[identity profile] you-legwarmers.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] wl_fanfiction
Title: Ten Days (Day 10)
Rating: R for language & sexual content
Genre: Drama; friendship
Characters: Colin, Ryan, Jeff, Wayne, Brad, Greg
Pairings: Colin/Ryan and Greg/Jeff, of course!
Summary: Surviving for ten days in the wilderness is hard for one person. Is it possible for six?
A/N: Let me just say I loved writing this story. It's definitely the longest thing I've ever written and I'm quite proud of it. ^-^ Thanks to everyone who reads it; it means a lot. Again, I have to apologize to those portrayed within the story-- no offense intended!
Now, here we go...


"How are you feeling?" Colin asked Ryan for what seemed like the hundredth time. Ryan grimaced in response, waving his hand in a so-so motion.

If the walk the day before had been rough for everyone, today's was like a trek through hell. "One of the lower levels, too," Greg felt the need to clarify. "Maybe not quite the ninth, but definitely six or seven at least." The blank looks and eye rolls he received made him sigh in exasperation. "Dante's Divine Comedy? Inferno? God. When we get home, I'm taking you all to a fucking library."

"Yes, that's first on our list of things to do, Greg," Ryan quipped good-naturedly. "Before we're admitted to any hospitals, let's request some classic literature."

Maybe it was the fact that the sun was actually peeking out from the clouds today, or maybe it was the relief that everyone was finally together and conscious at the same time, but most of the hostility had vanished from the group. You could hardly hold a grudge against someone after watching them nearly die.
Oddly, though, along with the anger had all other traces of emotion melted away. No one was expressing happiness, nor extreme sadness. Even the two amorous couples weren't particularly touchy-feely today. Too much was at stake to let feelings obstruct their paths this time. Too delicate a situation to risk a meltdown.

"Not too fast," Jeff anxiously reminded Greg, who still occasionally had to stop walking to catch his breath or check to make sure his not-exactly-healing wound hadn't reopened. He certainly felt better than he had since before the terror of almost simultaneously dying and losing Jeff. But everyone was still adamant that he take it slow and not push himself, and he wasn't going to argue with them.

Jeff himself had evidently collapsed from exhaustion and dehydration; other than a pounding headache, he was feeling much better now.
Greg hadn't been aware of it, but Jeff had kept jerking awake in the night, watching his lover intently for any signs of trouble. He was afraid to take his eyes off him. Finally he had curled up against Greg, chest pressing into his back so he could feel every sigh, every shiver. It wasn't something he'd done before, and he probably wouldn't have the nerve to do it if Greg were awake. Still, it was nice, and it gave him enough peace of mind to fall asleep.

The edges of the leaves on the trees were tinted different shades of yellow and scarlet; it was just barely autumn now. Normally it would be so beautiful, the swirling colors marking the imminent closing of another year, but this trip had tarnished the purity of nature for them. Trees and rain, birds singing and crisp night air-- things once simple and beautiful-- would be ruined, forever associated with memories like these. Aching hunger. Bitterly cold wind. Falling tree limbs. Young hikers, torn apart by mountain lions...
It hurt; it haunted.

"There's that tree that fell," Brad noted, referencing a landmark they'd passed on their way to find Jeff. The huge fallen oak was in an early stage of rot, and the musty smell permeated through the air.

"Good," Colin said. "We're heading in the right direction."

A few minutes of silence passed. There had been many little silences in the past couple of days. Speaking depleted their energy quickly. Words were rationed in the same way water was rationed. Mostly there just wasn't much to say.
But somehow, today it seemed the energy was returning. Maybe it was just the fact that they knew how close they were to the end. Maybe it was the hope stirring inside them.

"You think anybody believes we're alive?" said Greg at last.

"That depends," Colin answered. "I for one wouldn't have put odds on us if you'd asked me two weeks ago. But we've got people who care about us, and I don't think they would give up on us that fast."

Greg nodded. "If it was just me out here on my own--not that that'd ever fucking happen--I don't think anybody would have even noticed I was missing. At least, that's what I would have said if you'd asked me before all this."

"That," Jeff said, mildly insulted, "is ridiculous. I would have noticed. Your wife would have noticed. Ryan would have noticed. Colin would have noticed. Wayne would--"

"I know, kitten," Greg interrupted before Jeff could list every person he'd ever come in contact with. "I know that now. I'm just saying how I felt before we came out here." He decided to ignore the part about the wife; thoughts of her had been invading his guilty conscience since that first kiss with Jeff. Greg decided he would sort all that out later. Hell, maybe there wouldn't be a later. That would certainly solve it.

"Well, at least you have regular contact with the internet," pointed out Ryan with an attempted grin. "People would have pieced together that you were missing after a week or so. But I could drop off the face of the earth and it'd be months before anybody went 'hey, where's that tall guy who used to be kind of funny?'"

Colin gave him a look filled with equal parts love and exasperation. "You're delusional. I don't care if I never talk to you except in person. The second anything happens to you, I know about it. You don't need technology to connect with me."

"That is the cheesiest thing you have ever said to me," Ryan responded, wrapping one arm around Colin's shoulder.

Brad rolled his eyes at Wayne and made a vomiting gesture. Wayne responded with a 'welcome to my world' shrug.
"I'm just surprised any of us are still speaking," said Wayne.

"Yeah," said Brad. "Shouldn't situations like this make everybody want to kill each other?"

Greg's know-all side couldn't resist contributing to the conversation. "Not necessarily. It really depends on how long you've been isolated, how big the group is and whether the balance of social structure is thrown off..."

"I'd eat you," Jeff purred, a cheeky grin on his face. "And I don't even have to be starving to do it."

"No, but you would have to get a room first," Brad interrupted quickly, shielding his eyes.

The walk went on. Their moods might have been improving, but the physical exertion was taking a toll on their undernourished and dehydrated bodies. Keeping the chatter up was only a temporary distraction. The water was totally gone now, so their search for safety was now also a race against time.
Occasionally they would see an animal, albeit not often because anything with ears could hear their heavy footsteps from a mile away. At least it scared away potential predators. Flashbacks of the lion and its bloodstained muzzle made Brad and Wayne wince at any noise that sounded bigger than a squirrel.

By the time the sun was directly overhead, Ryan was ready to quit. Every tiny movement sent a shot of pain through his leg and twice it almost buckled underneath him from the strain.
But to his dismay, it was Colin who began to give out first. Colin had been so concerned with Ryan and keeping the group relatively calm and sane, everybody had almost forgotten that he was just as vulnerable as the rest of them.

"We can stop," Ryan insisted, making sure Colin's eyes stayed focused on his.

"You know we can't," Colin protested, breathing deeply to ward off the lightheadedness that made it difficult to concentrate.

Ryan scowled, not at anyone or anything in particular, but because he knew Colin was right and he hated it. "Well, if you can't keep going, then neither will I." He turned to the others, his eyes begging for a solution of some kind. "Isn't there any food, anywhere around? There has to be. There fucking has to be!"

"Water's what really counts right now," said Greg. "Can we find a stream or something?"

Wayne snapped to attention suddenly. "The river. We can just get down to the river at the bottom of the mountain. Brad, you brought the matches, right? For a fire to boil the water?" Brad held up the little box in response. "Perfect. Colin, if you can make it maybe another mile or so, we can get water."

"I don't have a choice, do I?" Colin was joking, but his eyes were serious. He stood up, clinging to Ryan, and they knew that this was the best they could do.

-----------------------------------------------------

"Ugh. God, that hurt."
Ryan had voiced their collective thoughts. Walking downhill on a steep incline had required equal weight on both feet to keep his balance. He'd almost passed out from the pain.
But they had made it down the first sharp drop, and the valley was in clear sight. The second climb down would take longer but had a smoother incline. It felt strange standing directly in open sunlight after over a week of living under the dense canopy of trees. Colin and Jeff, whose eyes were sensitive because of their pounding headaches, had to squint in the brightness.

"You holding up?" Greg asked Jeff quietly.

"I'm fine," Jeff answered. "Worry about yourself, all right?" It came out sharper than he'd meant it to, but he was irritable from the stabbing pains behind his eyes. Besides, he could take care of himself. He felt guilty at Greg's slightly wounded look, though.
They came to a sudden halt.

"Which way?" said Brad, who was at the front of the group. There was a split in the path near one of the smaller ledges. One side appeared to lead directly down to the bottom of the cliff; the other was more clearly defined and continued far past where the men stood, too far to see where it lead. It was clearly safer, but the quicker route was tempting.

"That way's obviously part of the trail," Wayne said, almost hesitating. He didn't want to make the wrong judgement. "But who knows where it leads?"

Jeff was more decisive. "If we want to get to the river, we pick the shorter way." He gestured to the rocky plunge with several precarious-looking footholds.

Ryan didn't like it. "Yeah, it's the quickest way, all right. Quickest way to fall down there and break your neck." He didn't add that he'd be the most likely one to fall.

"The longer way is probably better," Colin concurred, but Ryan caught the glazed look of pain he tried to hide.

Ryan immediately chastised himself for forgetting the whole reason they were in a hurry to get to the river in the first place. Despite the danger in this shortcut, he could see the looks on his friends' faces and knew that they were desperate enough to take the risk. And he would do it too, for Colin.

With a sigh, he backtracked his words. "I guess this way's worth a shot, though."
Colin couldn't hide the gratefulness in his eyes, and he squeezed Ryan's hand in thanks.

"Okay. I'll go first," said Wayne, and Brad took the cue to follow close behind him. The other four hung back several steps, waiting to see how they could copy their steps without aggravating any injuries.

"Watch out!" Brad called, grabbing hold of a steady tree limb with one hand and Wayne's arm with the other. Wayne jerked back just in time just before he lost his footing on the loose patch of ground.

After the second of adrenaline wore off, he looked back at Brad. "Thanks." He looked at Brad's tight grip still holding his arm and raised his eyebrows. "You can let go."

"Oh yeah." Brad released Wayne sheepishly. "So anyway, don't step there."

"No, I thought I'd actually jump on it this time to see if it would be okay," deadpanned Wayne, slowly trying another foothold. It stayed in place, and he turned around to face everyone. "You guys try walking down," he called up. "Just watch your step."

Jeff, Greg, Ryan and Colin exchanged looks, wondering who should go first. Somehow rock-paper-scissors didn't seem fitting as a selection method.
Colin broke the apprehension by making the first move. He began to walk down the cliff, much more slowly and cautiously than Wayne and Brad were. It didn't take but a minute for Ryan to start shadowing him, clutching onto him for support when needed. They moved as one, using synchronized footsteps and silent communication to make their way.

Seeing the pair nearly halfway down the slope, Greg looked at Jeff questioningly. "Ready when you are, I guess."

Jeff watched Ryan and Colin almost enviously. "They're fucking telepathic with each other. Why aren't we like that?"

"We'll work on that later, pumpkin butter," responded Greg in amusement. "Promise. But right now, you can drag me down this death trap while I seductively whisper encouragements to you."

His tone made Jeff laugh, and he got the message. "Sounds great. Let's do this."

Once they had an idea of how fast they could make the steps, it seemed easy. Wayne and Brad had already reached the bottom and appeared to be starting a fire. Colin and Ryan were nearly there as well.
It wasn't either of their faults when they fell, but it couldn't be blamed entirely on the rocky slope either. One overconfident movement made Jeff stumble, throwing off his balance and causing the two to plummet the remaining distance to the ground.

Although Ryan and Colin had sensed the ominous change in motion, neither of them wanted to turn around and look. It felt like slow motion; the earth seemed to be moving as if it were made of lead weights. Agonizing seconds allowed their brains to process what had happened, and they knew it wouldn't go away by not looking.

Mercifully, it hadn't been the full height from where Jeff and Greg had fallen. Jeff sat up, head spinning and heart pounding like a jackhammer. For a moment, he didn't hear all the shouting through the ringing in his ears.
He processed Brad and Colin next to him and managed to sit up slowly. It hurt, everything hurt. He remembered thinking his arm probably wasn't broken not but forty-eight hours ago. That was certainly impossible now; the thing was twisted like a sick bendable doll.

"Don't move," Colin was telling him.
It didn't make sense. He had to move. He had to go over to Greg, to make sure he was okay, to apologize for being the one to misstep.

"No, he's alive," Ryan was calling over from what seemed like a mile away.
Of course Greg was alive, Jeff thought to himself. He was just talking to him a minute ago.

Colin couldn't think through this chaos. It was too much, especially as exhausted as he was. Everything was out of control, and as he blacked out, the only thing that registered was the bright sun that seemed to be mocking them.

------------------------------------------------------------

"Can you hear me, Col?" Ryan's words echoed the ones he'd said a few nights ago when he'd been waiting by Colin's side. Just like right now.

Colin was too dizzy to form any words, but he squeezed Ryan's hand firmly in response. Ryan handed him water, assuring him it was clean. He drank it, and it was better than anything he'd ever consumed before. It made his head hurt less, and while he waited for everything to clear up, he listened to Ryan speak.

"I didn't know what to do. Everybody was scared shitless, and I was fucking screaming my head off, and then Brad of all people kept cool and pulled us all together and made sure we all drank water so--"
The rambling spiel was silenced with a kiss from Colin, who ran one hand through Ryan's hair and used the other to pull him down to face level.
When they'd finished, Ryan grinned a little. "Sorry. Keep drinking and don't sit up yet. I'll calm down."

Colin complied, and questions came rushing into his head. "Everybody all right?"

Ryan shrugged neutrally, trying not to betray any of the fear he felt. "Jeff's pretty shaken up. Greg's unconscious, but frankly that's not anything new for this trip." He laughed without any humor; it was almost a shudder. "Obviously, he's bleeding pretty bad again. Wayne and Brad have the fire going with smoke to signal."

"And you?" The look in Colin's deep brown eyes gave Ryan some peace.

"I'll be fine. I can always cope enough when you're with me." Face creased with worry and anguish, filthy and bruised, Ryan looked worse for the wear, but something in his voice made it impossible for Colin to doubt him.

-------------------------------------------------------

The thick white smoke was rising quickly, swirling into a cloud that would hopefully be visible to anyone who knew to watch for it.
Across a stretch of the woods, yet another finely-tuned mind was locked in a desperate search. The performer's disappearance hadn't gone unnoticed, but five days' search had revealed nothing.
Today, though, today was different. Today would be the end, and whether that meant recovering six bodies, six living men or anything in between remained to be seen.

------------------------------------------------------

"Please don't give up," Jeff begged. He didn't know if he was speaking to Greg or calling out to whatever might have been watching him in the universe. Either way, he wasn't sure he was heard.

The blood flowed steadily.

"You think we should try to move?" suggested Wayne after the first hour of sitting by the river. The four disparaging looks he received made him question why he'd brought up the idea. "I was just kidding," he muttered.

Speaking to nobody in particular, Ryan voiced his thoughts aloud. "You know what's funny? My leg's been hurting so fucking bad it's made me forget the pain in my back."

It earned a weak smile from Colin, who was the only one really listening.
"Now that I'm not so thirsty, I'm starving again," he replied.

Both wondered silently if they would live long enough to get the relief they so desperately needed.

---------------------------------------------------------

Someone was getting closer. The helicopter scanned another area of the forest and continued.
They'd been given a last-day search warning, and it had infuriated him. He wasn't giving up today. Hell, he'd search on foot if he had to.

The blades beat through the air like a pulse.

---------------------------------------------------------

"You hear that?" asked Ryan listlessly. He figured that he was the only one who heard it.

"Yeah," Colin said back without any real interest. Then he focused on the sound. "Holy fuck!" he cried.

Ryan snapped to attention. "What? What's wrong?"

Brad, Wayne and Jeff had tuned in, and Colin spoke with more energy than he'd thought he possessed. "I hear it. You know what it sounds like?" He trembled with excitement at what this could mean for them. "A helicopter. A rescue chopper."

Hardly daring to believe, the men strained to listen to the sound, which remained in the distance but was slowly, slowly growing closer.

--------------------------------------------------------

"That's it," he said with undoubted assurance. He pointed at the smoke. It was the smoke of a signal fire. "It's them."

"I hope to hell you're right," the pilot answered. He steered the chopper to the right, toward the location of the steady line of smoke.

---------------------------------------------------------

"I swear to god I'm dreaming," Brad said, squinting into the bright sunlight. It glinted in his eyes, and that's how he knew the flying metal object wasn't a hallucination at all.

The shouts and screams and pleads from the men, waving their arms frantically, were of equal parts joy and terror-- terror that this newfound salvation would somehow miss them or disappear, leaving them stranded forever.
But of course, that wasn't the case. The helicopter grew closer and closer. Even as it was about to touch the ground, they didn't stop shouting.

Ryan and Colin embraced, not bothering to wipe away their tears of ecstasy. Wayne and Brad did the same, albeit more platonically than the former.
Jeff stared at the vessel with more hope than he'd ever known. He didn't move an inch from Greg's side even as a vast team of paramedics exited the chopper, one for each of the men.
As they were each examined and administered whatever treatments they needed, they almost failed to notice one final, very familiar, very happy face that had appeared.

"Hey guys," said Chip Esten amidst the cries of greeting. "What, you didn't think I'd be looking for you?"

-------------------------------------------------------------

Helicopters. Hospitals. Wherever they went, there was a crowd of people waiting. Some were fans and press, which were promptly shut out and escorted away.
Most were medical professionals of some kind or another. Some of them, like Wayne and Brad, were discharged after a day or two of observation, IVs and many tedious and painful questions.

Colin and Ryan, who refused to be put in separate rooms, had to stay under doctors' watchful eyes for several days. Neither one had any excuse for why they suddenly had no inhibitions or intentions of hiding their love for each other, but most of the people who talked to them couldn't have cared less.
Others, like their wives, weren't particularly happy, but were certainly smart enough not to push the matter until everything had settled down. It wasn't exactly a shock to them, after all.

Ryan spent the majority of the first full day out of the forest on some serious painkillers. Colin teased him about it afterwards, but he also knew that the trip had done something more permanent to Ryan, more than just back problems. The pain was constant now, and physical therapy was mentioned multiple times. It hurt for Colin to watch, yet at the same time they both knew just how lucky they were to have each other.

Jeff, after being sedated, needed surgery on his fractured arm, which hurt more than he'd imagined it could. He was still severely dehydrated and needed to be monitored for the first three days until his electrolytes were back to normal.
The first thing he demanded when they allowed him to leave his hospital room was to be able to see Greg.

Greg had lost more blood than Jeff thought was physically possible. Something had happened when the tree branch had hit him, too-- some sort of tear in a lung, which was what caused the coughing blood. But they didn't talk about that. They never wanted to mention it again.
The scar was grotesque and the memories that lingered were worse. But despite it all, they had made it through alive, and together.

"You look way too cute to have just spent three days in a hospital bed," was Greg's first comment upon Jeff entering his room.

After the initial hugging and fawning had ceased, Jeff had given his adorable smile and answered with, "I can't give you that, but you look a hell of a lot better than you did a week ago."

"Yeah, and you love me no matter what I look like, you idiot," Greg teased him, punctuating the sentence with a deep, sweet kiss.

"We're as bad as Ryan and Colin," Jeff noted when it was over. But it was a good thing, he knew. It was the first step to that intimate feeling he'd craved on that last day, just before they'd walked down the mountain.

"What's as bad as Ryan and Colin?" said Colin, entering the room with a warning note in his tone and Ryan in tow.

"The horniness of two teenage rabbits," Brad finished before anyone else could answer. He and Wayne sat on the floor, graciously leaving the two chairs for Colin and Ryan. The room was crowded, but it was better than having all the space of a forest and living in fear every minute.

"By the way," Wayne said to everyone in the room, "Dan Patterson called for the millionth time to apologize and stuff. And to reassure us that we don't need to do anything like that for publicity. Which is ironic because of all the publicity we're getting, so you know."

Ryan groaned. "That fucking Brit," he said with what only the people closest to him knew to be affection. "You told him it's not his fault, right?"

Wayne nodded. Then Jeff said, "Wayne, how the hell did two horny teenage rabbits make you think of Dan Patterson?"

After the laughter died down, Wayne shrugged. "My mind works in mysterious ways, man."

There was a pause. Then Greg said, "Guys, I haven't had any vodka since that first fucking night. Will you tell them to let me out of here?"

-------------------------------------------------------------

Epilogue

"Our place. I like the sound of that," Ryan murmured into Colin's ear, nuzzling his neck seductively.

They'd gotten the apartment after all the drama had finally cooled off. Everything about it was perfect. A warm, wonderful bed. A sweet and fresh scent that evoked feelings of security when they walked in. Food. Clean clothing.
Each other.

"I won't ever want to leave here," Colin told him honestly. "Not as long as it's like this."

Ryan rolled over in the bed. "But you know it won't always be exactly the same. It's just...I don't know. It's like you expect one thing, and then what you never thought could happen to you just fucks you hard."

"That might be me you're thinking of," said Colin without missing a beat. He smiled; he loved looking at Ryan and knowing there was nothing to worry about. "But I know what you mean. It's been over two months and I'm still scared I'll wake up and we'll be back in those damned woods."

They were quiet for a few moments. Ryan spoke softer than normal. "We can't all be dreaming like this. Unless we all died and this is heaven."

"It might be," Colin answered thoughtfully. "Maybe that's why shit like that trip happens. To give us a reality check. Make us appreciate the little things."

"And the bigger things," Ryan said suggestively, hands wandering below Colin's waistline.

This was what life was supposed to be like, Colin thought to himself as he shared his most intimate pleasures with the person he loved most in the world.
This was what home felt like.

They'd made it home.

END

--------------------------------------------------------------
From:
Anonymous( )Anonymous This account has disabled anonymous posting.
OpenID( )OpenID You can comment on this post while signed in with an account from many other sites, once you have confirmed your email address. Sign in using OpenID.
User
Account name:
Password:
If you don't have an account you can create one now.
Subject:
HTML doesn't work in the subject.

Message:

 
Notice: This account is set to log the IP addresses of everyone who comments.
Links will be displayed as unclickable URLs to help prevent spam.

January 2016

S M T W T F S
     12
3456789
10 111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
31      

Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Jul. 23rd, 2017 12:44 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios