Title: Ain't No Grave (Can Hold My Body Down)
Characters /Pairings: Wash, Taylor, Mira, Lucas, pretty much everyone; some slight Wash/Taylor in parts
Warnings and Spoilers: much swearing, descriptions of dead bodies, and finale spoilers
Summary: Fix-it fic for the finale. Gritty and grimy survival story.
Note: I started making a list of appropriate songs a couple of weeks before the finale aired since it seemed pretty inevitable, and Johnny Cash's Ain't No Grave (Can Hold My Body Down) quickly became a front runner, even though he didn't mean it in quite such a literal way. Since I've done a vid and graphics to it I figured it was time for a fic. And wow I have done and read some weird things in the name of research for this fic.
"Just make sure she's dead alright?" a harsh mutter echoed off the ground.
"Carting her off with the others?" came the acerbic reply. "Just so you know Lucas, I'm not doing this for you."
A darker shadow fell across her vision as a hand reached for her neck. It withdrew again, the world as grey as before.
"Once more for fun," the same voice said again. A brief click, and she knew no more.
A pair of muscle-bound arms lifted her up, but paused.
"I'll take care of that, soldier," a hazy voice ordered.
"Mira, you know we have grunts for a reason," a more distant voice jibed.
Her body hit the ground once more, the chatter fizzling out to black.
Wash's eyes opened with a start as her lungs gasped for air. Or rather, they tried to open. Some force was stopping them from opening completely. She took a look around as best she could, through the filmy blackness. "Shit," she swore quietly as the image of Private Shah's distinctive neck tattoo clarified to her right. But he had died defending the colony. So what was he doing here? What was she doing here? She turned her head to the left. Lorna Douglass, one of Malcolm's scientists, killed when he had refused to cooperate. "Aww, fuck no!" she cursed as earlier memories began to filter back into her mind. Distracting the guards so the Shannons could escape, getting caught and marched to the almighty Lucas for judgment. And the gun. The gun. Looking into Lucas's eyes, darkened by hatred but in which she could still see streaks of brilliance and stubborn pride. Those Taylor eyes. Her stomach swirled with nausea as she moved, acutely aware that she was lying on someone else's dead body, thankfully buried upside down.
Wash took a quick breath in to give her mind a moment to catch up to the situation at hand. "Not too quick there," she reminded herself. Who knew how long she had been buried, how much oxygen was left. First things first, finding a way out. She wriggled her arms out from the awkward position into which they had fallen. "Fuck!" she hissed as her shoulder roared with pain. Apparently the gun blast to the head wasn't the end of the story. She reached a hand up and poked at the darkness above her. She felt it give a little with a clang. Some kind of corrugated scrap metal then. Seemingly weighed down judging by the tension. Even if she had the world's sharpest knife she probably wouldn't make so much as a dent in it. Not to mention how ever much dirt they had piled on top, though it didn't feel like much. For once in her life she was glad for sloppy soldiers.
She turned back to Private Shah. "I'm sorry Ravi," she whispered solemnly, before reaching across with her good arm and searching his pockets. The first one, nothing. The second, nothing. The third, success! She took out a small utility knife, probably ignored as useless when the Phoenix soldiers had gone through the bodies taking weapons for themselves. It wouldn't do much for getting her out, but its built-in light would certainly help. Resting it gently in her right hand she reached across again and took off his standard issue belt. Could come in handy if her shoulder continued to give her problems. She tried to convince herself that it wasn't really grave-robbing. Stuffing the belt in one of her own pockets she took the knife in her left hand and flicked it open and shut subconsciously. Mentally she began to construct a plan. "One, find a way through whatever the hell that is. Two, get the fuck out of here. Three, hope like hell there isn't a carno up there." Okay, so the plan lacked details, but circumstances weren't exactly ideal for a brainstorming session.
Pushing the miniscule light at the end of the knife she took another look around. Lucky for her she had been placed in the top of the grave. Still, there were three bodies between her and the nearest edge. She winced as she crawled like a worm over the corpses, more out of grief than any physical pain. She knew survivor's guilt all too well, both how it manifested in her and in others, but despite the situation it felt wrong to be using them as little more than stepping stones. When she got back to the colony she would see to it that they all got a proper burial and memorial, one way or another. Assuming there was a colony to get back to at all.
Wash tried to lift the ceiling up. It was a little easier this time, shallower at the edges. She could feel the definite weight of a stone as it banged against the metal. Gathering her strength she pushed up against it. A flood of dirt trickled down the momentary opening, sending her into a coughing fit. Right, time to change her tactics. Flicking the knife back open she began to scrape away at the wall in front of her. Clumps of earth fell around her, tumbling down into the gaps between bodies. After several minutes she pushed her left hand up through the small hole she had created, and punched her way through to the surface. She reached around, trying to get a hold of whatever was weighing the metal down. No such luck. She carefully flipped over onto her back to get a better angle on it. The additional couple of inches that position afforded her allowed her to finally get a hand on the boulder preventing her escape. "Well shit," she grumbled. No way could she move it from where she was, even if she hadn't been injured. Though maybe if she could just slide it over just enough...
She swiftly turned around, facing the wall feet first. Roughly lining up her feet with where the boulder was she kicked upwards. She was rewarded with a thump as it slid over. Trying to pay no mind to the disconcerting echo of movement from below her as she landed, once more she took aim at the rock, and once more it moved. And again. Pushing up lightly on the metal demonstrated that her efforts had not been fruitless. A little more scraping and she might be able to twist her way out of this. Wash determinedly returned to grinding away at the dirt. "Can't leave Shannon in charge again," she muttered darkly. "The Commander's right hand man my ass." Once she figured the hole had gotten big enough she lay back again, far more exhausted than she would ever willingly admit.
Wash wiped the dirty knife off on her pants and clipped it securely to one pocket. She listened intently to the outside world for a moment as though she could create a safe haven outside through sheer force of will, then began to push herself upwards. And there it was. The open expanse of stars, her first glimpse of free sky in what was it now? A full day? A sharp sting brought her back to the task at hand. The rough edge of the metal had scraped against her nose. A trickle of blood darted down her face, passing over her lips and down her neck as she couldn't get a hand free to stop it. Carrying on she quickly came to a stop again as her collarbone grated against the sheet. "Fuck!" she shouted almost before she could think. She recoiled from her own touch as she gently nudged her shoulder with her chin. "Definitely not where it's supposed to be. Grunts couldn't even bury me right."
Keeping her right arm as still as possible Wash continued to inch out of the hole. Her t-shirt caught on the metal and tore but she quickened her pace until her arms were free. There was a time and a place for modesty but alone with Cretaceous predators was not it. Using her uninjured left arm for extra force and leverage she hauled her lower body out. Free at last.
Wash sat on the ground and assessed her surroundings. The grave had been placed in a small clearing, but not one she recognized. Not that she knew every inch of jungle surrounding Terra Nova, but in all her years of doing patrols she had seen a fair bit of it. Listening to the calm cool night she heard the occasional light rustle of branches and stomps off in the distance, but no nearby running water or nocturnally active creatures. "So nothing to tell me where I am or where I'm going." She looked up at the sky, reaching back in her memory for something Taylor had drilled into her once during survival training. About the stars. Something about telling time? Direction was easy. A turn to the left and she would be heading east. But time? Her head spun with the calculations and estimates. Two in the morning? Three maybe? Of course stars were different in the 22nd century, when you could see them anyhow. Regardless of how accurate her estimate was, there was no way she was in any sort of shape to be trekking off into the dark unknown with only a scuffed and dirty pocketknife for company.
Wash's focus zeroed in on a nearby tree. "No time like the present to see if I'm still as good at climbing stuff I shouldn't as when I was as a kid." Their little "neighborhood" in the urban jungle hadn't been big on trees or parks, but that hadn't stopped some of the local kids from treating everything around them, like their own personal playground. Her childhood may not have consisted of endless days climbing trees and laughing on playgrounds, but abandoned buildings and the utilitarian metal architecture of various public works weren't too poor a substitute. Her mother had given up on scolding her about it around her seventh birthday.
Wash took the belt out of her pocket, slung it over her right shoulder and under her left. Using her mouth as an extra hand she held it in place while she cinched it up around her right arm. "This'll have to do. And I have got to stop talking to myself." Before she left she tried to kick dirt in the hole she had made. In a perfect world her digging her way out wouldn't be an invitation for a scavenger to find its way in. Funny, this wassupposed to be a perfect world. She swiftly made her way to the treeline lest her good fortune at not having run into any of the local residents end abruptly.
When Wash got to the tree she looked up at it for several minutes. Did not seem as easy up close. A loud crash nearby startled her up into the first layer of branches, not easy going with only one good arm. As she clambered onto the next level the limb she had been standing on gave way and fell to the ground. Just as well. How to get down...that could and would wait. Several more minutes of awkward effort later she stopped. The tree was still quite thick this high up, but her exhaustion was making her somewhat sloppy and any more noise would probably bring a whole pack of predators down on her. Trying not to think about nykos she relaxed against the trunk. There were only so many ways you could cheat the natural world. Sometimes it got you. Facing outward, still vigilant against any threats, she snorted in weary amusement. "If they could just see me now. Alicia Washington the tree hugger."
Wash awoke with a start. Somewhere between wondering how high nykos could climb with that sickle claw of theirs and what their sleeping habits were she had fallen asleep herself. She looked up to see the sun almost overhead. "Really, I slept seven hours cuddled up to some sequoia?" Although, beyond what was necessary for survival, phylogenetics had never been her strong suit so whether the tree was actually related to a sequoia was anybody's guess. "Guess I have to thank Reynolds for the tip." Readjusting the belt securely around her arm she looked down. No dinos patiently waiting for their breakfast. Good.
Carefully, but with more energy than she had on the way up, Wash made her way down the tree. She jumped off the lowest branch, hitting the ground somewhat clumsily but safely. At the base she reoriented herself. Whatever happened to the Sixers and the Phoenix Group, they would not have gone too far out of their way to bury the bodies. Frankly she was surprised they had even bothered at all. Given that she couldn't hear any human activities at all meant she was a good distance away from the colony and the portal. She scuffed her shoe in the dirt as she looked around, but paused. It was faint, but there was definitely some trampled earth and probable tire treads in front of her. "Now were they coming or going?" she murmured. "Don't suppose it really matters though. Civilization, such as it may be, can't be too far off wherever they were headed."
Wash trudged off in that direction, keenly aware of her growing thirst and pain now that she was awake enough to feel the full effects. The next few hours were remarkably peaceful, broken only by the cries of animals smart enough to stay out of her way. The only dino she saw passed by at a run, seemingly unaware of her existence. She came out in another clearing, but one that looked remarkably familiar. A stream curved around one end and she wasted no time in heading over to it. Registering its clear free-flowing water as being safe to drink she started scooping up handfuls of it. Something about the action triggered a reaction in her mind.
"That's it!" she shouted. Taylor's training mission. It had been one of her first days in Terra Nova. She was confident in her abilities as a soldier (why would he have handpicked her to come if she wasn't a good fit?), but she hadn't fully adjusted to the new environment yet. Thinking this training exercise would be just like any other she had wandered far off course. Taylor had found her and reunited her with the group like it was all part of the plan. To his credit he hadn't called her out on it in front of the others, but the tongue lashing she got in private...she hadn't been able to look him in the eye for days. But they had gathered in this very clearing. Which meant the colony was maybe a four hour walk away?
Revitalized, she turned to continue on but stopped as a series of loud thumps sounded behind her. She slid her left hand down into her pocket and opened the knife. What little comfort it could be against a predator was better than nothing. She turned around slowly, hoping that if she presented herself as harmless, as a worthless target, whatever it was would lose interest. An angry komodo stood before her, posture clearly threatening. It wasn't very big, a young one or a runt, cut off from its usual group. Its hunt had probably been fruitless, all the good game taken by bigger komodos or other animals. She must be looking tastier by the second. While she was trying to think of how one would even go about soothing an angry and hungry komodo it attacked.
Wash twisted her body around as she brought the knife down, her knuckles almost brushing its skin as she sliced at its front legs. Its momentum tripped it over her left arm and nearly into the stream. She was now between it and the colony. "Forgive me if I don't stick around," she called as she took off at a run. Though the bloody knife indicated she had wounded it in some fashion, she didn't really care to find out to what extent. Getting some distance from it was top priority at the moment. As she ran she wiped the blood off on her pants (really, what was one more smudge or stain?), closed the knife and dropped it back into her pocket. The risk of leaving it open and absently swiping her arm down as she ran outweighed the benefit of being the slightest degree more prepared for whatever else the world wanted to throw at her.
Wash crashed through the jungle as quietly as she could, which wasn't very. Thankfully some combination of creatures had worn a kind of path through the area, tramping down debris into a rough track. Her shoulder brought her out of the run after several minutes, the increased jostling too much to handle. She kept walking, tapping ever more into her reserves of stubborn determination as the miles passed.
Wash pulled up just short of the colony. The gap in the gate through which the Shannons had escaped still lay undiscovered. She fingered the knife in her pocket. She didn't see any Phoenix vehicles or soldiers, but that didn't necessarily mean Taylor had regained control of the colony. It did seem oddly empty and quiet. Ducking through the hole she reentered the colony. Softly dragging her body along between buildings she followed as she spotted a few people all moving towards the central plaza. Hanging back she watched their movements and expressions. Sadness, that much was evident, but also a kind of...relief? That had to be good then.
She turned a corner and got her first look at what they were heading towards, a gathering of some kind. A stage had been set up and Taylor was standing on it, flanked by Jim Shannon and several of the soldiers. His voice filtered over to where she was, wilted against the side of a building, all of her adrenaline-fueled energy gone in a flash. It finally hit her. She was back. It was over. She was home. She took a deep breath, trying to summon her last vapors of strength, and stepped forward.
"...And so it is," Taylor's voice rang, "That with great sorrow but also great pride I dedicate Terra Nova's first medal for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of one's own life above and beyond the call of duty in the name of one of our own—"
Wash stumbled up the aisle and saluted. "Lieutenant Alicia Washington reporting for duty sir." She collapsed to the floor in a faint.
"Can I see her Doc?"
"She's not awake yet. She should be in couple of hours though, why don't you come back then? Honestly I'm surprised she even had the strength to walk through the colony, much less wherever she came from."
"That's my A—Wash."
Wash opened her eyes slowly. Taylor was standing at the end of her bed, fidgeting like a child against Dr. Shannon's orders. "You don't have to talk about me like I'm not here you know," she muttered.
"Wash!" Taylor shouted in surprise, darting around the doctor before she could react.
Dr. Shannon walked at a much more sedate pace to Wash's other side, though the broad grin on her face showed that she was not immune to the emotion of the moment either. "How are you feeling?"
"Like I've passed out far too often in the past few days."
Dr. Shannon chuckled. "Your sense of humor is still intact I see." She tapped a few buttons, bringing up the display. "Your shoulder's healing nicely from some ligament damage, though we'll definitely need to arrange some sort of physiotherapy to ensure you regain complete motor function. Your body's balancing itself out after being deprived of proper nutrition but that's nothing some rest and relaxation won't cure. I'd like to keep you in here for a few more hours just to ensure everything's going as planned."
"And I will see that she gets that rest," Taylor declared. He turned his gaze fully to Wash. "If I didn't know better I'd think you were an adrenaline junkie," he teased.
Dr. Shannon glared at him pointedly. "Don't think this gets you out of light duty yourself, mister."
Wash turned to look up at Taylor. "What did you do to yourself this time sir?"
Dr. Shannon shut down the main display and walked off. "I'll be back later."
Wash cringed. "Poor choice of words sir. Sorry." She dropped the subject. She'd just have to ask Jim then. Or maybe Dr. Shannon. She usually knew more than she let on.
He waved off her apology. "I think we're beyond that Wash." He pulled a chair up beside her. He shook his head, never taking his eyes off her. "You know, seeing you walk in like that, I didn't know what to believe. Maybe it was wishful thinking, seeing what I wanted to be there. But when Jim shouted your name as you fell—" he laughed nervously"—well once we were sure you were safe he said he'd never seen me move like that before. I don't know what happened or why, but it's good to have you back Wash. The best."
Wash could tell that he wasn't particularly comfortable with what he was trying to express, and truthfully she didn't know how to take it either. "Someone's got to keep an eye on Shannon for you sir," she offered.
Taylor smiled, the tide of grief in his expression beginning to ebb. "Knew I could count on you lieutenant." An ungainly chorus of boots clattered on the floor behind them. He turned around. "Well speak of the devil."
Wash turned her head for a better view. If it wasn't Jim Shannon himself, and Terra Nova's resident tree aficionado Mark Reynolds.
Jim nodded at her like it was any other day. "Wash." He turned to Taylor. "Hope I didn't interrupt anything. Caught this ruffian trying to sneak in."
"Please," Reynolds scoffed, his skeptical expression one eye-roll short of sarcasm. "You wanted to check on the lieutenant just as much as I did. Bet your wife barred you from here too."
Wash watched the exchange with amusement. Part of her wondered if it was staged for her benefit, especially on account of Taylor's unusually permissive reaction in not breaking it up, but she'd seen many a time how grief and loss could bring out the entire range of human emotion.
"That's it," Jim insisted. "No more coming by the house. My family is off limits to you from now on."
Wash couldn't resist anymore and cracked up, her laughter ringing off the walls. "Thank you," she said, still chuckling softly.
"For what?" Jim asked innocently. All three of the guys were looking at Wash like she had grown a second and third head.
"Never mind." Wash directed her gaze back to Taylor. "In all seriousness though sir, I should report."
"There'll be time for that later Wash," he told her.
"Sir," she protested. "I'm not an invalid." She looked at her surroundings. Poor choice of words again. "So maybe I am, but not for long and that's not the point. The point is that I'm fairly sure Mira saved my life. Someone, Lucas I think, ordered her to check and make sure I was dead. She did, but instead of giving me away all she did was stun me again. Later she stopped a soldier from doing something with my body, I'm not sure what. But whether she's suddenly grown a conscience or not, there may be something there we could exploit sir. I don't know what I've missed out on, but from the look of things you got my message and some of them are still out there. And speaking of still out there, my other point is that there is a whole grave out in the jungle, full of people who died defending this colony, and I'll be damned if I'm going to let them sit out there one more minute like so much carno bait. They deserve more than that."
Instantly Taylor's posture became all business. "Where is it?"
"I don't know exactly sir," she said. "But it was maybe 3 some hours walk from that clearing we were in on my first training exercise. North-northwest."
"I'll get on that sir," Reynolds declared immediately. "Don't think the Doc will let you OTG yet. Umm...where is that exactly?"
"About 24 klicks from here," Taylor told him. "Look up Snafu Creek, it runs right through it."
"Yes sir." Reynolds saluted and left.
"Hey Taylor, can you give us a moment?" Jim asked.
Taylor nodded silently and drifted off out of earshot.
"Hey Wash," Jim said quietly, coming up to the head of her biobed. He looked her directly in the eyes. "Wanted to say that I cannot tell you enough how much I appreciate what you did for my family. The colony too, but if you hadn't gotten them out of there...I don't know. Except for the Commander no one's more pleased than I am that you survived, but your sacrifice will always, always stay with me. The fact that you lived doesn't make it any less exceptional. My house, myself, my family, we're all available whenever you need us."
"Thank you Jim," she said sincerely.
He patted her on her good shoulder. "Now I'm sure you and Taylor have some important colony running business to discuss so I'll leave you two to it."
Taylor walked back in as Jim headed out.
"Really?" Wash hissed once she was sure he was the only one around to hear. "I screw up once and you name a damn creek after it?"
"The burden of command," he joked.
Dr. Shannon swept into the room. Looking at what were presumably her medical records on a plex she said, "Everything is looking good. Let's just get you up and you can go."
"Oh hell no," Wash said. "I am not parading through the colony in this...hospital gown."
Dr. Shannon reached for something next to the bed. "The Commander said you'd object to that so I found a spare pair of scrubs. You can change in the bathroom."
"Better," she concurred.
Taylor held his arm out to help her up in case she needed it. Despite her glare he kept it there.
Wash strained to get up on her own, but managed to swing her legs over the side of the bed without much fuss. She silently leaned on Taylor's arm for a moment while she regained her equilibrium. Once she was sure of herself she began the slow walk across the room. Given that she hadn't injured her legs in any serious way it was surprisingly difficult.
"I'll just wait over here," Taylor told her.
"Well I wasn't planning on inviting you in," Wash quipped. Once she was safely away from prying eyes she struggled out of the gown and looked at her shoulder in the mirror. She was no stranger to the miracles of medicine but every time she was stitched up she marveled at how something could be so effectively erased. She ran her fingers over her collarbone. There was still a slight bump, only noticeable if you really examined it. But no scars, just a small scratch on her nose, and only the lingering remnants of bruises. No sign that she had been blasted in the head (twice if she remembered correctly, but her memory was still a bit iffy). With a sigh she put on the scrubs, feeling only a small twinge in her shoulder. There would be plenty of time to think about it but if she didn't get dressed soon Taylor would probably bust the door down thinking something had happened to her. She'd never be let out of his sight again. But somehow that didn't seem like such a bad thing.