Chapter Eighteen: Danger's Path Taketh Away
Reggy scrolled down the page on the computer screen in front of him, occasionally glancing around the bustling bureau to check for feds. He was supposed to be writing up reports, but was in fact searching through the police database for any useful information about the people on his list of possible suspects. It was slow-going, trawling through hundreds of different documents, and so far he'd come up with very little. The confidence he'd felt only a few days ago had long since disappeared.
There wasn't any detailed information about why the officers had left the service, whether it was willingly or unwillingly, and he still couldn't connect any of them to active police officers within the city. No wonder the feds were so eager to pin the blame on Kenney; they probably had very little else to show for all of their investigative work.
He finished the page he was reading and huffed in frustration, running a hand through his already messy hair. An hour and a half of work for nothing, and he still had his reports to do before he could clock off. He eyed the stack of paperwork wearily, then glanced at his watch. 4.47pm. There was no way on earth that he was going to finish them in thirteen minutes. He let out a small snort at the irony of it being thirteen.
Greg looked up from his report questioningly, his pen pausing mid-sentence. “What's funny, man?”
Reggy looked across at him and leans back in his chair, rubbing his eyes which were strained from staring at the screen for too long. “My life, Greg,” he replied, without a hint of amusement in his voice. “Fucking hilarious.”
“Geez, you have had a bad day,” Greg smirked, getting up to grab a coffee from the machine and placing it in front of Reggy. “Don't let Kriss hear you talking like that.”
Reggy dropped his hands from his face and picked up the steaming cup. “He's the only thing keeping me sane at the moment, believe me.”
Greg sat back down and watched thoughtfully as Reggy pull the unfinished reports towards him. “I know what you need, Reggy.”
“Besides sleep?” Reggy asked distractedly, as he looked for a working pen.
Greg threw him one of his pens and grinned. “A good night out. Especially since our last one was cut short prematurely.”
Reggy glanced up with a grimace. “Yeah, that Halloween night was horrific for all the wrong reasons. How's Piper doing now?”
“She's all good,” Greg nodded. “Going stir crazy of course, but her mom's been a godsend. I dread to think what Piper would have been like if she'd been alone every day.” He paused. “She actually wanted me to ask if you and Kriss would come over for dinner, once she's up and about again of course.”
“Are you kidding?” Reggy grinned, his face lighting up. “I can't speak for Kriss but, if Piper's cooking, I'm there.”
Greg snorted, pleased to see Reggy looking a little happier. “I thought you would be.”
Reggy shrugged, beginning to write the first report. “The way to a man's heart is through his stomach. Luckily, Kriss is great in the kitchen.”
“And every other room in the apartment I'll bet,” Greg smirked, unable to resist.
Reggy's mind immediately went back to the memory of Kriss bent over the kitchen counter, and he had to force it away as he shifted in his seat slightly. “If you're fishing for a detailed account of our sex-life, Greg,” he replied, matter-of-factly, “you only need to ask. Last night, for instance, Kriss sat on my-”
“Enough,” Greg interrupted loudly, holding his hands up and looking repulsed. “I really don't want to know.”
Reggy smiled wickedly, inwardly rejoicing in his victory. “I was only going to say lap. What did you think I meant?”
Greg rolled his eyes. “Getting back to the original topic,” he said exasperatedly, “are you up for a night out with the guys?”
“Absolutely,” Reggy replied, going back to his work. “I'm sure Kip and Kenney would appreciate it too.”
Greg looked pleased as shuffled his reports into a neat pile. “Great. We'll make it Saturday as usual.”
“What's Saturday?” Kip asked in passing, his young partner in tow.
“Boy's night out, Kip,” Greg grinned, spinning around in his chair. “Spread the word.”
“Really?” Kip asked, his eyes getting a little of their old spark back. “Thank God. I could do with a good night on the town. I'll call Kenney and let him know.”
“Excellent,” Greg said, in a good imitation of Mr Burns which made Reggy snort. “Right, that's me done for the day.”
“Alright for some,” Reggy scowled, placing a report to one side. “One down, eighteen to go.”
Greg stood up to put his jacket on. “You could just come in a little early tomorrow to finish them,” he suggested. “Oh, look; your knight in shining armor has arrived to whisk you away from your mountain of paperwork.”
Reggy didn't even get a chance to turn around before a familiar pair of hands settled comfortably on his shoulders. He looked up into the smiling face of his lover and felt the fog of his bad mood lift.
“Are you ready for me to whisk you away on my noble steed?” Kriss chuckled, leaning down for a kiss.
“More than ready,” Reggy sighed, deciding to follow Greg's advice and finish up in the morning. He noticed that Brad was doing a good job of distracting Kip from finishing his work too.
“Boys night out this Saturday, Kriss,” Greg said cheerily. “Are you in?”
“Naturally,” Kriss replied with a grin. “Assuming I don't get called into work, that is. A helluva lot of paramedics have been calling in sick with this flu that's going around. We're all gonna have to start doing double-shifts at this rate.”
“I bet you make the worst patients too,” Reggy snorted.
“No, that's doctors,” Kriss retorted, “and you're hardly one to talk, mister.”
“That was different.”
“I thought it might be.”
“As thrilling as this is to watch,” Greg smirked, “I've gotta get back to Piper.”
“Oh, how is she?” Kriss asked interestedly, automatically starting to massage Reggy's shoulders gently.
“She's doing really well,” Greg smiled, “should be up and about in no time. She wants you and Reggy to come to dinner soon as a thank you.”
Kriss smiled warmly. “Tell her no thanks necessary, but dinner sounds great.”
“I surely will. I'll also tell her to get extra supplies in for Reggy.
Reggy's indignant reply was drowned out by raised voices across the room and they all looked towards the source. There was a haggard-looking man arguing quite forcibly with Jan, over by her desk, and it had drawn the attention of most of the officers nearby, even drawing Taliesin out of his office.
“What the hell is going on out here?” Taliesin boomed, walking towards the pair. “Can I help you, sir?”
The man looked at him with an expression of utmost hostility. “No, you can't; not anymore.”
As he spoke, he unzipped his coat to reveal a mass of wires and C4 strapped securely to his chest. Reggy realized, with horror, that they didn't need to look for the bomber anymore; the bomber had come to them.
“Holy Fuck,” Greg exclaimed, as they all stared transfixed at the bomber's chest.
Reggy broke out of his shocked state and stood up slowly, his heart racing in his chest. “Get outta here Kriss.” he whispered, keeping his eyes fixed on the crazed man before them.
“I'm not going anywhere without you,” Kriss replied firmly from beside him, keeping his voice quiet.
Reggy was about to argue when the matter was taken out of his hands.
The bomber now had the full attention of every single person within the bureau, and there were a few panicked cries as people realized the seriousness of the situation. Reggy glanced at Greg, Brad, and Kip, seeing his own fear reflected in their eyes.
Taliesin, who had been momentarily lost for words, stepped towards the bomber with his hands up. “Why don't we talk about this, buddy.”
“NO.” the bomber shouted, his face creased in fury. “It's too late for that, and if you take another step I'll make sure it's your last.”
Taliesin froze and glanced at Jan, who was looking torn. “Please, don't do this,” she begged, her eyes filling with tears. “Don't hurt anyone else.”
The bomber turned on her with a tortured expression. “They made me do it, honey. It's them who are to blame, not me. I have to make them pay.”
“Dad?” Taliesin cut in, looking shocked. “He's your father?”
Jan nodded, unable to meet Taliesin's eyes.
The realization of the traitor's true identity hit Reggy like a punch in the gut. She'd been right under their noses all along, perfectly placed and never suspected. She didn't need to be a police officer; as the chief's secretary, she had access to everything and had probably even listened in on his confidential calls to the feds.
One look at Taliesin's face told Reggy that he was dangerously close to losing his temper. “It was you, all along.”
“I didn't know, at first,” she replied desperately, her eyes pleading for a little understanding. “Since I found out, I've been trying to stop him; I swear. I just wanted to give him a little more time.”
“More time to kill innocent people?” Taliesin spat, and she shrank back from him.
“Enough,” the bomber interrupted. “No one could have stopped me, even the feds. So fucking predictable, all of you.” He looked back at his daughter sternly. “I told you to get out of here. Now go.”
“Dad!? she whispered.
Reggy watched her grab her bag and make her way to the exit, keeping her head down to avoid the expressions of shock and betrayal on everyone's faces. As she passed by, Reggy wanted to shake her for what she'd done to Kenney but forced himself to remain rigidly still. He was thankful that Kenney wasn't here; at least one of them was safe.
“Listen to your daughter,” Taliesin said calmly. “You don't wanna do this.”
The bomber laughed bitterly. “On the contrary, chief; this is exactly what I want to do.”
“Why?” Reggy asked loudly, his expression fierce, and the bomber turned to look at him. “Why the hell would you betray your fellow officers?”
“They betrayed me,” the bomber shouted angrily, the veins in his neck bulging. “I gave the best years of my life to this job, and what did I get in return?” He paused and took several steps forward, the people nearest him drawing back in fear. “I'll tell you what. I got shafted; stabbed in the back and kicked out for something I didn't do. Now you're gonna pay; all of you.”
Now he had moved closer, Reggy was able to get a better look at the bomber's face and recognized him from his list of suspects. The years had certainly not been kind to him; his face was lined and drawn, his hair gray, and he had the look in his eyes of someone who had hit rock bottom and stayed there.
“Okay,” Reggy said, lowering his voice, “you're pissed. I get that. But what about all the innocent civilians in here? Can you let them go?”
“Yeah, man,” Greg piped up from his left. “They didn't do anything to you.”
“They're just as guilty as the rest of you,” the bomber scoffed. “Wrapped up in their own pointless little lives and not giving a damn about anybody else. No one leaves.”
“What about the paramedics?” Kip asked boldly, ignoring the outraged look from Brad and the frown from Kriss. “It's their job to help others.”
“I'm not leaving you, Kip,” Brad hissed.
“I'm trying to get you and Kriss to safety,” Kip replied under his breath.
“No one leaves,” the bomber repeated loudly.
“I read your profile,” Reggy said quietly, drawing the bomber's attention back to him. “You were one of the finest officer's in the force; decorated for bravery on several occasions.” He paused and shook his head. “How did it come to this?”
The bomber's face screwed up in a mixture of anger and torment. “I was tossed aside and left with nothing, NOTHING; all on the word of some punk who screamed police brutality. They didn't care about my years of dedicated service; it's all about pleasing the fucking media. One minute we're heroes, and the next we're scum.”
Reggy could certainly relate to that, and suddenly realized that he could be staring at a future version of himself if he hadn't met Kriss. A life empty except for the job, and an anger that had all but consumed him. He reached for Kriss's hand and curled his fingers around it tightly, feeling the pressure returned.
“What about your family?” he asked softly, noticing that Taliesin was slowly inching closer to the bomber's position from behind.
The bomber looked at Reggy appraising for a moment, then smiled wryly. “You're trying to stall for time, officer. Hoping reinforcements will arrive to save the day? Well I'm sorry to disappoint you, but they aren't gonna get here in time.” He took several steps backwards and held out his hand, in which the detonator was clasped. “I just wanted you all to know who had beaten you, before I destroy the heart of the Harris PD.”
“Wait,” Reggy said desperately, scrabbling to come up with some way to get through to him. “Think about your daughter. She needs her father.”
The bomber looked almost at peace as he answered. “She's better off without me.”
There was a split-second when Reggy realized that he wasn't bluffing, and he just had time to turn and shout, “Everybody down,” before he heard the most deafening roar. His hand was ripped from Kriss's and suddenly he was flying through the air by some incredible unseen force, unable to get his bearings as everything around him crumbled and screams filled the air. He hit something solid and felt a flash of blinding pain, then nothing.
Reggy opened his eyes and coughed as he tried to draw a breath, wincing as the movement aggravated his monumental headache. He raised his hand to gently check the back of his head for injury, feeling the stickiness of congealed blood under his fingertips. Looking around in the dusty gloom, he was momentarily confused by the mountain of debris that surrounded him before events came rushing back.
“Kriss?” he croaked, the dust choking his desperate call. He coughed in an attempt to clear his throat before trying again; managing to call a little louder. “Kriss?”
His voice sounded odd in the enclosed space, echoing slightly, and he listened intently for any response over the sound of his own heart hammering loudly. The rubble around him was creaking and groaning as it settled, occasionally crashing as a part buckled under the strain, making it very difficult to hear anyone's call. The cavity that he was in was only around six foot square; the small amount of ceiling held up by a cracked support column, which is what he'd been thrown against by the blast.
He shifted position and was thankful to find that, while his body felt like it had been through a tornado, nothing seemed to be broken. Deciding to carefully search the immediate vicinity for anyone alive, Reggy crawled forward; squinting as he looked around.
“Kriss?” he called again, a weight settling in his stomach. “Greg? Kip? Brad? Can anyone hear me?”
“Reggy?” a muffled voice called from behind a wall of rubble. “Is that you?”
“Brad!” Reggy felt a wave of relief before worry settled in once again. “Is Kriss with you?”
There was a pause which seemed to last for an eternity before he heard Brad reply. “No.” Reggy closed his eyes, attempting to stem the despair that was threatening to overwhelm him. “Greg's here though," Brad continued; "he's out cold, and his arm looks broken. I've put it in a make-shift sling for now. Are you okay?”
Reggy ran a hand over his face. “I'm fine. I just need to find Kriss.”
Another pause. “I can't find Kip either.”
Reggy realized that they were both in the same boat, and he attempted to sound reassuring. “We'll find them Brad. I'm gonna look around in here, okay?”
“Okay. I'll do the same here.”
Reggy crawled around the cramped space, looking for any signs of life in the dim light. When he got to the furthest corner his fingers found something cold and fleshy, and he looked down in shock at the hand sticking out from beneath a large section of concrete. Holding his breath, he felt for a pulse and found nothing.
“Reggy? You found anything?”
Praying it wasn't Kip or Kriss but trying to prepare himself for the worst, Reggy started to clear some of the smaller bits of rubble away from around the body. He paused, hands shaking uncontrollably, before removing the piece covering the dead man's face.
He grimaced and turned away from the blank, staring, eyes of Kip's new, young, partner, feeling a mixture of relief and guilt wash over him. Joe had been a youngster, just starting out. It was a cruel twist of fate that left him lying here dead.
“Reggy?” Brad shouted again, a hint of desperation creeping in.
“Yeah,” Reggy called, taking his jacket off to cover the body. “I've found Kip's partner; he's dead.”
He heard Brad's muffled curse as he resumed his meticulous search, his eyes watering slightly from the dust and grit. He got back to his starting point without finding anything else, and didn't know whether to be relieved or even more worried.
“I can't see anyone else,” he called, slumping back against the wall of debris.
He heard a string of muffled curses from the other side and managed a small smile, not needing to hear Brad's shout of explanation.
“You okay, buddy?” Reggy called, another coughing fit cutting him off prematurely.
“Oh I'm just fine and dandy, man,” Greg called back, and Reggy was pleased to hear that his trademark sarcasm was still in full working order. “Being blown up does wonders for your day. Shit; my cell phone's fried.”
Reggy sat up straight at Greg's words and fumbled around for his own, cursing himself for not thinking of it sooner. Miraculously, it was relatively unscathed, protected by his jacket, and he held it up, praying for a signal. There was a few seconds of nothing before a single bar lit up on the display, and he quickly pressed Kriss's number on speed dial.
“Come on,” he pleaded as it tried to connect.
He let out the breath he'd been holding as it finally went through, and put his phone down to listen intently for the answering ring. At first there was nothing, but then he heard the faintest noise coming from the mass of debris off to one side and he scrabbled towards it quickly.
“Reggy?” Brad called worriedly. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” Reggy replied distractedly, removing bits of rubble whilst trying to pinpoint the phone's location before it went to messages. “I rang Kriss's phone; I think he's nearby,” he added as the ringing stopped.
After moving a large pile of debris, Reggy caught sight of a patch of familiar uniform and felt his breath hitch before slowly uncovering more. He finally uncovered Kriss's face, and his hand clutching the piece of rubble froze in mid-air. Kriss's face was pale and lifeless, covered in cuts and scratches, and his eyes were closed.
Reggy forced himself to reach out and touch him, dreading feeling the cold, stiff, grip of death, but, despite appearances, Kriss's face was warm and Reggy choked back a sob as he felt a weak pulse beneath his questing fingers.
“I've found him,” he shouted to the others, tears of relief pricking his eyes, “he's alive.”
He heard shouts of joy and relief at the news as he tried to uncover the rest of Kriss's body, but discovered that there was a massive piece of masonry covering part of his chest and legs.
“What's his condition?” Brad called anxiously.
Reggy tried with all his might to free Kriss, but it was no use. “He doesn't look good,” he shouted despairingly, “and his legs are trapped.”
There was a pause, and Reggy tried to get his breath back, before Brad replied, “Can you get any response from him?”
Reggy leaned forward and stroked Kriss's face tenderly. “Kriss? Can you hear me?” When there was no response, he pressed a desperate kiss to Kriss lips and willed him to respond. “Come on, baby.” After a few moments of nothing, he straightened up to call back to Brad desperately. "He's not waking up."
"You have to keep trying, Reggy."
Reggy nodded and bent down again, his finger's lightly tracing Kriss's jawline. "Kriss, listen to my voice. You have to wake up now." He moved his head so that they were cheek to cheek, his hand cradling Kriss's face, and closed his eyes. “Please...”
As Reggy began to give in to his despair, he heard the faintest of noises in his ear. Eyes wide, he pulled back and studied Kriss's pale face closely. "Kriss?" After a few more seconds of nothing he'd just about convinced himself that he'd imagined it, but then he saw Kriss's eyelids flutter ever so slightly and his heart soared. "That's it Kriss; open your eyes."
When Reggy finally caught sight of the beautiful icy blue eyes he loved so much, he felt a huge weight lifted and silently thanked whoever was watching over them.
"Reg?" Kriss croaked, his breathing raspy.
Reggy brushed some of the dirt away from Kriss's face gently, and tried to smile despite his still crippling feeling of worry. "I'm right here."
"Reggy?" Brad called urgently from beyond the wall of rubble. "What's happening?"
Reggy forced his gaze away from Kriss momentarily to shout back. "He's awake." He heard a muffled, "Thank God," in reply as he immediately turned back to his lover, his face creased with concern.
"Was that Brad?" Kriss asked quietly, unable to hide a wince.
"Yeah, he and Greg are trapped behind a wall of debris but they're okay." Reggy hesitated slightly, and Kriss called him on it immediately.
Reggy shook his head. "We haven't found him yet." Kriss's brow creased with worry, and Reggy rushed to reassure him. "But I'm sure he's okay. Let's just worry about you for the moment. Tell me where it hurts."
Kriss smiled weakly, his breath coming in short gasps. "Are you after my job again?"
Reggy made a face. "No, I hate sick people."
Kriss's snort of amusement turned into a cough that left him gasping for breath, and Reggy was alarmed to see a trail of blood trickling from the side of his mouth. He wiped it away with his thumb and held it up to show Kriss.
"Okay; that's not good," Kriss wheezed
All trace of amusement had vanished from Reggy's face; now deadly serious. "Tell me."
Kriss took a rattling breath; now only managing a few words at a time. "Internal bleeding...possible organ damage...fractures; including several ribs...and I'm pretty sure...I have a punctured lung." He paused for a moment. "That's the bad news."
"Fuck," Reggy cursed, his heart filled with a renewed fear. "Is there any good news?"
"Well, you don't...have to worry...about that mountain of...paperwork anymore."
Reggy shook his head at the feeble attempt to lighten the mood. "We've gotta get you out of here."
"I wasn't...planning on building...a summer home."
"This is serious, Kriss."
The slight smile dropped from Kriss's face. "I know...I cover fear...and worry with humor...call it a defense mechanism."
Reggy raised a hand to caress his cheek, before leaning forward to kiss him lightly. "I'm gonna try to call for help. I'll be right back."
At Kriss's nod, he crawled back to where his phone lay and held it up. The signal was still teetering on one bar but the battery was almost dead, which meant that there was probably only enough power for one call. He quickly dialed 911 and held it to his ear. The answering voice was possibly the sweetest sound he'd ever heard in his life.
"Yes, my name is Reggy Kistoff; I'm one of the police officers trapped in the remains of the Central Bureau. There are at least three other survivors down here, one of whom is severely injured. We need medical help as soon as possible." He paused as he listened to the operator's response. "Okay; please tell them to hurry."
"Reggy?" Brad called as he hung up. "How bad is it?"
"It's bad," Reggy shouted back, attempting to keep his voice steady. "He's bleeding internally, and he thinks he has a punctured lung."
"Fuck." There was a pause and muffled conversation, during which he assumed Brad was filling Greg in on the situation, then Reggy heard renewed movement from the other side; the scrape and rumble of rubble being shifted. "I'm gonna try to get through to you. In the meantime, just do what he tells you to. Okay?"
Reggy put the phone back in his jacket and crawled back to where Kriss lay. He panicked for a moment when he saw that Kriss's eyes were closed, but Kriss opened them as soon as he touched his arm.
"What did they...say?"
"There are already emergency teams in place, working to remove debris and reach survivors, but the whole building is pretty much trashed so it may take a while for help to arrive."
"That's what I...was afraid of."
Reggy grabbed Kriss's hand and squeezed it, trying to stave off his despair and be strong. "Brad's trying to reach us," he said reassuringly. "Tell me what I can do."
Kriss looked back at him steadily. "You remember the guy....who Greg shot...in the alleyway?"
"Yeah...he had a punctured lung too, right?" Reggy's eyes widened as he realized what Kriss was leading up to. "You can't be serious."
"Listen to me Reg...with every breath I take...air is building up...in my chest cavity. You have...to release the pressure."
"We should wait for Brad..." Reggy began, but Kriss cut him off.
"There's no time."
Reggy's face was a picture of anguish and uncertainty. "But I don't have any equipment, not to mention the fact that I'm not trained for this."
Kriss squeezed his hand weakly. "I'll tell you...what to do, Reg...just like I did...in the restaurant...remember? You'll be fine."
Reggy still looked far from convinced, but nodded.
"Okay," Kriss continued, "do you have...a pen on you?"
Reggy immediately started patting and searching his pockets, producing a pen triumphantly a few moments later. "I never thought I'd thank God for having to do so much paperwork."
Kriss managed a small smile. "Take out everything...inside it...so you're left with...the plastic case." Reggy quickly complied, then looked back at Kriss for approval.
"Good," Kriss rasped; his strength fading by the second. "Now you need...something...sharp...to make...the incision."
Reggy looked around the small, cramped, space for something, anything, that might do the job. He moved a few chunks of rubble and found a jagged piece of metal with a razor-sharp edge.
"Okay, I've found something," he called, turning and crawling quickly back to Kriss's side.
Kriss didn't answer; he lay limply with his eyes closed. "Kriss?" Reggy gently shook him, but there was no response. "Dammit, Kriss, don't do this to me," he shouted in a mixture of anger and despair, bending forward to listen to his chest.
"BRAD!" he shouted urgently, straightening up and scrabbling over to the wall which separated them.
"What's happened?" Brad called back worriedly.
"He's lost consciousness again, and he needs a chest tube inserted. Please tell me you're nearly through."
There was a muffled curse before he heard Brad's reply. "Sorry Reggy; I won't get there in time. You're gonna have to do this yourself."
"Fuck," Reggy cursed, his panic rising. "How the hell am I gonna do that?"
Brad attempted to sound reassuring. "I'll talk you through it, buddy. Do you have anything that would make a makeshift tube?"
"Yeah, I've got a plastic pen casing and a sharp piece of metal ready."
"Okay, that's good Reggy. Go back to Kriss and remove his shirt and jacket."
Reggy crawled back to the unmoving form of his lover and began to remove his uniform, trying to keep his emotions under control.
"Okay," he shouted a few moments later, his first task accomplished. "Now what?"
"Check his pulse for me."
Reggy pressed two fingers to Kriss's neck and held his breath. After adjusting his position slightly, he felt a faint throbbing.
"It's faint, but steady," Reggy replied loudly, feeling relieved by the momentary reprieve.
"Okay. Lift his arm above his head carefully, to stretch the ribcage."
Reggy complied, feeling more and more uncertain by the second. "Done."
"Now comes the difficult bit, so we'll just take it nice and slow. You ready?"
"No," Reggy shouted, "but I'll do it anyway."
"You'll be fine," Brad called encouragingly. "Using your finger, follow a line down his side from his armpit until you're level with the nipple; between the fourth and fifth ribs."
Reggy followed his instructions, his face screwed up in a mixture of concentration and anxiety. "Okay," he called uncertainly.
"Using the piece of metal, make a small, firm, incision where your finger is resting between the ribs."
"Won't it hurt him a lot, though?" Reggy asked, glancing at Kriss's pale face worriedly.
"He's unconscious Reggy; he won't feel it. Trust me."
Reggy raised the jagged piece of metal in a shaking hand and paused, hovering over Kriss's skin and swallowing loudly.
"Reggy? You okay?"
Reggy dropped his hand defeatedly. "I can't do this Brad. What if I do it wrong?"
"Reggy, you have to listen to me," Brad shouted sternly. "If you don't do this now, Kriss's other lung is gonna collapse."
"I can't," Reggy cried wretchedly.
"HE'LL DIE, Reggy," Brad yelled forcefully. "You're the only one who can save him now. You have to."
Reggy looked down at Kriss's lifeless face as Brad's words rang in his ears, and was filled with a savage determination. He was going to fight tooth and nail to save the man he loved, and he wasn't going to give up; no matter what. He raised the piece of metal again, his expression one of utmost concentration, and carefully made an incision where his finger had rested; trying not to panic at the sight of bright red blood seeping from the cut.
"Okay," he shouted, "I've made a small incision."
"Great," Brad replied, sounding more than a little relieved. "Cut through the subcutaneous tissues and intercostal muscles, until you reach the chest cavity."
Reggy followed his instructions to the letter; small beads of sweat appearing on his forehead as he worked. He glanced at Kriss's face to check for any signs of discomfort, but saw none. In a way, he was glad that Kriss wasn't conscious for this part; he hated the thought of causing him pain.
After a few minutes of tentative cutting, there was a sudden lack of resistance against Reggy's make-shift scalpel and he straightened up. "I think that's done," he called wearily.
"Good," Brad called back, his voice sounding a little closer than before. "Can you check his pulse and breathing for me."
Reggy pressed two fingers to Kriss's neck whilst watching his chest rise and fall laboriously. "His pulse is still weak, but steady, and his breathing is slow."
"We should be able to fix that in a few minutes," Brad reassured him. "Now, push you finger into the hole to widen it a little. You should hear the trapped air escaping when you pull out."
Reggy heard Greg's distinctive voice as he wiped an arm across his face and leans forward again . "You're doing great, man."
Reggy did as he was told with a grimace, feeling a whole new level of respect for the work of paramedics. When he withdrew his finger, he was relieved to hear the distinctive sound of air being released.
"Okay," he shouted, feeling slightly elated at his success.
"Great; we're almost done. Now, carefully insert the pen casing about halfway into the hole. It should ease the pressure, and allow the lung to re-inflate."
As Reggy complied, he noticed that Kriss had gone unnaturally still and he was stricken by panic as he pressed an ear to Kriss's chest. "BRAD," he shouted, choking back a sob. "He's stopped breathing."
"Damn it," Brad cursed, "his other lung must have collapsed while you were working. Okay; don't panic, Reggy. Does he still have a pulse?"
Reggy checked quickly, his own heart thumping painfully. "Yes, but it's very faint."
"You'll have to give him mouth to mouth to reinflate his lungs. Do you know what to do?"
"Yeah," Reggy replied, blinking back tears to do as Brad said. Kriss's instructions from a few months ago echoed in his ears as he tilted his head back and pinched his nose before sealing his mouth over Kriss's. The lips he'd kissed so many times, which would normally attack his own so enthusiastically, stayed limp and unresponsive as he breathed life back into Kriss's body. Despite being a police officer, Reggy had always thought of Kriss as the hero; saving so many lives, including his own. He'd never thought he would have to repay the favor.
"Come on, Kriss," he pleaded, as he paused to check him. "You have to fight."
There was still nothing, so he bent over to repeat the procedure; praying with every fiber of his being. What if his initial hesitation had cost Kriss his life? How would he ever be able to live with himself?
"What's happening?" Brad called, and Reggy could tell he was trying to hide his fear.
"Still nothing," Reggy shouted desperately. "I'm losing him, Brad."
"Don't say that," Brad replied sternly, his voice louder and clearer than before. "I'm hopefully gonna be through in a couple of minutes. Just keep trying."
Reggy tried to hold back his tears as he once again breathed air into Kriss's lungs several times, feeling a sudden anger bubble up inside of him. "Dammit, Kriss, don't you dare do this to me. I need you. Come on....fight."
As he tried a fourth time, Kriss suddenly coughed and drew in a deep, shuddering, breath. Reggy's heart rose from the depths of despair to the height of joy in a single moment. "That's it," he said encouragingly, resting his forehead against Kriss's and closing his eyes in relief. "Just breathe."
A few minutes later, Reggy became aware of someone else beside him and opened his eyes to see Brad checking Kriss over carefully. Once he'd thoroughly assessed Kriss's injuries, Brad laid a hand on Reggy's back comfortingly. "Looks like we'll make a paramedic out of you yet. Great job."
Reggy straightened up, feeling utterly drained. "Is he gonna be alright?" Brad opened his mouth to reply, but Reggy cut him off. "Please; no bullshit. I need you to be completely honest with me."
Brad studied him for a moment, his expression deadly serious. "Okay," he began softly. "Although the immediate danger has passed and he's holding his own at the moment, he's not out of the woods yet. My main concern is the internal bleeding. We have no way of knowing how bad that is, and what damage has been done." His gaze dropped to his unconscious partner as he continued. "Let's just say that the sooner he gets to a hospital, the better."
Reggy nodded solemnly and took Kriss's hand, not liking how cold it felt. "I'm glad you're here, Brad," he said softly, grabbing Kriss's jacket and laying it over his chest to keep him warm. He looked over to the wall of rubble that had separated them up until that point. "Where's Greg?"
"I'm still stuck over here, man," an irritated voice called.
"He couldn't make it through the small opening with his broken arm," Brad explained, continuing to monitor Kriss's vitals. "It was a squeeze for me, I can tell you."
"How's Kriss doing?" Greg asked anxiously.
"He's stable for the moment," Brad called back, "thanks to Reggy."
Reggy shook his head, his eyes fixed on Kriss's face. "He almost died because of me, Brad. I should have acted sooner."
"Hey, stop that," Brad said softly, laying a hand on Reggy's arm and forcing him to meet his gaze. "You were never trained for this but you saved him, Reggy. Believe me, I've seen plenty of paramedics freeze in a life or death situation before." He squeezed Reggy's arm. "You did great."
"Yes, you did," a voice croaked, and Reggy turned his head so fast he almost gave himself whiplash.
"Kriss?" Reggy whispered, meeting the warm blue eyes, and dared to smile as he caressed his face gently.
"Hi," Kriss wheezed, smiling slightly. "Nice of you to join us, Brad," he added.
Brad shrugged. "You know me; I can't resist a good party. So, how are you doing?"
"I've been better."
"Come on, Kriss," Brad said sternly, reaching to check his pulse again, "you know I need details."
Kriss sighed, glancing worriedly at Reggy before answering roughly. "Fine. My head's throbbing...my chest hurts like hell...and I can't feel my legs. Happy?"
"You can't feel your legs?" Reggy asked, looking from Kriss's face to Brad's worriedly, and caught Brad's expression of deep concern before he covered it. "Fuck; that's really bad, isn't it?"
"Not necessarily," Brad replied evasively.
"Damn it, Brad. I said no bullshit."
"It could be," Brad conceded quietly.
"I'm right here, you know," Kriss pointed out weakly, and Reggy looked back at him; his face a picture of anxiety.
"What can we do? I mean, should we try to move this piece of masonry now there's two of us?"
"No," Kriss replied, wincing slightly.
"Moving it could cause his condition to deteriorate," Brad explained calmly. "We have to wait until we have emergency medical back-up."
"Will someone fill in the outcast, please?" Greg's voice called exasperatedly.
Brad turned to shout in his direction. "Kriss's awake, but he's still trapped and we can't free him until medical help arrives; which could be some time."
Reggy looked back at Kriss and glanced at his watch worriedly. "We've been stuck here for over two hours. How much longer are they gonna be?"
"They'll get here," Kriss said reassuringly, although his eyelids were drooping alarmingly.
"Stay awake, buddy," Brad said loudly. "You know the drill; keep talking to us."
"Sorry," Kriss croaked, "it's been a long day."
Reggy stroked his cheek tenderly. "You've already scared the hell out of me twice today, Kriss. Please don't do it again."
"Sorry," Kriss repeated, raising a shaky hand to cover Reggy's as they stared into each other's eyes and communicated silently.
"Keep talking, Kriss," Brad reminded him. "Out loud," he added; his lips twitching upwards in amusement.
"You see what I have to put up with," Kriss said quietly to Reggy with a smirk.
"I heard that."
Reggy snorted, actually feeling a little better; for a moment, at least. "So, talk to me."
"About?" Kriss asked weakly.
Reggy thought for a moment. "How about the day we met?"
Kriss sighed, wincing as it hurt his chest. "That was a bad day." Reggy's brow furrowed, and Kriss smiled and squeezed his hand gently before continuing; his voice croaky. "I lost two patients over the course of my shift; one was only six years old." He looked up into the emerald orbs he adored. "Meeting you was the only thing which made that day bearable."
As the minutes and hours ticked away, Reggy was forced to watch the man he loved fade away little by little before his eyes. He tried to stay positive for Kriss's sake, and kept him talking about anything and everything, but it scared him to hear just how weak Kriss's voice was getting. There was obviously more internal bleeding than they had thought, slowly poisoning his body from within, and it was pulling Kriss further and further away.
Reggy could see his desperate concern reflected in Brad's eyes too, not only for his partner but for Kip as well. Reggy couldn't imagine how he was feeling; not knowing whether Kip was even still alive. As much as it hurt to see Kriss like this, he would much rather be here with him than not know. Ignorance was certainly not bliss in a situation like this. Greg, who was still isolated by the debris, was also very subdued; having realized just how bad the situation was, and feeling just as powerless as the others.
Reggy looked down into Kriss's pain-filled eyes and kept a tight hold of his hand. He was running out of things to talk about, and Kriss was now slipping in and out of consciousness. The thought of his life ending in this cold, dark, chamber sent a chill down Reggy's spine, but they hadn't heard any sign of help and hope was waning fast.
"There's gotta be something we can do," Reggy said desperately to Brad, trying to find something to cling onto in his despair.
Brad shook his head defeated, from where he sat slumped against the rubble; his paramedic skills useless without the proper equipment. "I wish there was, man, but it's out of our hands now. All we can do is pray; for both of the men we love."
"Reg," Kriss rasped weakly, and Reggy turned back to him; kissing his hand tenderly.
"I'm right here, Kriss."
Kriss struggled to take a breath. "If I don't make it out of here..."
"Don't say that," Reggy interrupted angrily.
He felt Kriss's hand squeeze his own ever so slightly, and a sad smile graced Kriss's pale face. "Let me finish...please." Reggy nodded tearfully, and Kriss continued quietly. "I want you to know...that these last few months...have been the most wonderful...of my life. You've made me complete...and I wouldn't change anything. I've never been so happy...to have coffee thrown over me."
Reggy smiled through his tears and bent over to kiss Kriss gently, trying not to give in to his overwhelming despair. "Okay, you've said your piece, now I'll say mine," he began firmly, looking into Kriss's dull eyes steadily. "You're gonna make it through this, and we're gonna have a lot of long and happy years together." He cradled Kriss's head, and his voice rang with determination. "Fight for that future with me, Kriss, and don't let go, because I refuse to live without you."
A single tear rolled down Kriss's cheek as he nodded slightly, and Reggy kissed him again. "I love you, Reg," he croaked.
"I love you more," Reggy murmured against his cheek, screwing his eyes up and allowing his pain and fear to show through momentarily.
A few minutes later Kriss's eyes closed again, and no amount of shouting, pleading, or gentle shaking would rouse him. Brad knew that it was the beginning of the end, and his own heart was filled with unbearable sorrow as he checked Kriss's sluggish pulse. He watched Reggy's previous strength and determination crumble away in only moments; leaving him utterly broken upon the floor.
Brad crawled over to Reggy's trembling form and gently placed a hand on his shoulder supportively, but Reggy shook him off; his despair transforming into an uncontrollable anger.
"No, no, this isn't happening. I'm not gonna let it." He moved over to the nearest wall of debris and start pummeling it with his fists. "Help! We need help in here! Can anyone hear me?"
He continued pounding and shouting for several minutes, the rubble cutting into his flesh so that it was steadily painted red with his blood. Reggy didn't seem to notice, or care, as he took out all of his emotions on the debris which had entombed them. "Somebody help me...please! Anybody!"
"Reg," Brad began, but was shouted down.
"We need medical help; now! Please!"
Brad moved over to his position and tried to grasp his hands, but Reggy pushed him away. "Get off me, Brad. I have to keep trying."
"You're just hurting yourself, Reggy. That's not gonna..."
"Shh," Reggy interrupted, grasping Brad's arm and listening intently. "Did you hear that?"
There was complete silence as they both stood, straining to hear the slightest sound from beyond the rubble. A few seconds later they heard a faint voice calling out.
"Hello? Is someone trapped back here?"
"Yes!" Reggy shouted back immediately, a spark of hope igniting within him. "There's four of us; one is badly injured. He needs to get to a hospital; fast."
"Understood," the muffled voice called back. "We'll try to get through to you as fast as we possibly can. Stand back."