2.

It was the pain that woke Rick up. The throbbing in his head was enough to destroy any semblance of a thought he had. He couldn't even remember why his head hurt, let alone where he was. He was lying on a hay strewn floor, in some damp and dark building. The walls seemed to be made out of crude wooden frames with mud caked and dried around them.

He rolled over onto his back, and saw a hole in the thatched roof above him. He presumed it was his entrance to the building. It took him a moment to remember exactly how he came to fall through the roof. Then it hit him. The book, the spinning through the air, seeing the massacre below as he fell. The sounds of the slaughter could still be heard outside.

As he pondered what to do, a moaning from inside the haystack in front of him made him remember that there were two holes in the thatched roof, and what the moaning must mean. As his head cleared further, he recognized the deep voice of the mystery person hidden in the hay.

"Adam?" He asked.

"Yeah?" Came the mumbled reply.

"Are you okay?" Rick asked.

"My head feels like it has been cracked open, but other than that I seem fine." He said, as he began to crawl from the hay stack.

Rick unsteadily gained his feet, and was immediately assaulted with a sense of nausea. He teetered precariously, but the feeling faded, and he was able to keep from falling again.

"What the hell is going on?" Adam asked.

"I don't know, but we should find out. As I fell, I saw some things, and I hope I was wrong." Rick said as the pair surveyed their surroundings.

They appeared to be in some sort of barn, for there was hay all over the place. They were in the loft of the barn, and there was a door with an opening in the top, so they decided to go over and have a look.

Stepping on the rails that supported the barn, they got high enough to see out the opening at the top of the crude door. What they saw scared both of them. What Rick had seen on the way down was true. Soldiers both on foot, and horseback were all over the place, cutting down women and children as they tried in vain to flee. Some of the farmers were bearing arms, mostly stuff found around the farm like pitchforks, and axes. Some had gotten a hold of weapons from fallen soldiers. This sort of fighting led Rick to believe it was some sort of peasant uprising, and these soldiers were ordered to quell it.

"Jesus Christ!" Adam said.

"No kidding." Rick commented.

"They're burning every house on their way across the village you see!" Adam yelled. "We have to get out of here!" He practically screamed.

"No wait a second, we have some time, we need to think, we can't just go around blindly." Rick said, trying to calm down a frantic Adam.

"Screw that, I'm getting the hell out of here!" He yelled. He leapt down from the rail, and started looking for a way out.

"Adam calm down we have to think this through!" Rick screamed, leaping down from the rail as well, and getting in-between Adam and the door.

"Stay here and burn if you want, but I'm getting the hell out of here!" Adam yelled, he assumed a football stance. "Get out of my way, or I'll make you sorry." He growled, tensing up and getting ready to spring.

Rick knew he couldn't stop the bigger, stronger football playing boy, so he stepped aside. Adam sprang forward, and hit the door with all his might, sending it crashing back on it's feeble hinges. The hinges gave way, and the door fell to the ground. He quickly looked downward, then sprang out the door, falling to the ground.

Rick, dashed to the door to see what became of Adam, praying that the boy didn't break an ankle or something in the fall. All he saw however was a haystack at the bottom of the door, obviously waiting to be transferred to the loft. Adam must have fallen, and now lay hidden in the pile of soft hay.

Two men with long bows, and holding flaming arrows knocked and ready, saw Rick framed in the doorway, and decided to end his life. They had been trying to decided what building to set afire with their missiles, and seeing Rick framed in the doorway, looking to escape, decided on his.

They drew the arrows back, and took careful aim at Rick. He watched carefully, waiting for the precise second to dodge. They loosed the flaming missiles, and as soon as they did, he dove onto the ground. They would have pierced him through the middle, but instead went on to stick onto the thatched roof inside the barn. Immediately the flame began to spread to the dry straw that made up the roof, the building would go up in flames in mere minutes.

Rick regained his feet, and ran for the edge of the loft. Not caring how hard the landing was, he vaulted from the edge, and landed hard, on the dirt floor. He scraped his elbow as he slid forward, from the inertia of his fall, but nothing else was seriously hurt.

He quickly regained his feet, and sprinted to the barn door. It took all his strength, and the force of his body weight to get the heavy barn door to slide open.

Once open, he raced out of the burning building into the chaos that was beyond. It seems that the barn was located fairly close to the village square. People were all over the place, running away from the soldiers who were running wild in the streets, killing anyone who got in their path.

Suddenly the pounding of hoof beats announced the arrival of a mounted knight. He took one look upon Rick's outlandish appearance, and pointed his horseman's axe at him, and bellowed, "Sorcerer!" The brute of a man spurred his horse on, and began to charge at Rick, waving his axe menacingly. He obviously thought Rick a sorcerer because of his strange clothing.

Not needing any other hints, Rick turned and ran full tilt away from the man. There was one problem however. They only place to run, was across the open square. And the open ground would obviously favor the much faster horse. Still he had no choice, so he took off as fast as his legs would carry him.

There is something about a panic driven sprint, it must be the adrenalin from the knowledge that you are literally running for your life. Either way, a panicked sprint, is far faster than any normal sprint. This is probably the only thing that saved Rick as he sprinted away from the charging horse.

There was no way he could outrun the horse, and he knew it. He could hear the pounding hoof beats getting closer and closer behind him. He wasn't one of those stupid people who keep looking back. He knew that that would only slow him down. He concentrated everything he had into running, and looking for some other way to escape this knight.

Suddenly he saw it. Lying next to a foot soldier who had been bludgeoned by a rock, was a spear. If he could just get to the weapon, he would have a batter chance of defending himself, even if he was fighting a veteran knight with a deadly looking horseman's axe.

The knight continued to get closer and closer, and the spear just wasn't coming into reach fast enough. Rick feared he would be struck down before he could reach it.

He was now only mere steps away from the weapon, but the knight was closer. Rick wondered how he would die. Would the knight trample him beneath his horse's hooves, or would he cleave him with the axe? It seems the knight choose to cleave the boy, for he slowed his horse's pace slightly to better match that of the boy's, making it easier to strike.

That was his undoing, for it gave Rick the time he needed to reach the spear. He dove on the weapon just as the knight struck, causing his blow to miss. Rick grabbed the haft of the spear, and raised it so it struck the knight in the armored stomach as he continued his forward charge. Rick was dismayed to see that he had raised the wrong end, and the blunt end of the wooden haft was sticking into the man's stomach.

The knight's forward momentum, caused him to hit the spear, and had it been the steel point, it might have found some opening in the armor and penetrate, or it could have glanced off. To Rick's delight, it did something far better. The forward momentum pushed the point of the spear into the soft ground, but it could only go a certain distance before it stopped. The wooden haft was still sticking into the knight's stomach, and he was still traveling forward, or rather his horse was. For the spear stopped his moving forward, and flung him from his horse. He landed on the ground hard, the extra weight awarded to him by his armor made the fall a hard one, but a survivable one. He would be stunned, not incapacitated or killed.

Leaping to his feet, Rick ran after the disgruntled horse. When it's rider was thrown to the ground, it appeared that he had clung to the reins, and had wrenched the horse's head backwards, causing the horse to slow, but now it bucked and kicked in protest of it's rough treatment.

Rick didn't have time to calm the animal, he had to trust in his horsemanship skills. Learning how to ride and take care of horses was another skill that the administrators of the Prepsfield school decided was necessary for all young gentlemen and ladies in a civilized world.

Rick leapt onto the back of the bucking horse, and nudged it with his heels. It was a well disciplined horse, he would give it that, for as soon as he was upon it, it stopped bucking and obeyed his commands. He turned it, and began to head back towards the other side of the square, with the intent of finding the others.

As he passed, he grabbed the spear from where it still stuck in the ground. He would need some kind of weapon in the massacre that was occurring. However, while horsemanship was taught at Prepsfield, mounted combat was not. So he doubted he would be any good in a fight. His lack of any kind of armor would only add to his helplessness.

He put his heels to the horse, and took off across the village. Once he got out of the square, the buildings became fewer and farther between, as well as being only one story hovels, so mounted as he was, he could see across a large distance. He paused his progress for a moment to see if he could find anyone.

A scream floated across the village, and came to his ears. Immediately his head snapped to the source. It was no chore to recognize who screamed, or why. Clearly visible by her modern dress, Nicole was running flat out away from another mounted knight. Nicole was fast, but the same thing went for her as it did for Rick. The knight would ride her to the ground, it was only a matter of when.

Without hesitation, Rick put his heels to the horse's flanks, slapped it's rump with the haft of the spear, and gave a loud "Heeee-yaaaa!" The animal began to pound toward the other knight. Rick urged every ounce of speed out of it he could. His entire body became gripped with terror however, for he knew he had too much ground to cover, and the knight was gaining upon her too fast.

Nicole proved that she could keep her head under pressure however. As the knight drew close, she suddenly stopped, completely reversed direction, and began to run right at the knight. This was unexpected, and his misguided strike was easily ducked, the blade of the sword passing a great distance over her head. She began to run as fast as her legs would carry her, and the knight, mounted as he was, could not turn as quickly.

She managed to gain some distance on the knight, but as he wheeled his horse around, and began the chase again, Rick knew that it would not be enough time for him to get there.

Digging his heels into the horse again, he urged it onward. He was praying to every God he knew that he could get there in time.

"Come on!" He screamed, hoping to get the knight's attention onto himself, and away from Nicole. "Face me!" If the knight did indeed face him, then Rick was confidant he would die. He had no armor, and the only weapon he possessed, he had no clue how to use properly. All it would take would be one blow from the man's sword, and he would go down, bleeding and dying. Perhaps he could give Nicole enough time to flee, and perhaps he wouldn't. But he knew he had to try.

It seems fate favored both of them, because the knight remained steadfast in his quest to cut down Nicole, and Nicole proved herself to be cool and calm under pressure once again.

Just as the knight was in striking range, she suddenly cut sharply to the left. The reason for this was very simple. In the middle ages, everyone was right handed, left handedness did not exist. So the knight would be coming upon her, with her on his right, so he could strike easily. By cutting across to the left side, he now had to strike across his own body, and take care to avoid the horse's head. This delayed his strike momentarily, and gave Nicole enough time to reverse direction once again.

The knight reined in his horse, hoping to spin around rapidly, and once again give chase. The horse had other ideas however, and began to buck and rear in protest to its' repeated rough handling. This gave Nicole even more time to run away.

Finally the knight got his protesting horse under control, and gave chase once again. As before, Nicole put some distance between the two of them, but the knight quickly ate it up as he charged. This time he would be ready for both of her tricks, and she didn't have any more. It seemed all her efforts were in vain, and even though she had cheated death twice, she would be struck down.

The knight drew even with her, and raised his sword, preparing to strike downward, and split her skull. He heard the hoof beats, and suddenly he realized what they meant. He paused his strike to look to his right. His eyes went wide with shock, and he tried to pivot in the saddle, to bring his sword to bear. Too late. Rick had charged with the spear held like a lance, and had buried it in the knight's armpit. It was very convenient for the man to expose the single most vulnerable part of his armored body as he raised his arm to strike.

The large knight was thrown sideways off his horse from the severity of the charge, and the spooked animal took off at full tilt. The spear's haft snapped from the force of meeting such a solid object, and remained embedded in the knight's body.

The knight was by no means getting up. He wasn't necessarily dead from the blow, but given the medical procedures of the time, he would most likely succumb to his injuries and die. He was definitely out of this fight however, as he lay on the ground, bleeding.

Rick reined in his horse, and took a look at the useless shaft of wood he now clutched. He tossed it aside and held his hand out to Nicole.

"Get on!" He urged. She looked on him in surprise, as if she thought she would never see anyone she knew ever again. She snapped out of it quickly, and taking his hand, pulled herself up onto the horse behind him.

She leaned forward and planted a kiss on his cheek. "Thanks for the rescue." She spoke sweetly into his ear.

"Any time." He remarked with a smile. Even in the middle of a massacre, after being sent back in time, he still kept his sense of humor. "Now lets go and find the others." He said. She nodded, and he urged the horse onward.

"Where could they be?" She asked, as they began to search in vain across the teeming mass of running soldiers and fleeing people. For all they knew, Will and Jenny could both be hiding in different buildings, or they could even be dead by now.

"I have no idea," he replied, "but we have to keep looking."

They rode along. The fleeing people were getting fewer and fewer, so it got easier and easier to search for people, but no one came into sight. It seemed the soldiers were regrouping, probably to burn the village to the ground. This actually was desirable for the pair, for they had no one to fight, or hinder their searching.

They were just about to give up and head away from the village, and to the safety and solitude in the nearby forest, when they heard a voice across the now quiet village.

"Will, help me!" It cried. "Will, please help." It continued, more of a plea than a command. "Please somebody help!"

Both Rick and Nicole recognize the voice, let alone the fact that she had called Will by name. Rick wheeled the horse around towards the source of the call, and urged the horse on. He thundered towards the sound of the desperate call, hoping and praying he would not be too late.

When they came around the corner of a building, and saw the sight before them, they both had to gasp. Will sat on the ground, staring forward with blank eyes. A red mark in the shape of a hand was beginning to form on his face. Not ten feet away, lay Jenny, about to be worse than dead. She was being held to the ground by her throat by a common foot soldier. He was in the process of undoing his belt with his other hand, about to take part in the vile act of rape, and Will sat, motionless, capable of trying to stop him, but not moving a muscle, just staring ahead with blank eyes.

Seeing this sight sent Rick into a rage. Seeing Jenny's face turning blue, and seeing the man done with his own trousers, working on her pants, the garment was strange to him so he was having difficulty. Rick pounded the horse towards the beastly man, charging down upon him, not caring of the danger.

If the man were alone, Rick would have trampled him under the horse's hooves. But Jenny was too close, and he couldn't get the horse close enough without endangering her. Instead he leapt off the horse as it ran full tilt, and let the momentum carry him towards the man.

Rick collided with the man, knocking him away from Jenny, the pair both rolled across the ground, Rick going a tad bit farther.

"Little whelp." The man growled, as he regained his feet. Jenny was crawling away, but he ignored her. He instead grabbed his sword from where he had tossed it as he attacked Jenny.

Rick also regained his feet, but now stood weaponless against a man carrying a broad sword. He searched the ground in vain for any kind of weapon dropped by a slain soldier or fleeing peasant. There was nothing, he was weaponless, or so he thought.

"Rick!" Nicole yelled. She drew forth a sword from a sheath attached to the horse's saddle. In the excitement, Rick hadn't noticed the blade where it hung. She tossed him the blade, and then leapt off the horse. She rushed over to Jenny, and helped the shocked girl to her feet. The pair of them then ran over, and began to try and snap Will out of his trancelike daze.

Now Rick stood with a weapon in his hands. True the short sword felt heavy and clumsy in his hands. A fencing foil is very thin, and very light. One usually wields it with one hand, keeping most of the body out of harms way. The strikes are usually lightning fast. The broad sword the man held was used to cut through armor, and damage, even through chain mail. Rick had no armor, so he might be able to dodge the heavier, slower weapon. His short sword was used by mounted knights as they struck unarmored, or lightly armored foes, so when faced with this petty soldier clad only in leather padding, and then a simple chain mail overcoat, he actually had the advantage weapon wise. He could dodge the heavy broad sword, and then dash in and use the weapon meant for targeting unarmored foes, on the open sides of his scantily armored foe.

His opponent had one very large advantage however. He had training in his weapon, Rick had never touched a short sword in his life. He would have to rely on his speed, because most battles with swords of these kinds came down to brute strength, and he knew he could not beat this man in strength.

The man advanced, and swung, aiming at Rick's head. Rick ducked under the blow and slashed with his own blade. The man brought his sword back and blocked the blow. He was pretty quick for a common soldier using a heavy broad sword made for crushing armor.

The man leaned into it, and pushed Rick backwards as their swords remained together from the previous blow. Rick was quick to recover, and swung high, aiming to spilt the man's skull. The man was too quick for him however, and parried the blade, sending it into the ground, and away from himself.

Rick withdrew the blade, and danced away from his opponent. The man stepped forward and stabbed at Rick's stomach. Rick parried the blow aside, and slashed on the left, hoping to connect his sword with the unarmored side. The man was waiting for that however, and delivered a viscous slash that connected solidly with Rick's sword. Extending it as he was, his grip on it wasn't the best, and the sword was torn from his grip, and went flying away.

Rick began to back up now that he was weaponless, he was frantically searching the ground for anything he cold use to defend himself. A stick, a rock, anything. There was nothing. His opponent advanced on him menacingly. First he walked, matching Rick's pace. Then he began to run, Rick began to run faster as he walked backwards, but soon he stumbled and fell.

The man ran right up, and brought his sword above his head in a crushing blow. Rick rolled away at the last second and leapt to his feet. He ducked under a follow up slash that almost took his head off, and then began to sprint away towards where his sword had fallen.

If he could only find the blasted thing. He remembered it sticking out of the ground when it landed, but now it was no where in sight. He searched frantically for it as he ran, but to no avail. He was scared if he ran too far away the man would abandon him, and go back to the women and the dazed Will. With this in mind he turned to face the man who still advanced on him, his sword held out threateningly.

The man paused to take in the full ridiculousness of what faced him. Rick was standing his ground, his fist held up as if he was actually going to take the man on with no sword.

"Don't make me laugh." The man scoffed. He raised his sword up, and prepared to strike. Suddenly there was a deep thunking sound, and he stood stock still, frozen in place. Then he slumped to the ground unconscious. The source of his wound was apparent as he slumped down. Nicole stood there, Rick's sword clutched in her hands. She had clubbed him over the head with the flat of the blade. That was the reason why he couldn't find it, she had snatched it once it was torn from his grip.

Nicole dropped the sword, and slumped to the ground, shocked at what she had done. Nicole had never struck another human being ever before. And even though this man deserved to be run through, the act caused her knees to give out, and she slumped to the ground, trembling.

Rick ran over to her, and took her in his arms.

"Come on now, we can't go to pieces, we have to get out of here." She looked at him with scared eyes, but nodded. He scooped her up gently in his strong arms, and carried her back over to Jenny and Will.

"Are you okay." He asked Jenny, as he set Nicole down.

"Yes I'm fine." Jenny replied.

"What about him?" Rick asked, nodding to Will.

"He's still kinda out of it, but I think he can walk." Jenny said.

"We gotta get out of here. I think the soldiers are regrouping, probably to burn the town to the ground or something." Rick said.

"Where are we going to go?" Nicole asked.

"Into the forest I guess. Anywhere but here." Rick replied. "We need to find someplace to hide."

"Wait what about Adam, didn't he get pulled into the book too?" Jenny asked.

"Yes he did, but forget about him. It's is goddamn fault we're here, and he took off. I tried to get him to remain calm, but he took off and almost got me skewered by an arrow in the process." Rick said maliciously.

"We can't all fit on that horse." Jenny said breaking the awkward silence that followed, as she indicated Rick's horse he had stolen, where it grazed in the short cut grass.

"We'll need to find another one if possible." Rick said. "Maybe they'll be one in a barn somewhere."

They began to search the barns around the town square, looking for some kind of animal to ride. Eventually they found a lone horse. Probably the only animal in the whole village that hadn't been ridden away by the fleeing peasants.

Rick got back on his horse, with Nicole in front of him. She was still slightly in shock from her actions before, and he didn't want to risk her falling off if she sat behind him. Jenny mounted up, and Will sat behind her, holding on, the dazed look still on his face.

The quartet rode the pair of horses out of the barn, and immediately a shout reached their ears.

"Hey you!" It barked. A mounted knight was accosting them with a war hammer. "Stop right there!" He bellowed as they took off across the square, heading for the woods.

As seemed to be the pattern with their fleeing these knights, they couldn't out run him. Both of their horses were laden with two, so that would slow their progress. However this knight who pursued them was a monster of a man. He would be a heavy burden for his horse, so since both Nicole and Rick, and Jenny and Will are all small and thin, it would be a close race.

The pair of horses pounded across the square with the knight in hot pursuit. He kept brandishing his war hammer, and yelling insults at them. They ignored him and urged their horses on faster and faster.

The animals were beginning to tire however, and the knight pressed on relentlessly. His war hammer slashing and beating the air around him as he charged. As they drew near to the trees, he was mere feet behind them. He would have caught them in moments, but suddenly three men leapt out of the bushes.

Two of them clutched sharpened poles which they stuck into the ground in front of the horse. The animal ground to a halt, and reared, tossing the startled knight to the ground. The third man of the rebel peasants who clutched a stout club, ran up to the thrown knight and smashed his skull in with the club.

The three men ignored the strangely dressed children as they raced onward into the forest, and instead went to the fallen knight and began to loot him and his horse of all weapons and armor. Once finished, they once again vanished into the forest. This time the man with the club would have a real war hammer as a weapon, not just a broken tree limb.

After racing into the woods for several minutes, they decided not to ride their mounts to death, and adopted a more leisurely pace.

As fitting with the middle ages, and the land being a vast untapped, and unexplored thing, the wood stretched on for many miles. The quartet rode on in silence, not even knowing where they were riding, just trying to get far away from those that would do the harm. Their strange clothing would frighten people like it did the knights.

After riding for what seemed like hours, darkness began to settle upon the quiet forest. They quartet had not seen a single living soul since they entered the wood. It seemed even the birds and squirrels were avoiding these strangely dressed intruders.

"We should fine a sheltered place to camp." Rick said.

"Anyone know how we could make a fire?" Jenny asked.

"With what, we have no matches." Rick commented.

"There are ways to make fire without matches." Nicole said.

"Even if we could manage it, I don't think that's a good idea. The smoke and light might attract other people." Rick said.

"So what are we going to do?" Nicole asked.

"Just find a sheltered spot I guess." Rick said. They all dismounted, and began to search around in mute silence. Soon they came across a small clearing where a giant tree had been uprooted many years before. Grass had since filled in the spot left vacant by the trees roots, but the tree provided shelter from the wind. The clearing would provide grass for the horses to graze on, and a small stream nearby would give all of the beings, humans and horses, a source to drink from.

Will was still staring strait ahead, dazed. Jenny gently helped him down from the horse and led him over to a fallen log, and sat him down on it. She then walked up to Rick.

"We're going to go and get a drink at the stream." Jenny said, clutching Nicole's arm. "Can you try and talk to him, get some kind of response?" She asked.

"I'll do my best." Rick replied. The girls left, and Rick sat down beside Will. "Hey man, you alive in there?" He asked.

Will started strait ahead silently for several moments, then at long last he began to speak, still staring ahead blankly. "I just sat there. I just watched. He was about to do something terrible to her, but I couldn't get up. Every muscle was frozen in fear. I would have let it happen, if it wasn't for you, we would both probably be dead."

"Look man, you can't worry about that. First off, you didn't sit and do nothing. I can see the mark of a gauntlet on your face, and if I had to guess, I would say he was assaulting her, and you jumped him from behind. He hit you, and left you where you lay, stunned. So that's not sitting doing nothing. Also man, we've been thrown into a mess that none of us can comprehend. It's no big deal that you froze, we're in the freaking middle ages, and were thrown into the middle of a revolt."

"Still, I sat there and watched, and did nothing." Will persisted.

"Look man, you were scared, and that isn't a bad thing. If someone says they aren't afraid of anything, then they are lying, or stupid. Fear keeps us alive. Fear makes us cautious, and careful. And fear of loss will drive us to do great things. You just let the fear get the best of you. I trust you man, I know you. Next time your scared, you won't let the fear dominate you. You will control the fear." Rick said.

"How can you know that?" Will asked.

"I know man, trust me. Just don't go an do something stupid because of it." Rick said. "Just because for some strange reason you aren't scared to jump off that building doesn't mean you should."

"Bloody hell, how can you make me laugh in a situation like this?" Will said between laughing hysterically.

"Just lightening the mood."

With the sound of the laughter, the girls were alerted to the fact that Will was now back to normal. So Jenny appeared back in the clearing, and stood across from the boys, standing awkwardly in the silence.

"Right, well then I think I'm gonna go and have a drink." Rick said, getting up, stretching like he had been sitting for a while. He left Will and Jenny to be alone for a few minutes. She obviously wanted to talk to him.

Rick walked over to the stream and took a drink. The water was ice cold, and refreshing. He knew there would be no pollution in it, however he was worried about parasites, and things like minor diseases that his immune system wasn't used to dealing with, making them not so minor. However, dehydration would be even worse if they didn't drink.

Splashing water into his face, Rick tried to calm his shaken nerves. While he had been able to put on a show of confidence for everyone else, he was a mess of confusion and fear inside. That is about the only response that someone can have in a situation like this. He had been pulled through time and thrown into the middle ages, where he almost got killed several times. Also an additional weight fell onto his shoulders. When in times of trouble, people in general, turn to one they trust, one they view as a leader. Rick knew that the others would look to him to do something, somehow protect them and bring them home. Unfortunately, he had no idea how to do that, and he doesn't even feel he is worthy of such a responsibility.

The snap of a twig announced the arrival of someone. Rick tensed up, ready to jump into action if need be.

"I thought I had you figured out Rick MacDougal, but it seems you are full of surprises." Nicole's voice floating over to Rick's ears was like music.

Regaining his feet from where he lay on his stomach to drink from the stream, and wiping his face on his shirt, he turned to face Nicole.

For the first time in a long time, he really looked at her. Standing only as tall as his upper chest, her brown hair drawn back into a hasty pony tail that was falling out all over the place. Even the dirt and tear stains on her face only added to her beauty.

"What do you mean?" He asked, walking towards her.

"When I first met you, I took you as an arrogant pretty boy, so confident in your looks. Nothing but a cocky surfer or skateboarder, or whatever you do, who thinks he can get any girl he wants." She said, her eyes showing that she didn't mean offense by the comment.

"Wow, that hurts. It's tough to get any more blunt than that." Rick said, stopping his progress towards her.

"When it became common knowledge that you liked me, and everyone was talking about it, I couldn't stand it. I don't like being the center of attention, and with your extroverted personality, that was all I could ever be. Everyone would know everything we did, and I just couldn't stand that." She went on, not being able to meet his eyes as she finished.

"I'm sorry." Was all Rick could stammer out. There really wasn't much he could say or do to rectify that. "I didn't mean…" He began, but she cut him off gently.

"I know you didn't mean it, and please let me finish before you say anything." She raised her eyes to him once more and he nodded, not saying anything. "As I said, I thought I had you figured out." She paused, and Rick wanted to question what she meant by that, but remained quiet like he said he would.

"Then I saw what you did with Will. At first I just thought you were trying to put some of your arrogance into him. But I realized there is more to it than that. And then you saved my life, at great risk to your own. Most people would have given up when they saw the situation. I thought I had the measure of you then, but you surprised me even further. I know why you stopped and turned to face that man without a weapon. You could have just kept running, and he never would have been able to catch you. But you were worried that he would abandon you, and come back to us."

Still keeping his promise not to talk Rick merely nodded, dropping his eyes to the ground. When Nicole spoke once more, she had moved closer to him. "You were willing to give up your life, even if it accomplished nothing, you were still not going to run away. That is a rare quality to find in a guy you've avoided so strongly." With that last statement, she moved forward the last step so she was right on top of Rick, and wrapped her arms around his middle, and buried her face in his chest.

Taken aback, it took a moment for Rick to remember to wrap his arms around her. He cursed his stupidity under his breath, and Nicole chuckled. Both of them took comfort in the embrace and warmth of the other's body.

After a moment of just standing, there, Nicole moved so her chin was resting against his chest instead, so she could look up into his handsome face. "Since I don't hear any sounds of fighting coming from over there, I think it's okay for us to join them once more." Nicole said.

Reluctantly, Rick released her from his arms, and the two of them walked back to the clearing of the fallen tree. Nicole did however, grasp his arm like it was her only chance to survive a dangerous situation.

When they emerged into the clearing, they found Jenny and Will in a similar situation, however it was Jenny that was doing the comforting, and Will's head was resting in her lap. As Rick coughed lightly, Will sat upright, and slid away slightly, as if in embarrassment. Looking slightly hurt, Jenny regarded the arrival of Rick and Nicole, and her eyes took in Nicole clasping Rick's arm. Rick gave Will a look as if to say 'what are you doing man?' Will took the hint, and slid across the log to he was next to Jenny, and put his arm around her.

That seemed to satisfy her, somewhat. Nicole and Rick joined them on the fallen log.

"We should try and sleep." Rick said to break the uncomfortable silence.

Nicole shivered. "It's too cold to sleep."

"And the only blankets we have are the horse's saddle blankets, and they aren't big enough." Will added.

Sighing, Rick braced himself for the outrage his next comment would bring. "This isn't just a stupid guy's comment, it is true, and please don't freak out." Rick began, but before he could start again, Nicole jumped in.

"Your going to suggest, that the less cloths we wear when we snuggle together, the warmer we will be. So we should cover ourselves under the saddle blankets and our cloths and snuggle together for warmth." Nicole said in a rush. Rick could only stammer incoherent words in his shock of how she said exactly what he was going to say.

Sighing, Nicole began to pull her shirt over her head. "You are full of surprises Rick MacDougal." She said as the garment was fully pulled off, leaving her sitting there in her jeans and a white bra. "I would have expected you to have pointed out by now that we will be more covered in our underwear than some of those girls you were flirting with back in the hot tub."

"Couldn't have said it better myself." Rick finally broke out of his shock.

"Now are you going to sit there all night and let me shiver over here by myself, or are you going to loose that shirt and keep me warm?"

"Sorry." Rick stammered as he struggled to get his shirt off. Suddenly his limbs didn't seem to want to work properly. And he thought that being thrown into the middle ages was a surprise.

So that was the way the four of them slept. All stripped to their underwear, and lying under their cloths and the two smelly horse blankets. The two girls were in the middle, with the two boys on the outside. Nicole was pressed up against Rick a little bit more than Jenny, and she was lying with her head resting on Rick's arm. He didn't seem to mind, however. What little sleep the four of them managed to get was at least some semblance of comfortable.