How can one describe it?
Burning heat, bitter cold, and myriad of sensation, strong and powerful.
It was supposed to be peaceful, quiet, but he could noise everywhere, all around him.
Voices, echoes in a long dark hall that whispered and screamed.
Hell, he decided, floating in the emptiness. I've died and gone to hell.
So where was the fire? Where were the demons, the devil?
What was going on?
She saw it on a daily basis, working in an Army hospital. She'd gone stateside, where death was passing, a few months ago, but it hadn't taken.
She craved the battle, needed the constant chaos.
It was a part of her that she had yet to make peace with.
How does one come to terms with the fact that you're a monster?
The young soldier in front of her was beautiful, soaked in blood, a dying angel.
She could see the last tethers of his soul, grasping at his body.
Poor thing, she found herself thinking as she solemnly accepted her newest charge from his grief stricken comrades.
He would be confused right about now. The whirlwind of death swirling about, a sensation unlike any other.
All souls eventually let go – some just took longer than others, put up more of a fight.
He was strong, this one – a real fighter.
A true warrior.
She could taste it in the tang of his blood.
He'd fought valiantly, bravely.
"Rest easy, brother," she murmured, reaching up with a feather light touch to brush her fingers across his face. "Your journey is finished."
She'd spoken the words countless times before, severed the ties for many strong souls, but this one…
He fought her – tooth and nail, he fought.
There was a warmth – a sudden brush against what felt like his entire body – the first easily identifiable sensation since he'd arrived in this strange place.
"Let go," the whisper was solid and real, right next to his ear and there was that warmth again, a solid breath against his neck.
It was a soothing sirens call, a warm lullaby that sought to give him rest, a peaceful ending to his noble sacrifice.
He'd always been a spiritual man – never for a second had he doubted that there was a higher power out there, watching them.
He believed in Jesus, he believed in God, and he believed in the Ever After.
But he wasn't ready to let go, not yet.
Charlie was out there. Charlie was hurt. He had to get back – had to fight to save his friend, his brother.
He had to fight.
And if there was one thing Hector Williams knew how to do it was fight.
He tugged her forward with a metaphysical pull and she grunted as she struggled to disentangle her mind from his.
The action only seemed to spurn him on as he dug deeper into her, thrusting his essence back towards her, back towards life.
"Stop," she grunted out through gritted teeth, her hands tightening on the edge of the metal gurney, palms sliding down against the sharp metal, her blood spilling to mix with his.
She let go of the gurney, grabbing at his face in a desperate attempt to shake him.
The gesture was entirely human and entirely wrong.
She was the conductor, he was the electricity, and he used her like a lightning rod to focus in on his body.
That subtle tie she'd been trying to break became a thick cable of steel and she gave up on trying to break it, instead focusing on his new connection to her.
"You are not welcome here," she gritted out. "This is no longer your home."
"Home." The word reverberated in the darkness, surrounding him and bringing back memories of people, of faces.
Jonas. Bob. Mac.
Brother, best friend.
Charlie was dying.
The panic clawed at him and he dug deeper into the warmth, pulling himself closer even as it fought him.
He didn't care – barely recognized the struggle in the face of his determination.
He had to get back to Charlie.
The name echoed in a whisper and she jerked back instinctively, eyes wide with fright.
She'd never heard one of them call back. The dead did not speak, not like that. They communicated, but that…that was a statement. A desperate plea.
"Have to get back." Was the raspy whisper.
"No," she replied, stepping back as the body in front of her twitched.
"No," she repeated, reaching up and grabbing at her head as her skull pounded under the rush of him.
It was agony, it was ecstasy – it was every sensation she'd ever had all rolled into one moment.
Spine-tingling, soul-shattering, a ragged cry tore through her throat, followed by another and another as she stumbled back against the wall.
"Stop," she pleaded, tears streaking down her face as her trembling knees gave out and sent her sliding gracelessly to the floor. "Please, just stop."
"Stop." It was no longer a demand, but a plea, and he had a moment to wonder why the warmth was begging him, but Charlie's ashen face flashed back into his skull and he pushed that wonder aside as he pressed forward with renewed determination.
Pressing forward was like pushing through every swamp, every mud-slicked path he'd ever attempted to pass. Thick and slow and an uphill struggle even on the way down.
And all the while, he felt the press of that warmth and the closer he got, the warmer it felt until it was almost a solid heat.
And that voice – that whispering, silky smooth voice – seemed to get louder.
"You're making a mistake, you can't come back here," it was telling him, moving from a whisper to a solid statement.
"Not a mistake," he grunted as he pressed himself into that heat, felt it sear against his skin.
He'd been burned before, but never like this, never this bad.
He gritted his teeth and closed his vision, pressing forward blind and keeping his silence until he got to be too much.
It was either go back or scream, and he wasn't going back.
His scream reverberated through her skull, the dying cry of a wounded animal. It was awful, screeching like nails on a chalkboard, the worst sound she'd ever heard.
And it was echoed by the cries from her own throat, muffled as she stuffed her hand in her own mouth, biting down on the blood soaked flesh as cry after cry emerged from her throat.
It was like being flayed alive – the skin was peeling from her face, from her very bones leaving her bleeding and raw.
Until he broke through.
That heat gave way to cold, a soothing rush against fevered skin and suddenly that voice was there.
Only it was whimpering, a broken cry, like a puppy that had been kicked around or a frightened child.
It hurt his ears to hear it, his heart to feel it.
And he felt it, as raw and real as his own pain.
And he felt pain.
She could hear his groan, the sound like a shotgun blast in the otherwise quiet room, drawing her from her pain as she scrambled to her feet.
Visual stimuli hit her first – the body on the gurney was moving, breathing with rapid, short breaths.
She could smell the tang of old blood, but new blood was mixing with it and it was with a rush that she realized in addition to breathing, the body was bleeding.
"Oh god," she breathed, reaching for the sheet that had been placed over his still fatigue-clad form.
She mostly worked with the dead, but she knew how to care for the living. And she knew that she had to stop the bleeding.
"Doctor!" She yelled, pressing her bloody hands into the bloody gash on his neck. "I need a doctor in here!"
"What the hell - ?" the doctor in the doorway froze at the sight in front of him.
The soldier they'd just brought in – the one he'd declared legally dead not even fifteen minutes ago – was breathing.
Not only breathing, but struggling against the nurse who was holding him down.
"Please," the nurse begged him with her voice and with her eyes. "Help him."
"Jesus Christ," the doctor unfroze as training kicked in.
"Call for another nurse," he informed her tersely as he took over the application of pressure. "And get me some orderlies. He needs to get into an OR now!"
It was a daily part of their lives. They trained for it, prepared for it, delivered it on a near daily basis.
They were supposed to be tough, but being aware of the possibility of dying and experiencing an actual death…
How do you prepare somebody for that soul-numbing wiped-out feeling of absolute despair?
Charles Grey lay in his warm bed, hooked up to countless machines, drugged out of his mind, and clung to the fact that his brother was dead.
The drugs offered him a tempting retreat from the harsh reality, but he didn't dare close his eyes, cause every time he did, it was worse than a movie.
It replayed across his eyelids, again and again.
And then came the blame, the guilt.
If only I hadn't gotten shot, if only he hadn't dragged me out.
If only, if only.
"Hey, Carlito," Mac was there, sitting next to him, the red-head quiet and covered in dirt. He'd cleaned up a bit, but there was a reason they called him Dirt Diver – no matter how hard you tried, he always managed to miss a few spots.
The freckles didn't help much, either.
"Hey," Charlie replied to Mac, not really focusing on anything.
Mac knew this was the moment you were supposed to grab someone's hand, squeeze, and tell them they were going to be okay, but God – how the hell was he supposed to do that?
Hector was his brother – they were all his brothers. And how the fuck did you pick your head up the day one of them dies and start looking to the future?
How the hell do you let go of those last moments?
Hector wasn't the first person he'd had die in front of him – he wasn't even the first member of one of Mac's units to go.
But he was closer than any of those other men and the guilt Mac felt and their deaths paled in comparison here.
So he said nothing to Carlito, simply pressed a hand into the other man's leg before leaning back in his seat and staring into the nothing.
"…bp is rising, and god-fucking-damnit, the son-of-a-bitch is still breathing."
The doctors were in awe, the orderlies amazed, and the nurses enraptured as they took in their own little miracle, rushing down the halls.
"What the – " The man's leader stood in the hallway, staring gobsmacked into the wide eyes of the man he just lost and getting sucker punched at the choking breaths that were emanating from that very man.
"Goddamnit," one of the doctors grunted as Hector gave a too strong shove with his limbs. "Hold fucking still, already. We're trying to help you!"
"Hector!" Jonas's solid, deep voice pierced through Hector's foggy thoughts, giving him focus as his gaze fixated on his commanding officer.
"Char-lie?" he got out around a mouthful of blood, the liquid practically drowning him.
"Charlie's fine," Jonas stated, reaching over to grab Hector's hand, as much of an assurance to the other man as it was to him. "He's stable and in good condition."
The relief that flooded Hector's eyes had Jonas blinking back tears even as the doctor maneuvered him away.
"We have to get him into the OR," the doctor apologized before pushing off once more, leaving quite a wake behind them.
"Are you okay?"
The question seemed strangely inappropriate despite the miraculous circumstances and Jonas was about to tell the woman off when, with a frown, he realized the pretty little blonde wasn't talking to him.
At first glance, the woman was barely noticeable. Thin, rangy almost, she had dark brown hair and pale, near translucent skin and a wide-shocky expression that made Jonas want to ask if she was alright.
"I don't know," the woman muttered, expression haunted as she reached up to run blood soaked hands through her hair, dropping her fists with a pained cry.
The morgue attendant, Jonas identified her. She'd never been introduced, just a silent waif who'd come forward to take Hector's body to the freezers.
She, out of everybody, would have the answer to this puzzling question at the most, and a clue at the very least.
"What happened?" He asked, inserting his solid form into the conversation, drawing a startled look from the blonde nurse as the brunette leaned heavily against the wall.
"Well, I don't know," the blonde replied, frowning up at him. "He was supposed to be dead."
Jonas spared her the briefest look of patronizing annoyance before refocusing on the brunette who looked just about ready to pass out.
"Here," he placed a hand on her arm, releasing her immediately as she jerked away with a startled cry, wide-hazel eyes fixating on him.
"Don't," she breathed, nearly hyperventilating. "Don't, just don't touch me. Okay? Don't."
"Okay," Jonas held his hands in front of him to appease her, reaching over with one hand to grab one of the chairs lining the hallway and pulling it closer. "I just wanted to see if you wanted to sit down. You look like you're going to pass out."
Her low, almost desperate chuckle surprised him and confused him at the same time.
"Ma'am?" he questioned, brow furrowed slightly.
"Nothing, never mind," she shook her head, hands reaching for her hair and stopping before she made contact and it was with another frown that he realized not all of the blood decorating her form was Hectors.
"She is?" The blonde nurse let out a startled gasp as she took in the deep gashes along the other woman's palms. "Oh good lord, what happened?"
"Slipped," the other woman replied, her eyes darting to the side with the lie before rising to focus on the blonde, her lips quirking slightly. "Got startled."
"Oh, you poor dear." The blonde clucked sympathetically. "Let me just go grab some gauze and a needle and we'll fix you right up. You want to wait in the examine room?"
"I'm fine," the woman smiled thinly, expression making it clear she didn't believe her own lie.
"If you're sure then," the blonde gave her a doubt-filled look before scurrying away, leaving the two of them alone.
"What happened in there?" Jonas asked.
"He came back to life," her voice was dull, dead, her eyes glassy and unfocused.
That was the important question in Jonas's mind – how had Hector Williams cheated death?
"How?" the brunette stared at him with an expression of lost confusion.
"How does anybody cheat death? Does anybody ever really know?"
Hector Williams, pronounced dead at 1543, was pronounced alive and stable by 0300.
By 0500, he was the resident prodigy – a miracle if there ever was one.
Breaking the news to Carlito had been almost a dream come true – they delivered bad news all day long and now they finally got to say something good.
Charlie hadn't believed them, though, until he'd been wheeled into the recovery room to meet the sleepy, hazy drugged look of his brother.
"Hey man," Charlie breathed out, reaching over and holding onto Hectors hand, probably squeezing tighter than he should, but not able or willing to release the other man. "You look like shit."
"Look who's talking," was the whispery reply and Charlie knew he was crying, but Goddamnit, who the fuck cared?
Hector was here, Hector was breathing.
His brother had come back to life and Charlie didn't care how or why, only that he was.
"You scared the shit out of me, man."
Hector smiled in reply, his eyelids fluttering as sleep reached up and pulled him down.
And Charlie let his head rest against Hector's leg, Hector's grip on his hand still tight, and cried.
Louise, the blonde nurse who'd stitched up her hands, had an annoying habit of hovering and it had taken her a good fifteen minutes before she'd wandered away, leaving the brunette alone in the hall.
The commanding officer had left, shooting one last suspicious glance her way, to inform the rest of the men of the apparent resurrection and she was unbelievably relieved by his absence.
She could feel the dead man – Hector – in her head now.
She knew he was unconscious, quiet and still, and she could feel, on and off, the presence of another, which sent her jittery nerves into another tailspin.
Dialing with two heavily bandaged hands was a pain-filled process, but it needed to be done.
The phone rang once, twice, before the line clicked and a single breath echoed down the speaker.
"It's me," she murmured, leaning back against the wall and tilting her head up in an effort to stave off the river of tears threatening to fall. "I think I screwed up. I need someone to come and get me."
A/N: Repost of an old story. I'm just kind of posting anything that looks good right now.