Title: Never a Good Day…
Characters: Mainly Sarah & Derek. John and Cameron get a very brief cameo.
Rating: Hard T: copious amounts of bad language, discussion of adult themes, violence and broken bones.
Category: Bit of action, bit of medical, lots of Sarah & Derek H/C. If you've read Under The Influence and Watching Not Sleeping… you probably know what you're letting yourself in for…
Word Count: About 21,000, all told. This part 3,700.
Notes: This started out as me mucking about with an empty writing pad on a nice sunny day. "I'm bored… oh I know, I'll throw Sarah and Derek down an embankment…" The bloody thing then took on a life of its own, took a few diversions, got an almost-plot, headed straight out of canon and ended up being quite long. I never meant it that way, it just happened. If I were to place it within the episode order, it comes after Some Must Watch…, and before Ourselves Alone, and liberally abandons absolutely everything thereafter.
Thanks, a million thanks to Cat, who's lived with my Sarah Connor craziness for months now, beta-reads without complaint and holds my hand whilst posting. Huge thanks also to RoxyB for wheedling out my Britisms and all my firearm-related snafus.
Due to length, I've split it into six parts (and tried to find some nice cliff-hangers!) Feedback is cherished.
Disclaimer: Don't own them. Wish I did.
Never a Good Day… 1/6
"Sarah, buckle up."
"What?" She came awake slowly, her voice confused and distant.
"Seatbelt. Now." Derek pushed down hard on the gas, cursing himself for not having spotted their tail until now. Not until it was bearing down on them, headlights snapped suddenly onto high beam as its speed had increased to match theirs. It had been a long day – hours of watching and waiting and traveling – and they were both tired, but that was no excuse.
"Fuck." She was getting the message, and jerked her belt into place with one hand as she pulled her Glock free with the other. She checked the clip, craning her neck around to gauge distance and range.
"Two in there, I think. How long?"
"How long what?"
"Have they been behind us?"
"I don't know. We rounded a bend. There they were."
The road was unlit, shrouded by trees, edged by a steep drop-off and absolutely perfect for an ambush.
"Kaliba?" Sarah reached for the shotgun, wishing she'd packed grenades.
"You pissed off anyone else today?"
"Just a woman in the 7-11. She wanted that jerky that you wanted."
Derek smiled briefly. They were in trouble and they both knew it, but you had to respect a woman who could keep her sense of humor in a crisis.
"Ahh, it was worth it. Shit. Hold on."
She braced herself as the truck behind them hit their bumper and pushed them violently along the road. Derek was fighting to control the steering; Sarah swore under her breath, flicked her belt off and lowered her window.
"Aim for the windshield."
"Fuck, Derek. I think I'll just aim for the truck."
She managed to fire a couple of shots off, one wide, one pinging ineffectually off the body work, and she ducked back inside when they were hit by a second, more vicious jolt.
"Son of a bitch." Throwing caution to the wind, Derek was utilizing all of the road, hurtling around blind bends and sending up sprays of gravel as he careened along the verge.
"No signal. Shit." She pocketed her cell phone and vented her frustration with the shotgun, scoring a bulls-eye on the windshield of their pursuers, which cracked and splintered like a spider's web but didn't shatter.
"Well, if they weren't pissed before..."
"Yeah, I don't…"
She never completed the sentence. The truck hit them as they encountered a hairpin, sending them spinning wildly out of control. With a strangled yell, Derek tried and failed to turn into the skid, but a second, perfectly timed blow threw them off the road, down the embankment and into the void.
Sarah couldn't connect the sounds. She couldn't reconcile the persistent hissing with the deep, guttural snoring. Her head was cushioned against something sticky but warm, and the smell of explosives tickled her nose and made her want to sneeze. As her eyes adjusted to the light, she realized she was still in the truck, pressed up against a mostly deflated airbag which accounted for the firework smell. The tackiness coating the airbag was her own blood. When she tried to use her left arm to find the source of the bleeding, unexpected pain bit in so ferociously that all she wanted to do was curl up very quietly into a ball and not move at all. Instead, she swore again and again, biting a lip that had already had a tooth forced into it, and tried not to pass out. There was definitely a fracture there; she could feel the snapped ends of the bones in her forearm shifting and grating against each other, as it refused to go where she wanted it to. In the end, she stopped trying, leaving it by her side as she waited for the pain to become manageable.
"Derek?" Her voice was shaky and barely audible. Turning her head to the left, she saw that it was him making the snoring sounds, his airway occluded as his head lolled forward. Using her good hand, she pushed him back against the seat and tipped his chin carefully, before trying again to rouse him.
"Derek. Wake the fuck up. Now." That was much better. It still didn't work, but it sounded far less pathetic. He had taken a knock to the head; she could see the laceration on his scalp, and she ran her hand across his torso, then along the back of his neck and the limbs she could reach, feeling for fractures or blood. She was about to start on his right arm when his eyes snapped open and he caught hold of her wrist. She moaned softly, his grip hurting her, and he dropped her arm immediately, his eyes wide.
"Fuck. Sorry." He was blinking rapidly, trying to orientate himself. "Oh shit. How far down are we?"
She shook her head, wincing at the pain the motion caused. "I don't know. You need to switch the engine off… The lights."
Steam was hissing from the engine, but the headlights were still blaring, advertizing their location to the men up above. Derek turned the ignition key quickly and the truck fell into darkness. He craned his head upwards, towards the road, and saw the high beams of their assailant's vehicle, angled to light up the direction they had travelled in. The high beams cut out abruptly, and two separate flashlight beams scanned the area, then began to make a gradual descent.
"They're coming down. We have to get out of here."
She nodded, already trying to move, but the pain in her arm was making her stomach churn, and dizziness hampered her efforts. Derek listened to the irregular cadence of her breathing as he assessed his own injuries. He hadn't fared too badly. Unlike her, he had been wearing a seatbelt, and, aside from a cut to the head and bruises that would feel a lot worse when the adrenaline wore off, he couldn't detect anything major.
"Sarah, where are you hurt?" He had decided not to give her the option of lying. What concerned him the most was that she didn't even try.
"Left arm." She caught her breath on a sob. "It's broken. And… a couple of ribs on the right, I think."
He remembered her desperate attempt to brace herself against the dashboard as the truck had hurtled down the embankment. The resultant head-on impact with a tree had probably snapped her arm.
"Stay still. I'll come around."
The door was crumpled shut, so he clambered out of the window, dismissing a sudden pain in his ankle as insignificant. Opening the trunk, he pulled out their first aid kit, a flashlight and his own duffel bag, grateful beyond words that he had thought to pack it. By the time he got to Sarah's side, she had opened her door, but hadn't quite managed to get out.
"Just…" He put his hand up. "Just be still, Sarah."
He switched the flashlight on and played it quickly over her face, dropping it lower as she shied away from the light. There was a jagged laceration just below her hairline, oozing blood down the length of her face. She looked pale and sick with pain, closing her eyes tightly when he directed the light at her arm.
"Damn." He had said it out loud before he realized, and he felt like kicking himself.
Her arm was hanging limply as if she had no control over its movement. The two bones of her forearm were obviously fractured mid-shaft; the broken ends pressed up against the skin so tautly that their whiteness could clearly be seen, glistening below its surface.
"Bad enough to need setting." It was also bad enough to need pinning surgically, but they could worry about that later; right now, dealing with a potential hospital trip was the least of their problems.
"Shit." She swallowed heavily. "We don't have the main kit."
"The main first aid kit, we didn't bring it."
He looked down at the kit he had pulled from the trunk, and realized that she was right; they had a much more comprehensive one in the garage.
"Why the hell did we leave it behind?"
"Because we were doing surveillance. I wasn't anticipating major fucking surgery!"
"Okay, okay. Just. Fuck." He ran a hand through his hair, brought it down again, stained with blood. "Fuck. Right, can you move? We're sitting ducks here."
She nodded, swinging her legs around slowly and managing not to make a sound as she stood; she just swayed gently and tried to support her bad arm with her good.
Derek dragged the shotgun and Sarah's Glock from her side of the footwell, and tucked her weapon into the back of her jeans.
She smiled at the gesture. "Thanks. But when the bad guys show up, can you try and shoot them?"
"Absolutely." He dumped the first aid kit into his pack and gestured ahead of himself with the flashlight. "We just need to put a bit of distance between us and the truck. Then we can get you fixed up, okay?"
"Okay. I'm fine."
He didn't comment, but just started to pick a path through the undergrowth, listening for any sounds of pursuit, but not hearing any. The terrain was rough underfoot, slippery with recent rainfall and uneven with tangled roots and small shrubs taking up the space between the trees that loomed up everywhere out of the darkness. It was a good place to try and stay lost, and an absolute nightmare to navigate a way through when you were in a hurry and injured.
He did his best, trying to break a trail for Sarah without leaving the flattened undergrowth equivalent of a neon sign screaming: we went this way! He marched her for as long as he dared, and she kept up with the pace he set. She was mostly silent, aside from the occasional curse when she stumbled or jarred her arm against an obstacle she had been unable to avoid. He noticed when the cursing became more frequent, and then when she slipped one time and stayed down for a minute. She was scrambling up again when he went back for her, but he knew she had had enough.
He put his arm around her waist and guided her towards a tree, away from their path, helping her to sit at its base. She leaned back against its trunk, closing her eyes and working hard to regain control of her breathing. Turning away from her, he opened the first aid kit and selected dressings and a triangular bandage. His search for pain killers turned up Tylenol and six low dose codeine that would probably fail to make a dent in his own headache, and would do even less for a fracture as serious as hers. Still, they were better than nothing; he palmed two of each, took the top off his canteen and turned back to her.
She drew in a breath, as if readying herself to speak, but he cut her off.
"Don't argue. They'll do fuck all for your arm, but they might help with all those other injuries you've discovered while you've been walking and haven't told me about yet."
She smiled softly and shrugged with one shoulder. "You show me yours and I'll show you mine. You've been walking in front of me, so I know that you're limping."
He shook his head, unable to believe that, while she had been staggering along behind him in the dark, she had still been able to analyze his gait.
"Okay, fine. We're both wrecked, but I'm going to make an executive decision – based on the fact that all of my bones are intact – and let you have the codeine. So here…"
"I wasn't going to argue."
"No?" Derek looked as shocked as he sounded.
"No. I just don't have a free hand, so…"
Her voice trailed off, and he realized that she was embarrassed, and that he had just made everything worse by forcing her to spell things out to him.
"Shit." He felt like an idiot. "Here…" One by one, he placed the tablets between her lips and held the canteen for her to drink. She shook her head when she had finished. He lowered the water, then followed her example and took two of the Tylenol himself.
She had closed her eyes again, her knees drawn up as sweat beaded on her forehead. Glancing at her arm, he knew that he'd be flying by the seat of his pants trying to reduce the fracture. He had seen it done, but his role in the proceedings had mainly involved holding the victim still as he or she thrashed around and tried not to scream in front of their squad.
If he actually did manage to make an improvement, her arm would need splinting afterwards; he cast about, searching for flat pieces of wood or bark, but finding nothing suitable. A sudden flash of inspiration made him stop kicking futilely amongst the leaf-litter; he dug deeply into his duffel bag, pulling out a large hunting knife in a leather sheath. The sheath was perfect – firm but malleable, and just about the right length. He used the knife to cut long strips of bandage, then decided that he was delaying the inevitable and carried the equipment over to Sarah, kneeling down beside her.
"Sarah. You ready?"
She shook her head once but answered "yes," and dropped her legs straight to allow him access to her arm.
"You have to be quiet."
"Do you want something to bite on?"
She opened one eye, trying to establish whether he was making a joke, but his face was deadly serious. She took an unsteady breath. "No."
"I'll be as quick as I can."
He took hold of her left arm in both of his hands. She dropped her right arm away, digging her fingers into the fabric of her jeans and screwing the cloth up so tightly that her knuckles gleamed white in the moonlight.
Her forearm sagged mid-shaft, at the point of the fracture. He placed his hands above and below, gripping tightly and ignoring the nauseating shift beneath his fingers. He took a deep breath, then pulled, creating a steady, continuous traction and counter-traction, using his uppermost hand to guide the bones back into place.
It was easier to focus on the procedure: how far to pull, how the bones slipped and edged back, how the hand he was holding became warmer slowly as adequate circulation was restored, and it immediately reacted to the stress he was causing. It was easier to focus on all of that, because otherwise he would have focused on Sarah. He would have heard the low, desperate moan she couldn't quite hold back, and the blood that spilled from her lip as she bit into it again. He would have seen her hand come up towards his to try and stop him, as he jarred the bones awkwardly and had to pull harder to correct his error. He would have heard her feet digging into the dirt to prevent herself getting up and running away.
So he concentrated instead on what he was doing, until her arm ran smooth beneath his fingers and he felt her slump back against the tree as the pain finally relaxed its grip on her. She panted shallowly, fighting to remain conscious.
"Nearly done, Sarah. Can you help me hold this?"
She stared at him, attempting to comprehend what he was asking her to do. He took her good hand in his and showed her where he needed her support. She managed to hold the sheath in place beneath her arm, as he wrapped bandages firmly around his make-shift splint, taking over from her when her hand shook and she had to drop it to her side.
"Can you feel your fingers?"
"No tingling or numbness?"
"No." There was no moisture in her mouth to speak with, and she licked her lips, tasting the blood there. "Not anymore."
"You gonna pass out on me?"
She raised an eyebrow with a quirk of her lips. "Think it would've happened by now."
"You're probably right." He secured her arm in a sling, and she held her hair out of the way while he tied the knot. "You mind if I do?"
A small smile. "Be my guest."
He rocked back on his heels, assessing his efforts. "Maybe later. How's that feel? "
"Better." She was slightly less ashen than she had been just minutes ago. She still looked awful, but he considered any improvement to be a positive thing. "Thanks."
"Yeah." He soaked a piece of gauze with water and carefully wiped her face for her. "Any time, Connor."
"We're in deep shit, aren't we?" Leaning back against the tree with a shaky sigh, she reached behind herself to try and pull her gun free.
"Here." He tugged it loose, checked the clip and handed it to her, grip first. She held it firmly, taking comfort in its familiar weight.
Brushing the hair from her forehead, he used the gauze to clean the laceration that was still bleeding steadily down her cheek. "I think our odds have been better," he said, in answer to her original question.
"Not sure. Possibly not."
"They were pretty fucking precise on the road, Derek." The pain and the growing feeling of being trapped and hunted were beginning to eat away at her nerves.
"They probably just knew the road. That point they hit us at was a deliberate choice. Did you notice the guardrail was missing?"
She had. They had been forced right between a gap that had already been created by a previous accident.
"Metal would have been down on us by now, and it wouldn't give a fuck about keeping quiet."
"Good point." Sarah nodded in agreement, feeling slightly more optimistic about their chances.
Derek gave a low growl of frustration, he was still holding the gauze firmly against her forehead. "Would you do me a favor and stop bleeding?"
"Sorry." She sounded genuinely contrite.
"It's a mess. It needs stitches." There was nothing in their kit to suture with. He began to place butterfly stitches along the wound, doing his best to close it. "I may as well be pissing in the wind here." He taped a piece of gauze across it for good measure and watched as it quickly stained with crimson.
Sarah felt the blood begin to trickle free again and decided that a change in focus was in order. "So, what's wrong with your leg?"
"Not sure. Sprain probably, might've caught my foot under a pedal on the way down."
"Sometime during our glorious, controlled descent?"
"Yeah, that's the one." He stopped frowning at his failure with her head injury and grinned, relieved that she was feeling up to joking with him. "I'll live. The Tylenol's helped. So, ribs?"
She shrugged. "I'll live. The Tylenol and the codeine's helped."
"Touché. Breathing okay?"
"Fine." She touched a hand to her side, pressing carefully. She knew she had a couple of fractures there. Broken ribs had a special kind of pain all of their own.
Before she could stop him, he was lifting her sweater away and placing his own hand over the livid purple contusion he revealed. "Deep breath."
She tried, breathing in until the pain made her breath hitch, and she winced.
"Maybe a couple broken. They've not hit your lung." He studied the shape of the bruising. "From your elbow, I think, during the impact."
It was a common car crash injury, something Sarah was all too aware of. It seemed that every time she got in a vehicle, the damn thing ended up in bits.
"Here." Derek gave her the canteen and she took a couple of sips, relieved when they didn't make an immediate reappearance. "We need to get moving."
"Okay." Any minute now, she'd get right up.
He stood and held his hand out. She hesitated briefly, then realized she was being stupid, and allowed him to help her up. He steadied her when a head-rush almost put her straight back onto the floor, then moved away, off to her side, aware that the night's events had been working hard to rob her of her dignity.
"All set." She sounded far more certain than she felt. "Do we have a plan?"
"Not really. I'd like to stay alive if possible."
It seemed like a reasonable proposal and she nodded. She fell in behind him automatically, and decided – at this particular point – that just remaining on her feet would be a pretty good strategy.
Part two coming soon. The story is complete, I'll get the chapters posted as my shifts allow!