Adam tossed the box of cartridges into the air, watched it spin, and caught it with his other hand. "Five hundred!" he called cheerfully, inserting the box in place on the shelf. Inventory had to be the most boring job in the army, but at least he could use it to keep his hand-eye coordination sharp.
And then pain slammed into him, fast and devastating, like a thousand pieces of shrapnel were ripping into his body. He screamed and dropped to one knee, unable to remain standing. He could see his arms and hands in front of him. They were perfectly normal; they weren't bloody. But in his mind, the skin was ripped, wounded...
"Christ, Adam, what's wrong?" Jose hovered by him, touched him on the shoulder. "You need a doctor?"
"Gil," he managed to gasp. "Gil's hurt. Get the paramedics to him."
He heard Jose talking on the radio. Jose would understand. Everyone knew he and Gil were life bonded. He focused on Gil, on sending strength to him. They'd both been wounded before, one of the hazards of being a soldier, and had used the life bond to help the other recover, but it had never been this bad. Adam hadn't known anything could feel this bad.
"There was an accident. They're airlifting Gil to the hospital. I'm to take you in a jeep." Jose slipped an arm around his torso, hauled him bodily to his feet. "Lean on me, man. Save your strength for Gil."
Adam nodded, because speaking was too difficult, and staggered toward the door with Jose supporting him. The drive seemed interminable, though Jose drove fast and efficiently, weaving in and out of traffic, taking the quickest route to the local hospital.
By the time Jose pulled up to the Emergency doors, Adam had managed to focus enough that he could leap out and start running, the sense of Gil through the life bond giving him the direction. An orderly got in his way, yelling something about him not being allowed back there, but he zigzagged around her and kept going until he found his husband. Several doctors were working on Gil, but one looked up at his approach.
"It's the bonded partner, give him some room. Can you stabilize him?" he asked Adam directly, but Adam didn't answer, too busy insinuating himself on the bed next to Gil, holding onto his ruined hand, trying to give him strength. They'd cut off his clothes, exposing his amazing body, but oh god... the wounds, the damage, the blood.
"Dad?" he heard John say and lifted his head enough to smile reassuringly at his son before focusing back on Gil. He clearly remembered the first day they'd met, realizing instinctively that Gil was a top, trying not to overtly ogle his powerful body, even as his mind fantasized about those big hands and what they would feel like on his skin. They'd flirted for several days before Gil had asked him to play. Gil had cupped his cheek in his hand, and even that first touch was enough to make Adam shiver.
"You have to understand, that when I play, I play hard. Or I may play soft. It's my decision. I will take you to places that you never thought you could go, as long as you're willing to surrender to me."
Adam's knees had been weak, and he'd swayed and dropped to the ground. "Let me show you how well I submit," he'd asked, resting his hands on the fly of Gil's BDUs.
"It's a good start," Gil had approved, and Adam had done his best to demonstrate how thoroughly he could surrender. Gil's hand had stayed on the side of his face, feeling his jaw work. "I may have to keep you a very long time," he'd murmured at one point, his voice rough with pleasure.
"John!" He heard Jeannie and Rodney's voices speaking together as they entered the room. Good. All their children would be together. Because Gil wasn't getting stronger. No matter how much energy Adam yielded, he could feel that Gil was slipping away. This was more than the two of them could handle.
He struggled to lift his head, wanting one last look at Gil's face, pale and blood-stained, but still so handsome. He kissed him softly. "You kept me a long time, my love. The years were good. Don't worry. I'll be right behind you."
John's anguished, "Dad!" was the last word he heard as he laid his head on Gil's shoulder.
His dads were gone. The doctors were still trying to save them, but he'd seen the truth in Adam's eyes as he'd kissed Gil goodbye. John squeezed his arms around Rodney and Jeannie, staring only at the still figures on the bed, listening as the doctors called the times of death, Gil's first, Adam's one minute later.
They were all in shock, but Jeannie and Rodney were almost babbling with it. "No" and "they can't be" and "oh my god" all blending together. They'd always been more verbal than John.
"They're gone," he said, his voice rusty. "They're gone." They went silent as he squeezed them tighter, and the three found themselves crowded farther away as the hospital staff removed IV lines and equipment.
Only yesterday, Gil had picked him up at the airport, thrilled that all three of his kids were flying in for a break. He'd beamed at John in his Air Force uniform and taken him for a coffee before going home. He'd wanted to talk with John alone about being an officer in the military, about how John was adjusting, of being a top who set the proper example, the importance of duty and honor. Gil had been so proud of him.
"Their organs. They wanted to donate." They'd always planned for the worst, acutely aware that they were both in the military. Even as a child, John had known their wishes and that Adam's parents would have become his guardians.
"I'll talk to the doctor, John. Let me," Jeannie offered.
John nodded, and Jeannie moved away as Rodney guided him into the hallway. "Come on, John. You should be outside. Let them do their business." John leaned against the wall, still keeping one arm around Rodney's shoulders. "We'll have the most beautiful service. Flowers. Big bouquets. One of those big caskets so they can always be together. A 21-gun salute. I'll play their favorite songs."
John gave a watery chuckle, burying his head in Rodney's shoulder. The story had been different when Rodney's parents had died. John would never forget everyone's shock when Rodney had lit into the funeral director. "Thousands of dollars on caskets? Are you insane? When we still have Jeannie's first Ph.D. to pay for? They'll be cremated and I want the cheapest urn possible. A cardboard box if you have it." Everyone but John had been taken aback, and Gil had tried to change his mind, but Rodney held firm. His hair had darkened some since high school, turning a shade of brown, and his shoulders had widened, but in some ways he hadn't changed at all. John hoped he never would.
Jeannie came into the hallway, hovering by them. "They're taking care of it, John. They'll need you to sign some paperwork."
John nodded again. Jeannie still had wavy honey blonde hair that went below her shoulders, just like she had the day they'd met. She looked unsure and hesitant, and she'd lost her dads too. John held out his free arm, and she moved toward him, letting him hug her to him.
"You're an officer now," Gil had said. "You always have to think of others before yourself."
"You're my adopted sister, and my sub's sister," he told Jeannie. "That makes me your top now. You're my responsibility. If you have any problems with anyone at school, you tell them to talk to me."
Jeannie gave a little sob, hugging him fiercely. Maybe she hadn't thought about it yet, but sooner or later she would have worried about the vulnerability of being a sub without a top. Rodney would have done his best, but Gil would expect John to take his place.
Several soldiers in uniform were in the hallway, talking to each other, glancing at John and his subs. They must have been the men who brought Gil and Adam to the hospital. John needed to talk to them, to thank them. He had to sign paperwork and arrange for the transfer of the bodies. Talk to the army chaplain about the service. Call family and friends to break the horrible news.
But Jeannie and Rodney needed him now. For a few more minutes, he'd mourn his dads and hold his family tight.
~ the end ~