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Teeter-Totter

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The platform teetered unsteadily and Cody looked around him, clinging to the swinging iron girder for dear life. The bomb had blown out half the supports, he realized, panic grasping his brain, and the slab of concrete he was perched on could fall at any time.

Desperately he peered around the building site, through the settling dust, the roar of the explosion still echoing in his ears, searching for his partners.

"Cody!" He heard Murray's feeble yell and caught his breath in relief as he saw the skinny scientist clambering through the rubble on the ground 10 feet below.

"Murray!" he shouted hoarsely. "Up here!"

Murray waved at him and pointed wildly, and following his gesture, Cody saw Nick, crawling free of a pile of wood near the entrance. His heart swelled with relief, relief that was short-lived.

"Nick, look out!" Murray screamed, and Cody realized with sick horror that the girder he was clinging to was tilting downwards, sliding inexorably towards Nick. He swung all his weight against it, shouting at Nick to move, but Nick seemed not to hear, shaking his head muzzily.

The girder seemed to respond, slowing its inching descent, swinging back on its axis the other way, and Cody breathed a tiny sigh of relief.

"Nick!" Murray ran forward to help, just as Cody felt the platform beneath his feet tilt alarmingly.

"Murray, no!" he screamed. If Murray ran beneath the platform and the platform fell - Cody desperately shifted his weight back, and felt the slab beneath his feet slowly right itself.

There was another crash as a wall came down, and Cody screamed again, feeling the vibration right through his precarious perch. The girder was slipping again and he swung back against it, violently, desperately. He couldn't let it fall, he couldn't let it take Nick.

"Cody!" Murray shouted, and cold dread gripped Cody's heart. Murray was trapped, squirming, beneath the rubble of the newly-fallen wall, struggling violently. But the worst thing was, he was almost directly beneath Cody's concrete perch.

"Fuck - God, no. NO!" Cody screamed as he felt the slab move again. Every time he swung the girder, the slab came closer to falling, and if it fell, Murray would be killed. But if he let go of the girder, it would fall on Nick. "NO! Nick, get up, pal!"

But Nick had collapsed again, and lay unmoving on a chunk of broken concrete, directly in the path of the iron girder.

Desperately, Cody hauled on it again, trying to use the strength in his arms and keep his weight steady on the slab. There was a screech of tortured metal beneath him and his heart sank as he realized that despite his best efforts, his perch was doomed. And there was no way he was gonna let it take Murray's life.

With a roar that was wrenched from deep within his very core, Cody flung himself to the far side of the platform, away from Murray, throwing all his weight against the damaged supports. He felt the shudder as they cracked, felt the slab start to fall, tipping safely away from where Murray lay trapped, and as the girder tilted violently he jumped for it, flinging himself against it, trusting to his momentum to swing the thing away from Nick.

It worked, Cody realized grimly, as the heavy iron bar spun him through the air. He felt it start to fall with something approaching satisfaction. He'd got it clear of his partners, and that was all that mattered.

*

Cody couldn't move, and everything was black. Slivers of memory pierced the darkness, a dusty deserted building site, the concrete pillars of the half-built condo. Searching amongst the downed tools and stacks of lumber, clambering up the scaffolding. He felt his stomach knotting with the importance, the urgency, of what he sought, and struggled to reach out, to push away the dark.

"Nick?" He tried to speak, and as he shaped the word, recollection flooded back, overwhelming and awful. The explosion, the nightmare game of teeter-totter, Murray's desperate struggles and Nick, below him, so terrifyingly still. "No!" With a desperate effort, he thrashed against his helplessness, and suddenly there was light, unbearably bright, pressing down as though it would crush him.

"Cody! Cody!" Cody blinked, and the light faded, his vision settling. Everything hurt, he realized, as Murray put a hand on his shoulder, peering at him worriedly. "Cody, take it easy, take it easy. Don't move yet, okay? I ought to call the doctor - " Murray twisted in his seat, and Cody took in the fact that his leg was in a cast.

"Murray - don't," Cody managed hoarsely, dropping back against the bed. Pain shot up his spine and down his legs, but he fought it away. "Murray - you're okay? But - " He stopped, not able to put his fears for Nick into words.

"I'm okay." Murray nodded, looking closely at Cody. "That is, I've fractured my leg, but it isn't serious. And the doctor thinks you're gonna be just fine too. You're badly bruised from the fall, but luckily the girder didn't land on you, and the worst thing was a bad concussion. But now you're awake, I know you're gonna be just fine."

Cody swallowed with difficulty, and tried to nod. The movement brought a resurgence of the blinding light and he squeezed his eyes shut briefly. He had to know. "Nick?" he whispered, without opening his eyes.

"I'm right here, pal." Nick's voice, weak and breathy though it was, was unmistakable, and Cody coughed out a broken sob.

"Nick!" Murray swung around. "You're awake! That's great!"

"Couldn't sleep with you two talking so damn loud," Nick said, and Cody opened his eyes, slowly turning his head.

Nick was looking back at him from the next bed, his face pale and marked with bruising, but his eyes were bright, overflowing with relief. "Cody, man, about time you woke up. Me an' Murray had started figuring you were gonna nap right through to Christmas."

"And miss your Thanksgiving turkey? Not on your life," Cody whispered.

Nick shifted slightly in the bed, raising himself a little and Murray raised worried hands. "Nick! Your ribs - "

"Ribs'll mend, Murray," Nick growled through a short hitched breath, and he scooted closer to the edge of the bed. "Cody, if you ever do such a damn fool thing again, I'm gonna shoot you myself, d'you hear? If you'd died - " His blue eyes filled with tears.

Cody closed his eyes again, thinking of the terrible moment when he'd felt the platform going, when he'd thought that whatever he did, one of his friends would die. The cold, fierce dread that had taken over his heart, and shown him with terrible clarity what he had to do.

He opened his eyes with a slow smile. "Nick, buddy, you're gonna have to do just that, because I'd do it again in a heartbeat," he whispered. Carefully he extended a hand towards his friends, ignoring the shooting pain.

Murray took his hand, helping him gently, reaching out to Nick with his other hand, until all three of them were touching, hands clasped, fingers entwined. They stayed that way for a long time.