AN: I watched Hurt Locker for the first time last night, absolutely loved it. Of course, right after I came here to try and find some fanfics, and was surprised by how few there were. So this one-shot came into being.
It is important to note that I am in no way at all suggesting that the military gives its soldiers faulty equipment. But I wrote the fic before I though to look up how effective the EOD suits were, and decided to bend that info to my plot line. Also, all mature language is used for the effect of portraying real soldiers.
Disclaimer: The Hurt Locker and the lovely Jeremy Renner are unfortunately not mine.
"Sanborn, you have forty-five seconds."
"Come on, James—"
"Forty-five seconds!" he repeated, although the timer had mockingly dropped down to forty. Thirty-nine... "Go!"
"Shit!" Sanborn gave him one last desperate look before charging away from the suicide bomber, back towards the other soldiers. "Every body get back!"
James' grip tightened on the bolt cutters, and with a strained yell of effort he finally succeeded in cutting through one of the reinforced locks. Encouraged, he chucked it aside, glancing at the timer.
Fuck. Thirty seconds. His stomach dropped.
James picked himself up off the ground, not bothering to reach for the bolt cutters. The bomber's incessant mumbling took on an even more frantic tone, and he reached his arms out despairingly. Save me, his face pleaded.
But the watch read twenty-two seconds. Not enough time.
"I'm sorry, but I can't get it off." James tried to get through to the man, recklessly stepping closer to grab his shoulders. "There are too many locks! I'm sorry, ok?"
The man started to cry, and James stared him straight in the face. "Listen to me, I'm sorry!"
James finally turned tail and sprinted back the way he came, stumbling along as well as he could in the bomb suit. Although it was meant to protect him, in this situation it was slowing him down. He slammed the helmet visor down, his legs pumping, but knew he was still too far into the blast zone.
This is it, a treacherous little voice in his head spoke. This is the time you finally die.
Still running, James looked back. If he was going to die, he at least wanted to see this.
The force of the blast threw James backwards. He was airborne for all of three seconds before slamming down onto the rocky ground, hard. The air was pushed from his lungs in a harsh grunt, and he smashed his face against the glass of the helmet. Almost immediately the metallic smell of blood was overwhelming.
And then there was silence.
Will blinked slowly, trying to focus on something in the sky. What was that? A trick of the sun? or was some idiot really flying a kite in the middle of this fucking desert?
"Ah, shit. Breathe, Will! Breathe, God damn it!"
Was he not breathing? That might explain why the edges of his vision were graying out. Experimentally, James sucked in a breath, and groaned at the ache of cracked ribs from the force of his fall. But the air did him good. Suddenly he was aware again, aware of every ache in his body, aware that Sanborn was kneeling next to him, his hands pressing hard against his chest. His chest that felt like it was on fire.
"H-hey buddy," James croaked, trying not to gag on the taste of his own blood. "How ya doin'?"
Sanborn gave him a look of exasperated relief. "I'm alright man, but I can't say the same about you."
James blinked in confusion, and coughed. "Waddaya mean? I'm wearing my super suit."
If Sanborn had looked relieved before, now his brow was furrowed in concern. He answered his CO distractedly, waving another one of the soldiers over. "Right. Just hang on a moment for me, huh? Keep breathin'."
The other soldier jogged over to them, stopping short by as he took in the bomb tech's body. "Oh… fuck, man!"
"Soldier!" Sanborn gave him deadly look, and James wondered briefly what was so wrong. "Grab a couple of guys and the stretcher for the back of my Humvee. Imma pack this down, but we gotta get him back to base ASAP."
James watched with a strange detachedness as the soldier took off at a dead sprint, yelling to some of the other men. Sanborn was already ripping open a large pack of gauze, leaning down to pack it into his chest. James was wrenched back into the present as he let out a strangled scream of pain that left him gasping for breath and realizing that the liquid that was thick at the back of his throat was blood.
"Alright man, you're good, okay, I got you." Sanborn reassured him as he continued to pack gauze into the injury site. "Just hang on and Imma get you outta here."
James' only response was a strained groan as he fought to raise his head to look at the injury. There, sticking out of the suit that was supposed to be able to protect him from all this, the suit that he trusted his life to each and every day, was a broken piece of rebar. The green suit was already soaked in blood as it gushed out around the foreign object.
Sanborn was talking to him again, but James couldn't hear anything past the rushing in his ears as the world faded to black.
When Will finally came around, he knew he wasn't in Iraq any more. In a hospital, yes. In a shit ton of pain as his meds wore off, yes. But dead in the middle of the desert, no.
"Look who decided to rejoin the land of the living."
Sanborn was sitting in a chair next to his bed in civilian dress. He offered up a cup of ice chips that James devoured greedily, soothing his throat enough for him to talk.
Sanborn had been expecting the question. "The bomb exploded in the middle of a construction yard, and a piece of rebar penetrated your suit. Stuck you like a pig in the lower chest. You're pretty lucky, man."
James snorted a laugh, then immediately wished he hadn't as the movement pulled at freshly healing sutures. "Oh yeah? How so?"
"Missed most of the important stuff," Sanborn explained, leaning back in his chair. "Nicked a lung and a kidney a little, but nothing the docs at the base couldn't handle. Sent you home on time and everything."
James took a deep breath before answering. He couldn't tell the younger man at his bedside that he didn't necessarily want the good news. That he had been waiting for an incident just like that every day since he'd signed up, that if he was going to die sooner or later, he wanted to die doing something epic and heroic and important. Instead, he deflected.
"Not so lucky that my fucking suit didn't crap out on me. I was told stuff like that couldn't happen."
Now a dark look passed across Sanborn's face. "It's not supposed to. The men up high took note of the incident and told me they'll be 'looking into it.' It's bad enough they expect you to play around with bombs. They don't need to be sending you in there with faulty gear, too."
"Well, at least I could count on you," James grunted uncomfortably as he lay back in bed. Sanborn smiled slightly to himself, knowing that was about as close to a 'Thank you' as he was going to get. "Have to admit, I'm a little surprised to see you. I figured that once we got state side…"
"Nah, man," Sanborn cut him off. Yes, he'd had issues with his CO, but that didn't mean the man deserved to wake up to deal with impersonal nurses and a hole in his chest alone. "I've already had one CO die on me, I didn't need a second. Just, uh, don't expect a card from Eldrich."
This simple joke from an uptight man whose head was so far up his ass that it was probably slowly turning into a diamond practically killed James. A laugh that was so pure and lighthearted and real practically burst out of him, leaving him clutching the bed rail as he cracked up. Sanborn couldn't help but join in, even when a nurse passing by the doorway gave them a funny look.
"Ow, shit, that hurts!" James gasped, clutching at his chest as his laughter faded into a quiet chuckle. "Sanborn, you're alright."
"And you're just crazy, James," the dark skinned man answered.
Exhausted by their outburst, it wasn't long before James drifted off into a deep sleep. Sanborn excused himself quietly. As he left the hospital, he noticed that the day looked brighter, and that his heart was lighter than it had been in a while.
They were going to be okay.