Summary: A seemingly ordinary day takes a dramatic turn.
Disclaimer: This story is for entertainment purposes only and no money is being made. Presidio Med and its characters belong to Lydia Woodward Productions and Warner Bros. Television. All original characters and situations belong to the author.
Special Thanks to Annette and Terri for the suggestions/edits necessary to make this medically passible; Deana for her many helpful suggestion; and Cameron.
Any and all comments appreciated. :)
Carefully juggling take-out containers, Dr. Nicholas Kokoris grinned when he managed to hit the right button without dropping any of them – until the elevator abruptly lurched into motion, sending the top container tumbling to the floor. Cursing under his breath, Nick set the remaining containers on the floor and reached for the stray. His congratulatory grin returned as he discovered the container had somehow managed to land flat on its lid without spilling open. Shaking his head disbelievingly, he flipped it over and popped it open. A moment of careful inspection told him the baklava had, more or less, survived the trauma. Closing the lid, he set it back atop the others and started to rise, before realizing the elevator was about to stop. Deciding it seemed wiser not to tempt fate twice, Nick left the containers sitting on the floor with his hand resting on top, until the doors started to open.
Glancing up as he lifted the containers, Nick's eyes landed on a couple wrapped tenderly in each other's arms, kissing passionately. The sight distracted him, throwing him off balance, and sending the baklava, again, crashing to the floor. Cursing, not so softly this time, Nick set the other food back down, jumped up and slammed his fist into the 'roof' button. He crouched back down as the door closed and reached for the baklava. His mind still distracted by the lingering image of the happy couple, the elevator's lurching start threw him off balance and his hand landed, with a crunch, on the Styrofoam baklava container. Muttering angrily, Nick plopped onto the floor. Scowling, he slumped against the wall and sprawled his legs out, one on each side of the food.
"Knock it off, Nick. Pouting isn't going to make you feel any better," he chided himself, after a few seconds, and reached for the crunched Styrofoam container. Flipping it right side up, he pried it open and frowned at the smashed, broken bits of baklava.
"Desserts definitely ruined," he muttered, sullenly, before remembering that lunch was total loss anyway. Nick couldn't really see Rae tearing herself out of her husband's loving embrace to join her lover for a romantic lunchtime quickie. Shrugging, ruefully, he popped one of the pieces of syrupy goo into his mouth. He'd driven through lunchtime, rush hour traffic to get it; he might as well eat it.
Nick popped one more piece into his mouth as the elevator doors opened, then, gathered up his expensive romantic lunch for one and stepped onto the roof. He didn't bother to search for the perfect spot, just picked a direction at random and quickly strolled to the edge. Setting the food down, Nick stared out at the thick, wet haze engulfing San Francisco.
Man, what am I doing here?
He was there because Rae was there. It was that simply. Nick shook his head.
She hadn't asked him to come to San Francisco. In fact, she'd seemed a little wary of the idea – her husband and her lover in such close proximity. Taking a deep breath, Nick closed his eyes, remembering the serious conversation that had followed his decision to move.
Rae'd asked if it mattered to him that she wasn't going to leave her husband. He'd said 'no'. He loved her. He wanted to be with her. If that meant sharing her with her husband, he could live with that.
He could. At least, he'd thought he could. But how sure was he, really? Had he lied to her…and himself? He hadn't considered how it would feel to see them together – to see Rae in her husband's arms when she should be in his. Nick hadn't realized it would hurt so much; the discovery made him less certain that he could live with it.
His daydream of her quickly dispersed as Nick turned to see two formidable-looking men approaching him. Giving them a quick once over, he determined they must be part of the construction team finishing up the top couple floors. It surprised him. Nick had been told they were off for the day. Noticing the men seemed a little leery of him, he remembered he'd taken off his ID before running out to grab lunch.
"Dr. Kokoris," he introduced himself, tossing out a friendly grin. "Something I can do for you gentlemen."
"Uh, yeah, um, sorry, Doc," the shorter of the two men stammered. "But, um, nobody's supposed to be up here. Dangerous."
Nowhere near ready to go back inside, Nick glanced at his feet, resisting the urge to sigh. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the forgotten food containers and grinned as a diversion came to mind.
"Tell you what, guys," he bargained, his eyes twinkling mischievously as they returned to the two construction workers. "I've got enough food here for all three of us. What do you say? Let me stay up here long enough to eat?"
The two men glanced at each other, and the taller one nodded at the shorter one.
"All right, Doc. You got a deal. You can stay up here till we're done eating."
Nick nodded, grinning, and started to sit.
He glanced up at the taller man.
"You might as well join us over there." The man nodded to indicate a direction. "We've got a tarp spread out."
"Thanks." Nick grinned, sheepishly, as the man's gaze flicked down to his expensive slacks. They would have been ruined had he sat down on the bare tar.
"We'll give you hand there, Doc. Here, Migs…," the shorter of the two workmen offered, as Nick reached for the food. Crouching down, the man snatched up a couple of the containers and handed them up to his buddy, before flashing a grin at Nick. "Least we can do."
Nick smile, appreciatively, and picked up the last couple containers, before following his escorts to their tarp.
"So what we having today, Doc?" The taller man inquired, making room for Nick to squeeze between him and his buddy as they walked.
"Egyptian, huh? This ought to be interesting," the man responded, chuckling. "Oh, by the way, I'm Migs – Miguel Santos."
His hands full, Nick nodded to acknowledge the introduction.
"Gabriel Reuben," the shorter man introduced, exchanging a polite smile with the Doctor.
"Here, let me take those while you grab a seat, Doc," Gabriel offered, alerting Nick that they'd reached their destination. Handing over the food, the Doc made himself comfortable against the ledge as the other two men inspected the contents of the Styrofoam containers.
"So…what exactly is all this, Doc," Migs finally asked, with a chuckle.
Nick smiled and pointed to the container closest to Migs. "Well, that one's Koshari."
The response earned a laugh from Nick.
"It's a mixture of rice, noodles and lentils in a tomato sauce and topped with crunchy fried onions."
"That doesn't sound too freaky," Migs commented, earning another chuckle from Nick.
"What about this one, Doc? It looks like roasted chicken," Gabriel asked, pointing to the container nearest him.
"Which is what, exactly?"
Nick grinned. "Roasted chicken."
"Yeah, you're real funny, Doc," Gabriel responded, shaking his head. "Moving on…."
Nick laughed, again, before glancing at the next container.
"Let's see, we have some hummus – that's, basically, smooshed up chickpeas – and bread to dip into it; that one," Nick pointed to another one, "has stuffed vine leaves; this one is taamiyya – that's fried fava beans mixed with green herbs, and…."
"All right, all right, that's good enough, Doc," Migs interrupted, laughing. "It all sounds harmless enough. Let's eat."
Gabriel nodded in agreement and fished out the plastic plates and silverware the restaurant had included, in abundance, within an extra container.
Relaxing back against the ledge, Nick serenely watched his lunch mates chitter about this, that, and the other as they dished up and made themselves comfortable. They appeared to be well acquainted, making it awkward for Nick to contribute very much, but he commented here and there, just to be polite. He didn't have many friends in San Francisco, yet – that weren't co-workers – making any conversation that didn't include sutures, urine samples or the like, a refreshing change.
"Hey, aren't you having any, Doc?" Migs asked, abruptly shifting thoughts mid-sentence.
Nick grinned, sheepishly, as both his lunch mates looked at him and, then, suspiciously at the food on their plates.
"Yeah, yeah," he muttered, before the two could decide to toss their lunches. Pulling himself away from the ledge, Nick started to reach for the chicken, but a strange rustling sound distracted him. Seeing him pause mid-motion and glance up, Migs and Gabriel looked up as well, growing instantly alert.
"You guys hear some…," the Doc started to ask, feeling their sudden stillness next to him. Before he could finish, flames shot out from beneath a saw set up a few feet away. Quickly gobbling up a nearby tarp, it raced towards the three men with terrifying speed.
"Stay back, Doc!" Migs and Gabriel exclaimed, simultaneously, and raced toward the flames.
Relieved, Nick watched Migs grabbed a fire extinguisher from a stack of nearby equipment and advanced forward, dousing the flames as he went. Turning slightly, Nick found Gabriel scrambling to knock the fire down from the other side and wondered if he should lend a hand, but, seeing that the fire was nearly extinguished, Nick decided it would be better to stay out of the way. He quickly changed his mind as Gabriel glanced towards his buddy, his eyes wide with alarm. Following the gaze, Nick turned just in time to see the plywood beneath Migs fall away, leaving behind empty space – and the workman dangling precariously from a charred four-by-four.
"What happened?" He shouted at Gabriel, who was busily searching for the best direction to approach his imperiled buddy.
"The plywood was just there to keep the weather out! There was nothing holding it in place."
Glancing back at Migs, Nick's pulse quickened. The fire had dwindled, but the smoldering remains still blocked Gabriel's path. Realizing that the charred four-by-four wasn't going to support Migs's weight much longer, Nicked desperately searched for a way to reach the workman from where he stood.
"Here!" He shouted to Gabriel, waving wildly, as he spotted a narrow path across a couple four-by-fours lying parallel to Migs. They seemed out of place, and Nick realized they must have just been tossed down for the plywood to lie across. The probability that they weren't anchored to anything made him swallow hard, but there didn't seem any other way to reach the workman. They'd have to risk it.
Seeing Nick gesturing, Gabriel scanned the area and realized he'd have to take the long way around.
"I'm on my way."
Nick nodded and returned his attention to Migs. The man was clearly on verge of panic. Worrying that he might lose it before Gabriel could get there, Nick sucked in a deep breath and, nervously, stepped onto the four-by-fours, bouncing carefully to be certain they'd support his weight. When they didn't move, he sucked in another breath, holding it this time, and carefully crept toward Migs. Time crawled to a stop as Nick concentrated on his feet; his focus intense enough that he almost passed the workman.
The shout abruptly snagged Nick's attention. Flinching, he felt his heart jump into his throat as the boards beneath him shifted in response to the unbalanced motion. They didn't move much, however, and he forced himself to focus on what he was doing. Slowly and carefully crouching down, Nick maneuvered onto his knees, then flat onto his stomach, and reached for Migs. He felt the boards shift, again, but only slightly, as he caught the other man's hands. Sliding back a little, the Doc let his legs dangle further off the far side, praying his weight could offset the smaller man's weight enough to keep the boards steady as Migs crawled up.
The workman distractedly noticed the Nick shifting his weight, but was too focused on getting settled to realize the Doc was desperately trying to keep the boards steady. They both breathed a sigh of relief when Migs finally lay balanced across both beams.
"You okay?" Nick asked, shakily.
Migs nodded. "Thanks, Doc."
"Don't thank me till we're on solid ground," he replied. Migs didn't respond, not that Nick would have noticed if he had. His attention had already shifted to his hands as he began to slowly crawl backwards. He had no idea how far away 'solid ground' was, so Nick forced himself not to worry about it and just kept moving.
"Gotcha, Doc," Nick heard, vaguely, as Gabriel clamped onto his shirt. He breathed a sigh of relief, but fought the temptation to relax his focus as he carefully maneuvered the last few feet off the boards. Moving out of the way, Nick sat on his heels with his eyes closed, trying to stop trembling. as Gabriel brushed past him to snag Migs.
Smelling the odor of smoldering tar wafting on the breeze, Nick peeked his eyes open to check on the state of the fire. Out of the corner of his eyes, he saw that Migs had reached safety, and breathed a sigh of relief. A split-second later, he heard an odd sound. Before he could figure out what it was, Nick felt the air rush from his lungs.
The length of the fall astonished him. It began to seem as though he would fall forever, so when his body finally slammed into an unyielding surface, it caught Nick unprepared. He reflexively attempted to suck the breath back into his body, but his lungs refused to cooperate. His eyes grew wide with panic as he tried again only to have the same result. Paralyzed?! Panic flooded his brain as the realization washed over him.
You gotta calm down, Nick! He ordered himself a moment later. If you're really paralyzed, you're gonna suffocate in a few minutes. If you're not, you just got the wind knocked out of you; you're gonna be fine in a few seconds. Either way, panicking is not gonna help.
A distance part of Nick's brain found it odd to be rationalizing the seemingly dire situation, but the rest of it resigned itself to the logic and made no attempt to stop his eyes from slowly closing. Alone in the blackness, it seemed certain that minutes were passing, not seconds, and that meant he was dying. The thought sent a fresh tickle of fear through his brain, but then reason returned, and Nick calmed down. He knew his logic was right. There was nothing he could do but wait for whatever was going to happen. A moment later, relief washed through him as he realized that, somewhere during all his reasoning, he'd started breathing.
"Doc! Oh man! Don't be dead, Doc! We need you! Open your eyes! Come on, Doc!"
Registering the anxious plea, Nick complied, cracking his open a slit.
"That's it! Come on, Doc! Open your eyes! Look at me!"
Nick groggily tried to obey. Opening the rest of the way, his eyes briefly darted around, searching for the source of the voice. But after a few seconds, the effort grew cumbersome, and Nick allowed them to slowly close.
"No! No! No! You stay with me, Doc!"
He felt someone shake him and opened his eyes, again.
"That's it, Doc! You keep 'em open now!"
Nick blinked sleepily, but kept them open – as ordered.
"That's it, Doc. That's it. Just keep 'em, open."
He hazily realized that the voice had grown calmer.
"Hole-lee mama! You had me worried for a few minutes, there."
A small part of Nick's brain noted that the voice started talking again, but he didn't really hear it. His gaze had fixed on the ceiling above him. Spellbound, he watched various shades of grey swirl and undulate, as a seemingly distant part of his brain whispered to him that ceilings weren't supposed to do that.
"Doc! You hearing me?!"
Someone shook him, again, breaking the spell and sending a small sliver of adrenaline rushing into his bloodstream.
"Come on, Doc! You hearing me?! Look at me!"
Nick registered fear in the voice. It sent more adrenaline pumping into his system, dispersing some of the haze engulfing his mind.
Nick glanced to his left and finally found the source of the voice.
"Yeah, Doc. That's right. It's Gabriel," the workman grinned, nearly giddy with relief.
"What…how long…," Nick stammered, struggling for coherent thought.
"We fell, fifteen feet, maybe more. You been out a while. I don't know – fifteen, maybe twenty minutes. Had me pretty worried," Gabriel declared, chuckling anxiously. "How you doing?"
Nick thought for a second and realized he didn't really know how he was doing. Closing his eyes, he ran a quick mental check. Pulse – a little fast. Breathing – also, a little fast. Nick frowned, a worried knot tying itself in his stomach.
Focus! Doesn't necessarily mean there's a problem. You just fell fifteen feet; that would get anyone's adrenaline pumping, he silently reminded himself. But if there is a problem, you gotta stay focused if you expect to spot it.
Forcing himself to concentrate, Nick continued the mental exam. BP – he couldn't tell. Pain – nothing jumped out at him. Mental state – seemed coherent, but then, would he know if he wasn't. The thought made him smile.
"Doc? You still with me?" Nick heard Gabriel ask anxiously and opened his eyes.
"Yeah. Still here," he quipped, groggily. "Think I'm all right. How about you and Migs?"
"Migs broke his leg, but seems to be okay other than that." Gabriel responded. "And I dislocated my shoulder real good; managed to pop it back in, though. Pain's not so bad – shock, I guess – but I can't really move it much at all."
"Help coming?" Nick wondered aloud. Gabriel shook his head.
"Don't know. Fire alarm's not going off, and I doubt, with that fog we got out there today, anybody's gonna notice the smoke from outside."
"Sorry, no," Gabriel interrupted, presumptively. "When the saw fell, it snagged the crane's cable and toppled it over. Don't understand it, really; shouldn't have come down that easy. The damn thing must not have been bolted down properly. Anyway when it went, we went with it, then, it trapped us in here. It's got the door completely blocked. I tried to get enough leverage to move it, but with my arm…."
"What about…," Nick started to ask. His voice dropped to a barely audible whisper, as his brow furrowed with the effort of staying awake.
"Neither your cell phone or mine survived the fall." Gabriel hoped he'd correctly guessed, a second time, what the Doc was thinking. "And there are no phone lines wired in up here, yet – no fire alarms, either."
Nick frowned. "So its possible nobody's coming?"
Gabriel nodded, glumly.
"In that case, I'd better make sure you two are stable, then we can see about getting out of here," Nick declared. "Help me up, would ya?"
"You sure that's a good idea, Doc. You were pretty out of it a minute ago."
"Fine now," Nick countered, sincerely, waving away Gabriel's concern. The workman tossed him a dubious glance, but shrugged his good shoulder and offered the Doc a hand.
As Gabriel pulled him up, pain exploded through Nick's abdomen, shocking the air from his lungs. Gasping, he clamped his eyes shut, barely managing to hold on to the other man's hand.
"Shit! I knew it!" Gabriel exclaimed, shifting his weight so the Doc could lie back down. Feeling the movement, Nick opened his eyes and shook his head.
"No," he gasped, breathlessly. "Be… all… right."
Gabriel stared at him, skeptically. He hadn't noticed before how pale the Doc was. "I don't know. You don't look so hot!"
After a couple more gasps, Nick pooled enough concentration to regain his composure and let go of Gabriel. Biting his lip, he, painfully, slid back several inches to stack of plywood. Propping himself against it, Nick closed his eyes and waited for the pain to abate.
"I'm fine. Really. Probably cracked a rib or something. Just need a minute," he weakly assured the workman, uncertain whether he was telling the truth or not. After a few minutes, Nick suspected that it was 'or not'.
The pain wasn't ebbing much, nor was it localized near a rib; it was diffused throughout his abdomen. Nick knew that could mean a lot of things – many of which were very bad. His eyes still closed, he ran through his checklist again. Pulse: still rapid, maybe, a little irregular - he wasn't sure, it was hard to focus. Breathing: shallow, rapid. BP: dropping – now that he was sitting up, Nick could feel it – just like he could feel the cold sweat making his skin tingle. He was hemorrhaging, no question about it. But where?
"Yeah, Doc?" The workman responded, relieved that Nick was still conscious. Watching the Doc sit completely still, with his eyes closed, had sent a chill down Gabriel's spine and left him uncertain of what to do.
"Do you know if I landed on anything?"
Gabriel frowned, his brow furrowing as he thought. "Um…yeah, you were laying on top of this four-by-four when I found ya."
Nick forced his eyes open and glanced toward Gabriel to see the workman's hand resting on a plank. "Did you move me?"
"Yeah, Doc. Sorry! I know I shouldn't have, but I rolled the over and laid ya flat. The way you were laying, I couldn't tell if you were breathing," Gabriel admitted, remorsefully.
Nick nodded, slightly, to indicate he'd heard, then, closed his eyes to think. It sounded like he was dealing with blunt force abdominal trauma – that could mean a lot of things. Nick concentrated on the pain and tried to figure out exactly what hurt, but had little success – so he's switched to logic. What would he check first? Liver. Spleen. Nick focused on his left side – the pain didn't seem to originate there. Not spleen. Please, don't be liver. An anxious tickle formed his stomach. Need to have a look. Forcing his reluctant arms to move, Nick tried to unbutton his shirt, but his fingers wouldn't cooperate.
"Um...need to see…," Nick mumbled, barely understandably. He meant to finish the sentence, but talking pulled too much energy away from his fumbling fingers.
Seeing the Doc's struggle, Gabriel reached forward to help, but his shoulder screamed in pain. Wincing, he reflexively grabbed it with the other hand and sighed. With only one willing hand, Gabriel knew he'd fumble with the buttons even worse than Nick was. "Sorry, Doc, I'd help ya if I could."
Too focused to speak, Nick gave the workman a slight smile to indicate he'd heard and understood. It didn't matter; his fingers were getting the job done, although with agonizing slowness. They dropped, wearily, into his lap as the last button slid free, and it took a several seconds to force them up again to open his shirt. Getting a glimpse of the damage, Gabriel let out a whistle, low and long.
The sound made the anxious tickle in Nick's stomach mature into full-fledged fear. He tried to look down to see the damage for himself, but it sent a fresh stab of pain radiating through his abdomen. Gasping, Nick let his head drop back again.
"What ya see?" he asked, breathlessly, unwilling to try, again.
"Geez, Doc. You got one heck of a nasty looking bruise across your chest…er…stomach…er…well, right in the middle, I guess."
Nick's fear grew, threatening to blossom into panic. "What's it look like?"
Gabriel chuckled, nervously. "Like a four-by-four – straight across from one side to the other.
"Thanks." A slight nod accompanied Nick's barely audible whisper.
"Doc?!" Gabriel asked, hearing a funny-edge in Nick's tone and wondering what it meant.
Nick didn't respond, the surging panic making it hard to breathe. Gabriel's description eliminated any doubts he'd had that it was his liver that was hemorrhaging. That meant he probably didn't have a lot of time to get help – and they didn't even know if any was coming, let alone, how soon.
The anxiety in Gabriel's voice wove its way through the panic and far enough into Nick's foggy brain to remind him to calm down. Panicking would only speed the process along – speed up his death. Nick shoved the last thought away. Don't dwell on it. Nothing you can do for yourself. Focus on something else. Forcing his head up and his eyes open, Nick studied the workman for a few second. Do I tell him? No. Nothing he can do for me, either.
"How ya doing?" Gabriel asked.
"Hurts," Nick admitted. Focus on something else. "How's the shoulder?"
"Hurts," Gabriel replied, simply.
Nick frowned sympathetically. "I should have a look."
The workman shook his head. "Don't waste your energy, Doc. It'll wait."
Nick thought about insisting, but decided against it. The sinking sensation pulling at his consciousness warned him not to waste what little strength he had.
"Did hit your head? Lose consciousness at all?"
Gabriel shook his head. "Naw, Doc. Shoulder took the impact, head's fine."
"How about your neck? Is it bothering you at all? Are feeling any numbness or tingling anywhere?" Nick asked.
Again, Gabriel shook his head. "I'm fine, Doc. Really. Don't waste your strength worrying about me."
Nick nodded, reluctantly. He was satisfied Gabriel wasn't in any immediate danger, but felt negligent, all the same. He knew the exchange was a sorry excuse for a real examination. Letting his head fall back, Nick closed his eyes and coughed. A fresh explosion of pain ripped the air from his lungs, and he gasped, provoking another cough – but there was already too much pain for any more to make a difference. After a moment, it ebbed back from excruciating to simply agonizing, allowing Nick to regain his composure. Opening his eyes, he noticed, much to his surprise, that the room was filled with smoke.
"What about the fire?"
"Yeah. I noticed that too," Gabriel commented, glancing up at the thickening cloud around them. "Doesn't make any sense…even if the fire's still burning, the smoke should be rising, not getting thicker down here."
Almost the same instant he finished speaking - as if in answer to his quandary - they heard a thick plop land a few inches from Nick's feet. Glancing toward it, they stared blankly at the smoldering ooze for several seconds, before it finally dawned on Gabriel what was happening.
"Roofing tar. The bucket must spilled," he stated, matter-of-factly.
"Sprinklers?" Nick asked, concerned about the increasingly thick, putrid smoke engulfing them.
Gabriel shook his head. "Not on this floor. We haven't gotten that far."
Nick sighed. He knew he shouldn't move. It would make the bleeding worse; might even kill him – even faster than breathing the smoke would. But if they could just find a way to get Gabriel out, the workman could probably send back help before he suffocated. Probably. The scenario worked for Nick – he knew his odds were bad either way - but what about Migs. He couldn't expect the man to risk suffocating if leaving was an option for him. Nick needed to find out just how mobile Migs was. Closing his eyes, he concentrated on gathering his quickly dwindling strength and prepared himself for the pain about to explode through him. "Help me up, would ya?"
"Didn't we just try that, Doc?"
Nick opened his eyes and glanced drowsily at the workman. "Gotta check on Migs. Need to know if he can move."
Gabriel nodded his head, realizing the Doc was right, and offered Nick his good hand.
Despite his best effort to bite it back, a soft moaned escaped Nick's lips as he pulled himself over onto his hands and knees.
"You sure about this, Doc?" Gabriel questioned, wincing at the sound and watching, anxiously, as Nick's head hung limply.
"Yeah. Where?" Nick gasped in response. It actually hadn't hurt as bad as he'd expected, which probably wasn't good. He knew it most likely meant he was slipping deeper into shock, but he tried not to think about it.
"To your right, Doc, propped up over by the crane." Gabriel nodded towards the wreckage.
Weakly bobbing his head in acknowledgement, Nick forced his reluctant limbs to move. It required too much effort to keep his head up to see where he was going, so Nick didn't bother trying and just kept crawling until he bumped into something.
"Hey, Migs! Look who I found." Nick heard Gabriel say from behind him. Reluctantly opening his eyes, he found himself staring at an expression deeply lined with pain.
"Hey, Doc," Migs croaked in a weak whisper, cracking his eyes open. "Glad to see you're still among the living. You had Gabriel pretty worried for a few minutes there."
Nick replied by way of a nod and a weak half-smile, as sat back on his heals.
"Guess you wanna have a look at my leg, huh?" Migs surmised, glumly.
"I'll try not to hurt ya more than necessary," Nick replied, recognizing the resigned tone of the workman's voice. Reaching down, he ran his hand over the injury as tenderly as possible, his training allowing him to block out the pained gasps his light touch provoked. "Not so bad. Simple fracture of your tibia, and, likely, your fibula – it's hard to be sure about that one without an x-ray."
"So, I'm gonna live, huh?" Migs joked.
Nick managed another half-smile, but it turned into a grimace as he coughed, sending a fresh stab of pain wafting through him. A chill accompanied it, slithering through him as he caught his breath.
"You okay, Doc? You don't look so good," Migs commented, seeing Nick's face contort with pain.
"Yeah, like you're lookin' swell yourself," Nick answered, evasively, tossing the man a much shakier half-smile.
"Yeah, you got a point there, Doc." Migs chuckled a little, before he also coughed, provoking a quick flare of pain made him gasp. It was a soft sound, but Nick still heard it.
"Sure wish I had something to give you for that," he commented, sympathetically.
"Yeah, me too, Doc," Migs replied, breathlessly, and closed his eyes. "Bet you wouldn't mind a little for yourself, either."
"You got that right," Nick quipped, managing a full-fledged smile.
Biting his lip, he reached over to check the workmans's pulse. The beats seemed to be within a tolerable range, although his sluggish brain refused to focus well enough to be certain. Migs's breathing, although pained, didn't appear to be alarmingly fast or shallow.
"How's your head? Did you loose consciousness at all?" Nick asked, wishing he had the strength to examine both Migs and Gabriel more thoroughly.
"I think its fine, Doc. The leg seemed to take the brunt of it," Migs answered, pain edging his voice.
"He was out for a bit," Gabriel added, from over Nick's shoulder. "Not like you were; he was only out maybe a minute."
The Doc nodded wearily. "How about your neck and back? Feeling any numbness or tingling anywhere?"
"No, Doc, although I wouldn't mind a little numbness in my leg right about now," Migs replied, sighing.
Nick tossed him another sympathetic half-smile. Feeing as assured as possible without properly examining Migs, Nick glanced back down at the broken leg.
"You might as well get it over with."
"Gabriel, we got anything I can splint this with?" Nick muttered sleepily, knowing Migs referred to stabilizing the leg. Hearing Gabriel utter a string of profanities, he turned his head slightly.
"Damn! Sorry, Doc! I should've done that right off," the workman chided himself. Nick shrugged weakly. "Be right back. Don't go anywhere."
Nick nodded and wearily closed his eyes, only to be taunted by another cough. This time it sent a series of chills dancing down Nick's spine and provoked a wave a dizziness that nearly sent him toppling over.
"Whoa, there." He heard Migs's say and felt a hand steady him.
"Thanks," Nick whispered. Appreciating that Migs continued to hold him steady, he tried to smile, but failed miserably. Nick didn't bother to open his eyes and see if the workman smiled back. He knew he needed to conserve as much of his nearly-spent strength as possible. He'd need it to help get Migs out of there.
A new kernel of fear planted itself in Nick's stomach as he thought about getting Migs off the floor. The Doc knew he'd already moved around enough to aggravate the bleeding; he wasn't gonna have much of a chance at all if he kept it up, but Gabriel wouldn't be able to get Migs up by himself. The workman was the smallest of the three men, and only had one functioning arm.
Nick sighed, wishing he could just curl up and go to sleep. He was so tired…
"You still with us, Doc?" Gabriel asked, touching Nick's shoulder and making him flinch.
"Yeah, still here," Nick replied, groggily, suppressing a groan. Opening his eyes, he wondered how long he'd been zoned out. The concern coating Gabriel's voice made him suspicious more time had passed than he'd thought. Shaking his head a little, Nick tried, with little success, to disperse some of the haze increasingly clouding his brain – it was getting almost as thick as the smoke clouding the room.
"Broken ribs, huh? What'd you leave out, Doc?" Gabriel questioned, suspiciously.
"You're really not looking so good," the workman pointed out.
"Be all right once where out of here," Nick lied, as another chill ran through him. His brain vaguely registered that, surrounded by smoke, he should be warm, but he was cold – so cold and so tired. Nick started to close his eyes again, but then forced them back open. He couldn't fall asleep; they had to get moving.
"This is gonna hurt like a mother, isn't it, Doc?" Migs croaked, dropping his hand from Nick's shoulder.
The Doc shrugged. "Not as bad as getting it set's gonna."
"Oh, thanks, Doc. I feel a lot better now."
"No problem. Here to help," Nick quipped, his voice cracking a little. Noticing, Migs took a closer look at the Doc.
"Gabriel's right, Doc. You ain't looking so good," he noted, anxiously.
Nick sighed. "Nothing to worry about right now."
Migs stared at him, skeptically, but didn't press the subject. He wasn't entirely sure he wanted to know just how bad off the Doc was.
"So what kind of doctor are you, anyway, Doc?" he asked, seeing Nick starting to nod off, again.
"Huh?" Nick responded, jerking awake. The movement provoked a stab of pain that made him moan, softly. Hearing it sent an anxious tickle through Migs. Glancing up, he exchanged worried glances with Gabriel.
"Why don't you take it easy for a few, Doc. I can do this," Gabriel offered, wincing as his voice provoked another startled flinch from Nick. Splinting Migs's leg one-handed wouldn't be simply, but he'd figure out a way to do it.
"What?! And let …all those years of med school…go to waste," Nick quipped, breathlessly, as the latest flare of pain ebbed enough to allow him to speak. He appreciated the offer, but doubted Gabriel could really pull it off. "Not a chance! They pay me…big bucks for this sort…of thing, you know."
Gabriel chuckled and gestured to the Doc to have at it, handing him a couple small boards and some rags. Reflexively reaching to take them, Nick groaned and wavered slightly as a stab of pain sent a fresh wave of dizziness washing over him. Gabriel and Migs quickly steadied him, and he nodded appreciatively.
"Oops," he quipped, earning a smile from both men. Nick noted, with relief, that a small surge of adrenaline had accompanied the pain and prayed it would keep him awake long enough to get Migs to the elevator. Forcing his reluctant body into motion, Nick quickly, but carefully, splinted the leg.
Gabriel didn't bother to comment. Kneeling down to lend a hand, he focused on Mig's tortured groans to distract himself from the agonized grimace contorting the Doc's blanched face. He breathed a sigh of relief when Nick finished and dropped back onto his heels.
"All right, let's see about getting hell out of here," the Doc mumbled, wearily.
"I think I can move the blasted thing, just couldn't get the leverage set up right one-handed," Gabriel replied, glancing at the nearby wreckage of the small crane.
"Sounds simple enough," Nick quipped. "Where ya need it?"
Gabriel quickly shuffled over to the wrecked crane and knelt down, indicating with his good hand where he wanted Nick to jam the four-by-four.
The Doc nodded, took a deep breath, bit his lip and dropped back onto his hands and knees. To his delight, the movement didn't hurt as much as it had earlier; neither did crawling over to the crane. Clutching the four-by-four in one hand and pressing against the wreckage with the other, Nick used them to get him to his feet. He grimaced as pain tore through him and had to pause to catch his breath before moving again.
"Maybe I can get it with you just hold it up for me," Gabriel offered, hating the idea of making Nick move any more.
"I got it. Just give me another sec," Nick croaked. Raising his head, slightly, he bit his lip in expectation of the pain. Even with the mental preparation, he couldn't stifle a soft yelp as he jammed the plank into the chosen crevice.
"That good?" He asked Gabriel, in a weak whisper, as he rested limply against crane.
"Yeah," the workman replied, nodding. Gripping the plank, he watched Nick sag to the ground and crawl back to Migs. Gabriel shook his head, sympathetically, then, turned his focus to the crane. Taking a deep breath, he grunted as he put his full weight onto the plank. He was practically sitting on it by the time the wreckage, slowly but surely, rose off the ground. Twisting his weight, he gave it a quick shove and managed to roll it back a couple feet, before it settled back onto the floor.
"Nice work, buddy," Migs applauded, provoking a weary grin from Gabriel.
Nick didn't say anything, but managed a smile as he noted that, although the majority of the wreckage still lay in front of the door, there was enough room to slide past. It would be a tight squeeze, but considering the options…. A series of coughs emitted from Gabriel reminded Nick they needed to get moving. Grunting with pain, he moved to Migs's other side and pulled an arm over his shoulder.
"Why don't you just take it easy for a few minutes, Doc," Gabriel suggested, watching his agonized movement. "I'll get Migs to the elevator, then, come back for you."
Nick smiled, weakly but appreciatively, then, shook his head, slightly. "Between his leg and your arm, it's gonna take both of us to get him up and through the door."
"Doc, you're in no shape…"
"There's really no choice. We all have to get to the same place, let's not make it any harder, or slower, than we need to, okay," Nick interrupted, shrugging weakly. He unintentionally emphasized his point with a cough that left him gasping in pain.
"How far?" He asked, after finally managing to catch his breath
"Maybe twenty yards," Gabriel estimated, guessing Nick was referring to the elevators.
"Okay. Give me a second," Nicked responded, bobbing his head. Closing his eyes, he concentrated the last vestiges of strength in his body towards one final effort – then, he could rest. It felt like he could sleep forever.
"Yeah, me, too," Migs croaked, thoughts of the anticipated pain crowding out his concern for the Doc.
Gabriel shrugged his good shoulder. Helplessly watching both men with their eyes closed, he nearly danced with impatience as he waited for a signal that one or other was ready to move.
Another pained cough brought Nick's eyes open first. Noticing Gabriel's intense scrutiny, he nodded. "Ready."
Hearing him, Migs opened his eyes, as well, and grimaced. "Let's get it over with."
Gabriel nodded and shuffled over to his buddy. He noticed that his bad shoulder would be on the outside, placing Migs's weight on his good shoulder, and leaving a strong arm to wrap around his buddy. Realizing the Doc had gone to the effort of moving to the other side to arrange it, Gabriel smiled appreciatively, even though Nick wasn't looking.
"Ready?" He asked, as he wrapped his arm around his buddy's waist. Migs nodded, but Gabriel waited for the Doc to nod, wanting to be certain he didn't catch Nick off guard.
Hearing Nick's soft whisper, Gabriel thrust upward, pushing his buddy to his feet. Migs gasped and bit his lip as his leg moved, but the Doc abruptly distracted him from the pain.
Nick had sincerely believed himself ready when he said it, yet found himself unable to stifle an agonized cry as he stood, Migs's weight adding more pressure on his tender abdomen. It caught both workmen unprepared and left them slightly shaken. Feeling the Doc trembling beneath him, Mig's tried to shift more of his weight onto Gabriel.
Still gasping, Nick nodded, appreciating the attempt, and briefly closed his eyes. Worst part is over, he reminded himself, just got get him through the door; Gabriel can get him the rest of the way. As anxious as Migs to get it over with, Nick opened his eyes.
Gabriel resisted the temptation to ask the Doc if he was sure and just stepped toward the door. Reaching it, he hesitated, unable to decide if it would be easier on Nick to go first or last.
Nick made the decision for him by continuing to move. Sucking in his breath and holding it, he slid between the wrecked crane and the doorframe, carrying Migs along with him. Halfway through, his distending abdomen brushed against the crane, forcing him to release his breath in a pained cry and bringing him to a halt. Resting his head against cold metal, Nick struggled to regain his composure.
Come on, Nick! Just a few more feet and you can rest. You can't stop here!
Nick heard Migs ask, alarmed, and forced his feet backed into motion. When he reached the hallway, he mentally breathed a sigh of relief, lacking the breath or strength to do it aloud. His body spent, he continued standing by sheer force of will as Migs cleared the doorframe. By the time Gabriel cleared it, Nick's will was spent. He felt the weight that had shifted onto him lessen and, reflexively, stepped along with the other two as Gabriel moved toward the elevator. Ten steps later, Nick's body abruptly refused to continue. His legs failing him, he sagged against wall and, ignominiously, slid the floor.
Feeling Nick's support fall away, Migs reflexively threw his hand against the wall to catch himself.
"Doc!" He and Gabriel shouted simultaneously.
"Keep going?" Nick mumbled, almost managing to lift his hand and wave them away.
"Can't just leave…" Migs started to argue, but Gabriel interrupted.
"I'll be right back for you, Doc," he assured, pulling Migs forward with him.
"But…" his buddy continued to argue, but Gabriel shut it down with a shake of his head. The Doc wasn't far from the edge; he didn't need a medical degree to see it. He hated to leave him, but Gabriel knew there was no way Nick was getting back on his feet.
"So…how long you lived in San Fran, Doc?" Gabriel asked. Not knowing what else to do, he figured he should at least keep Nick talking.
Wishing Gabriel would just go away and let him sleep, Nick didn't answer immediately. But, then, the part of his brain that understood he was dying and wanted to resist forced an answer from his lips.
"Almost two months."
"Wow, just a newbie, huh," Gabriel answered, distractedly, as he struggled beneath his taller buddy. "What brought you here?"
"Rae? Who's that?" The workman replied, intentionally staying gender-neutral. It was a unisex name, and Gabriel knew better than to assume a guy's sexual preference.
"She's trouble," Nick replied, unconsciously grinning ever so slightly.
"Ah, well, most women are," Gabriel quipped. "But is she worth it?"
Nick fell silent as he forced his sluggish brain to bring her mental image into focus. Was she? The emotional pain that had sent him up to the roof still lingered, but it suddenly seemed insignificant as he realized he might not have another chance to see her beautiful face or feel her soft body in his arms. The pain of the loss twisted in his heart. Yeah, she's worth it! She's worth anything, even sharing.
"Doc?! Come on, tell me, is she worth it?" Gabriel repeated, anxiously, when he didn't answer.
"Yeah," was all Nick managed.
"Yeah, some of 'em are, aren't they, Doc," Gabriel replied, grunting as he carefully set Migs on the floor of the elevator.
"So…what's she like, this girl of yours?" He asked, turning around to fetch Nick.
"Beautiful," Nick sighed.
"Sure, they're all that," Gabriel quipped. "But what else? What's she like? She a doctor, like you?"
"Yeah, the good ones are always stubborn, Doc," Gabriel replied, as Nick's voice dropped off. "I take it she's fond of Egyptian food."
Losing the will to continue fighting the exhaustion pulling at him, Nick responded with only an amused grunt. He's quick!
"So, how come she wasn't hungry for it today?" Gabriel asked. He'd suspected from his first glance of him that the Doc hadn't been expecting to be eating alone when he purchased the food.
Nick heard Gabriel's voice, but didn't bother trying to understand the words. Too tired. Gonna sleep.
"Doc?!" Reaching Nick, the Doc's pallor and lifeless slump sent a shiver down Gabriel's spine. When Nick didn't respond to his voice, he shook him gently. Startled, Nick lifted his heavy eyelids a crack. Gabriel smiled and pulled Nick's arm over his shoulder. "Ready?"
Nick nodded, weakly, and bit his lip – but it wasn't nearly enough to stifle the cry as Gabriel hauled him back onto his feet. With his last remaining thread of consciousness quickly unraveling, Nick hung limply against the smaller man.
"Doc?! Still with me?!" Gabriel prodded, anxiously, struggling to move beneath the weight of the larger man. "Come on, Doc! Stay with me! Just a little longer! Please, Doc!"
The panicked edge in Gabriel's voice latched onto the last thin strand of Nick's thread of consciousness and refused to let it snap. The Doc would have sighed if he'd had the strength. Just wanna sleep. Pleeease, shut up. Let me sleep.
Feeling his charge tense slightly, Gabriel nearly grinned with relief. "So…you never did tell us what kind of doc you are, Doc…"
Nick heard the question, but made no attempt to answer. A twinge of anger tickled his brain. SHUT UP! 'M trying t'sleep!
"Come on, Doc!" Gabriel grunted, softly bouncing his shoulder, desperate to provoke a response. The slight jostling seemed gigantic to Nick, and another sliver of anger pricked him, sending a dribble of adrenaline seeping into his bloodstream.
"What?! Is it something embarrassing? You a…um…plastic surgeon or shrink or something?"
"Ss…urg…eon…," Nick breathed, desperately hoping Gabriel would leave him alone once he'd answered.
"There, that wasn't so tough to admit, now was it?" the workman quipped.
Nick mentally rolled his eyes. Yeah, right. Now, SHUT UP! 'M SLEEPIN'!
"Bet that impresses the ladies," Gabriel quipped, but got no reaction from Nick. He tried jostling his shoulder again, but to no effect. When Nick didn't even twitch, Gabriel quit trying. A twinge of fear tickling his stomach, he trudged the remaining few feet in silence.
Sitting between the doors, holding them open with his good leg, Migs immediately noticed the frown on his buddy's face as Gabriel approached. He flicked his gaze to the Doc hanging limply, before making eye contact with his buddy. Gabriel just shook his head, slightly. Closing his eyes, Migs sighed sadly as Gabriel stepped over him with the Doc.
Acutely aware of Migs's broken leg, Gabriel kept his eyes on it as he pulled Nick into the elevator. Once he was certain he'd cleared it, he breathed a soft sigh of relief and gently lowered the Doc to the floor. Three-quarters of the way down, Gabriel felt Nick abruptly twitch and moan, almost inaudibly.
"Doc?! We made it...we're in the elevator. Doc?! Can you hear me?! Open your eyes, Doc!"
Hearing the command through a thick, snuggly blanket of blankness, Nick pushed it away. Too tired! Don't wanna wake up! Go away!
Gabriel felt Nick twitch, again, and shook him slightly, desperate for a more definite sign the Doc was still with him. Failing to get it, he felt Nick's neck for a pulse and thought he could feel it, faint, but there and beating pretty fast. Noticing the bluish tinge to the Doc's lips, Gabriel lightly rested a hand on his upper chest. He could feel labored breathing – that seemed bad to the workman, but as long as Nick kept breathing, he wasn't gonna complain. Sighing, Gabriel turned away from the Doc's pale, clammy complexion and, carefully, wrapped his arm around Migs, helping his buddy the rest of the way into the elevator.
Migs's hissed softly as the slight movement aggravated his inflamed leg, and some part in Nick's subconscious mind latched onto it. He was so tired, but someone was hurt. He couldn't just lie there and let 'em suffer. Focusing his will, Nick mumbled sleepily as he tried to force his eyes open.
"DOC?!" Gabriel exclaimed, releasing Migs and shifting over to Nick. Gently grabbing a shoulder, he shook him lightly. "Come on, Doc! No point ignoring me now! I know you're in there! Open your eyes!"
"Yeah, come on, Doc!" Migs's added, twisting into his side slightly so that he could grab Nick's arm. "Open your eyes! We're almost outta this mess. Just open your eyes a little. Please, Doc!"
The desperation more than the words wove its way into his subconscious, prodding Nick to trying harder, and slowly, his eyes lids lifted. It was no more than a hair, but enough for Migs and Gabriel to notice.
"That's it, Doc. You got it! Now just keep 'em open!" Gabriel shouted. Jumping up, he slammed his fist into the 'ground floor' button, thinking the ER would give Nick the best chance.
"No! No! No! Don't you even think about it!" Migs shouted, forcefully shaking Nick's arm as the Doc's eyes fell shut. Dropping back down, Gabriel joined in the effort, grabbing Nick by the shoulder. Growing increasing irritated, Nick reluctantly forced his eyes open, again – getting them half-way this time.
"That's it, Doc! You gotta try to stay with us, here, okay!" Migs pleaded.
"Anything we can do for ya, Doc?" Gabriel asked, doubtful that Nick would be able to answer, but figuring it was worth a shot.
"Th…th…thir…sty," Nick mumbled.
"Jeez, Doc! I surely wish I could help you out there."
Nick just blinked sleepily, barely managing to reopen his eyes.
Nick tried to focus on Gabriel, but his blurred vision refused to cooperate, so he settled for letting his head fall slightly in the direction of the voice.
"Doc, you gotta clue us in here. Tell us what wrong! Can you do that, Doc?! You gotta try!" Gabriel urgently insisted.
Nick blinked again, this time not managing to force his eyes to open. The energy he'd been using for that, he put into speaking. "Hem… hemor… rhag… ing… sh…shock."
"Okay, Doc, okay. We're there. The doors are opening right now. We're gonna get you some help. You just hang on, Doc! You hear me!"
Nick nodded, barely, before letting the warm blanket of blackness wrap around him, again.