Disclaimer: As always, I don't own any of these characters. If I did, I'd drive a better car.
Author's Notes: References to and spoilers from the episode "As You Were".
"That's almost everybody." Agent Parker called to her partner from across the scene of the seven-car pileup.
"Same here." Nathan called back. "I've got one more car to clear out."
Audrey turned her attention back to the current rescue. "Come here, Sweetie." She spoke gently to the young girl in one of the cars.
"I'm stuck!" The girl started to panic, as she struggled against the metal that trapped her foot.
"It's ok, calm down." Audrey soothed. "What's your name?" She distracted the girl, while she crouched down next to her, gently tried to free her foot.
"Hannah." The girl answered, quietly.
"Ok, Hannah. I need you to stop moving your foot. I'll get you out, ok?" Agent Parker spoke gently, calming the young girl.
"Ok." Hannah nodded as she stilled her foot.
Audrey noticed the jagged metal stuck in Hannah's shoe. Given the blood-covered gashes in her shoe, Audrey figured that her foot was probably pretty mangled. "Ok." She tenderly addressed Hannah. "I'm gonna pull your foot out of your shoe, 'cause the shoe is stuck in there pretty good. But I think I can get your foot out if we leave the shoe. Ok?" She smiled encouragingly.
"Ok." Hannah nodded. "I never liked those shoes anyway."
Audrey unlaced Hannah's shoe, then gently gripped her ankle, to be able to pull her foot out when she heard a scream in the backgroun.
"Hannah? Where's my baby?" A woman's worried voice was heard from across the crash site.
"Ma'am, you have to stay back." One of the other officers spoke gently, as he kept the devastated woman back.
"Mommy?" Hannah leaned out of the car, to look at her mother.
"Hannah, you've gotta stay still, ok, sweetie?" Audrey's statement just received a glance from the still squirming Hannah. "If you stay still, I can get you out, and you can go to your mommy, ok?"
"Ok." Hannah reluctantly agreed.
"Ok. This might hurt some." Audrey waited until the girl acknowledged, then she gently slipped Hannah's foot out of the shredded shoe. Hannah winced and whimpered in pain, slightly, as the metal grazed her foot. "There you go." Audrey soothed as she finished freeing the entangled foot. "Come here. Let's go see your mommy." She picked her up out of the car, and walked toward her mother.
As they approached, Audrey clearly heard the mother's conversation with the policeman.
"I need to know if she's ok." The mother's voice continued.
"We're working on getting everyone out." The officer assured.
"I left her with the babysitter, and look what happened! Oh, I shouldn't have left her." The woman wailed.
As Audrey and Hannah finally got close enough to see her mom, the young girl began wiggling almost uncontrollably in Audrey's arms.
"Mommy!" Hannah exclaimed.
"Baby!" The mother ran toward her daughter. "Are you ok, Baby?" She looked at the blood covering her mangled foot.
"Yeah, Mommy, I'm ok." She smiled as Audrey handed her to her mother. "Where's Kara?" She looked around.
"Kara?" Audrey asked.
"Her babysitter." The mother informed her.
Audrey nodded. "I'll see if I can find her," she said as she headed back to the middle of the crash site, to the car where Hannah was. She looked in the car and noticed the empty driver's seat. Noticing the broken windshield, she walked to the front of the car, where she found the blood-covered babysitter. She knelt beside her, and checked for a pulse. She sighed heavily as she called for the coroner. "We've got another DOA over here!"
Nathan got the last person out of the car where he was, as he saw flames starting in one of the cars. His vision was then drawn to his friend, who was very close to the flames. "Audrey." He whispered. "Audrey!" He shouted as he rushed toward her.
"Nathan?" She stood up when she heard her partner. He pushed her to the side right as the flames reached the gas tank. The explosion quickly encompassed the entire crash site, catching them in the initial blast but causing many secondary explosions.
"" "" "" "" ""
While Nathan was hit with the brunt of the blast, Audrey was caught by the edge of it, because she was on the ground when it happened. When she came to, she gasped in pain, as well as realization and concern for her partner. "Nathan!" She shouted as she bolted up, aggravating her injuries. She saw the flames fighting for control as the many fireman tried to kill the hot deadly source. The EMTs surrounding her immediately pulled her back down to the gurney she was on. "Try not to move, Miss."
"'Not move, Miss' my ass!" She almost punched the EMT who tried to restrain her. "Nathan. Where's Nathan?" She shouted as she got off the gurney.
"Audrey?" Duke recognized her voice from across the crash site. "Hey there." Knowing how upset she must be, he spoke gently, as he noticed the burns on her arms and the large gash on her cheek.
"Nathan pushed me out of the way of the explosion." She began, answering his unspoken question, as she started walking around the crash site looking for her partner. "But, I can't find him. And no one will tell me where he is. I know he's hurt. He was standing in the middle of the blast, but I don't know how bad it was." Duke caught her as she stumbled a few steps, when her legs protested her use of them. She gasped in concern as she saw the coroner's van pull away. "No." She let out weakly, as the thought crossed her mind.
"No, it's not." Duke reassured her, as he tilted his head to get her to look at him. "I passed it as I came in; it's one of the dead from the initial crash."
She let out a weak smile, silently thanking Duke for his attempt.
"Would you let them take care of you?" He motioned to her arms and face. The EMT who was hovering near her.
"Not until I know Nathan's ok." She stubbornly stated. She glared at the EMT, until he left.
"I can find Nathan." He instinctively offered. She shot him a look that suddenly reminded him that she could easily kick his butt, if so provoked. "Ok, ok." He chuckled as he put up his hands in defeat. "If we split up, we'll cover more ground." He grinned, as he tried to authenticate his offer to assist in the search for information on Nathan Wournos. She nodded as they headed off in different directions. A few minutes later, Duke's voice summoned her. "I found him!"
"Is he ok?" She asked hopefully as she headed over to his position.
"He doesn't look too good, but he's alive" he informed her as she approached.
"Oh, Nathan." She said gently, as the EMTs loaded his battered, burn-covered body into the ambulance.
"At least he didn't feel anything." Duke tried for a comforting thought, but he received a glance from Audrey that immediately made him think that his attempt was suddenly inappropriate. He chuckled uneasily and she shrugged letting him know that she appreciated his attempt. He relaxed slightly at that, and quickly changed the subject. "Now, will you let them tend to your wounds?" Duke smiled.
"Yeah, I guess", she sighed dramatically.
"" "" "" "" ""
Several hours later, Nathan moved around an endlessly dark, eerie room. An equally dark, sinister man appeared before him. "You're never getting out." The man stated, seemingly gloating.
"Audrey. Where is she?" Nathan asked, threateningly.
The man remained calm. "Agent Parker is dead." The man stated, indifferently.
"No." Nathan whispered.
"You failed, Nathan. You tried to save her, but you failed." The man continued unsympathetically.
"No!" he exclaimed. "She can't be dead." He whispered in disbelief.
"I'm sorry Nathan." The man continued, callously. "She's dead. You can never see her again. You can never feel her touch again. You'll never see any of your friends again. You might as well just give up, Nathan. Save yourself the pain." The man spoke gently, and considerately, for the first time. Nathan refused to give up, but he was devastated that his partner, and friend, was dead.
''' "" "" "" ""
Audrey and Duke, who had been in Nathan's room, ever since he had been brought into the hospital, had been watching Nathan's vitals slowly decline. Their friend seemed to be weakening. Audrey sighed uneasily as she watched the monitors show even further decline.
Duke broke the silence. "Audrey, maybe you should talk to him." He waited until she looked at him, showing him he had her attention, and then continued. "I know the doctors are saying that the damage is too great, and that that's why he's getting worse, but it seems to me that he's just giving up."
"That doesn't really sound like Nathan," she stated.
"Maybe he doesn't realize there's anything left for him to fight for." Duke continued with his reasoning, hoping she would consider the possibility. "Maybe he just needs a sort of life line, a reminder of what's waiting for him out here. With as bad as the situation was, he might think everyone he cares about is gone. Go hold his hand. Tell him you're here."
"Why should I hold his hand? He can't feel touch, right?" Inside, Audrey was thinking, 'please tell me he can't feel touch. I need to know he's not in pain.'
"I don't think he's if pain, if that's what you're asking. And you're right. He can't feel anyone's touch," he saw Audrey relax a little and nod before he continued. "Except yours."
"Why would you think he could feel my touch?" Audrey was puzzled.
"He told me." Duke answered cockily, but continued when Audrey looked like she didn't believe him. "Okay, so he didn't know he told me. I overheard him tell the chameleon several weeks ago at Carpenter's Knot that he could feel your touch and didn't feel its touch. That's how he knew he had found the shape shifter."
Silence descended as she tried to assimilate this new knowledge. She suddenly had new insight. She had always thought that all the high fives and handshakes Nathan had initiated were for her benefit, but now she thought that maybe he was just creating opportunities to actually feel something.
She hurried to her friend's bedside. If the only touch he could feel was hers, she was bound and determined to give him that 'lifeline' Duke had mentioned. As she gently gripped her partner's hand, his vitals immediately improved – not a whole lot at first, maybe, but significant enough to give Audrey hope.
"Nathan," she started slowly. "You can't give up. We need you here." She leaned closer to his ear and whispered, "I need you here. Don't give up."
"" "" "" "" ""
Nathan was sitting on the ground across from the man who continued to urge him to give up. The darkness seemed to lift a bit and Nathan looked at his hand – sure that he could feel Audrey's touch. It hadn't occurred to him before that things might not be as they seemed. Maybe he wasn't actually in this dark room. Maybe this sinister man didn't really have any control over the situation. And, most importantly, maybe Audrey wasn't dead.
"You can't give up Nathan." He could swear that he heard Audrey's voice. He couldn't see her, but somehow he knew she was there.
He stood up to confront the man as the room got lighter and lighter. "I knew she couldn't be dead. I don't know why I even started to believe you." He approached his nemesis with such determination that the man almost cowered.
"She is dead. You're only imagining her voice," the man almost stuttered as he realized he had lost his hold on Nathan.
"I don't believe you anymore. I don't know why I ever did."
"We need you here." He heard Audrey say. "I need you here. Don't give up."
"I won't!" He responded definitively as he rounded on the man to tell him again that he didn't believe him, but found that the sinister being was no longer there.
"" "" "" "" ""
Over the next day, Audrey noticed a significant change in Nathan's condition. He was steadily getting stronger. As he finally opened his eyes, Audrey threw a look at Duke, thanking him for his advice.
"Hi there," she smiled at Nathan. Her friend looked at their joined hands and then back up at her. She explained, "Duke thought you might have needed a lifeline to help guide you back."
He smiled weakly and squeezed her hand. "Thanks, Audrey, for not giving up on me."
"Well, friends don't give up on friends." She rubbed his hand. Nathan looked pointedly at their hands again and smiled questioningly at Audrey. She hooked a thumb over her shoulder, pointing at Duke. "He overheard you tell the chameleon."
Nathan looked at Duke and nodded a 'thanks'. The other man smiled his trademark cocky grin, and Nathan knew that he'd have to pay for that 'thanks' later. But right now, he didn't care.
"Hey Parker?" He pulled his attention back to Audrey.
She smirked, joining in the joke. "Yeah, Wournos?"
"Thanks for my lifeline."
She smiled and squeezed his hand again as he fell back to sleep.