss to know how to deal with the pain and guilt Lew's death had brought out. The same pain and guilt he'd felt himself every day since Matt's death and almost losing Jules to a sniper's bullet. So despite his promise not to open himself up to the potential of that same kind of pain again, Sam reached out to Spike.
They had started hanging out after work more, just to keep Spike from wallowing in his own pit of despair. He would suggest to Spike that they grab a beer or two after shift even if the rest of the team didn't join them. During hockey season, they had made a point of watching a game if they weren't working even if it was just on TV. Hanging out with Spike was even easier than spending time with Matt had been and Sam quickly forgot why he'd been hesitant to make friends in the first place.
It wasn't all just fun and games. Sam had gotten to know Spike as a person at the same time. He'd discovered they had more in common than he'd ever thought. He knew Spike's relationship with his father was just as strained as the one Sam shared with the General, maybe even more so. As aggravated as Sam could get with his father, he couldn't imagine what it would be like to also know the man was dying on top of everything else. He knew it was slowly killing Spike to know he might lose his father without working things out.
He now counted Spike as one of his best friends and he wasn't sorry he'd allowed the friendship to grow. He'd be damned if he'd let anyone hurt his friend and get away with it. Not these lowlifes that had taken Spike and Jules prisoner and certainly not his sister Natalie. He'd seen the interest between the two the night before at the club and it had bothered him. He'd wanted to put a stop to it right away but he'd been too distracted by Jules sitting so close to him and the way she played with her necklace trying to appear more interested in the band than in him. Had he not been counting down the minutes until he could get Jules home and make love to her until neither of them could move, he might have said something. He wasn't worried about Natalie; Spike was a good guy and would never hurt his sister. He just wasn't sure he could say the same about Natalie. She had a thing for the bad boy; Sam was afraid she'd chew Spike up much like a piranha if given half a chance. He was just hoping that the meeting at the club had been a one time thing and not something he had to worry about.
There was a steady beep on the computer indicating the vans were still heading in opposite directions. Which one was Jules in? Was she okay?
If he hadn't planned on making friends with his new co-workers, he certainly hadn't expected to fall head over heels in love. Regardless of his plan, he'd quickly lost his heart to the beautiful and feisty female sniper. When she'd ended things with him, he'd thought he was going to lose his mind as well.
It was the only way he could explain how he was suddenly so in tune with everything about her. He'd never been one to notice things like a woman's shampoo but when she'd first come back to work after the break up, it had driven him crazy that she'd apparently switched from her usual strawberry scented shampoo to a cucumber melon. How did he even know what the hell cucumber melon smelled like and why did it make him want to bury his nose into her hair and then kiss her senseless? After Lew's death, the things he noticed about her weren't as pleasurable and had him quietly watching her in concern. He hadn't needed to hear the number on the scale during weigh-ins to know she'd lost about ten pounds that she didn't need to lose. Despite her attempts to cover the dark circles with make-up concealer, he'd noticed that she hadn't been getting enough sleep either. He'd wanted to reach out to her, help her deal with her grief like he was trying to do with Spike but it had just been too awkward the way things were between them. So all he'd been able to do was go slowly out of his mind with worry and pretend like nothing affected about her him.
Had Dr. Toth's probing into their relationship not shown them both they were only fooling themselves into thinking things were truly over between them, would he have gone on torturing himself indefinitely? Even keeping their relationship secret when he wanted to announce it to the world that he was in love didn't bother him. These months of being back with Jules had been the happiest of his life. He wasn't going to lose her now, not when he'd just gotten her back.
"Sam," Ed poked his head into the command truck.
"Ed, got a clear reading on both vehicles. The transponders seem to correspond to the same locations. With it just being the four of us, I'd suggest we coordinate with Team Four and each of us converge on a van at the same time. A surprise attack might be our best chance of getting Spike and Jules back safely."
Ed came into the truck fully and leaned against the counter space. "Sound plan but there's a major flaw in it."
Sam frowned and wondered if it would have had the same flaw if Ed had been the one to suggest it. Seemed like they'd been butting heads more often since Ed had returned to work and taken back over as team leader. "What's that?"
"Spike and Jules aren't in those vans. The people we saw in their uniforms were decoys. Sarge managed to get the information out of Ashley before the medics swooped in. Spike and Jules were in one of the last vans that pulled out. We don't have a trace on them. They are in the wind."
Sam sat back in his seat and stared at the older man. Could it get any worse? Even as he thought the words, he tried to call them back before they could tempt the fates.
Ed continued, "Apparently Dublin plans to kill them before meeting up with the rest of his crew. Not only do we not know where they are but we also don't have much time."
- FP - FP - FP -
The story in the Callaghan house had always been that the youngest child didn't know the meaning of the words quit or impossible. Perhaps it was because she was the tagalong of four older brothers who were constantly into the usual rough and tumble mischief that boys so easily found themselves in, but Julianna Callaghan never let anything stop her. She'd been teased all of her life that she'd walked, talked, and gotten into trouble at a much earlier age than any of her brothers because she was determined to keep pace with them. It was that drive and determination that had made her the outstanding cop she became and probably the reason she'd been the first female to make not only the Strategic Response Unit ever but the elite Team One on top of that.
Now as she sat in the cold van with her hands cuffed behind her, dressed only in her underwear, her body sore from the battering it had sustained, and her head pounding with a dizzying force, she heard Spike's defeated tone and instantly rejected it. The situation might not be ideal but this would not be how things would end for her and Spike. Not today, not if she had any say in it.
"Spike, we're going to get out of this. We just have to think of something."
Spike slumped down beside her and she was pretty sure he wanted to run his hands through his hair in frustration but couldn't because his hands were cuffed as well. "What do you think I've been doing? I've thought of everything and none of it is coming up looking good for us."
Jules bit her lower lip. Their situation was tenuous at best but she couldn't - wouldn't - admit defeat. It went against everything in her. She drew her legs up closer to her body and wiggled her bound hands lower. As Spike watched, his eyes wide in disbelief, she managed to get her hands around to the front of her body. There wasn't much she could do about the cuffs themselves but at least her hands were now where she could see them and she could at least do some things with them. Spike shook his head.
"I'm pretty sure I could never get my body to move like that. How the hell did you do that?"
Jules shrugged. "My mom would credit those gymnastic classes she made me take when I was a kid. I think it has more to do with having four older brothers who thought it was funny to tie their little sister up so she wouldn't follow them around. If these were ropes, I probably could get free of them given enough time."
Spike grinned in spite of the situation. It was on the tip of his tongue to make a lewd comment but figured it would only get him a wallop upside the head when they were finally free. It made him feel better that he was actually thinking in terms that they would finally be free instead of convinced it was the end for both of them. Jules's confidence was contagious, but it didn't fully dispel his worries. His shoulders slumped again. "Even if you did get free, it wouldn't change the fact we're still in the middle of nowhere with no way to get to the edge of somewhere."
He moved to the end of the van to look out the glass in the small window in the door of the van. He glanced back at Jules. "Maybe we should take our chances trying to walk."
Jules shook her head. "We're better off staying where we are. This van might be cold but it's not as cold as it would be outside. Besides, you have a busted ankle; you shouldn't be walking on it. Not to mention that we're both wearing just socks; not exactly the right footgear for this weather if you know what I mean."
Spike shook his head. "So we just sit here and wait to freeze to death? Waiting for someone to come to our rescue doesn't seem like your style."
Jules frowned, resisting the urge to throw up. Between her head throbbing and the nausea, she was ready to slam her own head back against the side of the van just to slip into unconsciousness again and escape the bad feeling. "It's not, but losing my feet to frostbite isn't either. I'm not saying we do nothing, but we've got to be smart about it too."
Spike nodded reluctantly. From the moment his rope had been cut, he'd felt nothing but helpless. He wouldn't voice it out loud because he really didn't want to get hit by Jules but the chivalrous side of him kept screaming that it was up to him to protect her. He knew he hadn't done a good enough job in that department. She'd been hurt more than he had, and that just bothered him way more than he wanted to let on. He knew she was just as capable of taking care of herself as he could. She was never one to let her gender affect anything she did and she expected the rest of them to not treat her any differently because she was a woman. Usually he could do just that but at the end of the day, he couldn't forget his father always telling him as a kid that a gentleman always takes care of a lady and treats her right. Jules was more than just a lady. She was like a sister to him; more of a sister than his sister-in-law had ever been. The sister-in-law he only saw when he insisted on getting to be an uncle to the nephew his no-account deadbeat brother had abandoned as a baby. The brother who had essentially disappeared off the face of the globe because he had became more interested in drugs and booze than his own family a decade ago. A brother that as a cop Spike should have been able to reach in time to save him but hadn't. A brother that he never talked about, only Lew who had become the brother he'd lost had known the whole story. Just one of the things he felt guilty about it. He would not go to his grave today with Jules's death added to that list. "So what do you suggest we do?"
Jules looked around. "First I think we should move up to the front of the van. The leather seats won't be much warmer but it'll be better than this cold metal floor." She paused, not really wanting to make the suggestion she knew she should make but knowing it made absolute sense. She frowned but then changed her expression to neutral so Spike wouldn't get the wrong idea. "I also think we should share one seat. We're both losing body heat but maybe sitting close together would help us conserve what's left."
Spike nodded. He knew it was a good idea; basic survival training in the cold always suggested it, but usually people in those survival situations were both wearing more than underwear. "You sure?"
Jules nodded. "Yeah, we've got to do everything we can to keep warm until we figure out a better plan for getting out of this."
She didn't think twice about it. She'd had the same basic survival training Spike had had and knew all about sharing body heat. It was basic common sense and it wasn't like they were talking in the same context that Sam had meant that night her jeep had broken down. Nothing different from the times they had worked in tandem during hostage negotiation training and he'd been the hostage taker and she'd been the hostage.
Spike moved to the front of the van first, taking the colder spot next to the window. Jules followed and spooned in next to him, feeling like having her back to him was less intimate than if she were facing him. Immediately it felt a little warmer even though it was cold skin on top of cold skin. Not at all like the night Sam's warm body had pressed against her chilled body warming her against the cold she'd put herself through. Spike did his best to cover her bare skin as much as he possibly could without being intrusive.
"Better?" Even though it immediately changed to condensation when it left his body, his breath felt warm on the back of her neck.
She nodded. "How cold do you think it really is?"
She felt him shrug. "It was about minus twenty when we started the rescue attempt. I had to record it in the transcript before we started. I can't imagine it's gotten much warmer. In here, I'd say it's probably at least ten degrees warmer but that won't last long. At least it's not snowing."
She nodded. "If it starts to snow now that you've said that, I'm going to have to smack you later. Just saying."
Spike chuckled; if they both lost their sense of humor all would be lost. "Duly warned."
They were quiet for several minutes. The only sound in the van was the chattering of their teeth. Jules found herself pressing in closer to Spike's body looking for warmth that just wasn't there. Again she found herself wishing it was Sam she was nestled up against. He never seemed to feel the cold like she did and his body always felt warm and inviting when pressed against hers. She'd often told him during the winter months that he was better than any electric blanket at keeping her warm and toasty during the night. She couldn't imagine even the bitterly cold interior of the van would affect him the way it was her.
"Don't take this the wrong way but if I have to be stuck in a van with barely any clothes on huddled up next to someone for warmth, I'm glad it's you and not one of the guys. I just hope I don't have to be worried about a jealous boyfriend when this is all over." Spike broke the silence suddenly. Jules jumped slightly, having been so lost in her thoughts, she'd momentarily forgotten he was there. She thought about his statement. She couldn't very well tell him that she and Sam were dating again and it seemed wrong to outright lie.
"I don't think anyone is going to fault you for trying to keep us both warm. I don't think we'll escape a serious ribbing from the rest of the team however once we get out of this, but I could see where it could be worse if it were you and one of the other guys." Her whole body was shaking uncontrollably but the movement was doing nothing to warm her. A morbid thought crossed her mind; if they didn't survive this, would the team ever find their frozen remains?
"I'll never complain about being hot again." Spike promised. "Give me drills in the heat in full gear any day."
Jules chuckled. "You remember that summer not long after you joined the team when we thought we'd all collapse from heat exhaustion before Ed gave us a break?"
Spike groaned but laughed as well. "Yeah, I don't think I remember a hotter day in all the time I've been with SRU." It wasn't unusual to see numbers in the high thirties on the thermometer but usually only with the negative sign in front of it. Seeing them in the positive side with heat indexes closer to forty made for record breaking highs.
The heat had made them all pretty cranky and Ed more so than the rest. As the heat got worse, someone had started setting up random pranks; practically everyone had been a victim at one point or another. On this particularly hot day, Ed had been the victim of one of them and had demanded that the culprit step forward. When nobody would claim responsibility, he'd decided they all had had too much time on their hands. He'd ordered them to gear up and proceeded to run them through every drill on the training field that he could. He'd made sure they weren't in danger of really getting sick in the process but the entire team had been pretty miserable at the end of shift.
"I think it made him madder that you didn't even seem to break a sweat no matter how hot it was." Spike added, remembering the day. "Wasn't really fair for him to make you suffer through the drills though. Not like you had anything to do with the pranks, but you never complained. The rest of us were cursing Ed for all he was worth - when we could manage to breathe at all - but you just took it all with a smile."
"Wouldn't have been fair for me to complain." Jules admitted softly.
Spike twisted around so that he could actually see her face. Even at the end of that grueling shift, no one would take responsibility for pulling the stunt that had gotten them all in trouble. Lew, Wordy, and he had always suspected it was Rolie who had set it up because he was known for pulling pranks all the time. "Are you saying you were the one…?"
As he trailed off in an obvious question mark, Jules shrugged slightly, the move almost indistinguishable from the shaking she was doing from the cold. "I never meant for Ed to get caught up in it. My target was Rolie because I caught him setting the prank in my locker the day before. I never said anything because I knew everyone thought it was Rolie who had done it and figured it was the second best thing to actually getting him. I'd appreciate it if Ed never had to find out it was me though."
If the situation weren't as desperate as it was, Spike would have teased her with this new information. And if they somehow survived this predicament, he might do so later. Currently though, it had more of a deathbed confession ring to it that chilled him even more than the weather. Spike found he couldn't find much reason to be hopeful.
"Dublin wants us dead; he made that pretty clear." Spike mused and Jules didn't mind him talking since his breath was slightly warmer than anything else around her. "What I don't get is why he didn't just dump our bodies out here in the middle of nowhere. Why leave us the disabled van as a little bit of protection? Was he trying to give us a chance?"
Jules shook her head. "No, he's counting on us freezing to death. He wasn't being kind leaving us in the van; he was just making sure he prolonged our suffering."
"If we don't come up with a plan soon, he's going to get his wish." Spike's tone was grim.
This time Jules didn't even try to argue with him.