“Hey, man, stop playing with that. I mean it.” Jack slaps Carl’s Jr.’s hand away from his radio.
“I can take out that static…”
“I said don’t touch my stuff.” Jack may have saved the kid’s life, and he’ll be the first to say Angus MacGyver is the only reason he’s still walking around, but he’s not compromising on that front. Things Angus gets his hands on tend to end up working in ways they were never intended to. The kid might decide to turn the damn thing into a taser.
“I was just trying to help.” Carl’s Jr. crosses his arms, which on Jack would look as belligerent as a club bouncer but on this kid just looks like a toddler who wants to stay up past his bedtime.
OK, if you’re just gonna sit there and glare out the window the whole way back, have it your way. Jack just shrugs and starts whistling “On the Road Again”.
“Jack, stop!” Just a second too late, Jack sees it. The slight difference in the dirt along the side of the road, the darker tone where the soil has been turned over.. And then the world is a blur of noise and dust and heat.
When Jack wakes up his chest hurts, his head hurts, but his leg is in agony. He rolls slightly and regrets it immediately at the flare of pain. He blinks and the world swims into a hazy focus, the charred side of the cliff they were driving past, which he’s now propped against, sand and rock all around him, and Carl’s Jr.’s face hovering over him like the kid is some kind of guardian angel.
Jack groans, looking down to assess the damage. If my leg is gone I’m gonna be pissed. Why is that my first thought anyway? He wonders if there’s a concussion to go along with this. Probably.
His leg isn’t gone. It’s just twisted kind of oddly. Broken. Still going to land him in PT but it’s not going to be as bad...provided they get out of here alive.
His leg is awkwardly splinted with parts of a small tree and strips of Carl’s Jr.’s neck scarf. He can’t help but smile at the kid’s typical handiwork.
Mac rocks back on his heels, wiping his forehead with a strangely shaky hand. “They won’t be looking for us until we don’t make it back to base.”
“What about radios?”
“Yours is smashed to smithereens, and mine,” the kid grunts softly, “is sort of at the bottom of a cliff in the flaming wreck that used to be our humvee.”
“Well, you’re the whiz kid, can’t you fix the busted one?”
“Not when it’s scattered across all the sand from here to that cliff.” Mac sighs, and he sounds more irritated and defeated than Jack’s ever heard him. Normally the kid’s a cross between a golden retriever puppy and a ray of sunshine, even after pulling back to back rotations.
“We’re not too far from that last village. Walk back, find a way to contact base. I’ll be fine here.” Jack settles himself a little more comfortably against the rock. If whoever set that IED comes back to check their work, he’d like to be able to defend himself.
“Um, I’m kind of not going anywhere.” Mac shifts, and suddenly Jack sees the burgundy stain just above his hip, spreading down his leg. There’s something eerily bright in the center of it, something reflecting the sunlight.
“Aww man, kid.” The fact that the IED had been planted to flip a vehicle over the cliff had put it on the kid’s side of the humvee. He must have taken the worst of the shrapnel.
“Eventually they’re gonna start looking for us. We just have to hold out till then.” Mac picks up a canteen. “Here, you can’t afford to get dehydrated or get a fever. Just be careful, it’s all we’ve got.”
The canteen is barely half-full. It’s Jack’s, his name is written on the side of it. “You don’t have yours?”
“Mine got punctured. Probably by the same shrapnel that’s in my side.” The kid slumps against the wall of rock, his face several shades paler than when he was first checking on Jack. He’s losing blood too fast.
Jack pulls off his own scarf, rolls sideways, biting down on a cry of pain, and presses the cloth to the kid’s side. Mac gasps and shudders, fists clenching and eyes squeezing shut. “Sorry, kid, but if we don’t do something about this you’re gonna bleed out before anyone comes for us.”
Mac nods and presses shaking hands to the already bloodstained cloth. Jack cuts off the sleeves of his shirt to tie the makeshift bandage around the kid’s waist and put some more pressure on it. He reaches for the canteen and holds it up to the kid’s mouth. Mac just shakes his head.
“You’re the one leaking fluid. Come on, drink it.” Jack’s throat is as parched as the sand, but he’s a Texas kid, born and raised, he knows how far he can go before dehydration gets the best of him. And he’s not in serious danger, yet.
Carl’s Jr., on the other hand, is bleeding and possibly starting to run a low grade fever. Jack rests a hand on the kid’s forehead and sighs, then checks his watch. They should have made it back to base by now. Someone should be coming for them…
Minutes feel like hours in the silent emptiness of the desert. The only thing breaking the monotony of the swish of wind and sand is Carl’s Jr.’s labored breathing, and the only way Jack can tell time is passing is by how much shallower and more pained each of those breaths becomes.
Between them, they’ve nearly finished the canteen of water. Jack’s lips are parched and cracking, his arms are sunburnt, and his leg is throbbing in time with his heartbeat. But none of that holds a candle to how bad the kid looks. Mac is so pale the sunburn he’s sporting seems almost nonexistent. He’s shivering despite the oppressive heat, and his breaths are little more than whistling whimpers.
Jack taps the kid’s shoulder, and when Mac blinks lazily awake, he tips the canteen to the kid’s mouth and gives him the last of the water. It’s gonna be okay, kid, we’re gonna be okay...
Jack’s not sure if it’s a mirage or reality. All he knows is that he can see someone running toward them. And then he blacks out.
When Jack wakes up, he feels fuzzy, like the world is part of one of those viewfinders that don’t always click perfectly into place. His shoulders ache and burn, his leg is faintly throbbing, still, and he feels oddly detached. But not so much that he forgets to turn and look at the bed next to him.
Mac is sleeping, some color back in his sunburnt cheeks and his body finally still, no longer shaking from pain and shock. Jack, suddenly exhausted, flops back against the pathetic excuse for a pillow. He can sleep for a week. As long as the kid’s safe.
And then a hand fumbles for his, and Jack smiles, letting their fingers twist together. I got you, kid. Everything’s gonna be just fine.