The Mortality Affair
Death! He dealt with it every day. He had killed before. It was an unfortunate side to his line of work. He had dispatched Enemy agents with little concern when it was a case of kill or be killed. He had the misfortune of killing innocents who got caught in a crossfire. He regretted those deaths. Many never saw the hurt that dwelled within him at the death of innocents or a fellow agent. An agent must remain outwardly hardened to prevent the appearance of weakness.
Death! He was not afraid of it, no, not for himself. Death was simply a consequence of life. Most agents died in the field. Some managed to reach retirement. Like himself, most agents did not dwell upon their own mortality. What they feared was the death of their partner. A partner was family, a brother, a confident. A partner was an anchor, someone to ground you when an assignment went sour or when stress threatened to leave you empty.
And the last assignment most certainly went sour. The enemy was waiting. Their trap was sprung. He was the first in, closely followed by his partner when the series of explosions brought the building down. A push from behind prevented him from being injured, maybe killed, by falling debris. His partner was not so fortunate. Debris and dust rendered both unconscious. Darkness.
Light slowly forced its way through the barrier of his eyelids, demanding to be noticed. He inventoried his injuries. No broken bones, all limbs moved. No pain, no blood with the exception of minor scrapes on his face and hands. His eyes blinked from the grit that drifted through the air, slowly regained the ability to focus. He looked to his left. A gray hand marked with rivulets of blood lay bare, palm up. A booted foot lay twisted, a large beam pinning it to the floor. Loose chunks of debris covered the body.
The dust slowly settled leaving a pall of powdered brick and mortar wiping out all color. Except for the deep red of blood pooling below the still form. He reached for the cold hand. A pulse, barely.
"Open Emergency channel! " His dust filled lungs wheezed and sputtered as he spoke into the communicator. "Emergency medical evacuation needed. Agent down! For god's sake, hurry!"
He pulled as much debris as was possible off of the still form. Vacant eyes stared up at him, respirations were impossibly shallow. "Stay with me my friend, help is coming."
He couldn't lift the beams off. He lay down next to his partner and rested his hand on the man's shoulder offering whatever tactile support he could. He wanted his partner to know he wasn't alone. Whether he lived or died, he was not alone.
Strong arms lifted the beams, easing them off of his partner. Emergency medical personnel evaluated the patient. Somber eyes met his. A slight shake of the head spoke of little hope. They gently placed the near lifeless body on a stretcher and took him to headquarters. He could do nothing but follow.
Pacing. Can't hold still. What's taking them so long? More coffee. More pacing. The agent looked at his watch willing the doctor to come out before the hour is up. No, don't wish for that. As long as he's in surgery he is still alive.
Passersby didn't approach with words of comfort. They knew this was a private hell that a partner bears, a penance paid for not being the one injured, for failing to keep a partner safe.
He sat for a moment trying to quell the tightness in his chest, to quiet the frantic beat of his heart. Will his partner be confronted with mortality tonight? And what of himself? Without his friend, his brother, will he live much longer? Together they were a team, a force to be reckoned with. They watched each other's back, kept each other in check when missions got a little crazy. How could he continue without the man who changed his life, who taught him ways to view the world from a different perspective? No, he was not the type of man who when distraught would consider taking his own life should his partner die. Rather a man who recognized that his strength as an agent was melded with that man behind the double doors that led to surgery. Without his partner he would most likely face his mortality sooner than later.
Through the haze of a twilight sleep he heard his name being called. He opened his eyes to see the doctor standing before him. Instantly awake, he rose quickly to face the doctor, apprehensive of what news he brought.
"I'm sorry..." No, please no, not yet.
The doctor cleared his throat and started again. "I'm sorry it took so long for me to give you a report, but it was touch and go. We might still lose him. The damage was extensive."
Death. Some referred to it as a final healing. His brother would feel no more pain. No more would his partner have to face the torture in which their enemies so often found sadistic pleasure. Maybe it would be best. Was he being selfish willing his friend to survive?
The doctor silently approached needing to check his patient, but not wanting to disturb the two. He believed that the fallen are aware of the presence of another who shared a strong bond. Their eyes met, the physician placed his hand upon his shoulder before leaving the room.
Gently, he placed his hand over his partner's, his other on the forehead, his thumb softly stroking the creases of the pale brow. Fingers gently pushed strands of hair back. One small tear, it was all he would allow, slowly descended following the crease between his cheek and nose. His mind recalled a Shakespearean quote, "The end crowns all; and that old common arbitrator, Time, will one day end it."
A final breath. Time was indeed the master.
"Rest well, my friend." he stopped at the door and took a last look, then Alexander Waverly turned away to report for his next assignment.