Chapter 6

Dean's apprehension turned out to be well founded, and the rest of the unit seemed to have decided to leave it to him to sort the mess out, much to Dean's irritation. Jordan and Chase, after a few half-hearted attempts at talking about it, had given up, and Vince and Michelle seemed happy to continue their policy of non-interference, though Vince had muttered something to him about the 'responsibility of a team leader'.

While Heidi continued to quietly flout any safety regulations she found inconvenient at the time, Lara was far more overt. However, it was only after Dean caught her free-climbing a Ferris wheel without a harness to untangle a rope that had fouled the mechanism that he began actively separating the two women, sending Heidi up in the chopper as often as he could and keeping the pair of them away from height and depth as much as possible. He was hoping the two women would sort themselves out before the inevitable explosion, but knowing Lara and Heidi, he knew that was unlikely.

...

No such luck. It came to a head a week and a half after Lara came off light duties. The team was coming back from a call, sans Jordan, who'd been confined to the station until he'd "done something about the rainforest of paperwork on his desk," as Vince had succinctly put it. Covering for him was Mick, a rookie from another unit. He'd taken an instant liking to Heidi, and had been making doe eyes at her for most of the day, much to the redhead's annoyance. Chase found it highly amusing, but as far as Dean was concerned, it was a headache he could do without.

The unit leader gritted his teeth. They'd been driving for just over half an hour, and Mick's confidence had apparently built to the point where he was comfortable talking directly to Heidi without stuttering, something he was taking full advantage of. He'd been bombarding her with compliments and not-so-subtle hints that he'd like to take her out some time, and Dean was grateful that Lara was in the other truck with Chase. As it was, Heidi was getting increasingly annoyed at the rookie, and was running out of way to turn him down politely.

Mick was beginning to repeat himself with his admiration of Heidi, and Dean was about to snap at him to shut up for his own sanity when about three hundred metres in front of them, a sedan coming the other was swerved violently to the side, crashing through the guardrail of the bridge it had been crossing and into the river. Dean slammed the brakes on, sliding the truck to a stop a few metres from the damaged section, and jumped out, instantly switching back into rescue mode.

The car had twisted as it fell, landing driver's-side-up in the water. The driver had managed to open his door and climb out, but he'd quickly lost his footing on the slippery surface and fell into the water where the current was pulling him slowly downstream. The recent rain had turned the usually shallow, slow moving creek into a much faster, deeper river.

Chase, who'd pulled up behind Dean, followed Heidi to the equipment, where they each grabbed a throw-bag. Chase threw his over the side of the bridge to stop the driver floating any further away, while Heidi headed for the bank of the river where she could pull him to safety. Mick looked like he wanted to follow her, but Dean yelled at him to get on crowd control. Luckily, there weren't many other cars in the area.

Chase could hear the driver yelling something as he clung to the small red bag, but couldn't make out the words over the traffic and the river. "Don't worry, mate, we'll have you out in a sec!"

The man shook his head, and yelled louder. "My son! My little boy!"

Chase swore as he comprehended what he was saying and he turned and yelled to Dean, interrupting his radio message to Vince. "Dean! There's a kid in the car!"

Dean and Lara both ran to where the car had gone in and peered over the edge. Through the open door of the car, they could see a boy of about nine, trying to free himself from his seatbelt as the car slowly sank into the water.

"Shit. Okay, okay, we'll need winches and harnesses. Lara, grab the—"

Dean's orders were cut off by a chunk of debris that had been precariously resting on the remainder of the guardrail falling from its perch, slamming into the car and forcing the door closed. The boy's screams were clearly audible as the car got lower and lower in the water.

Dean was rapidly rethinking his strategy when he noticed Lara stripping off her jacket and radio. "Woah, woah, woah, what're you doing?"

"There's no time, we've gotta get that kid outta there now."

"Lara, no wait! Lara!" Dean grabbed at her arm, but caught only air as she took a running dive over the edge of the bridge. "Shit! Chase!" he turned and yelled to his brother, who was still leaning over the other side of the bridge, before dropping to his stomach and getting as close as he dared to the edge to get a better look.

Lara had surfaced a few metres from the car, which had drifted closer to the bridge, but was being held roughly in place by debris that was still attached to the structure. However, that didn't stop the current pushing on the vehicle, and instead of pushing it further down the river, the steady flow of water was instead slowly rotating the car, turning it upside-down. By the time Lara reached it, all four wheels were out of the water, while the roof was almost entirely submerged.

"Chase, get you dive gear and get down there. Take some spare air with you, but do it quickly!"

His brother nodded and took off towards the trucks, which Mick had manoeuvred to form a roadblock, but Dean knew it was probably pointless. By the time Chase got back, they'd be either out of the river or beyond help. Knowing that, Dean headed the in opposite direction, towards the other end of the bridge. When he got level with the bank, he vaulted the guardrail, taking a moment to regain his footing before turning his attention back to the river, searching desperately for his partner.

He caught sight of her in time to see Lara's head disappear under the front of the car, and for countless, heart-stopping seconds, there was nothing but the swirling water and the occasional burst of air. Spots appeared in Dean's vision, and he realised he was holding his breath. Just as he forced himself to release it, two heads broke the surface of the water.

The boy was crying, and it took Lara several seconds to struggle into a position in which she could keep them both afloat. She began swimming across the current, towing the boy towards where Dean had waded as far as he dared into the swollen river, and together they dragged the child up the bank and back onto dry land. The boy was shaking, both from cold and fear, as Dean gave him a quick once over to make sure he had no injuries that required immediate attention, while beside him, Lara was attempting to catch her breath through chattering teeth. The boy was covered in mud, which made it difficult, but it seemed he had been lucky, escaping his ordeal with only some minor lacerations, and a possible broken wrist.

Yelling from somewhere above them distracted Dean from his examination, and he glanced up to see the driver stumbling down towards him, followed by Heidi, who'd been trying to guide him towards the ambulance that had just arrived.

"Caleb! Is he okay? Cay, are you okay, buddy?"

"Sir, just back off for a moment, let me finish." Dean told the frantic man, trying to elbow him away from the boy.

"He'll be okay, right? He's gonna be fine?"

"He'll need to go to the hospital to get x-rays, but he should be fine. If you could just go and wait up on the bridge… Heidi, take him, would you?"

But Heidi wasn't paying attention. Instead, her focus was on where Lara was sprawled on her back beside Dean, catching her breath.

"Lara, your arm…" Heidi knelt down beside the blonde and took her hand, moving the limb to reveal a jagged cut, starting on the back of her wrist, curving around and ending about half way down her forearm.

Lara sat up but didn't answer; while Heidi's attention was focused on the injury, Lara's was focused on where Heidi's hand was wrapped around her own. When the redhead realised what she was staring at, she snatched her hand back like it had been burned.

"You should…I mean, I think it needs stitches…" She stood quickly, and moved back to where the father was kneeling next to his son. "C'mon Mr Jones, Caleb's gonna be fine. I want to dress that cut on your jaw." She pulled him gently to his feet and guided him back up the bank, towards the flashing blue lights of the ambulances while at the water's edge, Lara was still looking at where Heidi's hand had covered her own.