2010-09-09: As You Live And Breathe

Starring:

Maggie_V5icon.pngLaurie_V5icon.png

Date: September 9th, 2010

Summary:

I cannot live, I can't breathe — unless, you do this with me.


"As You Live And Breathe"

Previously

But, in the end, the man seeks a fast escape from retaliation. And that arm snuck under hers, the elbow maintaining a dangerous control over her midsection — when push comes to shove — are there to see if Detective Powers can fly any better than Lisa Olsen.

Pressed back and back in an all-too-real threat toward the railing, Maggie's bared teeth clamped down tightly in a ferocious resolve. Her wrestling doesn't quit, fearless until that shove: because she knows full well what's behind her.

The rail, so near that very spot Lisa fell from not even twenty-four hours before. Maybe within inches. She's not counting. All she's counting is the distance down and the depth of the water below. Her shove isn't a clean thrust back— her fight against it whirls her stubbornly around as she sails toward the railing, giving her an increasingly nearing view of the drop. It's rocket-fast seconds— her legs hit the rail but she can't stop, helped not at all by her height— she chaotically, shouting her wordless opposition, hurdles over.

A grab for the rail somewhere in midair— her hand, from below, dangling, circles around it— short fingernails scrape against the slippery metal— she falls.

Lisa couldn't scream; Maggie can, and she does.

A more alarming sound might be — eventually, after fifteen stories — the loud crack that follows.

NOW

"POWERS— NO."

The morbid, terrible reenactment of Lisa's last moments survives to the running — pumping — too slow motion of Laurie's legs to get him within arm's reach before the woman's gone up and over. Just a flutter of blonde hair, the black flash of her jeans — boots — then her attacker also moves backwards and, from the curtain of their struggle parting is revealed another figure. A tall form wrapped in leathery black, he's more shadow than person, the gleam of his pale cracked skin and bald head surviving the darkness even as he escapes the hotel's sheen of lighting across the hall. Eyes match Laurie's as they are momentarily opposite, equals. That stare, those eyes, they issue a challenge, daring a confrontation that could be made with only a three yard jog.

But for all the intensity, that poignant dare, and the wrath that flashes through Laurie's mind and nearly reflects on his face — it's tossed aside as good as garbage.

He chooses.

Body twisting, hand planted along this railing as he calculates on the fly the middle, a spot slightly off from where Maggie disappeared before his eyes. Laurie's foot is up and over and with a thrust the balance tips and, by his own power, he launches out into the open fifteen stories above a pool whose surface has been broken and now becomes murky with the disturbance of that tarp pulling down into itself.

It's four or five seconds of free-fall, but the brain compensates with a jolt of processing, slowing it all down in the mind, letting conscious thought be deceptively clear.

But in reality, it's only four or five seconds. Feet first, knees slightly bent, weight positioned, breath heaved in. All in seconds as his coat flares up and around him like the wings never of them have and four or five seconds of conscious thought is all condensed into: Maggie.

And the surface of the pool erupts with second contact.

For Maggie, everything has shifted violently into shades of blue and black: the sudden underwater world of the hotel's pool interrupted time and time again by her eyes squeezing shut.

The force of the fall — after all that way — has shot her body past the tarp and the unforgiving surface of the water numerous feet. The angry water roiling around her — so joined by the second weight plummeting in mere seconds later — and the shadowy, confusing shapes of the tarp trying to envelop her all but obscure her body. But already, the rush of disturbed water starts to still when she doesn't move; just falls— and hangs, suspended.

It's temporary; she shocks to reality in a disorganized flailing of long limbs, every sharp movement slowed by the water. Every single facet of her is stricken— panic grips much colder than the water itself. Panic fights against the logical constraint to hold her breath— and only amplifies. She has the strong presence of mind and memory enough to tread water and swim, but what murky, glimpsed sight of her the diving consultant might get is struggling.

That first second of hitting water almost like concrete too hard, rocketing several feet, the pool's grand depth and resistant tarp are blessings. It only takes another second for them to become worst enemies. Sent almost to the bottom by his own drive, Laurie is swiftly engulfed by twisting, warping tan fabric, heavy already but now doubly so in the confines of the water. Every grab of hand for momentum is met by that material gravitating into the palm, effectively causing him to twice as hard pull it and himself down as much as propel upwards with every sweep of his arms.

Laurie's lone friend under the swirling, disturbed chlorine-filled tank is the purpose with which he jumped in. Purpose, not pushed. Purpose, not panic. Purpose— there she is. A fistful of tarp is tossed aside in the slow-motion of underwater actions, clearing glimpses here and there of grey and blonde. Flashes of memory speak of red, ice — it's almost deja vu — but now he isn't diving downwards but reaching across this landscape of cloth clouds and sky water to grapple onto the detective's v-neck collar.

The tarp squirms like a living thing above them, reflecting the light that is the surface above coming down in pieces like off of crystal. Even as he looks upwards, contemplating that obstacle in a second of breath wasting away, the water nearby distorts, rippling, swirling about itself with the force of being displaced quickly and then rushing back in. A bee-line — a trajectory. The bullet eventually slows and is swallowed up without struggle by tarp and liquid. Laurie's chin lowers, finding Maggie's face and, in that, searching for some sign of coherent thought. Shoving at the persistent tarp around her, he tries to clear her arms, hands half-forced by pressure and half-seeking her face, pushing her hair away — he looks if she has breath, or if she's breathed in water — all the while movements to support rather than raise her up. A hand against her cheek, blue eyes staring in, he can only try to will some of his calm to the far-gone woman.

The pull by Laurie is more of the same chaos, just like the tarp that bars Maggie's way as it barred his and the swirl of the water that confuses which way is up. His presence blurs into her struggle — never quite as strong as it should be — until her weaving arms find free space and her wildly waving hair clears from her on-and-off vision, clearing the way. She sees him, feels him there.

Coherency sparks.

Gripped by fear and sharpened by adrenaline, but still the same intelligent bright blue, her eyes look straight into Laurie's — and with painful helplessness, express her very legitimate panic. What hard-pressed breath she has is sealed away, safe from water— but for how long? It's a clear fight, even now. As the woman's eyes lock onto his, and so does she. Forcing through the water in slow motion, Maggie reaches for Laurie's arm, fighting quickly through the insignificant feel of his coat to grab onto something real.

Chlorine stings the sight, but his keeps steady to Maggie, always accepting her fear but, in the same, banishing it with confidence. A second, another second. She doesn't have many more, and the water has stilled, no further violence from above, spurring Laurie to break gaze with Maggie and search for that lighted ceiling. It's since caved in, the sparkling reflection of the glass and sky replaced by sheet and question.

Instilling all that he can in a look, his arm drifts up, seeming almost relaxed in the watery speed, holding up a single finger between them. One second, it portrays, just hold on a little longer, Maggie.

Her added weight is an anchor to him rather than a support, and as he separates slightly to try and rise towards the collapsed and floating tarp, the one arm remains useless in her hold and his action betrays sluggishness. In the swirling water and growing breathlessness, it's hard to tell which is so unwilling to part with the other, but the fact remains, and so Laurie kicks off from the deep pool bottom to wrestle at their material captor single-handed and overburdened.

It could be the foreboding, dim sight above, glimpsed between hard blinks that fight to focus as much as fend off the sting; it could be the looming sense of running out of air; in reality, it's all and none of those things that causes Maggie's own hold on Laurie to slip. She grabs again, stronger, desperate, uncoordinated — just a little longer, but it's all about seconds, down here… and every second that ticks by sees Maggie's fight come up against panic. Rational versus irrational. The former would usually win — almost anywhere but here.

Slow-motion strikes of her arms through the water keep the rest of the woman's body static and, not for lack of trying or wanting to trust — she's scared — she relinquishes what control of herself she had; her fight is too strong, burning too hot in the cold water, too internal and not directed where it should be. On swimming. On conserving air. Air that, now — evidenced by a thrash through pool water and a anxious, almost pained twist of a face made more pale underwater — Maggie might not have.

Where the veil comes away, bit by slow swirling bit, there's still no glimpse of the sky, the top; it's logically no more than twice his height to the surface and air beyond but, unreachable, it might as well be miles. This doesn't slow Laurie's hand from peeling back what layers he reaches, but a sudden desperate jerk from his anchor plummets him down, letting the tarp greedily fill some of the space where he was as Laurie is forced to the floundering woman's level. Feeling it — feeling her. When he looks to her it's looking on the truth — she doesn't have longer. Not on her own.

But Maggie isn't. Alone.

It's with a practical as anything dip in that Laurie lowers through the water — against what would seem a natural inclination to rise, he moves naturally. Hands slip in to clasp her cheeks, underneath the wild halo that's become of her hair; it steadies him, while making to control, tame, reassure the fight within her. And, eyes to hers, it makes the slightest tug. On her. To meet him. All that space evaporates in water rushing away from them. Lips are there suddenly, pressing on hers, against them, too purposefully to be timid, but made cool by that same purpose — and heat sapped underwater. His mouth completely captures hers, sealing them together — without permission; he urges, but also works her mouth open to him.

And then she's there — they're there: he breathes. What air, now, Maggie might not have, and needs, she can have his.

The sudden return of Laurie, the closeness, the look into her eyes — it slowly reaches through the frantically swirling haze of Maggie's mind, aided by his steadying presence working a calm counterpoint to her panic. She's controlled, tamed, and reassured; if only slightly. Reassurance is thin; prone to breaking in a split second, when she can't breathe.

And then — suddenly — she can.

But there exists a slight delay in Maggie's realization. A wave of her arm back through the unwanted water marks her apprehension before she becomes conscious of what's happening: that Laurie is giving her air. The faint rise of her chest attests that he is; as does, when she seems to realize this, the movement of her mouth — not to break away, but something instinctive, as the air moves from lungs-to-lungs. And, mouth-to-mouth, feeling him there, she brings her fly away hand on a slow-motion course to Laurie's neck and jaw, a further anchor against floating away from the source of life underwater. The woman's fingers that hold on are no colder or warmer than the pool itself.

Apprehension fades and, for the time being, these crucial seconds, panic stays at bay. In fact, by contrast, there's an instant of out-of-place tranquility as Maggie stills, her widened eyes shutting to black to hone in all focus between them.

Blue eyes across the way keep vigil, taking in each precious, shared, second stronger than touch numbed by their surroundings — not completely senseless, though; it's imperative that stops Laurie from flinching when Maggie secures them, taking near equal responsibility in keeping them together. Outwardly, he holds bold. Instinctive: his mouth responds to hers. But practicality does not fade, like his eyes never close, and the moment is only as long as it can be, until there's no more air available underwater. There's the enemy pressing in around them, and the art of getting lips closed without its inference is one that requires more coaxing from his mouth to hers, mixing sensations — and signals.

It's over as it began; he's there in front of her. And he gives a strong, readying nod. It's her turn. Hands on her face are soon easing through their watery environment towards her waist, a key grip towards hoisting the newly refreshed woman towards the hole in the tarp he started. She'll need to pull at the cover, use that fight in her to get out rather than worse, but he's always right there.

Lingering underneath allows him to bolster her when she seems to falter. It also hides the twitch — a certain burning, gnawing lack that's also transferred between them. It goes, that by filling the one doth empty the other.

And replenished, Maggie's eyes open to Laurie and turn to their vital destination above. Without pause, she's ready for the boost when it comes, and she forces her strength into the movements necessary to swim, aided, now and again, by the one she left breathless. Her fight against these watery surroundings is doggedly determined, now, instead of frenzied — save for the swipes she takes at the offending tarp to finish the job he started: for that, she's vicious.

Masses of the thing veer away and flashes of the surface speckle into sight; drift away undercover of tarp; appear again. So it goes, seconds that seem an eternity, that increasingly familiar struggle, until Maggie has struggled herself up through it enough, and swept and pulled at the tarp enough, that the surface is visible — and imminent. She breaks through.

The sudden influx of brightness and air is both welcome and jarring, and her equally sudden loud gasp and vivid, wildly looking every-which-way eyes attest to both. Maggie's neck is barely above the surface of the pool when her hands, amidst attempts to keep her balanced, reach down, pulling, making sure that presence that was right there gets up here, too.

Right there hasn't been exactly true for a couple of those well-documented seconds; the last lap, Laurie's lagged slightly — and it shows when Maggie's reach gets him by the collar of his jacket, slips, and finds an arm as he raises it — a hand. Their fingers touch, combine, in the water.
Then the hands are suddenly multiplied. Like the earlier that could seem eons ago, they're reaching into Maggie's every-which-vision quite suddenly, all greedily grabbing at her shoulders and arms, hoisting her and, by such, ripping her own reach away. Now, as water-logged ears begin to clear, there's talking — shouting — instructions and advice from all corners, the same as the pulling effort that gets her dragged to the edge. She's pulled up and out by the power of a dozen people not herself and, at their stead, it's Zach Dayton's face that clears from the blur of motion first, staring her in the eyes as he ducks down to where she's been placed pool-side. "Detective Powers— can you hear me? Are you all right?"

A palm spreading against the floor now slick with the water she's brought with her, bracing her, Maggie adjusts to solid ground in the unwieldy position she's been hauled into, half on her side, legs tangled. Coughing, she shuts her eyes tightly against all of the noise and people and Zach Dayton. The only reply he receives is the soaked detective bristling and bringing an arm up defensively in what is an effort more colossal than it should be. Her body seems glued to the ground, her movements weighed down when she pushes up an increment on her elbow. As she opens her eyes narrowly — trying to focus on faces, on the edge of the pool — a whitened hand splays near her face, as if to shield her eyes from a bright light. In reality, it's to shield everyone from her.

Now a towel is offered to the half-drowned detective — in practice, it's more like it's shoved into her shielding hand. In their rush to be helpful — and not liable — the hotel staff comes on strong. Shouting from the edge nearby adds to the blanket of chaotic wake. "Get me out farther!" "Someone move that tarp there!" "I've got his arm!" Splashing from all sides and then, in another heave of too many limbs, Laurie is hauled up beside Maggie. In theory. Glimpses of his darkly drenched green-yellow coat are visible between the black-clothed legs of employees.

"I heard the gunshot from my room," explains Dayton, urging with further words and a gaze colored with concern that Maggie identify her status, "Are you hurt? Do you need an ambulance?— " He stretches up, a hand negotiating the towel more gently to her while he turns on more of the gathered workers, "Back up— back up!"

Maggie's eyes are already on the ruckus beside her. She adamantly shakes her head to Dayton, more dismissive than reassuring as her fingers curl uselessly around the towel. However much she might need — or want — it, it's dropped to her side. "I'm fine," she manages to answer in a strained, strange voice, hurriedly trying to sit up. That, too, is harder than usual; it comes with a wince and a weaving sway of lightheadedness. She forces it anyway — a heave and she's on her knees, her focus on Dayton and well-meaning strangers next-to-nil as her motivation launches her, from down there, toward whoever's legs happen to block her searching sight of Laurie's jacket. "Move— " is rushed past her lips a few times without the apparent time or energy for politeness.

Being ambushed at the back and knees by an insistent former near-drowning victim is enough to force one such blocking pair of legs aside, but the second pair has the man attached bending to the detective's level, reaching for her shoulders. "Ma'am, you shouldn't try anything right now. You don't know if there's injuries you just can't feel yet! Did you get a towel?" If not, he conveniently presents another, holding the material at either corner so it unfolds in front of Maggie, creating a welcoming mat — or a fluffy barricade.

Behind it, and Maggie's wayward helper, a large youth has dropped to his knees near the color that identifies Laurie. Already red in the cheeks from his hurry over, he juts out his hands to either side to make space for himself. "Hold on— hold on!" He insists of his fellows, "I know CPR!" And the left hand slaps down over Laurie's ribs.

That last time Maggie was hauled out of the water — it is some testament to the nature of Maggie's life that this isn't the first time — she wasn't quite conscious; she was dreamy, incoherent. Not this time. This time she is beyond awake and every line on her face is amplified, tightened: Maggie is utilizing a tremendous amount of willpower — every ounce — to keep whatever is under the surface under the surface; something acute, raw, and inconsolable. At the shout of CPR, at the glimpses of Laurie in the tumult, she winces: no help in maintaining that barrier of willpower.

Maggie can worry about injuries she can't feel yet — or for that matter, ones she can — later. Insistent through every unsteady waver, her voice hurriedly addresses sometimes the helper, sometimes the man pulled out of the pool. "No, don't— just let me through— Miles—" She wriggles a shoulder away and, with as much ferocity as she tore at the tarp under the surface of the water, she tears the towel out of her sights. The near-drowned woman completely obstinate to every attempt to block her view: she lets nothing stop her, even if her approach to Laurie's periphery is falling into it and catching herself with a hand.

As it happens, that slap — so not only badly placed for a CPR attempt, but acutely terrible for Laurie in particular — elicits the first noise from the watery consultant; it's a groan, hacking, and… humorous…? He's very quickly talking with air he doesn't have, evidenced by the way each word cuts off before its completion. "No— ! Don't, please. I— like my ribs where they are, thank— you." Some smatter of relief eases the rescue party when it seems clear that both victims are, as of this moment, alive. Laurie, in fact, encourages that he be allowed to sit up, tugging on the sleeve of the red-faced employee. "You did CPR… on Lisa… on the woman from the pool, didn't you? And something came— out of her mouth."

"Uh… yeah, sir," the boy huffs, equal parts disappointed not to be a hero (again) and relieved not to have to try. "But it didn't help her, she was… ya know, dead. It was, umm…" he snaps his fingers until he comes upon it, "An olive— that's weird, right?"

Opinion is withheld, interrupted by the smack of a hand approaching from the detective falling for towards the consultant. Reflexively, Laurie's arm wraps hers, steadying that brace. Leg curling so he can turn at her — the other remaining awkwardly straight — his hand sweeps over her hair, sending little droplets to the already slippery floor. "Mmm— Powers. Are you alright? Did you let them look at you?"

It's hardly recognizable as relief that flashes in Maggie's eyes, so inextricably caught up in the rest of her state. The relative safety of the poolside has not calmed the normally composed woman; quite the opposite. Instead of gasping breaths new to air, hers are fast, like an animal's, and that's when she's breathing at all and not holding it in from trying to keep calm — from trying to remain a functional human being and representative of the badge on her belt.

It doesn't especially hold; she's not herself. Maggie sways back, faintly, after her hair, so darkened and thinned by the water, is touched; she blinks repeatedly, her eyes quick-moving, not focusing on anyone, on the verge of terrifically unwanted tears. Reluctantly, discomfited by this vulnerability, she shakes her head in answer to all of Laurie's questions, her expression starting to just break down and pull into the widest of frowns and most furrowed of brows when she attempts to look at him with an imploring that is just as uncomfortable. Her mouth only moves, for a moment, before she manages: "Please, I don't— I don't want to be here. I don't want to be here."

"… Of course." No more communication than that is needed; really, in that first micro-movement of discomfiture in the detective, Laurie's hand had drifted, to the floor, his gaze seeking around them for some hole in the wall of concerned citizenry. She talks and he's up, not quite like a shot — the straighter leg drags behind and delays that effect. "Alright— up." It's not so much a command to Maggie as a warning. A warning that his arm that was around hers is linking against her shoulder now, hefting her upwards along with him, that grip remaining vice on her to support any shifting in weight from light-headed sways.

Protests rally from those around them, but he cuts through with a, "Outta the way, outta the way— move," that's more forceful than theirs. Reaching their outskirts, he turns, stretching an open hand behind him. "One of you has a key card?" Blank looks, "Any card, give it to me now." Obligingly, two appear; he slides one between his fingers to flick back at the owner and retains the other, his hand reaching an inch longer to snatch the towel out of some bewildered employee's grasp. "Don't you people have work to do?" Twisting around to lead Maggie, his hand that was on her flutters at their sides, unsure of its status — but ready to be grip, grippped, support, or empty. "You know," he mutters at the top of her head, "You'll only make it worse for yourself— " an artful pause, echoed as his pace towards the exit slows, "If you don't let them take care of you— you're stuck with me." Her expressions, unwanted and fought back, are studied unhindered by him, and without judgment. "Last chance."

It proves to be a body opposed to moving that slows Maggie more than the sways of lightheadedness, once she's on her feet — just maybe, that could be attributed to falling fifteen stories unprepared. But she shuffles along like a trooper.

As they walk that gradual, if slowing pace toward the exit, she flattens her hand — between she and Laurie — on the water-soaked denim that further weighs her down; the other, she presses backwards against her mouth, a few fingertips curled in and unsteady. After a delay in any sort of response to Laurie's comment, it falls. She looks over; her fast-moving, red-rimmed, watery eyes focus enough to consider, study, and very briefly weigh.

"Well, it's more like— " Maggie's voice still tremulous under strain, she says, " — you're stuck with me." A sharp breath of air is sucked in and she seems to hold it in her efforts to keep it together— long enough … to smile. It turns out a little pained, and it flips upside-down a split second later and it's eyes ahead again for Maggie, aimed desperately at the prize of getting away from here; but for that other half of a second, it was sincere.

Knuckles of his hanging hand bump companionably with Maggie's at her jeans, acknowledging the moment from his side. Bump, and with one finger nudging hers, encouraging it to make room for his to curl around — just the tiny squeeze of one finger around another — like a mismatched pinkie swear. "A fate," he expresses, voice pushing warmly past their exterior chill of wet and shock, "I humbly, happily, and most wholly accept."

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