Torn: Ready or Not
Disclaimer: Don't own, never will. Just borrowing.
A/N: Okay, so this isn't a typical crime/action story but it's something I've wanted to do for a while, though I didn't know how to write it. I also don't want to give everything away so more at the end of the chapter. ;) An odd feeling comes with posting this one, as I just don't know how it'll go over or if it'll even generate interest, but I suppose there's only one way to find out. It's a four-part story with Jamie (who else?) as the main character - though in this one, I'm picking on everyone. ;) I wrote the story quite a while ago, so it has nothing to do with the new season. Jamie/family, Jamie/Nicki/Jack/Sean (a family dynamic that hasn't been explored much on the show).
Though she'll likely never read it, major thanks to Imogen Heap, and especially the song 2-1, for fueling inspiration after the idea was born. Helped with the title, too. ;)
As always, please enjoy. :)
Chapter 1: Ripped Open
Jamie Reagan stood under the shower head, cold water pouring down over him. It was seven-thirty in the morning. He had to pull in extra time during his last shift due to the flu taking out several officers. As a result, he didn't get home until four in the morning. He crashed immediately, but his alarm woke him only a few hours later. He had pulled the covers over his head, but couldn't ignore the fact that in just a few short hours, he'd have the family rug rats to look after for the day.
He turned off the water, sighing. He had promised Nicki that he would take her to the library on his day off. Consequently, school was off as well, giving the children a three-day weekend. He'd agreed to take Sean and Jack, too.
He dressed quickly, looking longingly at his bed and wishing he were still under the covers. He felt like pouting, but instead tore himself away from his room and hurried down the hall to the kitchen. He pulled eggs from the fridge and started making himself breakfast. He glanced at the clock; Nicki would be there by eight-thirty as Erin had to be at her office by nine. The boys would show up a bit later when Linda dropped them off.
Jamie ate slowly, going over the plans for the day. He adored his niece and nephews, but wasn't used to looking after them. He also wanted to avoid using the term "babysitting" around Nicki; at fifteen she didn't need a babysitter and wouldn't appreciate the notion that he was "looking after" her. To her, this was just a day to spend with her uncle and cousins. Jamie was just her glorified taxi-driver.
"Nicki, hurry up!" Erin hollered. "I can't be late for work!"
"Coming, Mom!" Nicki hollered back, descending the stairs. Erin huffed impatiently when she saw her daughter's outfit.
"I don't think so, honey," Erin grumbled. "That skirt's way too short."
"Mom, it's just above the knee." Nicki groaned.
"It's shorter than your school uniform!"
"Not by much!"
"Go change," Erin ordered, pointing at the stairs. "And hurry, we're going to be late getting to Uncle Jamie's."
Nicki scowled, but turned and made her way back to her room. Two minutes later she hurried back down the stairs, dressed in a long-sleeve shirt and jeans. She stuffed her feet into a pair of black flats and put on her jacket, grabbing her backpack. She looked impatiently at her mother. "There, happy now?"
Erin smiled. "Yes. Let's go." she replied, motioning her daughter out the door, following quickly behind her. She locked the door and made her way down to the car sitting in the driveway, where Nicki already waited.
As they drove towards Jamie's apartment, Erin attempted to engage Nicki in conversation. "What's your paper about?"
"Female body image and the media."
"Sounds interesting," Erin prompted. "There must be a lot of information on that subject."
"There is. I've already got a lot, but I just want to round it out with some more."
"Sounds like a good idea." Erin replied. Nicki stayed silent. "You must have other plans, though. You don't want to spend your entire Friday off doing homework, do you?"
Nicki shrugged. "Everyone's going away for the weekend… I might as well get the report done."
"Try to have a bit of fun, Nick." Erin said, sighing. "I'm sure Jamie's planned a whole day for you and the boys."
"We're here, Mom…"
Erin pulled over to the side of the road. Nicki hopped out, hurrying up the steps to Jamie's apartment building. Erin turned off the car and hurried after her daughter. They walked into the lobby of the building, nodding at the doorman, and headed towards the elevator. It opened as soon as Nicki pressed the button for the fifth floor. It was a silent ride. As they stepped out into the hallway on Jamie's floor, Erin pulled Nicki off to the side.
"Nick, what's wrong? Is this about the skirt I wouldn't let you wear?"
"It's nothing, Mom." Nicki said, her tone frustrated. "You're always trying to butt in!"
Erin sighed in frustration. "You spend most of your time mad at me these days!"
"I'm not mad at you, Mom." Nicki grumbled, rolling her eyes. "Though I'd like it if you just left me alone."
"I asked you to change so that your uncle wouldn't have to beat the boys away all day, and all I asked you about was your paper."
"Sure, Mom." Nicki replied. "Let's go, Uncle Jamie's probably wondering where we are."
"Right." Erin mumbled, following Nicki. She knocked on Jamie's door.
Jamie smiled as he opened his door. "Hi, Erin. Hi, Nick."
"Morning Uncle Jamie." Nicki smiled, giving him a hug before kicking off her shoes and heading for the living room. She pulled a book out of her backpack and started to read.
Erin shook her head, giving Jamie a look. "Have a good day, Nicki. I'll see you tonight."
"See you later, Mom." Nicki called back, not even looking up from her book.
"Love you, too." Erin muttered. "Teenager," she added in response to Jamie's questioning look. "Good luck, little brother. You'll need it with the way she's acting this morning."
Jamie grinned. "Don't worry, Erin. We'll be fine."
"I'll be the judge of that tonight." Erin answered, smiling at him. "Thanks, Jamie. I was going to take her to the library tomorrow, but she's anxious to get this report done and wanted more information."
"It's not a problem, Erin." Jamie said, waving her off. "I haven't spent much time with her lately. It'll be nice to visit with her for a while."
"Is Linda dropping off the boys?"
"Yeah, they'll be here later. I'm going to take them to the library around ten-thirty, before it gets busy."
"Okay. I've got to go, Jamie. I've got a courtroom date in an hour and a half that I have to finish preparing for." Erin told him. "Thanks again for doing this… are you sure you're okay? You look exhausted."
Jamie waved her off. "I had to take some extra time last night. The flu's been running through the twelfth over the last couple of days knocking out several of our people, causing the rest of us to take extra shifts. I got home around four this morning."
"Oh, Jamie… you should have called me, I would have told Nicki that I'd take her tomorrow instead… you need your sleep." Erin replied, concerned.
"It's fine, Erin." Jamie assured her. "I got a few hours once I got home, and I might be able to nap later. I have the rest of the weekend off, I can sleep tonight."
"If you're sure..." Erin replied. "Okay, I really do have to go. Don't be afraid to drop them off with Grandpa if you feel too tired later on."
"I know, Erin." Jamie sighed, waving her off again. "Go, you're going to be late."
"See you later, Jamie."
"Stay safe." Jamie answered, waving as she walked back down toward the elevator. He sighed, closing the door.
"Annoying, isn't she?" Nicki piped up.
"Don't be hard on her, Nick," Jamie admonished softly. "She's just looking out for you." He paused, thinking. "And me, which is a little annoying." he finished, grinning slightly. Nicki laughed.
Jamie sat beside her on the couch. "Do you want anything to eat?"
"No thanks, Uncle Jamie." Nicki said, smiling at him. "I ate before we left."
Jamie nodded. "What are you reading?"
"One of the books I picked up from the school library. I'm just gathering information for my paper."
"As interesting as it will get, I guess." Nicki sighed.
"Anything wrong, Nick?"
"Are you sure?" Jamie asked, slightly concerned by her furrowed brows and worried biting of her bottom lip.
Nicki sighed. "I picked this topic because I want to know why."
Jamie looked confused. "You want to know why… what?"
"So many of the girls in my school seem so focused on how they look."
"They look at celebrities and pick out this flaw and that flaw, even though it may not actually exist. They count the amount of foods they eat, some don't even eat at all… they look up to the wrong people. Some think they're fat when they're not."
"Body issues exist, though it's unfortunate." Jamie replied. Nicki nodded.
"I know. They go after me sometimes, and sometimes my friends…"
"Bullying?" Jamie asked, frowning.
"No, not exactly." Nicki replied, thinking. "Sort of, though. Some of the girls tell me I should lose weight to be like them… but they're scary-looking. Others act jealous of me and are mean because of it. It's the same towards my friends… they really go after Tanya. She's really healthy and athletic but she's stockier, so they bug her because of it. It hurts."
Jamie pulled her into a one-armed hug. "Of course it does, Nick." he told her. "Look, if they keep bugging you, tell me and I'll come by and straighten it out."
Nicki smiled. "Will you wear your uniform and gun and everything?"
Jamie grinned. "I can if you want."
"Good," Nicki said smugly. "Maybe they'll think twice, then."
"Maybe." Jamie smiled at her. "Honey, I'm not saying they should be scared into silence. They need to understand that what they're saying to you and your friends is wrong and hurtful. And regardless of what they say, I can tell you're worried about them. You're just that kind of person."
"They're not being healthy." Nicki agreed. "Why would they do that to themselves?"
Jamie tapped the book in her lap. "That's what you're trying to find out."
Nicki nodded again. "Yeah, you're right."
"Nick, haven't you told your mom about this?" Jamie asked. "I'm sure she'd want to know about any issues you're having at school."
A cloud passed over Nicki's face. "If I do, then she's going to get into my business and never leave me alone…"
"So… pretty much what I'll do too, if I feel you're hiding something?" Nicki opened her mouth to retort, but closed it again, unsure of what to say. Jamie smiled. "You can't get rid of any of us, Nicki. We're going to be there whether you like it or not."
Nicki smiled sheepishly. "I'm sorry, Uncle Jamie." she said. "I'll apologize to Mom tonight."
"She'd like that." Jamie replied. He patted her knee. "I'll let you work for a while. The boys will be here soon, then we can go. I'm not going to let you work all day, though… we're going to have some fun, too."
Nicki scowled. "Jack and Sean's idea of fun?"
"Maybe," Jamie answered. "But I want some ideas from you, too."
"I'll think of something, Uncle Jamie."
Jamie smiled. "Good. We'll go out for lunch after the library, we can discuss it then." he answered, getting up. He left her to work and went to clean up his breakfast dishes.
"I've got to run, babe." Danny said, giving Linda a kiss as he picked up his jacket. "I'll see you tonight."
"Have a good day, honey."
"Are you dropping the boys off with Jamie later?"
"Yes. They've been bugging me to let them spend some time with him. He promised Erin that he would take Nicki to the library today so she could get some more information for her report. I asked him if he would mind taking the boys, too."
Danny nodded. "Gramps knows about it in case Jamie wants to drop them off with him."
"Why would Jamie do that?"
"Several of the officers in the twelfth division have been out sick. Jamie took some extra time last night. We were supposed to meet for a beer, but he had to call and cancel. He probably got home early this morning."
Linda sighed. "He should have called me and told me not to bring them by…"
"No, I'm sure he still wants to spend time with them," Danny assured her. "Gramps is just the backup in case Jamie decides later that he wants to sleep for a while instead." He kissed her again. "I'm going to be late. I'll see you later, okay? Don't worry about Jamie, they'll be fine."
"If you say so." Linda smiled. "See you tonight."
Danny poked his head into the kitchen where his sons were finishing breakfast. "See you tonight, squirts." He said. "Be good for Uncle Jamie today, okay? Don't tire him out."
"Okay Dad." they chorused. "See you later." Jack said. Sean waved, his mouth full of cereal. Danny smiled again, heading outside to his car.
"Hurry up, you two," Linda called. "I told Uncle Jamie I'd have you there by ten. It's nine, and it'll take us a while to get there."
"Almost done, Mom." Sean called back. Jack was putting his dish in the sink.
"Have you brushed your teeth yet?"
"Going to do that now, Mom." Jack sighed. Sean made a face, following his brother after putting his own dish in the sink. Ten minutes later, they thundered down the stairs, fully dressed and cleaned up.
Linda handed them their jackets. "Get your shoes on. We're backing out of that driveway in five minutes. If you're not in that car, you get left behind."
They hurried to tie their shoes, grabbing their jackets and throwing them on. They hurried out the door just as Linda appeared with her keys. She smiled at them, locking the door behind her. "Good. Now let's go."
The boys raced each other to the car, each of them vying for the front passenger seat. Jack shoved Sean out of his way as he reached the passenger side first. Sean pouted.
"Mo-om! He pushed me!"
"Sean, enough. Jack, be nice to your brother." Linda sighed, feeling sorry for Jamie already. "Get in, boys. We're wasting time."
Slowly, they made their way through morning traffic, finally arriving in front of Jamie's apartment building. Linda turned off the car, hurrying out after her sons. They took off, once again racing each other to the front door. The doorman smiled as he opened the door for them.
"Mr. Reagan has lots of visitor's today." he said, recognizing the Reagan clan. Linda smiled back.
"Unfortunately for him." she answered, indicating her sons. She smiled again as they made their way to the elevator. "Boys, stop horsing around."
"Sorry, Mom." they mumbled, still pushing at each other. They shoved each other down the hallway on Jamie's floor once they got out of the elevator. Linda sighed, annoyed.
"Hi, Uncle Jamie!" Sean said, hurrying towards his uncle. Jamie had poked his head out into the hallway, hearing the commotion as soon as the elevator doors opened. He smiled at them.
"Hi, Sean! Hi, Jack! How are you this morning?"
"Fine, Uncle Jamie." Jack answered, hurrying past him into the apartment, Sean on his heels.
"I'm sorry, Jamie." Linda apologized. "They've been like this all morning. I don't know what's gotten into them."
Jamie watched as they grappled with each other in front of Nicki, who was looking more and more annoyed as the seconds ticked on. "It's okay, Linda. I can handle them, don't worry."
"You say that now…" Linda grumbled. "Just tell them to take a time out if they get to be too much," she added. "You should have called me, Jamie. If I had known you had to take an extra shift, I would have cancelled today's plans to let you sleep."
"Danny told you?"
"Yes, what do you expect?" Linda smiled. "Henry's willing to look after them, too, if you decide later that they're too much."
"Nah," Jamie said, waving her off. "It's fine, I'll handle them. Don't worry about it."
"Okay. Have a good time today." Linda said, smiling at him. "Boys, remember what I told you?"
"Yes, Mom." Jack sighed. "We'll be good."
"I expect to hear only good things from Uncle Jamie when I see you tonight, got it?"
"Got it, Mom. See you later." Sean said.
"Love you, Mom." Jack added.
"Love you guys. Have a good time." Linda said, shooting a look at Jamie. "Good luck, Jamie."
"Won't need it." Jamie laughed. "See you later, Linda." he waved, shutting the door as she made her way back down to the elevator. "So, do you boys want anything to eat?"
"No, we ate already." Jack answered.
"Okay. Then what do you say we head to the library now, get there before it gets busy?"
Nicki was already putting her books back into her bag. "I agree, Uncle Jamie."
Jamie nodded. "Boys?"
"Fine… why do we have to go to a library?" Sean grumbled. "That's so boring!"
"Because some of us have work to do." Nicki snapped back, sticking out her tongue. Sean made a face.
Jamie sighed, already wondering if both Erin and Linda were right. "Enough, you two. Let's get going. Those who need a bathroom break, go now." Nicki headed down the hallway towards the bathroom.
"I'm good, Uncle Jamie." Jack replied. Sean nodded in agreement.
"Are you sure?"
"'Cause I'm not stopping once we're in the car."
"Okay, then you'd better not complain."
Nicki arrived back in the entryway. She put her shoes back on and grabbed her jacket. She slung her backpack over her shoulder. "I'm ready to go, Uncle Jamie."
"Then let's get moving."
They headed outside, walking towards the parking lot. Jack and Sean argued over who would sit in front only to find Nicki already leaning against the passenger side door. They tried shoving her out of the way.
"Move, Nicki." Sean whined.
"I was here first, Sean." Nicki grumbled.
"Sean, leave her alone." Jamie sighed. "You can each take a turn in the front. Let Nicki sit there this time."
"Okay." Sean pouted. "Dad would let me sit in front." he added, mumbling.
"I'm not your father." Jamie replied, smirking.
Sean looked thoughtful. "You're related."
"I'm still not your father." Jamie smiled. Sean scowled as he crawled into the back beside Jack.
All was quiet as they drove through the city, heading towards the library.
"Uncle Jamie?" a meek voice called from the back.
"I have to pee." he mumbled. Nicki laughed. Jamie sighed, shaking his head.
"We'll be at the library in ten minutes. Can you hold it?"
"Are you sure?"
"Uncle Jamie!" Sean whined.
"What?" Jamie asked innocently. "You're the one who said you didn't have to go in the first place. Any messes back there and you'll be the one cleaning it up!" 'With me doing an extra detailed job…' he added to himself, shuddering.
"I'll be fine." Sean grumbled. Jack laughed. "Shut up, Jack."
Jack snickered to himself, staring out the side window. Ten minutes later, they pulled into the library parking lot. Only a few cars were there. Jamie got out, opening the door for Sean.
"Okay, Sean, let's stop at the bathroom. Jack, do you need to go?"
"Not really but I'll stop, too."
"Good answer." Jamie smirked. "Nicki…"
"I know where I need to go, Uncle Jamie. I'll see you later, okay?"
"Sure, Nick. If we don't find you first, meet us at the front desk in an hour, okay? Then we can go grab some lunch."
"Can we go to the water park, Uncle Jamie?" Jack asked, referring to their favourite indoor swimming pool.
"Did you two bring your suits?"
"Should have thought of that earlier." Sean mumbled to his brother. Jack scowled.
"If you'd like to, we could stop at the science center." Jamie offered.
"We've been there so often, though." Jack replied.
"They have that new section." Nicki called behind her. "The dinosaur part. And they've added to the space section. There's more stuff to see in there now."
Sean's face lit up. "Can we go, Uncle Jamie? Please?"
Jamie smiled. "Okay, after lunch we'll go there. Is that okay with you, Nicki?"
"Sure, Uncle Jamie," she said, tossing them a smile. "I've heard the dinosaur area is really cool."
"Then that's where we'll go." Jamie answered, taking Sean's hand as they entered the building. "Let's stop here first." he said, indicating the washrooms off the main entrance. "Nicki?"
"I'll see you in an hour." she replied, already heading for the stairs.
Jamie nodded, leading the boys into the washroom. He waited patiently for them. A few minutes later, they were back at his side. "Okay, do you want to find any books?"
Jack shrugged. "There's nothing I can think of to read, but we can look." Sean nodded in agreement.
"Yeah. Maybe we'll find something."
"Sure." Jamie answered, leading them towards the kids section. "Go ahead and look, guys. Just stay in sight of me, okay?"
"Okay, Uncle Jamie." Sean said, already browsing through a bookshelf. Jack rounded the shelf, taking a look at the other side. Jamie hovered around, keeping an eye on both of them.
Henry stretched, placing his breakfast dishes in the sink and running the water. He thought about Jamie and his plans to watch Nicki, Jack, and Sean. He smiled to himself. He knew his grandson could handle them, but wondered if he should give him a call to let him know that he could always drop them off with him.
'Nah,' he thought to himself. 'Jamie will stop by if he wants to pass them off. He can handle it.'
Henry went to dress and clean up before taking a seat in the living room with a cup of coffee and his book.
Frank smiled as he walked up to his office, coffee cup in hand. "Good morning, Baker."
"Good morning, Sir." she said, smiling back. "You have a ten-thirty meeting with the mayor."
Frank sighed. "How could I forget? Thank you, Baker. Let him in when he arrives."
Frank entered his office, placing his coffee cup on his desk. He sat down, pulling several file folders over. He opened the first one and started reading through it.
Henry stretched, glancing at his watch. It was just after eleven. He marked his place and put his book off to the side. It was a beautiful day, and he thought a short walk might be nice. He stood from his chair, stretching again.
The lights flickered. He frowned, but shrugged it off. In a city as large as New York, power surges happened sometimes. He paused again as the lights flickered once more and the floor beneath him seemed to vibrate. He hurried over to the window to see if he could see a large truck passing by. The quiet street was empty. He shrugged it off again and walked into the kitchen to wash his coffee cup.
He was reaching to place the cup on the shelf in the cupboard when the lights flicked off. A long, loud groan rang through the air… the ground started to shake… Henry tried to catch the cup that had been balancing precariously on the edge of the shelf but missed. It splintered at his feet as several more cups fell off the shelf; more dishes rattled and fell, clanking against each other.
Heart pounding, Henry dove under the kitchen table as the shaking and vibrating slowed, eventually coming to a stop. The silence was deafening. Nervously, Henry poked his head out from under the table; only then did he notice a small spot of blood on his sock where he must have stepped on a piece of the shattered coffee cup. There were a couple of tiny cuts on his right hand, the one he'd used to push himself under the kitchen table. Slowly, he eased out, standing with difficulty. The adrenaline was surging, causing his body to shake.
Where was everyone else?
Frank looked up from the file he was working on. It was eleven-fifteen, and his meeting with the mayor had been quick and to-the-point. Next, he had a two o'clock press conference that he was preparing for. He put his pen down, leaning back and stretching.
The power flickered.
Frank frowned. It wasn't unusual for there to be power surges, but not usually this early in the day. He shrugged it off, picking up his pen. Sighing, he returned to his file folder.
He jumped as everything started to shake. The power went off. Objects started to fall off his desk and the shelves around him. Heart thumping, he shoved back his chair and dove under his desk, barely feeling the scrape of wood against skin as his arm and hand brushed against the sharper edge of the desk.
Finally, the shaking slowed, then stopped. Frank pushed out from under his desk, feeling the stinging in his hand; a small scrape was visible where his hand had bashed against the desk. The arm of his suit had a small tear in it. Heart still thundering, he swiped a hand across his forehead, hurrying to the door. He stepped out, immediately helping Baker off of the floor from where she had crouched down. His deputy rushed in, but seemed satisfied that everyone was okay. He rushed back out again, intending on checking out everyone else in the building.
Frank pushed Baker into the nearest seat. "Are you okay?" he asked, concerned.
"I'm fine, Sir." she squeaked. "Where did that come from?"
"Like usual, out of nowhere." Frank sighed. "Are you sure you're alright?"
"Yes, Sir. I'll be fine once I calm down." she assured him, giving him a shaky smile. "I should go see if anyone else needs help."
"Good idea." Frank agreed. On the outside, he appeared slightly shaken, but mostly calm and collected. On the inside, he was quaking. Where was the rest of his family?
Erin sighed. She had hoped the trial would go quickly and smoothly but, in typical fashion, it wasn't going as planned. They had just finished a recess and had gathered back into the courtroom. Erin stood, ready to question the witness.
No one was prepared for the sudden jolt, or the power flickering off, or the frantic shaking of the floor beneath them. Panicked screams filled the air as pictures fell off the walls and lamps fell from the lawyer's tables. Erin crouched down as a few seats tipped over. She wasn't fast enough in covering her head as the lamp from her table crashed towards her; she felt the sting of the metal base as it hit her in the side of the head before crashing to the floor. She gingerly touched her head as she became as small as possible, curled on the floor. She could feel a lump starting, but thankfully no blood. The shaking and vibrating seemed to go on forever.
Finally, the earth quieted. Crying still filled the air but at least the screaming had stopped. Erin got up as quickly as her throbbing head would allow; no one appeared to be seriously injured, although a few people were bleeding, and the witness on the stand sobbed as she held her ankle. Erin made her way over to her.
"Are you alright?" she asked the young woman.
"My ankle… I think it's broken." she sobbed. "I fell trying to get out of the box and it twisted… I thought I felt something snap…"
Erin was no doctor, but she could tell that the woman's foot was useless and the ankle was swelling badly. She motioned for a few male bystanders to come over. "It's okay, honey, we'll get you out of here, okay?" She got the men to lift her carefully, holding her leg steady and being careful not to jostle the injured limb. They moved towards the doors.
Erin took another look around the courtroom. The on-duty guards had handcuffed the man on trial and were taking him out the back. The judge was talking to the opposition lawyer and motioned her over.
"We'll postpone this until further notice. Expect at least a couple of weeks."
"Yes, Sir." she replied, giving the defense lawyer a searching look. There was no hint of smugness on his face, only fear. Much like what was on her own. She hurried down towards the doors; the courtroom had emptied out quickly, but the hallway was still full of chaos. No one wanted to stay in the building, but at the same time, no one was willing to leave without finding friends and colleagues. Erin made her way back up to her office.
It was a mess, but there wasn't too much damage. There was a large crack in the window, and several pictures had fallen off of the walls and her desk. The coffee that she had left there that morning had tipped over and spilled on to the floor. She rushed to her desk, unlocking the drawer that contained her purse. She reached for the phone on her desk, but there was no dial tone. That wasn't unexpected. Her fear increased when she realized that she had no cellphone signal, either. She couldn't contact anyone, and she had no idea where they were.
Linda pushed her cart down the aisle of boxed and canned foods, grabbing up the soup cans that she needed. She checked her list; only eggs and milk remained. She was reaching for the cooler door when the power flickered, not once but twice, before staying off. Frowning, she paused, her hand on the handle. Was it worth it to grab perishables when she might not even be able to get through the checkout to pay for it? The stuff might as well stay as cold as possible.
She was just turning her cart around when the shaking started. The floor seemed to heave under her feet; screams from other customers filled the air as stuff fell off shelves, clattering to the floor. Cans rolled past her as she crouched down, staying next to a wall. Her heart thumped nervously as she prayed for the shaking to stop.
Finally, the vibrating slowed, then stopped. A harried employee knelt down next to her, asking if she was alright. She waved him off, quickly standing. She grabbed for her purse and her cellphone, but there was no signal. She watched as others tried in vain to make their phones work. She swallowed painfully.
She had no idea where the rest of her family was, or what they were doing.
"Well, that was useless." Danny grumbled, making his way back to the car. Jackie followed a few feet behind.
"Reagan, do you hear that?"
Danny paused, frowning and feeling confused. "No… what am I supposed to be hearing?"
"What?" Danny asked again. He could hear nearby traffic, it definitely wasn't silent.
"The birds have stopped making noise." Jackie said, throwing him an annoyed look.
"There were birds before?" Danny muttered. Jackie groaned impatiently.
"Men, they never hear anything." she muttered to herself. "Yes, Reagan. There were birds, and now they're silent."
"Maybe they flew away." Danny supplied, giving her an odd look.
"Maybe." she grumbled. "Usually they go silent before a storm or…"
"It can't be… it hasn't happened in well over one hundred years…"
Jackie opened her mouth to answer him when the earth tore apart. They were both knocked to the ground. Danny crawled towards Jackie, trying to get over to her to shield her, but the ground was shaking too much to move. The pavement split right where Jackie was struggling to get back to her feet, large enough to knock her off-balance. The building they'd just exited from was dropping bricks and concrete around them. Somewhere, a window shattered…
Danny tried to stay on his feet as he half ran, half stumbled over to his partner. He was nearly there…
He was face first on the ground, his head throbbing and vision wavering…
Finally, the earth stilled. Danny sat up shakily, his hand pressed to his forehead where a gash bled alarmingly. Jackie hurried over to him, a few cuts and bruises visible over her pale skin.
"Reagan, are you okay?"
"Headache, Jack… I'll be fine." Danny groaned, pressing a tissue to his head. The bleeding wasn't as bad as he first thought, but it still didn't want to quit. "What happened?"
"A piece of concrete hit you. I tried calling out, but you didn't hear me."
Danny pulled out his cellphone with a shaking hand, groaning again in frustration. "No signal."
"Towers are probably down," Jackie answered, her voice betraying her fear. "We should get back to the station…"
Danny shook his head. "I need… I don't know where anyone else is, Jack… I need to go find them. My sons…"
"Danny, listen to me!" Jackie ordered, forcing him to look at her. "You said it yourself, you don't know where anyone else is. We need to regroup, and you need to get that head checked out. There are first aid kits back at the station, and some of the guys have taken extra medical training. It won't be the same as paramedics, but it's something. There's too much chaos going on right now. Let's start at the station and go from there."
Danny nodded. "Fine… you're right, Jack. I just can't stand not knowing."
"I know, Danny," she answered softly. "We'll find them, let's just keep a clear head."
Danny followed her back to the car, his heart thumping painfully.
"Found anything?" Jamie asked, coming up behind Sean. Sean shook his head.
"No. I'm not interested right now."
Jack came around the corner of the bookshelf. "Same here, Uncle Jamie. I'm hungry, though."
"So am I." Sean butted in, looking expectantly at Jamie. Jamie laughed.
"Fine." he answered. "Let's go find Nicki, okay? We'll see where she's at then we can go get some lunch."
"Yay!" the boys squealed, gaining a dirty look from a nearby woman who was reading to her young son. Jamie gave her an apologetic look.
"Sorry, Ma'am. Guys, keep it quiet, okay? We're in a library."
"Told you libraries were boring." Sean muttered to his brother, who nodded in agreement. Jamie sighed, gently pushing them ahead of him.
The power flickered, causing them to look up at the lights. Sean stopped walking, shooting a fearful look at his brother. Jamie rested a hand on his shoulder.
"It's okay, Sean. Just a power surge."
Sean nodded, turning forward again. The power flickered off.
"Uncle Jamie?" Jack squeaked.
"Let's just find Nicki…" Jamie started.
The building groaned as the floor shook. Shelves snapped as the windows shattered; books came crashing down around them. Jamie grabbed his nephews, pushing them to the floor and covering them with his body as he tried to cover his own head. Debris fell around them. Shelves crashed into one another. Screams from employees and patrons could be heard cutting through the air…
The shaking stopped, but the building continued to groan quietly. Heart pounding, Jamie eased up off of his nephews. Pain radiated in his lower back. Gingerly, he pressed a hand to his left side, biting his lip and pushing back a cry of pain. He pulled his hand away, reddened with blood. He tried to peer over his shoulder; all he could see was a patch of blood soaked into his shirt. He assumed that some of the falling shards of glass from the windows cut him as they fell. He grabbed his jacket, which he had removed earlier, and shook it out before putting it back on to cover the wound. He didn't want to scare his nephews.
"Are you two okay?" he asked, his voice shaking with nerves and adrenaline. The boys were both crying, and Jamie noticed small scrapes and bruises on their faces and hands, but otherwise they seemed unhurt. They nodded.
"We're fine, Uncle Jamie." Jack sniffed. "Where's Nicki? We hadn't found her yet!"
Jamie's heart thundered as he pulled his nephews to him. He glanced behind him, grateful to see the young mother with her son getting up. She was crying and her son was wailing, but neither looked overly hurt. She ran with him towards the front of the library, where the stairs would lead them outside. "Let's go find her, guys." he told them, trying to keep the nervousness out of his voice. He could only pray she wasn't hurt.
They moved forward, stepping around debris and fallen books and shelving units. They passed by the front checkout desk; Jamie pulled the boys to a stop. "Wait here, okay? Don't move!"
They looked confused and scared, but nodded. "Okay, Uncle Jamie."
Jamie hurried around to the other side of the desk. As he'd passed by, he'd looked behind it, noticing a young woman pinned beneath part of the desk. He knelt next to her; she didn't look much older than himself. Her eyes opened as he gently felt for a pulse.
"Help me…" she mumbled, tears leaking from her eyes. Jamie looked at the fallen part of the desk, swallowing at the blood he could see pooling underneath her. He couldn't tell what part of her had been injured, but he didn't want to risk moving the desk. He took her hand instead.
"What's your name, honey?" he asked, trying to keep her calm.
"Melissa." she mumbled.
"Melissa, I need you to stay calm, okay? Keep focused on me. You need to stay awake. Can you do that?"
"Sure…" she mumbled again. She looked at him fearfully. "My leg's gone numb… I can't feel it…" she whispered. He squeezed her hand.
"It'll be okay." he tried soothing her. He saw another employee edging his way over. Jamie motioned to him. "What's your name?"
"Devon, could you watch her, please? Keep her focused and awake. Keep her talking as much as you can. I'm going to try to find help. Can you do that?"
"Yes… I'll watch…" Devon stuttered nervously. Jamie nodded.
"Melissa, Devon will watch over you, okay? I want you to keep talking to him. Don't fall asleep. I'm going to try to find help to get you out of here. Do you understand?"
"Yeah…" Melissa answered, looking at him again. "Thank you…"
Jamie squeezed her hand again. "Just keep yourself alert and stay strong." he told her, moving back around to the other side of the desk where his nephews waited. He pulled them away, still heading for the other side of the library.
"Is she going to die?" Sean asked in a hushed voice. Jamie looked at him, startled.
"What? No, Sean, she's not going to die. We just need to get out of here and find help."
"But you didn't help her up… Dad always says it's not safe to move someone if you think that would injure them more." Jack said, his tone serious.
"Your father is right, guys, but she's going to be fine. The desk fell on her leg, and I didn't want to injure her further. If we can get out of here, the professionals who have the right equipment can free her."
The boys nodded. "Can we just find Nicki now?" Jack mumbled, looking teary again. Jamie hugged him, making sure to keep him away from his left side.
"Of course, Jack. She's our priority right now." he soothed, pushing them forward again. Other patrons of the library picked their way through the debris, rushing towards the stairs. There was still no sign of Nicki.
A/N 2: Yep, a natural disaster story. Earthquake to be exact. No, I'm not poking light at any of the disasters that have happened throughout the year - there have been so many in the news it's scary. Tornadoes in New York, floods and earthquakes and tropical storms... 30-plus tornadoes, including 5 in one day, where I live when the average is 12 per year... I've always wondered what would happen if a show centered around something like this, and of course I pose the question, what would any of us do? Would we be prepared? Can one really be prepared? I know earthquakes aren't common in NY, but they're not impossible. I wanted to go with something that would hit with no advance notice - other disasters/storms often have warnings. So - coming up next, part 2! Will they find Nicki?