Disclaimer: These characters are all mine, please dont use them without my permission. They may look familiar, but theyre mine! <g>
Sexual situations: None. But it will depict an amazing love between two women, so if thats not your thing, I suggest you stop reading right here. If its illegal where you live, you have my pity.
Violence: There will be graphic descriptions of a person traumatically injured. That is pretty much what the story is about.
Feedback: Is there really a bard out there that doesnt want feedback? Please, send any and all to me¼ I live on feedback. <g> firstname.lastname@example.org
Acknowledgment: A special thanks to my best pal zuke b, the best BR in the business!
She tried to breathe, but her lungs would not expand enough. Short raspy gulps of oxygen were not adequate. She was suffocating. Her worst nightmare was coming true.
Panicked blue eyes flicked around the darkness, unable to see what held her pinned to the floor. Her mind fought to remember what had happened. Where had she been? What had she been doing?
She closed her eyes as her consciousness ebbed and she succumbed to the beckoning slumber.
The midday sun reflected off the steady water of the Tyler-Davidson Fountain, casting tiny rainbows across the square. Talia Stoddard crossed one long leg over the other and leaned back in the plastic chair, enjoying the colors and the accompanying breeze off the Ohio River.
Oh yeah, Im gonna like this city.
Pale blue orbs lazily scanned the square, watching the plethora of people gathering for lunch. Talia sipped her cherry Coke as a group of women walked by. Sharp ears listened to their chatter about office politics and who was sleeping with whom. She let a smile escape, wondering if any of the women worked in her new office.
Raucous laughter interrupted her musings and she turned in her seat, immediately spotting the noisy group behind her. Seated around a table outside one of the squares restaurants was a group of men, laughing hysterically. The men were all dressed in dark blue t-shirts with large white letters on the back.
CFD? Whats that? Talia adjusted herself so she could get a better look at the men. She noticed they all wore navy blue work pants and black boots. Her eyes moved past the men to the small blonde woman who was standing in front of the table. She was animatedly telling her fellow workers a story. Talia couldnt hear the womans words, but found herself wrapped up in the story all the same.
There was something about the small woman. Something Talia couldnt describe. Captivated by warm green eyes and an adorable nose that crinkled with each smile, she could not turn away. Short blonde hair bounced as the woman finished her story, eliciting more laughter from her male companions.
Talia found herself smiling as well and wondering what the woman would say if she walked over and introduced herself. That was when the green eyes found hers and Talia forgot to breathe.
"Time to get back to the house." The man closest to Talia stood up, his muscular body looming over his friends. "Shift starts in half an hour."
"Yeah, yeah, Bubba." The blonde pulled her gaze away and playfully slapped the stomach of the man, who immediately grabbed her with one arm and started pulling her toward the street. There was more laughter as the others followed.
Talia watched them leave, nearly following when she saw the young woman glance back.
Her eyes shot open as her mind returned. Still unable to see, she began to feel around herself. Long fingers grasped the jagged metal edge of the thing that kept her pinned to the floor. It was crushing her chest, but her arms did not have the strength to move it.
She choked on a sob, wishing she could force back the panic that threatened. Taking slower breaths was easier and began to have a soothing effect.
The sounds shot out at her like the bullet from a gun. The floor began to shake. Her screaming was drowned out as the world collapsed beneath her.
"Shit!" Bubba Haas braced himself in the doorway to the elevator shaft, shining his flashlight upon the wreckage. "McCoy, Anderson, you tied off yet?"
"Yep." Chad Anderson peered around the big man. "Damn. How far up from the bottom floor is it?"
"Five stories." Kelly McCoy shone her light around the shaft. The
top of the elevator car had collapsed under the weight of what looked to her
like a steel support beam. The beam lay crossways over the roof of the car
"Blakes on the way down with the elevator support unit to try to secure it." Bubba moved back from the doorway.
Kelly adjusted the straps on her helmet, tossed the rope bag down the elevator shaft and locked herself in. "Soon as hes done, were ready."
Bubba nodded, continuing his search of the shaft. "Im gonna send you down first, McCoy. You can-"
Bubba grabbed Kelly and pulled her away from the doors as the elevator dropped. A scream filled the air and continued long after the car had come to a stop.
"Blake! What the hell is going on?!" Bubba screamed into his radio.
"I didnt have the support in place yet¼ damn thing fell another two feet. Standby!"
There was silence on the radio as well as the building lobby. Bubba peered into the shaft again, still hearing the womans scream. "I had no idea anyone was alive down there," he mumbled.
"Support team to Command." Blakes voice interrupted them.
Bubba turned from the shaft to answer. "Go ahead, Blake."
"Supports are in place and holding. Clear for entry."
"Copy that." Bubba turned to Kelly, who was already standing on the edge of the doorway. "Be careful, Munchkin."
Green eyes rolled in mock annoyance. "Just dont let me fall."
Bubbas voice was unusually serious. "Never." He moved back as his friend slowly rappelled down the shaft to the collapsed elevator.
She put a hand over her own mouth to stop the screaming. Tears streamed down the sides of her face, her whole body shaking with fear. Im going to die! I dont want to die!
There was a light above her head, moving in a sweeping motion. She considered calling out, but knew if she opened her mouth she would start screaming again. Resolutely, she clamped her jaw shut.
Am I still in the elevator? What the hell happened?
There was movement below her. Slowing her breath as much as she could, she turned her head to one side and listened.
"Get those supports over here now!" A male voice commanded. There were a lot of unidentifiable noises, then a loud clicking sound. "Are they secure?"
"Yeah. Were good to go." Another male voice answered the first.
"Good. Support team to Command."
"Go ahead Blake." This new voice sounded vaguely familiar to her.
"Supports are in place and holding. Clear for entry."
"Good job, guys." The first male voice commended his team. "Lewis, get that nozzle over here. Bailey, you monitor those supports. Johnson, make sure the power is turned off. I dont want any more surprises."
She closed her eyes and sighed as relief washed over her. They were going to save her.
Kelly rappelled the short distance to the top of the crushed elevator car, straddling the far right corner. The light from her helmet aimed directly at the small bit of metal pulled back from the edge of the car. "Im down," she called up to Bubba. "I think I can fit through this hole. Have Chad come on down and see if he can open it further. Im going to crawl inside and check on our patient."
Kelly waved to her friend, even though he couldnt see her in the darkened shaft.
Pulling back the metal as much as she could with her gloved hands, Kelly settled on the edge of the wall, then slowly lowered herself into the car. Her helmet light didnt provide much help as she was forced to her knees almost immediately.
Following the slope of the roof, Kelly saw the ebony hair and finally the grimacing face of her patient.
"Maam? Can you hear me?"
"Yes," the woman replied weakly. "I cant move."
"Its okay. I dont want you to move." Kelly squeezed further inside, trying to see the womans trapped body. Careful hands explored the area. "Can you feel my touch?"
"On my chest, yeah." She barely held back a sob. "I cant feel my legs, though."
"Theyre pinned beneath the roof of the elevator." Kelly eased back until her helmet light shone on the womans face. Frightened blue eyes stared back at her. The sight nearly broke her heart. "Well get you out of here."
"My names Kelly."'
"Talia." She reached out to take Kellys hand. "Thank you," she whispered.
"Youre welcome. I have to get my partner down here. Ill be right back. I promise."
"Can we cut it?" Chad asked after Kelly had given him a complete report on what she had found.
"Lets try the airbags first. Send them down and well see if we cant lift this up enough to get her out." Kelly stepped back as the medic bag was lowered to her.
She retrieved what she needed, then set the bag in a corner before crawling under the collapsed roof again.
"Good." Kelly slipped an oxygen mask over Talias mouth and nose. "That should make it easier for you."
"Yes it does, thanks." Talia turned her eyes to the woman beside her, grateful for her kind touch.
"I have to put a collar around your neck, in case youve injured it, okay?"
There was a soft thump behind her and Kelly slowly backed out to find Chad leaning his head into the small opening. "Hey."
"How is she?" He lifted his chin and pointed toward the wreckage.
"Alert. I havent had a chance to assess her yet. I want to get that roof stabilized before we do much more."
"Airbags and cribbing are right behind me."
"Ill let her know whats going on." Kelly returned to Talia, unconsciously reaching for the womans hand as soon as she found it. "Were going to try to lift this off of you. Its going to take a while¼ okay?"
Talia squeezed her hand, taking solace in the voice next to her ear. "Okay."
"I need more cribbing!" Kelly scooted on her stomach until she could stand in the elevator car again.
Chad balanced over the opening and lowered two more wooden blocks, each four inches thick and two feet long. "You ready to go up?"
"Yeah." The small woman slid the blocks ahead of her. "Up left first!" She called back to Chad.
Talia watched in the dim light from Kellys helmet as the airbag was slowly inflated. The metal creaked and groaned, lifting only a few centimeters before it stopped.
"Keep going, Chad. I dont have enough room for the cribbing!"
"I cant. The beam is holding the roof down. I cant go any higher."
Kelly sighed and pulled out to assess the situation. "Okay. Lets get the other side cribbed for support. See if Bubba can get the acetylene torch down here. Maybe we can cut the beam."
While Chad spoke into his radio, Kelly moved to Talias right side, sliding the blocks under the wreckage until it was secure.
"Whats that for?" Talia asked.
"Were using the blocks of wood to shore up the roof. To make sure it doesnt come down any further. We were going to lift it off you, but theres a beam blocking us. Well have to cut it first." Kelly leaned on her right elbow, reaching out with her left hand to brush dark bangs from Talias face. "Im sorry its taking so long."
"Its okay." Talia closed her eyes and enjoyed the touch of Kellys fingers. "Will you stay here with me? Im not as scared when youre here."
Kellys breath caught in her throat. "Yeah. Ill stay as much as I can. As long as Chad doesnt need my help."
In the dim light of the hand lantern, Kelly checked her IV line. She pushed some fluid through to make sure it was flowing well. "How are you feeling, Talia?"
"Very tired." Pale blue eyes turned to the petite woman. "Did I tell you that you look familiar?"
"No." Kelly hung the IV bag off a piece of the elevator roof, then gave her patient her undivided attention. "Im pretty sure weve never met."
"No, we didnt meet." Talia wasnt sure when shed realized who Kelly was. Perhaps it was the small insignia on her t-shirt that reminded her. "CFD."
"Yeah." Talia pointed to the shirt. "What does it stand for?"
Kelly chuckled softly. "Oh, Cincinnati Fire Department."
"I saw it earlier today¼ on Fountain Square. You were telling your friends a story¼ "
"You were there?"
Talia smiled. "Oh yeah. I was going to introduce myself, but your friends dragged you away before I could. Ironic that we should meet anyway, huh?" Her smile became a grimace when the pain hit.
"What is it?"
"My--legs." Talia gasped.
"Hang in there." Kelly reached for her drug bag, but felt a strong hand stop her. "What?"
"No. No drugs--please."
Hesitant until she saw the look on the woman's face, Kelly acquiesced. "If you're sure. But I can give you morphine if the pain gets to be too much, okay?"
"Thanks, but I want to be aware of what's going on."
Kelly shook her head at the woman's tenacity. "So, tell me what you're doing in Ohio. You're obviously from the east coast."
"That obvious, huh?"
"To someone born and raised here in Cincinnati. Your accent is very noticeable." Kelly winked at her. "It's cute."
Talia blushed. "Are you flirting with me?"
Caught off guard, all Kelly could do was stutter in response. "Well, I, um..." Uh-oh. Bad move McCoy. Never flirt with a patient. Never.
"It's okay. I kinda liked it." Talia reached for Kelly's hand, grasping her warm fingers tightly. "Your gaydar is working just fine."
"Good to know." Kelly gently squeezed back, then released Talia's fingers. "I'm going to go check on my partner's progress, okay?"
Blue eyes regarded the small blonde for a moment. "Hurry back."
Kelly winked at her and crawled out from under the wreckage.
"What's taking so long?" Talia asked nearly an hour later.
"There was a problem with the torch."
Kelly nodded. "We have to cut the beam that's lying across the top of this metal sheet. Then we'll have to cut part of this roof back before we can lift the rest off of you."
"Will that take long?"
"At least an hour once we get the acetylene torch down here." Kelly pulled a blanket into their small space and covered Talia.
"Thanks." Talia relaxed under the blanket's warmth and Kelly's presence. "So, why don't you tell me about yourself? I imagine we've got the time."
"Well, there's not much to tell really."
Talia smirked. "Huh. Cute and modest." She couldn't see her, but somehow knew Kelly was blushing. "Tell me what made you decide to rescue people for a living."
Making a note of Talia's blood pressure and pulse, Kelly counted her patient's breaths per minute, while contemplating her question.
Why did I join the fire department? I could always say it was because I watched Emergency as a kid. Kelly smiled at herself. That was true enough, but only part of it.
"My dad was a firefighter," she began. "I was the stereotypical kid who followed her daddy's shadow every step that he took. I used to go down to the firehouse with him and play on the apparatus like they were my own personal toys." She smiled at the memory. "Both my dad's brothers are on the department. As well as several cousins."
"Ah, a true family business."
"Actually, a true Irish New York family that was transplanted to Ohio." Kelly sighed. "My grandfather, his four brothers, seven nephews, and two great-nephews are New York City Firefighters. My aunt Lisa is a paramedic and her daughter is in the fire academy."
"Wow." Talia closed her eyes against a wave of pain.
Kelly moved the hand lantern closer, seeing the anguish in Talia's eyes. "Let me give you something for the pain. Please."
"I'll give you a small dose. Just enough to take the edge off. Okay?"
Talia finally nodded her assent. Within minutes, she felt her body relax. "Thanks. Shoulda let you do that sooner."
"Yes, you should have." Kelly did another check of her patient's vital signs.
"How am I doing?"
"Stable. I can give you more morphine if you need it."
"No. I'm fine." Talia felt her body finally relax. "Now, tell me more about your family. They sound fascinating."
Bubba leaned through the doorway, watching Chad work to cut through the steel beam. He had been at it for nearly an hour. One of the medics stopped Bubba when he ducked back into the hallway.
"How much longer?"
The big man sighed. "I don't know. It's takin' forever to cut through that goddamn beam."
The medic nodded, understanding the likely outcome of the situation. He turned to his partner. "Get the drug box and set up the bus for a code."
"Yeah." The medic looked toward the elevator and lowered his voice to a whisper. "Soon as she's extricated, she's going to crash. If we're lucky, we'll be able to keep her heart going long enough for her to be an organ donor."
"Kelly, can I ask you a personal question?"
"Sure." The rescuer leaned in closer, catching the scent of Talia's perfume. "Hmmm. Lilacs."
"From my mother. Kind of a good luck gift."
"Good luck on what?"
Talia smiled at the blonde's skillful change of topic. "For my job interview this morning."
"Oh. Were you just leaving when this all happened?"
"No. Actually, I got the job this morning. I think the interview was just a formality."
"Well, now it's my turn to be impressed." Kelly chuckled. "Which office?"
"L&R Insurance. I'm officially a junior partner." She shifted just a little. "Wonder if anyone has told them I'm here."
"Would you like me to find out?"
"Nah." Talia glanced up into concerned green eyes and felt a very warm sensation course through her body. It was familiar and exciting all at once. "But thanks."
"So, what was your question?"
Talia was again thrown by the change in topic. "You said that practically your whole family works for New York--"
"And you're curious as to whether or not any of them died on 9-11."
"If--if it's too hard--"
"No. I don't mind." She paused for a moment to collect her thoughts. "My uncle Kenny and his oldest son, Kyle, both worked at Rescue 2. Kyle was going off shift and his dad was just coming on when it happened. Kenny died coming out of Tower One. Kyle died trying to get to him.
"Task Force One, our Ohio Urban Search and Rescue Team, got called minutes after the collapse. We were in New York about eighteen hours later." Kelly closed her eyes, remembering every taste, every smell...
"It looked like a war zone...this thick gray cloud just covered everything, and if it got into your lungs you felt like you were choking. I don't even remember the trip there. I just remember being on that pile and digging with everything I had. Hoping against hope to find someone alive."
Kelly had to stop and take a deep breath to center herself.
Talia watched the young face before her. Despite the dim lights, she could see the pain in those soft eyes. It broke her heart. "Kelly, I--"
"Don't." Her voice was harsher than she'd intended. "I don't need platitudes."
"Okay. Did you find them?"
"Yeah. We were lucky. I was there when they brought Kyle down."
Talia reached out to touch Kelly's face. "I've never met anyone that was there...or that knew anyone there. Thank you for sharing that with me." Beneath her hand, Talia felt a smile forming.
"I hope I didn't depress you with my story."
"How are you feeling?"
"Well, the pain is still there, but it's tolerable."
"That's the morphine." Kelly adjusted the flow of the IV, noting it was the second bag of fluid. She did a quick check on Talia's vitals. "I need to check on the progress above us."
"Damn." Chad leaned back to look at the progress he'd made. He was three-fourths of the way through the beam, but not enough to move it.
"I was afraid of that." Kelly peered around the opening at her partner.
"Bubba has another torch on the way, but we can't put a lot of weight on this thing."
"Just let me know when it gets here." Kelly swiped the sweat from her forehead. "If we don't get this soon..."
Kelly shifted slightly to her left, trying to get more comfortable, succeeding only in hitting her head against a piece of metal.
"Not real comfy down here." Talia glanced over at her new friend. "Thanks for staying here with me. You really didn't have to."
"I wanted to." I had to, Kelly realized. I don't want you to be alone.
Talia smiled. "I've been under this thing so damn long, I can't feel below my waist anymore." She laughed mirthlessly. "Tell me the truth, Kelly. Am I going to die?"
A million responses went through the rescuer's mind. Never promise a patient they'll be okay. No matter how much it broke her heart to speak the truth.
Kelly silently watched the beautiful woman whose pale blue eyes looked upon her with complete trust. Why now? Why did you let me find her now, only to lose her?
"The truth is, Talia, that a crush injury like yours..." Kelly cleared her throat to dislodge the lump there. "There's not a high index for survival."
"Why not?" Talia's voice was gentle, almost magical. "Tell me what's going to happen."
"When we lift this stuff off you, the blood will return to the lower half of your body, depriving the upper half. You'll go into shock and..."
Kelly grasped her hand lightly. "Not if I can help it. I didn't find you now just to lose you."
Another soft laugh. "Well, remember what they said in that movie, 'Relationships that start in intense situations never last'."
Kelly brought the hand to her lips. "Not this time."
There was a loud creaking noise and a sudden shift of the metal pinning Talia.
Kelly was on her radio instantly. "Bubba, whats going on up there?"
"We just got the beam removed. We're ready to go with the air bags. You ready?"
There was a pregnant pause, as blue eyes met green. Kelly gently brushed her fingers through dark locks and tried to hide her sudden tears. "Talia?"
"Will you stay with me? To the end?"
"Where you go, I go." Kelly felt her heart clench at the intensity of the moment.
Talia felt it, too, and gave her rescuer a smile. "Then I'm ready." Pale blue eyes never lost contact with Kelly's teary green orbs as the air bags were inflated.
For just a moment, Talia felt relief. She was finally free of her metal tomb. Her mouth opened to thank Kelly, but all that came out was an anguished cry. Pain overwhelmed her, robbing her of her breath, and pulling her into the darkness once again.
An eerie silence had settled over the emergency room at the University of Cincinnati Hospital. Most of the rooms were full, the patients being cared for even though the nurses and doctors all had their attention on the empty trauma bay.
A fourth-year resident, two medical students and two nurses stood beside the empty bed, patiently waiting. Each was wrapped in their own thoughts as they listened to the ambulance crew report on their patient.
"She's currently in v-fib. We've got her tubed, IV in place, Epi and Lidocaine in. CPR in progress at this time. ETA of 5."
To the untrained observer, the medic's report may have sounded like so much gibberish. But to the crew waiting in the trauma bay, it was just as they had expected. Pinned beneath hundreds of pounds of metal for over an hour, they knew what they were up against. There would be little else they could do to help the woman now.
Behind the trauma team stood two men in green scrubs, morosely waiting for the patient to arrive.
The emergency room doors slid open as the medics rolled their cot in. One medic was riding the side of the cot and performing CPR.
"Any change?" Asked the doctor.
"No. We've shocked 4 times. Still in v-fib," the medic replied.
The doctor nodded, issuing orders that were already being carried out by the nurses. "She a donor?"
One of the medics answered, "According to her driver's license she's an organ donor."
"What about family?"
Kelly stepped forward, her eyes riveted on the dark-haired woman lying on the bed. "Her mother lives in Boston. The cops are trying to make contact with her now."
"Okay." The doctor, who looked too young to be in such a position of responsibility, moved to the head of the patient's bed. He listened carefully to the story of the woman's rescue and subsequent treatment, determining his next course of action. "Let's go with Sodium Bicarb and high dose Epi."
It was weird, floating above herself , watching the doctors and nurses working to bring her back. Didn't they realize she was dead?
Someone mentioned harvesting her organs, and Talia winced. Well, at least her life would be worth something. Maybe she'd save someone by giving her a heart.
Problem was, she didn't want to give up her heart or any other organ. She wanted to keep them all. She wanted to keep living.
Her eyes tracked to the small blonde, huddled in a corner of the room. This stranger had stayed by her side, just as she had promised.
But they weren't strangers, were they? They knew each other as well as any two people ever could. Yet this was the first time they had met. At least, the first time in this life.
Talia snickered at herself. This life. Where had that come from? Was she suddenly Shirley McClain, living multiple lives?
"Yes." A small voice echoed in her mind. You have lived many lives together. Your souls are joined as one. This is only one of many more lives to come.
Talia shook her head to stop the voice. It was almost instantly replaced by Kelly's soft words. "Where you go, I go."
She had heard that before. But where? When?
Again, the other voice spoke, "Return to her. Live out the rest of this life in peace."
Talia stood beside the grief stricken rescuer, her ethereal hand passing through Kelly's cheek. But it was evident in those soft green eyes that the touch was recognized, and evident in those soft green eyes. Turning from her, Talia moved to the bed and rejoined her body.
"I've got a pulse!" The nurse yelled, pushing back the men in green scrubs. "Stop CPR!"
Everyone stopped, watching the heart monitor as it slowed to a steady, discernable heartbeat. The doctor stared at the monitor, then looked to his patient. Blue eyes, as pale as the winter sky, stared back at him. "Welcome back."
Talia blinked twice at him, then allowed her gaze to settle on the one person that mattered most to her.
Kelly moved closer to the bed, afraid to believe what was happening. She reached out and grasped Talia's hand, never questioning what her heart had known all along. "It's really you."
Talia nodded, unable to speak around the tube in her throat.
"Lifetimes. We've shared so many..." Kelly choked back her tears. "You came back for me, didn't you?"
"We need to get her to the OR." A nurse was by Kelly's side, gently nudging her to leave.
Kelly brought Talia's fingers to her lips. "I'll be here."
Talia pulled the blonde woman closer to her, brushing her fingers across Kelly's smooth cheek. I know.
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