Divide & conquer, p.37
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       Divide & Conquer, p.37

         Part #4 of Cut & Run series by Abigail Roux
Page 37


  TY KEPT his eyes closed for a long time after the deafening roar of collapsing stone had ended. It was stiflingly silent, the only sounds being Zanes harsh breaths and the occasional shift and trickle of rocks.

  Ty opened his eyes and lifted his head. Hed expected pitch black, or at least a pretty angel with a harp telling him he was in the wrong place. But there was light coming from somewhere, and the stone vault theyd hidden behind had provided some reprieve from the fallen stone walls that hemmed them in. He looked down at his partner.

  “You okay?” Zane groaned and pushed himself up, but there wasnt much room for him to move. Part of a stone wall had fallen right next to him, shifted to the side by the vault that sheltered them. Otherwise Zane might have been under that wall. “Yeah, I think so. ”

  Ty jabbed him hard in the stomach, unable to put any more force behind it due to the confined space. “Stupid jackass!”

  Zane yelped, hissed in pain, and swatted at his hand. “What the hell?” “Exactly, what the hell! You see a ticking bomb, so your first instinct is grab it and fucking run?” A miniature avalanche of pebbles and rocky debris slid down the shelf of stone above them.

  “It was me run or try to get a hundred people to run,” Zane bit off as he held up a hand to protect his face. There was already a thin dark line of blood wending down his cheek from a cut below his eye.

  Ty continued to mutter and curse under his breath, trying to move his body off Zanes in the tight space. “Youre a dick, you know that? Scared the shit out of me. Made me run. Got me dirty. I lost my cover! Now Im trapped in a crypt with a dumbass. ”

  “Im sorry,” Zane muttered. He even sounded sincere. Ty could only manage to slide off him and sit in the rubble next to him, legs drawn up against his chest. He had to hunch his shoulders and duck his head. He could still hear the rock shifting and groaning ominously as it settled. One thing was obvious: Zane never would have made it out alive if hed still been running for the door. The entire structure had collapsed in on itself, save for the areas where stone slabs from the ceilings and walls had fallen against the stone sarcophagi in the corners.

  “Fuck, Garrett. ”

  “Maybe later. ”

  Ty looked around at the heavy stone bearing down on them both. He swallowed hard as he recognized a cold panic beginning to form in his gut. The stone was too close, too thick. “Might be our last chance,” he replied, trying to sound wry but falling flat.

  Zane shifted, turning enough to put his back to the fallen wall so he faced Ty. “Well get out of here. Too many people saw me—us— run in for them not to dig us out. ”

  Ty shook his head as he peered at Zane in the dim light. He could just make out Zanes outline, and he was only three feet away. “What were you thinking?”

  “I was thinking… get the bomb away from the kids. ” Ty sighed heavily. He couldnt bitch at Zane for that. He could feel the stone brushing the top of his head as he sat, and he could only just stretch his legs out in front of him. If he turned the other way, he could lie flat, which didnt go a long way toward calming him. He could feel the stone looming overhead, feel the press of the darkness and the swell of burgeoning panic. His chest tightened, making it hard to breathe, and his fingers still trembled from the adrenaline of his headlong flight across the cemetery after his partner.

  Hed watched Zane take off, understanding taking a few seconds to settle in, and hed grabbed the device from the dead kids hand, recognizing it for what it was. It was counting down the seconds until that bomb went off. Then hed run after his stupid fucking partner so he could save his sorry ass before he got blown up. Again.

  “Well. What now?”

  Zane dug into his jacket pocket, pulled out his cell phone, then cursed under his breath. “Screens busted. Maybe if we—” Without warning, the stone groaned again, and Ty pushed himself back against the shelter of the vault as another wall fell toward them and shattered, sending stone fragments cascading across them. Ty heard a last, loud crunch, and when he carefully opened his eyes, it was to complete darkness.

  “Oh God,” Ty groaned. The panic began to billow. He couldnt take enclosed spaces. He just couldnt do it. The air in their little pocket of space was growing warmer.

  “Ty. ” Zanes low voice was followed by the touch of his hand and a firm tug that shifted Ty closer to his partner, and after another tug, Zane pulled Ty practically onto his lap and against his chest, then wrapped his arms around him securely. “Ive got you, baby. Im here. ”

  Ty struggled against the cuddling. “Quit touching me, Zane,” he hissed stubbornly.

  “Stop it,” Zane said firmly, though his arms loosened enough to led Ty slide down. “Stop it and close your eyes. Listen to my voice. ” Ty put both hands over his face and rested his head in Zanes lap. His breaths were shallow and erratic against his hands. “I should have just let you get squished. ”

  “Youd never do that, baby, and we both know it. ” Zanes hand settled on Tys head, stroking gently. “Who else would pun you to death?”

  “At least Id finally be taller than you. ”

  “I thought you liked me being taller than you. ”

  Ty tried to answer, but the thought of being tall enough to brush his head on the ceiling while sitting made his stomach turn, and he managed only a ragged breath. The panic was sharp and overwhelming, filling his limbs with a tingling sensation as his gut churned.

  “Ty. ” Zanes voice sharpened. “Stay with me. Come on. Talk. ” “Shut up. If I could go anywhere, Id leave you here in a heartbeat,” Ty managed to strangle out. He reached up, horrified when his fingertips brushed cold stone. Hed been trapped in small dark places before, which was why he had such a negative reaction to them now. But the very real knowledge that the walls were closing in, literally and not just in his mind, made him want to cry.

  All the while, Zanes fingers carded gently through his hair. “I know what its like to be totally in the dark,” he said, his voice calm. “But I wouldnt go anywhere even if I could. Id rather be here with you than somewhere else alone. ”

  Ty reached up and gripped his hand, trying to grasp a thread to keep him from truly panicking. He would hurt them both if he lost control. Zanes fingers curled around his in a firm grip.

  “Can I tell you a secret?” he asked Zane, voice low and threadbare.

  “Yeah. ” “You ever get gut feelings? Like you see something and you just know?” Ty asked, feeling stupid but not caring. He felt Zane squeeze his hand. “First time I saw you, after I got over hating you, I knew… I knew wed die together. I could just feel it deep down. Never felt that before. ”

  Zane exhaled heavily. “Not today. And not tomorrow. And not for a long time to come, Ty Grady. You hear me? A hell of a long time. ”

  Ty nodded jerkily. “Do me a favor?” He reached out and grabbed at Zanes other hand in the pitch black. He shoved it upward, trying to get Zane to raise his arm. “Hold up the ceiling, okay?”

  Zane let Ty move his hand to touch the stone, which inexplicably made Ty feel a modicum better, but he kept his other linked with Tys. Several heartbeats of quiet passed before Zane spoke. “First time I saw you, after I got over hating you, I knew,” he said, echoing Tys words, “I knew Id fall in love with you. ”

  Ty shivered all over, torn between the comforting warmth of Zanes words and the cold terror of impending crush injuries. He couldnt get in any air to speak.

  “I laughed at myself,” Zane continued, a hint of pleading in his voice, “and then I denied it, and then I did everything I could to prove myself wrong, but it didnt work. ”

  “I know, Zane,” Ty whispered, though he had to admit the words brought a certain level of relief he hadnt realized hed needed. “Ty. ” Zanes even, soothing tones finally broke on the short gasp of his name. “I love you and Im scared Ill lose you. Please dont leave me alone in the dark. ”

  Ty closed his eyes, trying to push back the weight
of the tons and tons of stone that sat precariously above them. He smiled weakly with Zanes words. “Now was that really so hard to say?” he tried to tease, but it came out sounding desperate.

  “Yes?” Zane answered, forlorn. “Jesus, Ty, come here, please. ” Just the thought of moving made Ty begin to tremble. He squeezed his eyes closed, gritted his teeth. He reached blindly for Zane, his hand glancing off Zanes shoulder, and Zane did the rest, moving close enough to embrace him in the tight space.

  Zane lifted one hand to cup Tys face. “Do you have any idea how brave you are?” he asked, the sounds ragged and perhaps even a little choked.

  “Tell me when Im not about to freak out, okay?” Ty requested hollowly. The trembles skittered through his body and into Zanes. “Tell me about the ribbons,” Zane requested abruptly, his voice again calm and soothing. Ty knew what he was doing, trying to take Tys mind off their impending doom any way he could. He shook his head. “The two on top are the Bronze Star and a Purple Heart,” he started breathlessly.

  “Bronze Star?” Zane repeated, sounding surprised. “The countrys fourth highest medal,” Ty rattled off desperately, trying to find distraction from the realization that he couldnt breathe. He was about to have a full-fledged panic attack. “Awarded to any person who, while serving in any capacity with the Armed Forces of the United States, distinguishes him or herself by heroic or meritorious achievement or service while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States, in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force, or while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party. ”

  “Damn, Ty, are you reciting military guidelines?” Zane asked, sounding both impressed and horrified. “Yes, shut up. Its helping. Accomplishment or performance of duty above that normally expected, and sufficient to distinguish the individual among those performing comparable duties is required. ”

  Zane snorted softly. “Whatd you do to earn it?”

  Ty breathed in deeply, the air shuddering out of him just as quickly. “I killed a whole lot of people. ”

  Zane was silent for a moment, then shifted against Ty to hold him more securely. “Tell me about the rest. ” Ty shook his head and strained his eyes to find light. When he could make out nothing in the blackness, he reached up for the ceiling. If Zane wouldnt hold it up, maybe he could.

  He touched the cold stone, and he felt Zane raise his arms to help. “Ill hold up my end, if youll hold up yours,” Zane said.

  “Dont humor me, Garrett. Just hold up the ceiling for me, okay?” Ty snapped, but he was laughing at his own words.

  “Yes, Staff Sergeant,” Zane said smartly. A deep rumble and a shiver in the stones interrupted Tys stinging retort, and Zane grabbed him and yanked him down, covering his head as the stones started to shift and fall again. The shrieking of the rock shearing filled Tys ears, and just as he thought his heart might stop, just as everything around them shook violently, several large stones behind Zane toppled in the opposite direction, giving them a little more room and letting in shockingly bright dull-gray light.

  Ty stared at the shaft of light as if he could actually use it to pull them out of hell. His arms tightened around Zane, fingers digging in reflexively as he fought down the stark terror. It wasnt something he could really control; it was ingrained in him to fear the darkness and spaces that closed in when he couldnt see. Even this hint of light and Zanes arms around him couldnt fight back the impending panic attack for much longer. He was surprised hed staved it off for this long. He firmly believed it was Zanes doing, him saying the right things at the right time.

  Another stone fell away, then another, and as the hole got bigger, Zane literally dragged Ty over his lap and shoved him toward the opening. Voices started to echo around them, their names bouncing off the stone as people called.

  Ty crouched at the narrow opening, trying to fight through the haze of panic to judge if he could make it through. He didnt think he could, and forcing the wrong stone to shift could bring the whole thing down. He didnt try it, instead calling out to the rescuers and sliding back into the darkness to sit with Zane. His hand trembled, but he reached for Zanes and gripped it hard anyway as he met his lovers eyes. “You asked me not to leave you alone in the dark. ”

  Zane didnt reply, but he pulled Tys hand close and pressed his lips gently to Tys knuckles.

  “YOUtwo look like shit. ” Zane stopped on the threshold to Dan McCoys office and scowled as Ty pushed past him. “Worse than that,” Zane disagreed. His headache still raged, his eyes still felt swollen and full of the rock particle dust that had been kicked up into his face numerous times, and he could just feel the bruises coming up all over.

  Better than the alternative.

  “You okay?” McCoy asked, looking back and forth between the two partners. Zane still wore his ruined suit, now almost gray from the sand and stone ground into the fabric and boasting a few split seams, and several red scrapes scored one side of his face. Tys dress blues had suffered as well, but Ty had insisted on changing immediately, even when that meant into the spare running shorts and T-shirt stuffed in his locker downstairs. It was a scarlet-red T-shirt, with a dancing rock, a quivering piece of paper, and an awkward pair of scissors standing in a rough circle, all with guns in both hands and aiming at each other.

  Despite their ordeal, Ty had managed to come out looking like an action hero at the end of the movie, hair perfectly mussed, a delicate smudge on one cheek, the appropriate amount of dirt to make him look rugged instead of a wreck. Zane sort of wanted to hate him.

  “You ever been buried under several metric tons of stone, Mac? Well, I have. Three times now!” Ty snapped as he eased himself into one of the chairs in front of McCoys desk.
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