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Carry You Home

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Three managed to hold it together until the door of the Marauder closed behind them, and then his legs folded, going limp like a puppet with its strings cut. He slid off Six's shoulder and would have fallen to the floor if Two hadn't caught him.

"Go, go!" she snapped at Six. "Get us off this rock before the rest of the GA gets here. I've got him."

Five had been hanging back, but she lunged forward to kneel beside them on the Marauder's deck. Her small hand clutched at Three's blood-sticky fingers. He was chalk-white and ice cold, head lolling against Two's chest.

"Is he --" Five began.

"He'll be all right," Two said, not at all sure if it was true -- but it wasn't like telling the kid the truth was going to wipe that teary, desperate look off her face. "Get yourself strapped in."

"What about you? And him?"

Two shook her head. "I don't want to move him any more than we have to. I'm strong enough to hold us both in place if we take fire." Possibly not the wisest move if the ship got knocked around, but looking at the shape he was in, she didn't think moving him to a seat was going to do him any favors.

"Then I'm staying too," Five said. Her hand was still clutched on Three's limp fingers; she didn't seem to have noticed she was still holding it.

"No, you'll be in a seat. Four --"

"Got her." Four's hand clamped on Five's arm, hauling her away; he ignored her indignant squawk. "Sit, kid. She said he'd be fine. Trust her."

"Now don't you dare make a liar out of me, you bastard," Two murmured to Three's slack, pale face, as she unzipped his jacket and peeled it back. There was blood everywhere; his T-shirt was sodden with it. And he was so terribly, terribly cold. She could barely tell the difference by feel between his snow-covered jacket and his skin.

The ship rocked and she heard Nyx curse from the copilot's seat. Whatever was happening up there, she couldn't do anything about it, so she braced a foot against the base of Five's seat and bore down on Three's wound, holding back whatever blood he had left to lose with her bare hands.

He needed an endless list of things she didn't have on the Marauder: heavy-duty drugs, the android's database of surgical knowledge, plasma or saline, oxygen ...

Actually, that last one she could do something about ... except she didn't dare get up.

"Five!" she said, and the girl leaned around the seat. "You wanted to help. Get the emergency oxygen from the back."

"Oh!" Five brightened and hopped up from her seat, clinging to the back of it as the ship rocked again. The oxygen was meant for depressurization emergencies, but it would do as an oxygen mask for an injured teammate in a pinch.

"Tell her to sit back down!" Six barked into the back. "We're taking fire up here!"

"I need her!" Two retorted. Four could have done it, but Five would be faster; she knew where all the equipment was.

And she was, indeed, back in an instant, stumbling and catching herself on the bulkhead as the ship rocked, before dropping to her knees beside Two and Three with the oxygen mask clutched in her hand.

"You said he was fine!" she accused Two, but her hands were busy, fitting the mask over Three's face. When she slid her hand into his wet hair, lifting his head off Two's leg so she could fasten the strap to hold the mask in place, Two could feel that her fingers were trembling.

"I said he was going to be fine." Blood was welling between her fingers. Damn it, damn it ... they couldn't lose him on the way to the Raza. "We've got a survival pack back there in case of a crash, right? Are there emergency blankets in it?"

Five nodded, grabbing for a seat as the Marauder jinked sideways.

"Bring all the blankets you can find. And anything else that looks useful!" Two called after her.

"Can I help?" Four asked quietly, leaning out from his seat.

"I'd prefer if you'd stay in your seat, but if you want to do something, you can go help Five. I need to get him warm and stabilized, as much as possible until we get to the Raza. I know we have a first-aid kit back there somewhere, but I don't know if there's anything in it that'll help with something like this. Can't hurt to find it, though."

Four nodded, started to rise, then grabbed onto his seat as the ship rolled hard sideways. Two braced herself and Three as they started to slide. From the back of the ship, there was a yelp and a clatter.

"And make sure Five doesn't give herself a concussion, if possible."

Four vanished wordlessly into the back. Two took advantage of the Marauder's present lack of turbulence to use her feet to push herself and Three more firmly into the corner behind the seats, wedging them there.

With her hands clamped against Three's wound, she didn't have a hand free to use her comm, and Six was busy flying; she didn't want to give him another task. "Nyx," she called. "Call the android and tell her we're coming in hot. We need the Raza to intercept us as soon as possible after we break atmosphere."

"On it!" Nyx called back.

"You've got a lot of people working on your side," Two told Three in an undertone, bending her head down to speak in a voice only he could hear. "Don't check out on us after we came all this way to drag your ass home."

Five half-knelt, half-fell beside them as the ship jinked again; this time Two saw the wash of light across the ship's interior as something exploded just outside their forward viewport, and Six cursed up front.

"Blankets," Five panted, ripping open a package to shake out the silvery material inside.

"Tuck it around him -- around us," Two clarified. She dragged Three a little higher in her lap as Five wrapped them both in blankets. The emergency blankets were crinkly and metallic, much lighter and more space-saving than the ones used on the ship, but anything had to help. The only reason she wasn't shivering herself was because of her nanites. Three was like a block of ice in her lap.

"I found something else that looked useful." Five held up a small, square package.

Two frowned at it. "Emergency rations?"

"With a pull-tab heater inside for warming them up." Five pulled the tab and pressed her hand to the bottom of the ration pack. "They don't get super hot, I don't think. Could we use these for extra heat?"

"That's good thinking. Get them up against his neck and under his jacket."

Five nodded and pulled back a flap of the blanket. She didn't say anything as she tucked the ration packs against Three's icy skin, her face set, teeth clamped on her lower lip.

"First aid kit," Four reported, dropping down beside them. "Not much here that's useful. Ought to pick up a better one, next station we're on. See about getting something military off the black market, with high-grade drugs. Or pack our own from the Raza's stores."

"I'll talk to the android about it." She nodded to the case. "Open it up, let me see."

Out of the corner of her eye she noticed that Five, having finished with the heating packs and having nothing else to do, was holding Three's hand again. It was hard to say if he was waking up or if it was an involuntary reflex, but his fingers had curled to wrap around hers.

"There are some cheap, low-grade antibiotics and painkillers, but the ones we can give him back on the Raza are much better," Four reported as he sorted through the kit. "Gauze --"

"Give it here. Better than my hand."

They stuffed every spare packet of gauze they could find inside Three's jacket. "Take over," Two ordered Five, pressing the girl's hands against the wad of gauze before leaning over to dig for anything else useful with blood-sticky hands. Four was right, the contents of the kit were a mess of cheap meds and seemingly random items. They had forceps for extracting a stinger from a bee sting, but they didn't have anything for putting in an IV? There was a bottle of spray wound sealant, which Two studied before putting to one side. It wasn't meant to be used on anything worse than a paper cut and would probably be a lot more of a hindrance than a help once they got him back to the Raza's much better stocked infirmary, but if he kept losing blood, they might have to try it.

Three gasped suddenly, jerking in her lap. Five gave a little intake of breath.

"Back with us?" Two asked, pushing a handful of blanket aside so she could see his face past Five's arm.

He blinked and grimaced. "Unfortunately." His voice was a painful-sounding rasp.

"We'll be back on the Raza in a few minutes. Try not to move."

"Yeah, don't make us tie you up." Five's attempt to joke cracked in the middle.

This managed to elicit a faint smile. "I can think of a few people I wouldn't mind letting -- ow!"

"Sorry," Five said, sounding a little stronger and less broken this time. "Did that hurt?"

"Yes," Three said between his teeth, in a voice that was also considerably less faint. "Yes, it did."

"Oops."

Two wasn't going to bother trying to figure out what the hell had happened between those two on the planet, but she felt something in her chest loosening, her whole body relaxing as the tension eased out of her --

-- just in time for the Marauder to shudder as they narrowly dodged another round of artillery.

"Haven't we broken atmosphere yet?" Four called up to the cockpit.

"Evasive maneuvers! We go straight up, we get shot down," Six snapped over his shoulder. After a moment he added, in a different tone, "We're almost to the Raza. How's he doing back there?"

"Better if not for your lousy flying," Three managed at the top volume he was capable of, which wasn't very loud.

Still, Six apparently heard him; his answer came on a huff of relieved laughter. "Some thanks for saving your life, asshole."

"Oh, is this a rescue?" Three croaked. "Because it's actually ... a pretty good one," and now he was grinning up at them with that disarming charm he got sometimes when he turned sincere, completely different from his normal smarmy attempts to be charming. It was times like these that reminded Two why it was absolutely worth almost getting shot out of the sky to pull his ass out of trouble.

There were tears glimmering on Five's lashes, but Two wasn't going to embarrass anyone by calling attention to it.

Then of course Three had to ruin the moment by pawing at himself and mumbling, "Why is my jacket stuffed full of emergency rations?"

 

***

 

By the time they docked with the Raza, Three was already struggling (weakly) to get up and insisting he could walk to the infirmary just fine.

"Android," Two said, "carry him."

"What? Hey! Stop! Put me down!"

His voice was still cracked and weak; Five was still hovering close enough to keep a hand on his arm, something they'd both probably deny to their dying day had ever happened. But, Two thought, he was going to be all right.

They all were.