Chapter Nine: Kriss's Long Day
The day Reggy had been dreading had arrived all too quickly, the day that Kriss returned to work. He was no longer confined to bed but still had to take it easy, not able to return to work himself until the following week. He watched from the bed with a pout as Kriss came out of the bathroom and started to pull on his uniform.
"Stop giving me the puppy dog look Reg," Kriss smirked without needing to look at him, "I have to go. You've already made me late."
Once dressed he walked out of the room and Reggy lay there for a minute before getting up to follow him, finding him in the kitchen brewing coffee and buttering a piece of toast. Kriss glanced up with a smile when he appeared, looking adorably disheveled, and handed him a mug.
"What the hell am I gonna do here all by myself Kriss?" he said, slouching against the counter grumpily and taking a sip. "You can't leave me alone."
A knock sounded at the door and Kriss gave him a peck on the lips. "I'm not," he grinned, walking to the door and opening it to reveal a familiar figure.
"Babysitter reporting for duty as ordered."
Reggy let out a groan as Greg saluted Kriss with a grin then cheerfully walked into the apartment.
"You two have been colluding behind my back haven't you?" Reggy said accusingly as Kriss rejoined him.
"Hey, I'm married," Greg said with mock indignation.
"Interesting. You play the marriage card before the straight one," Kriss smirked, taking a bite of toast.
Reggy frowned, realizing he was right, and quickly looked at Greg who shrugged, a mischievous expression crossing his face. "What can I say? I've succumbed to the power of the paramedic uniform."
Kriss laughed at Reggy's scowl and finished the last of his coffee in one gulp. "As much as I'd love to continue this, I'm late and Brad's gonna have my ass."
"He better not," Reggy growled as Kriss turned to him, "your ass belongs to me."
Kriss smiled and Greg averted his eyes as they kissed goodbye with whispered words of love.
"Okay," Kriss said a moment later, grabbing his keys on the way out, "play nice kids. I'll see you later."
"Right," Greg said briskly once the door had closed, "charades or dominoes first?"
It's gonna be a long day, Reggy thought wearily.
By late afternoon they were both vegetating in front of the television flicking through endless channels of what could only be described as drivel.
"My God, do people actually watch this stuff?" Reggy asked in amazement as they came across yet another talk show with screaming relatives trying to tear each other's hair out as security attempted to pull them apart.
"There's a helluva lot of freaks in this country," Greg nodded, continuing to flick.
"Whoa, whoa," Reggy said suddenly, sitting bolt upright and grimacing slightly as it aggravated his injury, "go back."
Greg flicked back until Reggy said, "Stop," and realized that what he'd thought was an action movie was actually a news channel showing scenes of absolute carnage. A caption at the bottom of the screen said, "Explosions on Walker Skyway - at least 50 dead."
"Jesus fucking Christ," Greg exclaimed, turning the sound up to hear a woman reporting from the scene.
"We don't yet know for sure if this is the work of the Harris bomber," she was saying loudly over the sirens. "All we know at this point is that there was an explosion on at the intersection on the Skyway above the main city street. There was then a second explosion some time later on the Main Street causing sections of the Skyway to be unstable and bits of the Skyway have already begun to ran down . Firefighters are working to reach possible survivors but we've been told to expect the worst. I can tell you that several members of the emergency services were on and under the Skyway."
Greg's head snapped towards Reggy who was already pulling out his cellphone with shaking fingers and pressing Kriss's number on speed dial.
He threw the phone down in disgust a few moments later. "The whole fucking network's jammed."
"I'm not surprised," Greg shook his head as he looked back at the flickering images on the television, "everyone's gonna be trying to reach loved ones."
Reggy felt his heart clench painfully. "Oh God, please don't let Kriss be on that bridge," he whispered, screwing his eyes up against the thought of it.
"Hey, there are thousands of people who work for the emergency services in this city Reggy," Greg said in an attempt to reassure him despite being deeply worried himself, "the odds of Kriss being one of those trapped are extremely small."
"I know," Reggy nodded, leaning back with a sigh, "It's just.....I need to hear his voice."
They both watched the harrowing scenes on TV in silence for several more minutes then Reggy stood up abruptly with a determined expression. "I'm going down there."
"Whoa, whoa," Greg exclaimed, jumping up and grabbing Reggy's arm. "You're in no fit state to do that. Besides they wouldn't let you anywhere near the scene, you know that."
"I can't just sit here and wait Greg."
He was on the point of grabbing his jacket and leaving, whether Greg liked it or not, when his cellphone trilled to indicate that he had an incoming message. He grabbed it and couldn't open the thing fast enough, his eyes flying over the words as Greg watched his face anxiously.
If you've seen news pls don't worry, I'm fine. I'll prob be late back though. x
Reggy dropped onto the couch, reading the message again more slowly and leaving Greg in suspense.
"Well?" Greg finally asked urgently, "Is it from Kriss?"
Reggy looked up and smiled, his face awash with relief. "Yeah, he's okay."
"Thank fuck for that," Greg replied, collapsing back down next to Reggy and turning to look at him. "It's gonna be a tough first day back for him though, isn't it?"
Reggy was silently thinking the same thing; Kriss had been catapulted straight back into a major incident. If Reggy hadn't been off work he probably would have been sent to the scene too and been able to keep an eye on him. It was incredibly frustrating to be stuck at home when he should be there. For the hundredth time he cursed the bomber; there was no doubt in his mind that he was responsible for this.
As predicted Kriss didn't get home until late in the evening, a little after Greg had left. His face was tired and drawn, and his eyes were dull. He tried to smile in greeting but Reggy could see that the day had taken its toll and wasted no time in pulling him in for a hug, sensing that they both needed it as much as each other. Kriss clung to Reggy tightly, clutching handfuls of his shirt and breathing deeply as he tried to rid himself of the horrific images replaying constantly in his mind.
Reggy was content to hold him close, offering silent support and love. It must have taken a lot to shake Kriss up this much; he'd never seen him so vulnerable before and he knew Kriss would only let down his barriers to those he loved and trusted implicitly. He thought about all the families out there who'd be waiting for a loved one who would never return and felt incredibly lucky; it made him want to keep Kriss in his arms forever and never let him go. Kriss certainly showed no signs of releasing him, his warm breath flowing across Reggy's neck in short bursts.
"You wanna talk about it?" He eventually asked quietly in Kriss's ear.
Kriss shook his head firmly, keeping his face in the crook of Reggy's neck. "I just need you to hold me."
Reggy tightened his arms in response, knowing that Kriss would talk when he was ready to. It had been bad enough seeing the continual images on the news of bloody and burned survivors, he couldn't imagine what horrors Kriss and the rest of the emergency services had been subjected to. As a cop he'd been to a few major incidents over the years but there had never been such a sustained, merciless attack on the city by anyone before and today's incident had been the worst yet.
He slowly maneuvered Kriss to the couch and sat down with him, without breaking the embrace, settling back into the cushions comfortably as Kriss cuddled into his uninjured side. He had no idea how long they sat like that but there was honestly nowhere else on earth that he would rather be. It was simple moments like this which he cherished.
Realizing that Kriss was almost asleep in his arms, he gently helped him up and guided him to the bedroom. Kriss was practically dead on his feet and barely woke up as Reggy undressed him and put him to bed. Reggy climbed into bed himself a few minutes later, pausing to look down at Kriss's exhausted face which was relaxed in sleep. It felt nice to take care of him for a change rather than the other way around. He placed a gentle kiss on his lips, turned out the light, and settled down, smiling when Kriss's arm immediately came across him even in sleep.
When Reggy opened his eyes it was still dark. He was disorientated for a moment, unsure what had awoken him. His arm instinctively moved towards Kriss but found nothing but empty space and cold sheets. He sat up and turned the light on, screwing his eyes up against the sudden contrast as he looked around the room. Everything was as it should be, except Kriss wasn't there.
He swung his legs out of bed with a yawn, which turned into a gasp when his feet hit the cold floor. Shuffling his rapidly cooling feet into slippers, he got up to find Kriss but a few minutes later he had checked through the whole apartment without success. As he stood in the kitchen, with the first tendrils of panic starting to set in, an idea suddenly occurred to him and he went to pull on a pair of pants and an old t-shirt. Grabbing his jacket and keys he left the apartment but instead of going down the stairs he headed up, taking two at a time. A minute later he was pushing open the door to the roof, shivering as a cold blast of night air hit his skin.
Kriss was directly in front of him leaning on the wall at the edge of the building, a lone figure standing in the darkness, and Reggy moved towards him with relief. Kriss had once told him that when he was troubled by a bad case he would come up to the roof to clear his head and look out over the city. Even at this early hour Harris was still bustling with activity, a reminder that life must go on despite every tragedy.
As Reggy got closer, the gravel crunching softly beneath his feet, he could see the goosebumps clearly on Kriss's arms and neck, the breeze gently ruffling the thin material of his clothing. Kriss jumped slightly when Reggy dropped his jacket onto his shoulders from behind him.
"Do you ever remember to take a jacket with you?" Reggy murmured softly, wrapping his arms around him.
"I prefer yours," Kriss replied quietly, glancing at him with the ghost of a smile crossing his weary face. Reggy could see the pain in his eyes before he turned back to the many lights glittering in the darkness.
He sighed and followed Kriss's gaze, kissing the top of his head. "Talk to me Kriss. Let it out."
Reggy waited patiently for several minutes, not wanting to push too much. The sound of police sirens echoed in the distance, fading slowly as it headed away to another emergency. When Kriss finally spoke his voice was little more than a whisper above the wind.
"I can't get the images out of my head Reg. So much death and pain."
Reggy lifted his head, which had been resting lightly on Kriss's, and looked down at him.
"What happened?" he asked gently.
Kriss took a deep breath and slowly began to recount the day's events, his eyes moving unseeing over the jumble of apartment buildings and office blocks stretching into the distance.
"Brad and I were amongst the first to arrive at the scene, the walking wounded stumbling past us like zombies. When we reached the top side of the bridge we saw that it was a complete mess of metal and bodies, with no clear place on were to begin. The people trapped inside cars were screaming for help, surrounded by the dead and dying, pleading with us to get them out of there." He shook his head slightly, a small sigh escaping his lips. "I could tell that Brad was just as overwhelmed as I was but we focused on doing our job, trying to save as many as possible."
Reggy listened in silence, Kriss's words creating an all too clear picture in his head.
"The fire service was able to get into the mess created by the wave of the explosion fairly quickly, but the ones closer to the explosion were so twisted and deformed that we knew it would take much longer, longer than a lot of the people had. A badly injured woman pressed her baby into my arms through an opening, begging me to help him even though it was quite obvious that he was already dead."
His voice caught and Reggy grabbed his hands and held them tightly, giving him the strength to continue.
"She was beyond reason Reg, adamant that he was going to be alright. I knew she didn't have long judging by the amount of blood she'd already lost so I promised to help her son." He looked up at Reggy wretchedly. "What else could I say Reg?"
"Nothing," Reggy replied sadly. Kriss looked down at Reggy's hands engulfing his own and ran his thumb across them absent-mindlessly.
"A little after that I got talking to a woman who was trapped nearest the epicenter of the explosion, passing medical supplies to her through a small opening in the twisted metal. Mary her name was. She was a nurse over at Silver Medical Center and had been on her way home to her husband and three kids. As we talked she was able to treat fellow survivors trapped with her who I couldn't get to, trying to keep their spirits up with her positive attitude. I've always found that trauma shows a person's true colors; there are those who only think of themselves and then there are people like Mary, a truly inspirational woman." He paused and stared out into the darkness for a moment.
"I was with her when cracks in the pavement were found and we were told to get off the bridge."
He turned his head abruptly and looked up into Reggy's concerned eyes with a tortured expression. "I didn't want to leave her Reg. I can still see the look of terror in her eyes as Brad dragged me away; we both knew that we couldn't help her but that knowledge didn't make it any easier to bear."
He closed his eyes and shook his head, willing the image away. Reggy felt helpless as he watched, wishing he could do more to help. After a few moments Kriss opened his eyes again and turned his head away as he continued.
"When the second bomb exploded. We were already heading below anyway, but the explosion took out a firetruck and an ambulance. That formed a blockade so we could not enter from the North. While the once who could help were not being allowed to as the Skyway started to buckle. After several hours we were allowed to start making our way through the rubble, once through we found no survivors ."
Reggy tightened his embrace, feeling Kriss's anguish. "I'm so sorry Kriss. I can't imagine what that was like."
When Kriss turned his head to look back at him there were tears glistening in his soft blue eyes. "I keep seeing Mary's face as we left her. She didn't deserve to die like that Reg, none of them did. I hate the sick bastard who did this and I hate myself for leaving them."
Reggy turned him around and lifted his hands up to cup Kriss's head, his thumbs moving gently across his cheeks as he held his gaze. "You had to Kriss. If you'd stayed you would have been killed too. You saved everyone you could, there's nothing more you could possibly have done."
"I just want to forget," Kriss replied softly, a single tear escaping down his cheek as he squeezed his eyes tightly shut. "Please help me forget."
Reggy did the only thing he could think of. He closed the distance and kissed him softly, sensing the desperation in Kriss's immediate response as he clung to the edge of a precipice filled with darkness and pain.
"Don't let me go Reg," he whispered brokenly against his lips.
Reggy noticed that Kriss was quieter than usual over the following week, which wasn't surprising considering the circumstances. He kept a close eye on him, ready to talk whenever Kriss needed it, or to listen, or just to comfort. Gradually Kriss started to regain his old spark, the nightmares which had plagued him nightly since the attack becoming less frequent. Reggy knew that Brad was shaken up by the whole thing too and had talked it through with Kriss on several occasions, trying to find some closure. Kriss had even visited Mary's family to offer what comfort he could but no one could fully move on until the bomber was caught, and so far he had alluded capture.