Guardian Spirits (cont)

+

Someone was calling me, gentle fingers were stroking my cheek and I came back to the pain thinking that Carrie hadn’t made it out.

‘Munchkin?’ I asked, breath a near impossibility. ‘What…?’

‘It’s Quatre,’ and I opened my eyes to see his sweet, welcome face in the glow of a flashlight.

‘Where…’ I tried, sucking air for all I was worth. Where was Heero?

‘Being small sometimes has its advantages,’ he smiled for me, keeping his voice light. ‘I was the only one who could fit through the hole.’

‘Carrie?’ I wanted to know.

‘She’s fine. She’s with her parents, they just got here.’

I had to cough then and almost left him, struggling back to the sound of his worried voice. ‘Duo? Can you give me a status?’

I smiled, with the feel of blood on my lips; how easily we all fell back on old habits. In my head I could here Heero, screaming over the sound of gunfire, ‘Status!’

‘Soldier down.’ I tried to chuckle for him and couldn’t.

I saw him looking at the pile of crap on my back and I realized he was considering trying to dig me out.

‘No!’ I cried, making myself cough until the world went dizzily to gray at the edges. He waited for me, understanding that there was something important he didn’t know. When I finally had breath again, I managed, ‘impaled.’ His breath hissed through his teeth, and he squirmed around until he finally found it. I felt like apologizing for not finding a gentler word for it.

‘Shit,’ he muttered, and just in case I hadn’t heard the first time, he said it again, ‘Shit!’

‘S’ok,’ I wheezed out. ‘Just… don’t touch. Kinda… hurts….’

I thought he was going to cry. I do my damnedest to crack jokes in these kinds of situations and somehow I can’t ever get the laugh. I’ll never understand it.

‘Duo,’ he told me then, ‘Wufei called for a rescue unit, you just have to hang on a little longer. As soon as they can get the entrance opened up, we’ll get you out of here.’

He had hold of my hand, and I squeezed it in acknowledgment.

‘How’s… Heero…?’ I asked then, and he chuckled softly.

‘About to have a cow. A really big cow.’

I would have snorted if I could have managed it; all I could do was grin.

‘Duo,’ he asked me then, voice gone all serious. ‘Do you think you could talk to him? I have my cell phone… Trowa’s waiting for us.’

‘Gods… Quatre… please?’ I could have wept.

He smiled at me warmly and let his fingers stroke my cheek for a minute before he reached for the phone.

+

There was nothing from down there for the longest time and it was all I could do not to fall on the beam and try to gnaw my way through it. I was vaguely aware of Trowa moving away from us. In the far reaches of the back of my mind, I found it odd. But Wufei continued to rub those gentle circles on my shoulder, murmuring encouragements every now and again and I just kept myself focused on the spot where Quatre had disappeared.

‘Heero?’ Trowa was back, kneeling beside me and there was something strange in his eyes.

I didn’t bother with the what, just met his gaze and waited.

‘Quatre’s found him. He’s alive, but he’s hurt pretty bad.’

I realized that he was holding his phone in his hands. I also realized that I hadn’t heard it ring; he had turned it to vibrate so that had the news been bad, I wouldn’t have heard it ringing. He handed it to me now and I raised it to my ear. Faintly, sounding weak and far away, I heard my lover call my name.

+

I waited impatiently while Quatre talked to Trowa in low tones, explaining in detail my situation and condition. Then I had to wait through a silence while, I’m sure, Trowa approached Heero. Finally, Quatre was holding the phone to the side of my face and I whispered, ‘Heero…?’

There was the most abysmal, long silence, and then his trembling voice, full of fear and trying to hide it. ‘Duo… love?’

All I could manage was his name again, ‘Heero.’ A sigh. A declaration. A prayer. He’d come for me.

‘Are you…’ He caught himself; he’d been told I wasn’t all right, I’m sure. ‘How… I love you.’

I smiled, and felt something unwind from around my heart. ‘Love… you,’ I told him.

‘Don’t you dare fucking die on me, damn it,’ he suddenly burst out and I felt all the tension and frustration he had been dealing with for the last several hours. I thought about what he had to have gone through to have gotten here as fast as he had.

‘Didn’t… hijack… shuttle… did you?’ I panted out and over the line I heard his soft moan. Damn, I just couldn’t get a laugh tonight.

I was taken with another coughing fit, and Quatre took the phone away from me. I almost reached for it.

‘Let him rest a minute, Heero,’ I heard him say, and then, voice a little fearful, ‘Is the emergency crew here yet?’

The world was fading at the edges and I wanted to tell him that I thought it was too late, but I didn’t have the breath.

+

His voice sounded so…frail. His breathing was harsh and labored. Had I not already been on the ground, I think I would have fallen. I could not deal with not being able to reach him. I wanted him out of there. I wanted him safe. I wanted him in my arms.

‘Don’t you dare fucking die on me, damn it,’ I hissed before I could stop it, and had to choke back on the sudden bubble of a sob. It was quiet for a bit and then his voice came again, and how in the hell he managed the teasing tone, I’ll never know.

‘Didn’t… hijack… shuttle… did you?’

It almost undid me. Then I heard the harsh sound of coughing and suddenly it was Quatre on the line again.

He tried to reassure me, but then he negated that reassurance by asking about the emergency squad. I could tell from his voice that we really needed them. He must have taken the phone away from his face, because his voice became distant, but I could still hear him softly calling Duo’s name.

My partner, he of the exceptional hearing, took the phone away from me and wrapped me close in his arms there on the ground.

The world around me was in sharp focus. I heard every noise. I felt every bit of debris under me. The beam in front of my eyes was sharp and detailed in my sight. I could smell the faint traces of distant smoke. Could almost taste the bitter tang of it in the back of my throat. I was strung as tight as if for battle, but there was nothing I could do and it was eating me alive from the inside out.

I heard the sound of sirens in the middle distance, and I noted Trowa and Justin run to wave them down, they were still some blocks away. I heard Wufei talking softly to Quatre for a few moments and then he slipped the phone into his pocket. Behind me, I heard Misty arguing with Carrie over something, and Carrie suddenly getting a firm tone, telling her mother in no uncertain terms that, ‘I gots a mission!’

Perhaps it was the word ‘mission’ that got my attention. It was such an odd thing for a four year old to say. She suddenly slipped free of her mother who was also hanging onto the wiggling Bernie.

She ran right to me, before anyone could stop her, though I saw both Misty and Wufei look somewhat horrified.

She came and squatted down in front of me, peering intently at my face, and I wiped half-heartedly at my eyes. Wufei loosed his hold on me a little so that I could turn towards her. I didn’t deal with her all that often. Though she was supposed to be my Godchild as much as Duo’s, I just wasn’t all that comfortable around small children. To tell you the truth, I’d always thought she was a little afraid of me. When I reflected on it, I realized she had just been through what should have been the single most traumatic event in her life. I didn’t know much about children, but I couldn’t understand why she wasn’t crying hysterically.

‘Why aren’t you scared?’ I blurted, shocking myself with my own insensitivity.

But she just grinned at me. ‘Silly Unca Heero,’ she scolded me. ‘Unca Duo said to not be scared.’

I almost laughed. Well, that certainly explained it; everything in the world was all right if Uncle Duo said so.

She looked at me closer. ‘You cryin’, Unca Heero?’

Misty had moved up behind her and I heard her gasp.

I thought about lying, but there really didn’t seem to be much point. ‘A little,’ I told her and she nodded, reaching to take something from around her neck.

Before I quite knew what she was doing, she had thrown her arms around my neck and hugged me hard. ‘That’s from Unca Duo,’ she proclaimed, and if that alone hadn’t been enough to break me, she handed me Duo’s cross.

‘Unca Duo gave it to me to keeps me safe until I gots out of the cave.’

I blinked at it, where it lay in my hand. That small, familiar thing that was as much a part of my Duo as his silken hair and his infectious grin.

‘He said if Unca Heero cried I was s’pposed to give it to him.’ She addressed that last to Wufei, perhaps because I wasn’t listening all that closely any more.

I felt Wufei take it, undo the clasp and slip it around my neck. When it was fastened securely, he tucked it inside my shirt. It still felt warm from Carrie wearing it, and I closed my eyes, pretending it was still warm from Duo’s skin. He will amaze me until the day I die. Trapped down there in the dark, with a freaking house on top of him, and he had thought to try to find a way to comfort me.

Over my head, Wufei said softly to Carrie, ‘Mission accomplished.’ And she bent to give me a last kiss on the cheek before letting her mother lead her away.

I let Wufei’s arms envelop me again.

+

I came back again to the soft sound of Quatre calling my name, voice tinged with fear.

‘S’ok,’ I managed for him, and finding his hand still clutching mine, I squeezed as well as I could.

‘Duo,’ he was telling me. ‘You just have to hang on a little longer. They’re here. It won’t be long now.’

I was swirled back through time to a dark night on the road and Quatre’s voice calling us home over a stolen radio. I smiled.

‘Ok… Mr.… Hawk…’

I actually got a tiny smile and I blinked to realize I could see it. He was lying on the ground, curled beside me so he was down on my level where I could see him. I smiled in return.

‘That’s right, Mr. Black,’ he told me. ‘You’ve always been the toughest of us. You’ve been through worse than this. Everything’s going to be all right.’

His words warmed me and lulled me, and I clung to his fingers and listened to his murmured reassurances. I just hoped that somewhere up there, somebody was holding Heero’s hand as well.

+

The ambulance was finally there, and Trowa let Justin lead them up to the hole, running ahead and reclaiming his cell phone from Wufei. He punched the button for Quatre and handed it over to the EMT as soon as the group of them strode up. Wufei was pulling me to my feet, moving me out of the way. I went; my eyes watching as the other two men knelt beside that dark hole in the ground with power tools. Finally… finally… finally…

The chief was conferring with Quatre, and they were making decisions based on what he was saying. A man was sent back to the truck for something. The huge circular saw was started up. My hands were clenched at my side. Finally…finally…finally…

Wufei was still beside me, his hands on my shoulders. I saw Trowa look our way, as though getting some signal from Wufei. He came toward us and I found myself braced between them.

‘Heero,’ Wufei was saying, ‘we have to stay out of the way.’

They thought I was going to try to get down that hole as soon as the obstruction was cleared away. They were probably right. All bets were pretty much off as to what I might or might not do.

‘He may want you down there, Heero,’ Trowa said softly, ‘but he needs them.’

‘I know,’ I told them, just so they knew I was still in there somewhere. Even though my eyes never left the man with the screaming saw. Even though my body was tensing for the struggle without any real conscious effort on my part.

Their hands tightened as the first cut was finished, and the second was begun.

Finally… finally… finally…

+

Quatre’s phone rang and he sat up to answer it, but he kept his hand on mine.

He was telling someone we didn’t know in clipped tones just what equipment they needed down here. Explaining about the spikes rammed through my chest. I heard the word shock. I heard the words blood loss. I heard the word hurry.

I wanted to ask him to put Heero on for a minute. I wanted to say goodbye… just in case.

But over our heads somewhere, there was the sudden roar of power equipment. I couldn’t have spoken loud enough for him to hear me over that anyway.

+

Heero…’ Wufei was warning me, telling me he didn’t want a wrestling match here in the middle of the rubble. Telling me there was no way in the seven hells they were going to let me down there. And I knew I couldn’t go. Knew I had to wait a little longer.

‘I know,’ I snarled as I watched the chunk of beam removed and the opening was finally clear. I didn’t lunge for it. I didn’t make them force me back. But my eyes were getting gritty from not blinking as I stared at it. As though I could pull Duo out of there with my thoughts. I’m here. I’m here. Hang on, love; just hang on.

The chief disappeared into that dark maw, carrying a spotlight, and there was the strange glow of light from underground after that. Shining crazily up through the rubble. There was nothing for a bit. Then the radio in the hand of the man waiting by the entrance crackled to life. I jumped.

He stretched a hand down after a moment and helped Quatre out of the hole. Then he gathered his equipment and followed his chief.

I realized I was leaning toward the hole and made myself stop.

+

Quatre was hunched protectively over me, even though we seemed to be some distance from where the work was being done. He still had hold of my hand, and when the noise stopped he rubbed the back of my knuckles with his thumb. ‘Still with me, Duo?’

I hummed an affirmative and listened to the sounds of heavy boots coming down the steps. With a final squeeze, Quatre rose to guide the man down the stairs.

‘Don’t step on any of that!’ he called, and I could have kissed him. Didn’t want anybody doing that again, thank you very much, once was more than enough.

He guided the man around until he was standing in that one small clear spot in front of the sink. I wanted to look up, but couldn’t raise my head. They conversed, words quick and terse. I couldn’t think past the pain to really focus on it.

Then Quatre squatted back down beside me and stroked my cheek by way of farewell. ‘See you top side, kittling.’

‘Quatre… tell… Heero…’ I wanted so badly to be able to talk, I wanted the air to tell Quatre all the things I needed to say to Heero, but he ran his thumb gently across my lips and silenced me.

‘You’ll tell him yourself, damnit!’ and then he was gone. I felt a pang of loss, but the EMT guy was sitting down in the spot he had just vacated.

‘So,’ he said even as his fingers were feeling around the parts of me he could get to, ‘don’t tell me I have to call you kittling?’ His voice was gruff, but not unkind.

‘I’d rather… you didn’t…’ I panted. ‘Name’s… Duo…’

He chuckled lightly; I could feel him taking my pulse. ‘Duo then,’ he confirmed, and I wanted to tell him he didn’t need to bother with the banter, but it didn’t seem to be worth the effort.

I heard someone else coming down the stairs, lugging heavy equipment.

‘You?’ I gasped out, and it took him a minute.

‘Roger; my name’s Roger.’ He was stroking his fingers over my head, looking for wounds I guess.

‘Roger… please… don’t let… them… step on… my board.’

I got a laugh, my first real one all night. Other than from Carrie, but I didn’t count them. It felt like a small triumph.

‘Sure thing, Duo,’ I could hear him smiling.

He got down on the floor then, and flashed a small pin light in my eyes. ‘Heero, huh? Asian looking guy?’

‘Yeah…’ I gasped, blinking at the sudden light, unsure where this was leading, but all I got was a chuckle.

‘That would explain why your other two buddies had him in a head lock,’ he told me wryly and all I could do was grin. I couldn’t even manage a decent blush.

Then he was gone from my side, orders were being issued and equipment was being passed around. I think there were three of them down here, but one of them had to stay on the stairs and hold the light because there just wasn’t room for all of us.

Roger came back and I was a little surprised at the relief that flooded through me. Damn… we’d bonded already.

They were trying to work my legs free, shifting wreckage away from me in little increments.

Something pulled out of my leg and I hissed, but let it go. It was going to have to come out sooner or later anyway. There was an exclamation from one of the other guys and an exchange of words.

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