Guardian Spirits (cont)

Roger leaned down, worried. ‘Didn’t you feel that?’

‘Hell… yes,’ I ground out.

‘Damn it…’ he muttered and took my hand, ‘don’t do that, Duo. Tell us…’

‘Just… don’t touch… my board… and we’ll be… fine,’ I told him.

I think he growled. ‘Be more careful,’ he called to his buddies. ‘We got a tough guy here.’

‘Nah…’ I panted. ‘I just… gotta… pee…’

His laugh rang loud and honest and I marked myself up another point.

The shifting of debris slowed some, but continued. Roger was looking around, and grunted, poking his hand into the sink. ‘This where you had the kid stashed?’

‘Yeah,’ I confirmed, not able to elaborate.

‘Damn good thinking,’ he praised. ‘You probably saved her life.’ He turned and looked around a little more. ‘No… you definitely saved her life.’

I grunted. I had kind of already figured that out. Just too damn bad the secret cave hadn’t been big enough for all three of us.

‘Duo?’ he said, a little loudly. ‘You still with us?’

‘Where… else?’ I muttered and he chuckled again. I could work with this kind of crowd. The last one had been a tough room.

That other voice, belonging to the guy I hadn’t even seen yet, clinically called out my condition as he uncovered things. I was apparently punctured like a damn pincushion and my freaking leg was broken. Broken bad enough he could see it. I hadn’t even noticed over the more… immediate concern.

‘Listen, kid…’ I almost laughed. I could just barely see the guy, and though he looked like he might be in his forties, I sure as hell wasn’t a kid any more.

‘I know…’ I cut him off. ‘Spikes… aren’t comin’ out... down here.’

It was his turn to grunt. ‘Tough guy and a smart guy… don’t think I can deal with much more out of you.’ There was a moment of silence. Behind me, I could feel a lot more air on my lower half and figured they just about had me uncovered.

‘We’re going to have to cut the beam…’ He took my hand.

‘And… it’s gonna hurt… like a… mother…’ I finished for him.

I didn’t win the chuckle this time. ‘Yeah,’ he confirmed and I could tell they were getting ready to start.

‘Just… do it… fast,’ I told him, turned my face to the floor and curled my good arm around my head.

‘Damn,’ I heard Roger mutter and then there was the sound of an engine roaring to life.

Shit, this was going to suck.

 +

We couldn’t hear much from down below, though once the three EMT’s had gone down, the guys did move us to where I could see. About all we were able to discern was the last man down, where he squatted on the steps holding the light.

It was a nightmare world down there. I marveled that Carrie had come out of that hellhole without so much as a splinter. Somehow, I knew it was thanks to Duo.

Below us, I heard someone laugh and I flinched. It was such a surreal thing to hear coming from there. Beside me, Quatre grinned.

‘Duo’s been trying to make jokes,’ he explained and then kind of looked sad again. ‘Glad he found someone to laugh for him. I couldn’t manage it.’

I looked at him, really looked, for the first time since he had come up out of there. I found, to my consternation, that he had sacrificed some skin off his back and chest to make it through that sliver of an entrance.

‘Thank you, Quatre,’ I murmured, not trusting my voice for any more than that. He smiled across at me and below us there was the sudden startling sound of a saw motor. We all jumped.

‘What the hell?’ I muttered, and saw Quatre look around at the others. His expression told me there was something I didn’t know yet. ‘What the hell?’ I repeated, making it a real question this time and not just idle wondering.

If there had not been the sound of the saw below us, a silence would have ensued that would have allowed a pin dropping to be heard. I turned on Wufei, because I never could yell at Quatre.

‘Tell me,’ I growled.

And when he did, I had to lunge away to throw up.

 

They did their best to hold it steady, but come on…there was just no way in hell. The vibration of that saw cutting through that beam was some of the worst pain I have ever endured. I would have screamed like a baby if I’d had the air for it. Roger was hovering over me, trying to protect me from the sawdust. They made the first cut and the guy with the saw had to maneuver around to get at the other side. Roger drew back and rubbed a hand against the back of my head. I was too fucking far gone to care. I felt him checking my pulse. He leaned close and yelled to me over the sound of the saw.

‘Duo? Talk to me, man.’

I was really sorry then about not having the damn breath to speak, because a half a dozen really good wisecracks flitted through my head that I truly wanted to deliver.

‘Just… fucking… do it,’ I croaked. I don’t see how in the hell he heard me, but he must have, because the saw was biting into the wood again. It was a hundred times worse this time with the beam only supported on one side.

Blackness finally swept up and took me away. I would have thanked the Gods if I could have.

 

The noise of the saw quit, and the man on the stairs scrambled up, calling for the gurney. Trowa pulled the thing over and passed it down. It was still an unbearable amount of time before movement finally showed that they were bringing him up. I moved forward to help pull the gurney out through the hole, Wufei let me go, moving to the other side to balance me.

I missed the gentle rubbing on my back, the firm hands reminding me to breathe.

Duo was face down on the gurney, the chunk of wood still attached, wrapped in padding trying to keep it steady. He… looked like a broken doll. His breath was coming in bubbly pants, there was blood smeared across his lips. His leg was broken, a compound fracture… I could see it. I could see blood from other things, but couldn’t tell what the hell all was wrong with him. My vision blurred again and I blinked furiously to clear my sight. Duo needed me.

Half out of the hole, his eyes suddenly blinked open and he was reaching out towards the EMT chief.

‘Don’t let… Carrie… see…’ The sound of his voice tore at me; so broken, so damn bubbly. It spoke of blood in the lungs. Quatre turned immediately away to find Carrie and her parents, making sure they kept her clear. Wufei pulled his jacket off and gently spread it over Duo’s legs.

They set him down once they were clear of the rubble. An oxygen mask went on, now that they weren’t running power tools, and the chief was starting an IV.

‘Duo?’ I called to him softly, in the moment I had before they started moving with him again. ‘Can you hear me?’

His eyes found me and he smiled as best he could through the mask.

‘Love… you,’ he said then, and I knew it for the goodbye it was.

‘You’re going to be all right,’ I told him, letting my hands stroke over his cheek and through his hair. ‘You hear me, damn it?’

He just looked at me, exhaustion and pain clear in his eyes, and I was as scared as I have ever been in my entire life. He was tired of fighting…he was ready to let go. I tried to imagine what it had been like for him down there, but really couldn’t.

‘Duo, please, don’t leave me…’ I breathed, that tether that held us together. That phrase that had been between us from the day our forced partnership had started to turn into something more. ‘Don’t leave me here alone.’

It was like watching someone struggle upright under a great weight. You could freaking see it in his eyes; that moment when he stopped thinking about how bad it was hurting and starting thinking about…me. He might not be able to hang on for himself, but by the Gods he would hang on for me. My eyes blurred again.

‘Damn,’ I heard the gruff voice of the squad chief beside me and he slapped my shoulder. ‘You’re with us.’

I blinked. It hadn’t occurred to me that they might not let me ride with Duo, but the man had already forgotten me.

‘Time to go, tough guy,’ he addressed Duo and we were lifting the gurney again.

‘Unca Duo!’ I heard behind us, and glanced to see Carrie standing between her parents waving frantically. Duo’s hand rose slightly for her, though I could see it cost him. I saw Duo’s mouth try to form words and I struggled to think of something Duo might say to her.

‘Uncle Duo says he’ll see you later… munchkin,’ I called and if the bright smile on her face hadn’t told me I’d done all right, the smile I found on Duo’s face when I looked back, would have.

 

And thank the Gods again; I stayed in that dark oblivion while they loaded me into the metal basket and began the climb out of that damn hellhole. My next fleeting kiss with consciousness found me half in and half out of that pile of rubble that used to be Misty’s house. I think it was the brush of the cool night air that brought me back. All I could think about was what I probably looked like.

‘Don’t let… Carrie… see…’ I panted out, trying to find Roger, my trusted savior. But it was Wufei and Quatre who came to the rescue, and I relaxed, trusting them to see to it that Carrie didn’t see anything that would give her nightmares. I wanted very badly for her not to have nightmares.

There were a few dizzying moments, while I was hauled almost upright to get the gurney through that entrance, and then they were setting me down.

Roger and his boys were doing things to me, I couldn’t have cared less what, because I finally heard Heero’s voice and he was there, squatting down beside me. ’Duo? Can you hear me?’

Gods, his voice was a solace. I had been wanting that voice for so long. His hands were touching me, gently stroking through my hair and over my face. I could feel his fingers trembling.

I was so tired. I hurt so bad. I just wanted to close my eyes and make the pain go away. I wanted to rest. Someone else was there to take care of Carrie now. I didn’t need to be on guard any more. I just needed to tell Heero, ‘Love… you.’

‘You’re going to be all right,’ he growled, his voice thick and hurting and scared. ‘You hear me, damn it?’

I couldn’t answer him. I didn’t know how. I honest to the Gods didn’t think that I was going to be all right. I just wanted to let it go.

‘Duo, please, don’t leave me…’ That thing we said to each other, that last ditch, you can not do this to me thing. ‘Don’t leave me here alone.’

Of course I couldn’t give up. What the hell had I been thinking? He was tied to me and I was tied to him, bound together with threads woven from the fiber of our souls. If I let go, he would let go with me. I couldn’t let that happen. I would bear whatever had to be borne for Heero’s sake.

It got hazy then, they lifted me again, and I was engulfed with another wave of that lightheadedness. I heard Carrie call me and I tried to answer her, but couldn’t. Over my head, Heero called to her, offering comfort on my behalf. He called her munchkin; something he never did. I knew he was trying to give her something that sounded like it had come from me. Some message to her little four-year-old ears from her favorite Unca Duo.

I smiled up at him; I would probably have told her that the Guardian spirits had finally come together… but munchkin would do.

 

I settled myself in an out of the way spot behind the driver’s seat, near Duo’s head, and dared anybody to try to deny me. They would have to shoot me to get me out of that damned ambulance; I wasn’t leaving him.

To my relief, no one mentioned it. I knew this was pretty much against regulations, but the chief just smiled at me, a big, friendly, amused grin that I found vaguely annoying.

The doors of the ambulance slammed shut and I lost sight of Wufei and the others. I knew they would follow us.

I took Duo’s right hand in my left and slid my other hand under his hair to rest gently curled against the back of his neck. It was about the only places I could see clearly that I could touch without hurting him.

The siren above us woke and began to wail, the ambulance easing into reverse. I could tell the driver was trying to be careful, but the movement brought a whimper from Duo’s lips anyway. I squeezed his hand.

The EMT chief had stayed in the back with us, the other two were in the front, ‘You’re Heero, right?’ the guy asked me as he shifted from where he was sitting to try and steady the board resting against Duo’s back.

I nodded, and he took hold of my right hand and slid it under the chunk of wood on the opposite side from where he was supporting it.

‘I’m Roger,’ he told me with that same strange grin. ‘You’re a shock absorber.’

I grunted with no little surprise, wanting to jerk my hand away, afraid I would hurt Duo.

‘It’ll hurt him worse if we hit a bump and that thing gets twisted,’ he said as though reading my mind, he looked at me a little appraisingly. ‘Want me to get Isaac to come back here?’

I felt Duo clutch at my hand, and I shook my head. ‘I’ve got it.’

The ambulance had gotten turned around, and we were starting to pick up speed.

‘You’re only here because you looked a little shocky,’ Roger said to me then and I blinked up at him. He only winked. ‘This is breaking every rule ever written; I could get in a lot of trouble.’

‘Then why…?’ I muttered, meeting his gaze and not understanding.

His face got serious. ‘I think you know why,’ he said softly, then the grin sprang back. ‘You’re supposed to be talking to tough guy, here.’ He leaned down, looking into Duo’s face. ‘You still with me, tough guy?’

‘Where… hell… else?’ murmured Duo and my heart ached in my chest listening to his labored voice through the mask.

I let go of his hand to stroke my fingertips gently across his face. Roger rather pointedly turned away, looking out the back window. I leaned down and gentle as a feather, kissed Duo’s temple, all I could really reach.

‘You go and die on me and I’ll kill you,’ I whispered close to his ear and was graced with a tiny snort of a laugh.

‘I’m… tryin’…’ he murmured.

‘Come on, love; we’ve been through worse,’ I tried to reassure him, was desperate to keep him talking, but was heartbroken listening to him struggle with the words.

He grunted softly, his fingers questing for mine. I took his hand again and grasped it tight.

‘You telling me this is worse than the Road Trip to Hell?’ I teased lightly, just trying to keep the flow of words coming.

‘Time… fades… things,’ he panted, then coughed, and I retrieved my hand long enough to wipe the blood from his lips.

‘Never thought I’d live to see you brought down by a little thing like having a house… fall on you.’ My voice broke and I had to stop, leaning over to rest my forehead against the side of his head.

‘S’ok,’ he told me and I almost lost it.

I clutched at his fingers and kissed the top of his head. ‘I’m here.’

‘Hurts,’ he breathed, voice for me and me alone.

It felt like I was dying inside. ‘I know, love. I know.’

I cast about, trying to find something that might distract him. ‘Duo? You know that vacation we were talking about?’

He hummed an affirmative and I sighed a little for him. ‘We may have to put it off. I sort of… damaged a Lear jet getting home.’ I felt guilty as hell doing it, but concern for me was the only thing I could think of that might turn his thoughts outward.

‘You… ok?’ He immediately tried to raise his head to look at me but I held him down.

‘We’re fine,’ I soothed. ‘But I’m probably going to have to pay for the damages.’

‘Didn’t… steal…?’ he began and I cut him off with a chuckle.

‘No, we just abused the hell out of the name of the Preventer’s organization.’ I caught a stiffening in Rogers’s spine, but I didn’t care; the dullness in Duo’s eyes was a little faded.

‘It took us both to get it back on the ground,’ I told him and truly felt like shit worrying him like this, but I had his attention.

‘Wind… sheers?’ the pilot in him asked.

‘Yes,’ I confirmed. ‘Tore up the front landing gear pretty good.’

‘Shouldn’t… have… fucking… been in… the air.’

Roger turned toward me and smiled, giving me a thumbs up sign, apparently pleased that I was doing the job he had let me in here to do.

‘What the hell was I supposed to do when you didn’t answer your cell phone?’ I mock growled at him.

‘Called… Trowa…?’ he grinned up at me and I chuckled for him.

‘We did that too.’

‘Did you… have to… call… the damn… thing so… often?’ he struggled through it, but the frustration was plain in his voice.

‘Sorry, love,’ I told him, chagrined. ‘It was all I had.’

‘Thought… I was… gonna… scream,’ he tried a glare but it just wasn’t up to par.

I stroked his hair and turned to look out the front. ‘We should be getting close,’ I ventured and heard Roger clear his throat. I turned back to see him looking at me, tired and vaguely unhappy.

‘The County hospital closed their emergency room an hour ago, they’re full,’ he told me softly. ‘We’re heading on over to St. Michaels.’

I thought I would truly break down and weep then; St. Michaels was another good twenty miles.

I took a deep breath and turned back to Duo. ‘So just what the hell is a secret cave?’ Carrie was the only other thing I could think of that might just keep his mind occupied.

 +

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