Permission to archive: yes
Genre (general, hetero or slash): Slash
Rating: PG, so far
Summary: There's trouble - and then there's Tony
Warnings: Tiny bit of angst
Again, please excuse any SAR procedural mistakes - they belong solely to me!
Bye, Bye, Love 6
Tugging harshly at my gloves, I growled slightly in frustration. Steel mesh-reinforced gloves were a bitch at the best of times; in 90-degree weather, though, they became almost intolerably uncomfortable. Add in the Houston humidity and I was about ready to say to hell with the damn things all together. I could continue searching without them. Just as I had decided to strip them off, Clarence let loose with a mournful howl. Good, he'd found a scent.
Forgetting completely about the discomfort surrounding my hands, I moved gingerly over a small pile of building debris to where Clarence stood. Gazing up at me soulfully, the pup chuffed quietly and whined deep in his throat. Closing off my mind to the continuing emergency-vehicle noises, I strained my ears to listen for any telltale sounds of survivors. The eerie quiet was broken by the groaning of over-stressed steel beams, making me wonder not for the first time how much longer Clarence and I could chance being on this particular mound of rubble.
A weak cough penetrated my consciousness, and Clarence began "whuff"-ing excitedly. Looked like there was at least one victim still alive. We'd already found the remains of the other two missing folks, so any sign of life was most definitely welcome at this point. "Hello, can you hear me?" I called out quietly. I knew from experience that yelling out to the victims too excitedly oftentimes scared them even more than they already were. As my SAR instructor had been fond of saying, "They ain't going anywhere, so don't freak 'em out to make yourself feel like you're doing something. You'll get to 'em when you can get to 'em safely."
"Hello." *Cough.* A tinny female voice reached me and Clarence immediately scampered carefully to its source. "I'm under here. Can you hear me?"
"Yes, ma'am. We're right here. Can you tell me if you're hurt anywhere?" Moving up beside Clarence, I waved a small red flag to alert the other workers of my find before cautiously lying on my stomach atop the debris. Peering into the dark abyss of steel and concrete, I fell back on my training to ask the questions I needed answered.
"I'm not sure. It's a little hard to breathe, and it feels like my legs are pinned under something." Not surprising, given her current location. *Sneeze.* "Young man, could you move your dog away from here? I'm allergic to them and I don't think sneezing my head off is going to help my situation any."
Well, shit. True, Clarence had basically done his duty already, but I liked having his solid presence beside me. "Yes, ma'am. I'll send him down right away." Signaling to Sgt. Jackson, I gave Clarence the command to skedaddle. Whining at me, he reluctantly turned and loped over to the cop. I called down, "Lady says she's allergic to dogs. Keep track of him for me, would ya?" At Jackson's nod, I turned my attention back to my rescuee.
"My name's Tony, ma'am. Mind if I ask yours? I imagine we're going to be spending quite a little bit of time together."
"It's Ellenor, Tony. Thank you for getting rid of the dog. I love the creatures, but my system simply can't tolerate them. It was always a disappointment to my son that we could never have one as a pet."
"No problem, Ellenor. Let's see what we can do about getting you out of here. First of all, can you see the sunlight at all? I mean, is there a clear path of vision so that you can see the sky?" My brain started chanting, 'Please say yes, please say yes.' She would be much easier to find and reach if there was already a path defined.
"I'm sorry, Tony, I can't. It's pitch black in here, to tell the truth. I can't even see my hand in front of my face."
Of course it wouldn't be easy. Story of my SAR life. Damn it all.
"That's fine, Ellenor. I'm just going to start moving some of the top layer of rubble away. Maybe that will help matters." Using painstaking caution, I began moving blocks of cement with rebar tentacles away from the area I suspected she was in. Inasmuch as all my instincts screamed at me to hurry, my trained brain knew that I had to move slowly and steadily so as not to cause further collpases that could potentially kill Ellenor.
After a half-hour of effort and with sweat running down my face, I decided that this dig was going to require a little more manpower than I could manage alone. Shifting my weight carefully, I was turning to ask the lieutenant for some help when I heard a loud noise and the world suddenly tilted crazily. With little time to react, I found myself falling backwards, and the pile of rubble welcomed me into its confines with open arms. I felt a sudden immense pain, and then everything went dark.
Waking to the taste of dust and the sight of total darkness did not bode well for the rest of my day. Coughing slightly to clear some of the chalky residue in my mouth, I felt a burning pain begin in my back and travel through my chest. 'Must have hit something on the way down. Hopefully, it's just a broken rib.' I very carefully turned my head left and then right, straining my eyes to pick up the slightest hint of light. None. Dammit.
"Tony?" A very weak female voice reached me, and I remembered Ellenor and my efforts to rescue her. Great job I did on that one. I must have seriously screwed up to put myself in this position. 'Way to go, Tonio. Like dear old dad always said, you could fuck up a wet dream.'
"I'm here, Ellenor. Are you okay?"
"Actually, whatever happened seems to have unpinned me some. I can move around some now, but it doesn't look like we're going anywhere anytime soon. Are you injured?"
Not wanting to scare her anymore than she already was, I allowed myself a little fib. "I'm fine, Ellenor. Just had the wind knocked out of me." And that was true, on one level - I was indeed finding it uncomfortable to breathe right about now.
"Never bullshit an old woman, Tony. You sound hurt - so don't play the stoic hero for my benefit." There was a pause and I could hear shuffling from the direction of her voice. "Now that I can move, I believe I can reach - yes! I always keep a flashlight beside my bed, something my son suggested I do. Let me see here." More shuffling and then I was able to see a faint glow on my right.
"Remind me to thank your son when we get out of here, Ellenor. I believe you can use that light as a means of letting the other folks know where we are." Panting slightly, I felt my head swimming and my chest aching even more. Finally allowed a little bit of illumination thanks to Ellenor's flashlight, I glanced toward my feet only to have my gaze halted by the three inches of rebar poking out of my chest. Stunned, I could only stare in dismay at the bloody post. This did not look good.
"I certainly will remind you. He is the dearest boy, you know. Such an honest, good man. It's a shame he hasn't been able to find the right person to settle down with, but I'm sure he'll find them someday. Tell me, Tony, do you have a special someone?"
Still distracted by the sight of my impaled self, I somehow managed to answer, "Just Clarence, my dog. He's my best friend."
"Silly, that's not what I mean, of course. Are you married? Seeing someone special?"
By now the swimming sensation in my head had progressed to outright lightheadedness and my mouth spoke without direction from my brain. "No, ma'am. I'm not cut out for having anyone special. That part got left out of my general make-up, apparently." I couldn't withhold a pained moan as I finished speaking. The pressure and pain in my chest were becoming much more noticeable, and I hoped not for the first time that the rescuers would be able to see Ellenor's light. I may have failed her, but hopefully she could still be rescued, preferably before she had to listen to me die. That would have to be a hard thing to handle; knowing you were trapped next to the dead body of someone to whom you'd just been speaking.
"Ellenor, could you . . . just, if anything happens, would you make certain my dog is taken care of? He's just a puppy, but he's smart and sweet and deserves a good life."
"Well, for heaven's sake, Tony. You're going to be fine! And I'm sure, once you get out of here, you'll have women lined up around the block to meet someone so heroic. Who knows - you might just find that special someone that way."
"Don't want a woman. I already found the person for me; he just didn't want me back." Even I could hear the slurring of my words in that answer. My tongue was feeling swollen and dusty, such that I found it an effort to swallow. Clearly, too, my brain function was less than optimal since I had just imparted this personal information to a complete stranger. "He's a decent guy, too. Can understand why he wouldn't want to be with someone like me. Besides, he doesn't even like me."
"Well, then, he's a fool. You seem like a lovely young man, and any man would be lucky to have you." Ellenor paused and then , "Oh, believe I hear someone! Over here! We're over here!! Can you hear me?!?"
A distant rumble sounded and then, blessedly, the blackness overtook me and washed away all the pain.