Title: Lost Without You
Summary: The last thing Anita remembered was the trail left by Victor's skybike. AnitaxVictor
The last thing Anita remembered was the trail left by Victor's skybike, a corkscrew of smoke winding down toward the sea. Her own vehicle had been damaged, but not as badly and she struggled to turn it into a steep dive without flipping over.
She knew she could catch him. She had to.
The g-force winded her, making Anita gasp as she reached out blindly for a blur of blue that was falling just beyond her fingertips. Almost ... almost ... she had him. For a moment.
Suddenly, her grip failed and Anita cried out as Victor slipped away, his fall slowed but not stopped. There was a rush of sand roaring beneath her flailing bike, with green tree tops in the distance looming closer until she decided that bailing might be her safest option.
It was a smart move. Anita's skybike slammed into a tree head-on, exploding on contact. She hit the soft sand rolling, coming to a stop not to far from the ocean's edge. For a few minutes she lay on her back, trying to catch her breath, thanking the powers-that-be just to be alive.
Then it hit her. Victor. She bolted upright. "Victor! Where are you?"
No answer and she called out again. "Victor! Please! Answer me." Her heart thudded in her chest. He couldn't be ... no ... she wasn't going to accept that. "Victor!!"
"I'm still alive," came the groggy reply from a few dozen yards to her left.
Anita scrambled over to him, wincing at his condition. Lacerations to his face and hands, a bloody nose and his ankle... god, his ankle... sticking out at a very disturbing angle. "Victor," she murmured, feeling around her suit for the ingenious flat emergency pack Prof. Professor supplied all agents with. A quick press to the closure and the pack expanded, revealing its contents: bandages, antibiotic cream, alcohol pads, tape and various other necessary first aid items.
She tended to his bleeding nose first. He winced and cried out when she pinched the bridge, holding a gauze pad to his nostrils. "Is ibt badt? he burbled.
"Not so bad," she soothed. She gave him the gauze to hold. "Keep that there." With a sigh, she slid down to examine his broken ankle. It was a nasty break, but the bone hadn't revealed itself and she could probably splint it, at least well enough until help arrived.
Whenever it would arrive. Both their skybikes were gone, along with all the communications equipment. But right now, that was the least of their problems. She had to splint his foot before it swelled. "I'm going to get some wood, Victor. Lie still, all right?"
Blearily, he stared at her. "Are we having a cook-out?"
"Not exactly," she replied, taking off down the beach, searching for two suitable pieces of driftwood. She almost immediately came across to short, strong planks, perfect to set an ankle with. Anita carried them back and got to work, preparing the bandages and tape, as well as her belt.
Wincing, she tried to figure out the least painful way to set the bone. "All right, Victor," she sighed. "I'm afraid what I'm going to do will hurt. You'll have to be brave for a moment."
"I can be brave." Victor pushed himself onto his elbows, staring down at his legs, gasping when he saw exactly how bad the break was. He fell back into the sand. "Okay, I'm not brave!"
"You're very brave," Anita corrected, squeezing his hand. She took a deep breath and with a sickening twist, righted the broken bone, her stomach lurching at the dull sound it made.
Victor screamed, his eyes wide with shock and pain. "God. Anita ..." he gasped, before passing out.
For a second she panicked, thinking she had killed him but his soft breathing told her otherwise. It was better this way anyway - they only had a tiny supply of painkillers in their E-packs and while this hurt, he might need them more later. Anita set to work on fixing the splint around Victor's foot and when done, sat back to examine her work.
Not perfect, but not bad. Brushing the sand from her palms, Anita took stock of their surroundings. They'd landed on some kind of island, small, with a single mountain. She had no idea if her or Victor's personal beacons were working, but U.Z.Z. was anything if not efficient at finding their agents in the field - even those hit by Dr. Doctor's latest debilitating invention.
Still, that didn't mean she got to sit around and do nothing in the meantime. "Water," she muttered to herself. "Fresh water, shelter, warmth." Especially for Victor who was shivering while unconscious, maybe from shock. She inwardly cursed the lack of layers in her outfit but they were made to be streamlined rather than otherwise.
No use in wanting what you can't have, Anita ordered herself. Go find what you need.
With one last lingering look back at Victor, she took off toward the trees. The sound of a stream echoing off the mountainside was a good omen.
She could only hope their luck would hold.
By the time Anita came back, Victor was awake. His face was a pasty shade of white and he was drawing shivering breaths through his mouth. Gently, she tilted his head up and held a gourd of water to his lips. "Drink. Slowly ... there."
"Leg hurts," he muttered, but his breathing had settled down after the drink. "I really messed up this time, didn't I?"
"How's that?" Anita asked crisply. "Unless your name is Dr. Doctor, I don't see how any of this is your fault. What we have to concentrate on now is letting U.Z.Z. know where we are. I'm not sure but I think her disruptor ray disrupted more than our skybikes."
"Where is your skybike anyway?"
Anita sighed. "See that greasy spot on that tree over there?"
"That's my skybike."
"Oh." Victor grimaced. "Mine's in the ocean twenty miles that way, I guess. My communicator too. What about yours?"
"Dropped while trying to reach for you," Anita replied, tucking in large leaves around Victor, in a crude attempt in making a blanket for him. "It's probably taking a swim with yours. As for the other stuff ..."
Anita and Victor didn't usually discuss the microchips they believed were implanted somewhere beneath their skin, but they guessed there might be something along those lines at work. With U.Z.Z. they never knew, then again, it might not have been such a bad idea to keep track of their agents that way. Anita knew that right now, she wouldn't mind, as long as it got Victor to safety.
"Guess we just hope for the best," Victor sighed. He glanced up at her, his mouth quirking into a weak smile. "Thanks for taking care of me. Sorry you had to find all this stuff on your own."
Anita brushed a damp bit of hair away from Victor's forehead. "Nonsense. What else should a partner do for another? Besides, at least this way you can't get into trouble." She held up a small fruit, resembling a mango. "Dinner for two, sir?"
"That looks almost good enough to eat," Victor replied. "You take a bigger piece, you did all the hard work."
"It goes right down the middle," Anita replied firmly, slipping her utility knife out from the inside of her sleeve. She quickly peeled and cut the fruit in pieces, surprised at how good it was - sweet and buttery both. She brushed the sand from Victor's fingers and gave him a slice. "We might have to take some of these when we go."
Victor chewed slowly, staring at the darkening sky. "Or eat them forever."
"They're going to find us," Anita chided, but in her heart she felt the same fear. She knew they wouldn't stop looking for them but the world was a big place and there were always other issues to attend to. Where did two agents really stand on the priority list? She didn't so much care for herself - although she'd miss home and all its comforts - but they had to come for Victor. She couldn't stand to see him hurt and if he didn't get proper medical help ...
"You're thinking about something," Victor's voice interrupted her thoughts. "Tell me what it is."
"How do you know I'm thinking about something? Maybe I'm just looking at the ocean."
"No, you're definitely thinking about something. You get this little twist to your lips when you're thinking. When you're just looking, you're ... " He paused. "Just looking. Sometimes, when you're day-dreaming, the point of your nose wiggles."
"How do you figure all this?" Anita asked indignantly. "Not to mention that my nose is *not* pointy nor does it wiggle."
Victor gulped. "It's a very cute point and it doesn't wiggle all that much. I'm just saying that I know when you're thinking and when you're, you know, not."
Anita tilted her head at him. How a man could be so infuriating and endearing at the same time was beyond her. "You think my nose is cute, hmm?"
A deep blush covered Victor's cheeks. "Oh, uh, yeah, uh. I mean, in a totally buddy sort of way. Not that buddies should think about each other's noses but ..."
"It's all right, Victor." Anita smiled at him. "I'm only teasing." Early stars were starting to shine through the twilight. There was a full moon lurking on the horizon as well, Anita noted with some relief. The light would be useful if she had any trouble getting the fire started.
It was only when she yawned uncontrollably did Anita realize how tired she was. Maybe if she just lay down for a few minutes next to Victor, curling up against him just close enough to keep him warm, she could get back to gathering more wood for a fire and then maybe start the foundations of a shelter and ...
She was fast asleep before she knew it, as was Victor. They lay entwined together, two figures in the sand, beside the waves and beneath a smiling moon.
The blazing sunlight woke Anita up. She peered around groggily, annoyed with herself that she fell asleep. "How ridiculous you are, Anita," she grumbled. "Can't stay awake even if your life depended on it."
Something was not quite right. She was lying on the beach alone and ...
Alone! Anita scrambled to her feet. "Victor!" she cried, terrified. Maybe Dr. Doctor came back and took him or a strange wave washed him and him alone out to sea or ...
"Right here," Victor called, waving to her triumphantly from the beach's high point beneath a patch of swaying palm trees. He pointed to two sticks he'd ingeniously turned into a pair of crutches. "Want to see how good I can hop around?"
"No. Just ... sit there," Anita warned, breathing a heavy sigh of relief. She was definitely going to kill him - if she didn't die of a heart attack first. She climbed up the dunes with a groan. Sleeping on sand wasn't as bad as the hard ground but it wasn't that comfortable either. Time to start working on a shelter and a rescue signal, Anita thought, taking a fresh survey of their surroundings.
It was blindingly bright on the beach; Victor had done well to get himself into the shade. She was sweating already in her Lycra suit - fortunately there were removable parts, such as her sleeves and the lower part of her pants. Going barefoot wouldn't be a problem, she'd just have to keep track of her shoes in case she had to go over rocky areas in search of food.
Stripping quickly down to what amounted to a shorts jumper, she offered to help Victor do the same. Gingerly around his injured ankle, she pulled the last piece off, as well as his shoes. He blushed throughout the entire procedure, Anita noted with some bemusement. "There, now we truly look like castaways," she joked, folding up the clothing pieces and tying them together with a pants leg before hanging the entire bundle from a tree branch. "They should be safe there."
"Unless a monkey takes them," Victor replied. "Or a very large bird."
She ignored him. "I'm going to gather as much wood as I can. I'll spell out 'HELP' on the beach with the damp pieces, get the rest for firewood and lean-to."
"Right. What can I do?"
She thought for a moment. "Put your foot up and try not to get into trouble."
He frowned at her. "I'm injured, not useless, Anita."
"Sorry, Victor, but your ankle is just going to get worse if you push it now. I don't mind doing the work," she insisted, helping him hop to a cool spot beneath the palms. "We're in this together partner - I'll just pull a double load until you get better." He looked like he wanted to argue more but Anita put a finger against his lips. "Don't worry, you'll be fetching me coconut drinks in no time. Now, to get to that wood ...."
Pouting, Victor stayed put as she went to work. It was hard labor, sweating in the sun and she had to dip into the saved water more often than she liked. The stream wasn't that far but there were animal noises in the distance that she wasn't too crazy about. Victor watched her work with a miserable look on his face but she carried on until the rescue sign was spelled out in huge letters on the beach and the firewood was gathered.
With an exhausted huff, she plopped down beside Victor, fruit in hand. "They should make this a workout for new agents. It'll disqualify half of them." Her hand was shaking a little as she held the knife to peel the fruit but she tried to do it, until Victor took the implement away from her.
"I can do this, at least," he said, cutting the thick skin away. He cut off the fruit a chunk at a time, feeding it to Anita, to avoid getting sand all over the food. "Look at your hands," he groaned, pulling her fingers open. "You're full of splinters."
"I am?" Anita asked around a mouthful of fruit. "Honestly, I didn't even notice."
Tossing away the rind, Victor turned his concentration back to her hands. "Give me the e-pack," he ordered. Taking out the tiny tweezers included in the kit, he dabbed her palms with an alcohol pad.
"Ow!" Anita cried out as the pad stung viciously against the sensitive skin of her hands. "All right, I get it! I get it!"
"It's just going to get worse if you don't take care of it now," Victor said, imitating her. His eyes narrowed with concentration as he carefully plucked the splinters from her hand, taking his time, working as gently as he could.
Eventually, he fell into a rhythm and the pain faded to tiny pinches. Anita suddenly became very conscious of her hand being cradled in Victor's, of his thumb brushing away little bits of wood, of his warm breath against her palm, blowing gently to ease the sting.
By the time he was done, her face was burning red and not from sunburn.
Satisfied, Victor looked up at her, smiling. Anita didn't know what he saw in her face, but she imagined it might have been something very similar to the way he looked at her during that endless moment - a something that was dawning between them, a warm, heart-pounding feeling that felt a lot like ...
"I'm done," he gulped, looking away suddenly.
"Right," she replied, a little too quickly. She rose on shaky knees. "We'll need more water. I'll go get it."
Anita took off at top speed, without looking back. It wasn't until she was well away that she noticed that she'd forgotten her shoes. Cursing inwardly, she continued on, wincing over every rock. "Idiot," she said to herself. "What is wrong with you? You can't possibly be serious, you silly goose." Ostensibly, she was talking about forgetting her shoes, but quickly that turned into something else. "You and Victor are partners, nothing more. How could you even think of sacrificing your hard-won career for something as silly as ... whatever this is. Besides, he probably doesn't even feel the same way. Ridiculous." Her eyes started to sting with tears and Anita wiped at them with an angry gesture. Her bare foot slipped on a rock, almost sending her flying but she caught her balance with a furious determination.
Of course Victor didn't feel the same way. He'd worked just as hard as she did to become an U.Z.Z. agent, walking in his parents' footsteps. Besides, he respected her, that's all. And he thought she had a pointy nose and a man like Victor couldn't possibly love - like - someone with a pointy nose.
Anita sat down on a nearby rock, biting at a trembling lower lip. It must be heat stroke, she thought vaguely, knowing she was lying to herself. She had been having feelings for Victor for a long time, longer than she'd have liked to admit. It was impossible to pinpoint when they'd started but now they'd grown into something she couldn't deny anymore.
Not that it mattered. She had to do her job and right now her job was to keep herself and her partner alive until U.Z.Z. came for them. Everything else was secondary.
She'd been gathering water in two large conch shells that she'd cleaned out the day before. Carefully avoiding more slippery rocks, she knelt by the small stream and began to rinse them out again before filling them.
Behind her, Anita heard an odd rumble, as if the Earth itself were having a bad dream. The non-stop chatter of treetop animals went eerily quiet and Anita felt a chill snake down her spine. Another rumble and Anita whirled around to see ashy plumes of smoke rising from the mountaintop.
No, correct that. The volcano top.
"Oh my," she breathed, gathering her conch shells hurriedly and running back to camp as quickly as possible. "Victor, did you hear that?"
Wide-eyed, Victor nodded at her. "It was kinda hard to miss."
"Maybe it's just a little rumble-thing that happens all the time," she said hopefully. "You know, like those volcanoes that pop a bit of smoke and then go back to being dormant for the rest of the century. Right?"
As if in reply, another rumble, this time louder than before, shook the entire island.
Anita shrieked and grabbed Victor's arm. "We need to find a cave. Or something."
"I think I'd like a boat or plane off this island better," replied Victor, hopping painfully to his feet, grabbing their belts and extra pieces of clothing. Together they made their way to the far eastern shore of the island where Anita had noted some natural crevices carved into the rocks. It was hard going but together they made it over the dunes and both of them were exhausted by the time they reached what appeared to be the largest of the rock shelters.
Oddly, it appeared they weren't the only people who'd ever been there. She found what appeared to be a fire ring as well as a pile of wood in the far corner, as well as the remains of what appeared to be clam dinners. She had no idea how old the items were but the wood was still sturdy enough to burn so it couldn't have been that long before.
She wondered for a moment what had happened to the other inhabitants then decided she didn't want to know. The ground shook again as a sharp gaseous smell filled the air. Methane, maybe and Anita struggled not to have a full-blown panic attack.
Poor Victor looked too exhausted and hurt to panic much but he must be frightened as well, she thought. She gave him a wobbly smile and a thumbs-up gesture which he returned, albeit weakly. "I suppose there's nothing to do but wait it out a bit," she said, sitting next to Victor, scooting closer until their shoulders were touching. She leaned her head back against the hard rock wall and noted how quiet the island had become. All she could hear was her and Victor's breathing, echoing off the walls.
"It's not so bad in here," Victor said after a few moments of frightening silence. "At least I'll stop turning into the freckle monster in that boiling sun."
"You?" Anita held out her arm for his inspection. "You can play connect-the-dots on me already."
Together, they laughed. Which was immediately followed by an earth-shaking explosion, a definite sign that the volcano meant business. It was Victor's turn to shriek and he pulled Anita into his arms, covering her as best he could. The ominous rumbles and shakes continued for a good five minutes and they cowered together, holding onto each other. "Did I ever mention that I don't like volcanoes?" Victor groaned, tightening his grip on Anita.
"Not recently," Anita replied, squeaking with fear at another shake of the ground beneath them.
"But I can understand the sentiment."
"Anita, can I tell you something else?"
Tearfully, Anita looked up at him, his sweet face and dark eyes drinking her in as if she were a wonderful sight, not a pointy-nosed, somewhat dirty, well-freckled partner of his that he just happened to be trapped with on an island about to fall back into the sea. "Yes?"
"You know I love you, right?" Victor asked, rather desperately. He cupped her cheek with his hand and she leaned into the touch, not knowing whether to laugh or cry. "I mean ... oh, hell. I mean I love you. I have for so long and it stinks that now is the time I have to tell you when we might not have any time left and ... and ..." He blew out a frustrated breath. "If I could just show you somehow. I mean ..."
"I think I know what you mean," Anita replied, before reeling him in for a kiss. It was sweet and warm and made her completely forget where she was, there was nothing in the universe but her and Victor, together. It was the kiss she'd waited her entire life for, not even knowing it was right there in front of her all the time.
Let the earth crumble, she thought hazily, as Victor pulled her closer, his fingers tracing a trembling line along her jaw. If this was the end, it wasn't such a bad way to go.
"Victor!" A familiar voice called out. "Are you still alive?"
With gasp, Victor and Anita pulled apart. "Professor?" they cried out together.
The little man with the big glasses and Bavarian accent peered owlishly into the cave. Behind him were a half dozen anonymous agents of U.Z.Z. "Oh, there you are. We've been looking for you and when we got news of this volcano going off, I said to myself, that Victor - he's causing trouble again. How good to see you both."
Victor squinted at him. "Wait a minute, I can screw up badly enough to set off a volcano?"
Prof. Professor shrugged. "Well ...."
"Oh, come on, you two," said Anita, hauling Victor to his feet. "Let's get out of here!"
The other agents helped Victor on the back of a skybike, strapping him in carefully before offering a seat to Anita on the back of another. The skyline was truly a spectacular display of shooting lava, ashy smoke and terrible sounds and Anita wasn't sorry to see the entire place disappear into the distance.
Except for the tiny part of her soul that would never, ever leave there, she thought, unconsciously touching her lips where the warmth of Victor's kiss still lingered.
Back at headquarters things quickly returned to normal, as normal as it ever was at the U.Z.Z. main station.
Victor was treated by the house doctor who gave Anita kudos for her excellent first aid skills, ignoring Victor as he mentioned something about a few hundred splinters he'd removed from Anita's hands - all by himself. The ankle healed for a few weeks, leaving Anita to take Ray on missions while Victor amused himself with desk work that Changed Daily gave him just to keep him busy.
It was hard being separated most of that time as Victor's words echoed in Anita's head day and night. She began to doubt she'd heard right, or if she had, that he'd meant what he said. That it was nothing more than a last kiss between friends and that 'love' he'd talked about, well ...
"Agent Knight, is everything all right?" Ray asked as they cleaned up the last of Dr. Doctor's goons. "You seem adrift."
Anita blinked, then shook her head. "I'm fine. Just ... you know ... busy."
She could almost see Ray's disbelieving look from behind his glasses but ignored it. She was too tired and sick at heart to bother explaining things to him. It was none of their business. If she were to be broken-hearted for the rest of her life that was her concern, not theirs. She could be a miserable, lonely, sad secret agent forever and that would just fine by ...
"Anita!" a voice called out, zooming by on a brand-new skybike. "Check it out!"
"Victor!" she cried, her heart soaring, her unhappiness suddenly forgotten at the sight of him. She ran to him as he parked his bike. She almost hugged him, then caught herself in time, turning her attention to the shining skybike. "It's lovely."
"Thanks. They wanted to give me a pink one but I told them I'd be sure to crash it the first chance I got," Victor said, beaming at her, his eyes sparkling, making all her doubts and fears disappear. "Want to go for a ride?"
She nodded and hopped on behind Victor, turning to Ray. "You don't mind hauling my skybike back with you, do you?"
Ray shook his head, looking at them curiously, but saying nothing.
"Let's go," Victor said before taking off into the clouds, Anita holding on and laughing behind him. He glanced back at her, pure love shining in his eyes. Anita had no idea how she could have ever doubted him. "Where do you want to go, partner?"
Anita leaned her cheek against his back and closed her eyes. "There's this little island with a certain cave ..." She paused. "That is, if there are no active volcanoes going off."
Victor's laughter filled the sky. "It's like you can read my mind."