Erm...yeah. A new chapter. Who would have thought, right? There are no words for how sorry I am. That delay wasn't planned, and I had most certainly not given up on the story. I really don't know why it took so long for me to get it going again, but at some point in the middle of this chapter it simply got stuck and I couldn't get past that point. But now the flow has returned, and the remaining (I think two) chapters should come a lot more easily.
If you want, just take time and skip back a few chapters to find out what this story was all about. Trust me, I needed to re-read the previous parts for a whole bunch of details, too. ;-)

I hope you can forgive me.

Another short note before I let you read the chapter - I know nothing about open water rescue. Nothing. I googled. And googled. And googled. But still, if anybody who knows more about this than I do is going to read this, please don't run away screaming. There are bound to be procedural mistakes in this, but just go with the flow of the chapter on this one. Although, if you discover some definite mistakes, just let me know so that I can fix them.


Chapter 8 – Come Hell or High Water

"How did you know they were going to strike at the boat?"

Nate had been staring at the grey expanse of the ocean in front of them, willing the Coast Guard boat they were on to go faster, but upon Taggert's inquiry he turned his head. Over the sound of the engines and the wind, he hadn't even heard the Agent approach him.

After the hectic ride that had brought them on this boat, Nate had simply needed a few moments on his own. Agents Taggert and McSweeten had followed them out of the surveillance van and into the team's own, much faster, vehicle without a word of doubt or question, but Nate had known that sooner or later the questions would come. Especially since after Nate's sickening realization that Eliot and Hardison were trapped on a boat that in all likelihood was going to blow up sometime soon, their cover stories and excuses had grown thinner and less worked out than was Nate's usual standard.

Sophie, who had been waiting for Nate's and Parker's return in the back of the van, and who fortunately had had the presence of mind to change out of her evening dress and into a pantsuit she had stored there earlier, had been introduced merely as Agent Levine, 'handler' of the alleged undercover agents Eliot and Hardison were in the eyes of the two real agents. They didn't even have a badge with Sophie's picture in the corresponding ID, and it was pure luck that neither Taggert nor McSweeten thought to ask for one as they all settled in the back of the van while Nate slid into the driver's seat and started racing the car towards the marina.

He made Taggert place the call to the Coast Guard to inform them about their upcoming arrival because it was a damn sure fact that the Coast Guard was going to check the ID of an FBI Agent before they readied a boat for them. And right now, the one thing Nate absolutely couldn't risk was that there'd be a boat ready for them by the time they arrived at the marina. If there was one thing he was sure of, then that they needed to get to Hardison and Eliot before it was too late. There was no other choice, and if he had been sharp or short with the real agents at some point along the way, it had been because of this absolute need to get his men off that boat before they were harmed even further.

Nate glanced away from Taggert's face, his eyes magnetically drawn to the cloud of smoke that had appeared on the horizon about fifteen minutes ago. They had been too far away to see any flames or the explosion as such, but Nate didn't need to have seen it to know exactly what had happened. By now the smoke was already dissolving, the dark cloud expanding and getting lighter as it drifted away with the wind, and Nate didn't want to contemplate what that could mean for the condition of the boat, or whether or not it was still above the water.

Something in Nate's chest had tightened when the Lieutenant had first pointed towards the column of smoke in the sky, and that feeling hadn't let up until now. It had been the main reason why he had left the safe shelter of the helm and had gone to the deck, not caring that the spray of the waves hit him as the boat cut through the water as fast as the Captain thought was safe. He needed to breathe against the iron band clenching his gut together, but not even out here in the clear sea air had he been able to manage.

Finally, he tore his eyes away from the sea to look at Taggert again.

"Because you didn't know about it."

The Agent looked genuinely confused.


Nate shrugged, as if it all should make sense easily.

"Planes are rich people's toys. And even unscheduled flights to private airstrips are risky. The boat was the much more surreptitious choice, and for someone who wants to smuggle drugs into the country for the first time, surreptitious is the way to go. Fuentes loves to brag and show of his wealth, but he isn't stupid enough to risk getting busted because he wanted to smuggle drugs in style. And none of you guys, neither the DEA nor the FBI-Agents watching him, even had the boat on their radar."

He shrugged again. "The rest is easy. Just because the authorities don't know how Fuentes is getting the drugs into the country doesn't mean the guys who run the drugs in this city don't know. They always do. And if they don't, they know how to find out. It would put them out of business real fast if they didn't."

Taggert thought for a moment, processing the line of thought. Then he nodded his head into the direction of the smoke they were still heading towards.

"And that made you sure they were going to blow it up?"

Nate nodded solemnly, forcing his gaze away from the destruction they were heading towards. The smoke had mostly cleared by now, no longer as scarily black as it had been just minutes earlier. But that might be because they were getting closer now. Close enough to make out darker shapes in the distance, and Nate had to stop himself before he started looking for shapes in the water at a distance where he wouldn't be able to make out the necessary details, anyway.

"You said it's their MO. They blew up those Mexican pimps, and that arms dealer on his yacht. Besides, it solves two things at the same time. It cuts off their competitor's supply line. Not to mention that it's one hell of a warning. And if they get real lucky, they hit the competitor with it right away."

"But this time they didn't manage to hit Fuentes."

Nate shook his head and pushed away from the railing. "No, they didn't. I don't think they expected to, though. Fuentes is well-protected; if they wanted to get to him they'd have to do more than plant a bomb on a boat he's never going to be on. Besides, Fuentes is a flighty playboy. Maybe they figure a destroyed boat and a lost shipment of drugs are enough to scare him off this particular business venture."

Taggert wanted to say something else, but at that moment a voice behind them called out to them.

"Agent Taggert! Agent Burkovitz!"

Nate turned at the call and immediately hurried back towards the cabin of the search and rescue boat, Taggert following suit. It was just them on board along with the Seamen and two Lieutenants from the Coast Guard. Nate had been reluctant to allow his team to get split up yet again, but in the end he hadn't been left with a choice. Only two of them had been allowed to come, and there had been no time for discussions. So Nate and Taggert had gone, while Sophie, Parker and McSweeten had stayed behind.

The Seaman who had called out to them stepped back and allowed Nate and Taggert to step into the relative shelter of the boat's cabin. The sea was calm today, but they were bracing it at high speed, and the cabin shut out the sound of the wind and spray and most of the sound of the engines. One of the Lieutenants, Nate had already forgotten his name even though the man had introduced himself, turned towards them upon their entry.

"The coordinates you gave correspond with the visible accident site; our ETA is three minutes. Two more boats are on their way, but if we need a MedEvac, we'll have to wing it. Two of our choppers are tied up in a search and rescue thirty miles north, and the third is down for maintenance. Long Beach is sending us one of their birds, but it's still about 20 minutes out."

Nate nodded, already itching to get out on deck again. They were getting close enough to the site of the explosion to look out for Eliot and Hardison, and he wanted to be there when they started searching.

"One more thing."

The Lieutenant's voice was all business, and Nate knew this was going to be the time of rules and admonishments.

"I know you got two men out there, Agent Burkovitz. And we're going to find them. But I have a job to do, and that is to pull everyone out of that water who needs help. Everyone, even if we find some of the perps first and not your agents. If that happens, I can't have you interfere with how I do my job, is that understood?"

Nate nodded, albeit grudgingly. He knew that the Coast Guard couldn't make any distinctions, but as far as he was concerned, the people who had kidnapped his men with the intent to kill them would just have to wait in line as far as the rescue was concerned.


While the Seamen prepared everything that obviously needed preparing for the rescue, Nate went back towards the boat's bow and looked out over the wreckage. Now that they were close and their speed was slower, it was possible to make out the gruesome details of what had happened. There was no trace of the boat anymore, at least nothing discernible. Some large parts of debris were floating quite a distance away, and Nate felt hope rise that maybe Eliot and Hardison had found something to hold on to until they arrived.

Other than the few larger remains of the boat, here was a huge field of debris floating on the surface, thousands of pieces, and all of them too small for one man, much less two, to hold on to. No matter how much Nate strained his eyes, he saw neither Eliot nor Hardison. Something dark and ugly was rearing in his gut, and no matter how much Nate fought it, he couldn't quell the feeling entirely. Behind him, there was activity on deck, seamen donning wetsuits and preparing gear while two of them were on the lookout, binoculars raised as they scanned the water.

Nate didn't even know where to look. It was hard to tell where the boat had been at the time of the explosion. And even if he knew exactly where, that still didn't give Nate any idea where Eliot and Hardison had been at the moment the boat blew up. If they had been below deck, chances weren't good that they had survived.

He couldn't think like that. Couldn't allow himself to think like that.

Instead, Nate clutched the railing and scanned the water. Hardison couldn't swim, which meant that every minute counted. Every damn second counted. Eliot was injured, and Hardison had probably panicked as soon as they had gone into the water. If they had still been conscious when they went into the water. Or even alive.

A shudder ran down Nate's spine that had nothing to do with the cold or the wind. They needed to find them right now.

But minutes passed, slow and agonizing minutes during which the rescue boat slowly drifted through the field of debris. Nate tried to look everywhere at once, but it was simply so hard to discern something amongst the mass of floating debris. Every time he thought he saw something that might be a head, or a body floating on top of the water, it turned out to be nothing but yet another piece of the boat, a cargo container or a random piece of padding that only looked like the fabric of a shirt, or a jacket.

The clock kept on ticking. Nate felt his own stomach clench at the thought that his men might already be dead, and he quickly chased those thoughts away. He was only grateful that they were out of com range, because he didn't think he could have dealt with Parker's and Sophie's concern on top of his own feelings right now.

Once they had found Eliot and Hardison, he was going to deal with whatever fallout was going to come. But first they needed to find them.

Nate nearly didn't notice when they did. He was straining so much to see something in the water that it took a moment to register that something was going on behind him. There had been a constant chatter of conversation, the lookouts yelling when they thought they saw something, the other members of the Coast Guard directing their gazes to spots where they thought somebody might be drifting on the surface of the water. The first few times Nate had heard one of them call out, he had gotten excited, but with each time that it was false alarm, he had proceeded to tune out their voices more. But this time, the excitement in the calls and commands didn't let up after a few seconds. Nate turned to the sound of one of the seamen yelling "Over there!", and pointing into the water, and only as he hurried towards the opposite railing did he see that two swimmers were in the water, swimming into the direction the seaman beside him indicated.

Nate didn't see anything. There had to be someone in the water, otherwise the swimmers wouldn't have gone in, but no matter how much he strained, Nate just couldn't see anything. The seaman beside him was keeping his eye on a fixed point, and Nate knew that it was part of an open water rescue that someone always kept his eyes on the person in the water. But no matter how much Nate strained as he tried to follow the man's gaze, he was still unable to discern anything clearly.

Suddenly, there was a splash of water, just a few feet away from one of the swimmers. Nate looked, but before he knew what was happening, both swimmers were zeroing in on that spot, going under water nearly synchronously. Nate forgot to breathe, and he was clenching his hands so tightly around the railing that his knuckles stood out white and bloodless.

Please let it be them.

Please let them be all right.


Two heads broke the surface again, one of the swimmers clutching somebody else, but there was too much debris floating around and they were too far away for Nate to see anything clearly. He thought the man the swimmer dragged was black, but with the glare of the light reflecting off the water it was impossible to tell. Maybe Nate saw it because he so desperately wanted to man to be Hardison.

The second swimmer reappeared, but Nate was already on his way to the back of the boat, to the platform where the swimmers would climb back aboard along with whoever they had fished out of the water. There was a flurry of activity around him. Everyone seemed to have a fixed role in the proceedings, and Nate found it hard not to stand in the way of the rescue and yet still see what was going on.

For a minute, maybe two, all Nate could see were the backs of other people's heads, could see the signs of activity even though he couldn't make out the details. It was driving him mad with worry, and it took all of his self-restraint not to just force his way through and see for himself what was happening. He couldn't get in the way, and in the cramped space aboard the boat he would be in the way if he stepped any closer.

It was torture.

Maybe it was Hardison they had fished out of the water, or maybe it was Eliot. Then again, it might just as well be one of Fuentes' people, and if that was the case Nate didn't particularly want to see how the members of the Coast Guard wasted precious time on saving their life. Time his men didn't have.

And maybe whoever they had just pulled out of the water was already dead. Nate felt the bile rise in his throat at the thought, but no matter how much he tried to chase it away, that didn't make it any more unreal. They could be dead. Rationally, he knew that. It was more than a remote possibility. But it was one Nate refused to contemplate until he absolutely had to.

It was Hardison.

Nate heaved a sigh of relief as two of the men carefully carried Hardison away from the stern of the boat. The young hacker was pale, obviously so despite the dark natural pallor of his skin. But he was moving, trying to brush away the hands of the people who were trying to help him.


Nate knelt down beside the shaking young man and put a hand on his shoulder, flinching as the cold seemed to seep into his own skin immediately. Hardison was still struggling against the men who were trying to help him, even though it was obvious that he didn't have much strength left.

"Hardison, can you hear me?"

Wide brown eyes stared up at Nate, but it took a long moment until something like recognition showed on his face.


Hardison's voice was hoarse and low, barely audible over all the commotion around them. His lips were taking on a decidedly bluish tinge, and his teeth were chattering.

"It's okay, Hardison. We got you. But you have to let those men help you, all right?"

Hardison weakly shook his head, still batting at the hands that were working on him.

"Hardison! Stop struggling."

It was the sharp tone of his voice that did the trick, something that surprised Nate to no end. Hardison wasn't conditioned to obeyed commands, and often it was hard to get through to him like this.

"Eliot…need to…where…"

"I'll look for him, all right? But you have to let them help you while I do, okay?"

Hardison gave a small, barely perceptible nod, and Nate squeezed his shoulder before he turned around again. So Eliot and Hardison had been in the water together. They must have been. It was the only explanation why Hardison had managed to stay above the water for so long. But despite his promise to the young hacker, Nate didn't even know whether the swimmers had found Eliot. If he and Hardison had been in the water together and the swimmers hadn't found him where Hardison had been…the swimmers must have found him. There was no other possibility Nate was willing to accept.

They had.

It was probably one of the most shocking things Nate had seen, and the image burned itself into his brain with a frightening intensity. Eliot was lying on the deck, a few feet away from where Hardison was being taken care of. No less than three people were crowding around him, but still Nate could make out enough details. Too many details, really.

Eliot was abnormally pale. His wet hair was plastered in strands over his face, and his lips and fingers were shockingly blue. One of the men kneeling next to him was cutting away his left pant leg, but all Nate saw was a flash of bloodied skin before a pressure bandage was applied and shielded the injury from view. There was no way for Nate to tell how serious the wound was.

"He's not breathing."

And that sentence shocked Nate out of whatever contemplations about Eliot's injuries he had been about to lose himself in. Not breathing was not good. Unacceptable. Eliot had to be breathing because if he wasn't…no. It simply wasn't an option. One of the men had hastily pushed the wet strands of hair away from Eliot's face, holding a respiration mask at the ready, while the other was pressing his fingers against Eliot's throat.

"I got a pulse," the second man said after a second, and Nate had to fight the urge to clamp a hand over his mouth in relief. A pulse. That was something.

Immediately, the respiration mask was placed over Eliot's mouth and one of the seamen started compressing the attached bag to press air into Eliot's lungs. One of the men kept his fingers against Eliot's neck, keeping track of his pulse. Nate knew that the men knew what they were doing. Every member of the Coast Guard who went out to open water rescues had the medical training to administer the appropriate first aid. He knew that what could be done for Eliot was being done.

No, the reason why Nate felt sick to his stomach was that he knew this. He knew the feeling of standing by while people in front of him struggled to save someone's life. He was no stranger to this powerless feeling of only being able to stand by and watch while someone he cared for fought against death.

It weren't the same feelings like with Sam, definitely not. But it was just as horrible to stand by and watch, just as breathlessly painful to stand by and wait with nothing to do but cling on to the fragile hope that somehow, miraculously things were going to turn out all right.

Suddenly, Eliot's body jerked. Quickly, the mask was removed from his face and two pairs of hands carefully turned his head and upper body to the side as he spat out, coughed and threw up water.

If anything, it was nearly worse to watch this.

Nate had seen Eliot hurt before. But even then, he had always kept his masks up in place. Even the signs of pain he had shown on previous occasions had been filtered. Eliot simply didn't let on, couldn't afford to let on when he was hurt, and how much pain he was in. As far as Nate remembered, Eliot had never allowed for it to show through when he was really hurt. For the sake of the team, nowadays at least. But Nate had the suspicion that it was something that was ingrained far deeper, a survival instinct Eliot couldn't really control.


But right now, he was barely conscious, if at all. There was no mask in place, and no strength left to put up a show.

And it was strange, disconcerting, even frightening to see Eliot like this now, with his face contorted in unguarded pain as he spat out and threw up water in between small, wheezing breaths. Eliot was in a world of pain, and all that for something as simple as breathing.

Nate purposefully ignored the fact that the water Eliot spat out was tinged a horrible shade of pink. Eliot was breathing again, that had count for something. As long as he was breathing, it couldn't be so bad. They were going to get him to the hospital as soon as possible, and then things were going to turn out just fine. And if Nate only kept telling himself that, then maybe he'd eventually be able to believe it.

An oxygen mask was secured over Eliot's face as soon as he stopped spitting up seawater and blood, and one of the men held Eliot down as the other started to cut away his clothing. But Nate saw how Eliot's hand was flailing under the hold on him, and he knew that it wasn't in the other man's nature to allow himself to be held down. Especially if he was disoriented and half-conscious at best, being restrained was only going to force him to lash out despite his failing strength. Eliot was an instinctive fighter, and even in his current state his instincts that urged him to fight back, to protect himself, overrode the agony he had to be in.

Quickly, Nate knelt down at Eliot's side and reached for his forearm, squeezing the icy skin tightly.

"Eliot, it's okay. Let them help you."

"Sir, please let go."

Nate was startled enough by the harsh command that he immediately released his hold.

"What's wrong?"

But the man was no longer paying any attention to him.

"Temperature's 90.5. BP 70 over 50. We need that MedEvac stat."

"ETA's another three minutes."

Nate had no idea what was going on, but he had enough experience in reading these things from how doctors behaved rather than from medical jargon. And even though they were no doctors, the men from the Coast Guard were worried about Eliot's condition. They were still cutting away Eliot's clothes, and as soon as they removed his shirt, Nate found himself sharing that concern. The hitter's entire left side was a mass or swelling and bruising, red and stark against his otherwise bluish-white skin. With quick and efficient movements, just as if they were afraid to move Eliot too much, the men moved him onto a backboard and covered him with blankets, though they were careful to leave his arms and legs uncovered.

And suddenly Nate understood. Hypothermia. Eliot's body temperature was low, much lower than Hardison's, who was sitting a few feet away, wrapped up in a mound of blankets with only his head sticking out. Unlike Eliot, Hardison hadn't lost blood. Of course Eliot would cool out faster.

Damn it.

"What's going to happen now?" Nate found himself asking one of the men in a voice that didn't sound like his own. Without looking up from whatever he was doing to the BP cuff around Eliot's arm, the man replied with a shrug.

"We'll have him taken out by chopper as soon as possible, and hope he doesn't crash on the way to the hospital. We're giving him warmed oxygen, but he needs to be treated at a hospital. Your other agent as well, but this one's critical."

Nate was going to ask something else, but commotion a few feet away drew his attention off of whatever inquiry he was about to make. Hardison was struggling to get to his feet, dislodging blankets and pushing away the steaming Styrofoam cup one of the seamen was holding out to him. The young hacker didn't even seem to notice that he was unable to stand on his own feet, swaying and trembling as he tried to get up.

Nate was on his feet without a conscious thought, and at Hardison's side a few seconds later. Putting a hand on the young man's shoulder, he tried to push him down while at the same time he tried to pull the blankets back around him.

"Hardison, hey. Hey! You shouldn't try to get up."

Hardison's teeth were still chattering, but after a second he managed to focus his eyes on Nate.

"Eliot…" The young man's teeth were still chattering, but his gaze was much clearer as he focused his eyes on Nate. Clearer, but still definitely frantic. Nate knelt down beside Hardison and pulled the blankets firmly around his shoulders with both hands.

"He's okay, Hardison. They're going to take both of you to the hospital, but he's going to be just fine."

And Nate sincerely hoped that this was going to be one lie that wasn't going to come back to bite him, because he didn't feel any of the confidence he was trying to project.

Hardison didn't seem to buy it, though, if the emphatic shaking of his head was any indication.

"Not breathin'. They said…I heard…not breathing."

"He wasn't when they pulled him out of the water, but he's breathing now."

Weakly, Hardison was batting at Nate's hold on him.

"Need to…not…"

He was still trying to get up even though his legs wouldn't carry him, and Nate admired the stubbornness and loyalty Hardison was showing, even if those feelings were overridden with his concern for the younger man right now. Gently, he pushed Hardison down again.

"He's breathing, Hardison. Trust me. When did I ever lie to you?"

Wide brown eyes focused on Nate's for a moment, then the young hacker sank back down to the deck as if all the fight had gone out of him.

"He's all right?"

"For now. He will be once they get him to the hospital. But you need to stay here and let them treat you, okay?"

Hardison nodded, finally accepting the steaming cup the seaman was holding out to him. His hands were shaking so badly that he had to wrap both of them around the Styrofoam cup, and even then he would have spilled the liquid without Nate's steadying hand.

"The chopper should be here soon," the seaman who was still crouching beside Hardison said to Nate. "Try to make him drink something warm and make sure that he stays put."

Nate nodded wordlessly as the seaman got up and vanished somewhere towards the stern of the boat. Carefully, because Hardison's hands were still shaking, he helped him raise the Styrofoam cup to his lips and drink a few sips of the warm tea. They sat in silence for a moment, and when Hardison spoke, his voice was so low that he barely heard it.

"He let go."


"Eliot," Hardison forced out. "He let go."

Nate didn't understand. He could not imagine that Eliot would have willingly left Hardison to fend for himself in the water. Eliot was all about protecting the team, and he'd much rather get hurt himself than let any of them come to harm. Especially since he had known that Hardison couldn't swim. There was no situation Nate could imagine in which Eliot would have let Hardison drown.

"Eliot let you go?"

Hardison nodded, trying to burrow deeper into the blankets. "Thought he was letting me drown. But he…he didn't want to pull me under."

The raw disbelief in Hardison's eyes caused something in Nate's chest to clench painfully. Unlike his previous thoughts, that one made sense. A gruesome lot of sense. Eliot wouldn't have left Hardison to his own devices in order to save himself. But holding on for as long as he could and then letting go on the off-chance that Hardison would make it without Eliot dragging him down, Nate believed that in a heartbeat. But there was a difference between rationally understanding that and finding himself on the receiving end of that kind of sacrifice.

"He let go, Nate."

There was nothing Nate could possibly say, though. That particular realization was one Hardison would have to make out on his own, or with Eliot once all this was over. Still, he felt helpless when all he could do was squeeze the younger man's shoulder silently.

The arrival of the helicopter spared him the need to say anything else. At first it was just a rhythmic hum in the distance that grew progressively louder, but it seemed like the cue the crew of the rescue boat had been waiting for. The previously subdued activity turned into an efficient bustle as everyone prepared for the transport of the two injured men. Again, Nate could only stand by and watch while everyone else was doing their designated tasks.

The sound of the rotor blades got deafeningly loud as the chopper moved into position directly over the rescue boat. One of the seamen was giving instructions to the pilot via radio, and once the chopper was in position one of the chopper crew rappelled down with the necessary equipment. Nate wouldn't have had the time to get to Eliot before he was taken away, even if he had managed to leave Hardison sitting there all by himself.

Eliot was secured quickly and efficiently onto an elaborate backboard, and was then pulled up into the waiting chopper. Nate felt vertigo take a hold of him as he watched the orange backboard ascend on the swinging rope, and he could feel Hardison stiffen under the hand he still had on the younger man's shoulder.

Once Eliot had been pulled into the chopper, one of the men from the Coast Guard came over to where they were sitting.

"We're taking them both out by chopper," he yelled over the sound of the rotor. "They're both hypothermic, and I don't want to risk any complications."

"No." Hardison was shaking his head emphatically. "No way. I'm good. No need to bother because of me. I got my tea, got my blanket, I'm fine."

Nate opened his mouth to reply, but was beaten to it by the other man.

"It's not up for discussion, sir. You're going on that helicopter."

And Hardison did. He didn't go quietly, by no means, but despite all his protests he was strapped into the rescue contraption not even a minute after it had been lowered down again. His mouth was working a mile a minute in a poor attempt to mask how terrified he was at the prospect of being pulled up into the waiting helicopter. Nate knew that they didn't have any time to waste, not with Eliot being in critical condition. He patted Hardison's arm through the mound of blankets he was still wrapped in.

"I'll see you at the hospital. Keep an eye out on Eliot for me."

Hardison nodded, putting up a brave front, and then Nate was instructed to stand back as Hardison was lifted aboard the helicopter.

Around him, the activity didn't let up. Hardison and Eliot hadn't been the only ones on that boat, and quite probably the men from the Coast Guard had been on the lookout for other survivors for the entire time while Eliot and Hardison had been treated to. Nate could understand, it was their job after all. But his men had been found, and Nate was itching to get back ashore and race to the hospital. He had nothing left to look out for here at sea. However, Nate had the distinct feeling that it was going to take a little while until he could get back to shore somehow.

He was so lost in his thoughts as his eyes followed the small black dot that was the chopper carrying his two men, that he didn't notice at first when someone stepped up beside him. Turning around, he found Taggert had come up to his side and was following his gaze.

"I used the ship's radio to let McSweeten know we found them. He and your agents are going straight to the hospital."

Nate nodded numbly. "Thanks."

At least Sophie and Parker were going to be there, then. It didn't make him feel any less helpless, but it was something. The helicopter eventually vanished from view and Nate turned away, not really sure what to do with himself.

He hadn't craved a drink like he did now in a long time.


Thanks for reading - and for your infinite patience with me. Please let me know what you think. Thanks a lot.