It was a small sound at first. Just a whisper of dust falling on the floor below. Then there was a crash as a bigger stone fell, opening the whole in the roof wider. Another fell, and at the same time there was a low rumble. Stone grated on stone and with the sense of a beginning landslide the tower started leaning. The motion reminded Jack of the roll of a wave under a boat, just infinitely slower and terrifying. The lean became a tilt and he scrambled to hold on as the tower tipped and crashed into the ground, burying the rest of the building under several tons of stone.
The impact threw him off the roof and into a building across the street. For a few minutes he lay dazed, unable to move. Then the sound of raised voices reached his ears. Hands came to his rescue, pulling him up and out of the rubble. Sam's voice broke through, asking if he was alright. He pushed away the well meaning hands.
"I'm fine," he snapped, sounding a little more irritated than he meant to. He didn't have time for niceties though, or space for it in his mind. Despite all his efforts Daniel wasn't safe, and again it was his fault he was in danger. He pointed at the rock pile that was recently a tower.
"Daniel's under there!"
Sam looked from Jack to the rubble, and then she went into action with the speed of lightning. Orders flew from her mouth like bullets, and to Jack's satisfaction they got people moving. He watched through the bleary fog of concussion as the archeologists inspected the scene of disaster. They called for Daniel but there was no response. Leaning heavily on Sam, he halted over to them.
"He had dug himself a pretty big hole. He could still be safe underneath all the rocks right?"
The scientists poked around for a while longer, muttering about equilibriums, pressure and forces of gravity. Jack bit his tongue and drummed his fingers impatiently on his leg. He knew he shouldn't interrupt, knew they'd work as fast as they could, but each second that ticked by was a second less of the time Daniel had.
"It looks pretty stable," finally one of them said, and Jack almost jumped with joy. "If we work methodically we might have a chance to dig through without causing another collapse."
"Alright!" Jack said. "Let's get started!"
He tried to stand on his own, but swayed so that Sam had to grab onto him again. Reluctantly he let her help him sit down and give him a thorough examination. Even more reluctantly he began to realize that he would have to sit the rescue out.
It was dark and dusty. Daniel hadn't even seen the rockslide coming until it was very non-figuratively on top of him. Then everything was darkness and dust, and the sounds of rocks coming to rest on top of each other above him. He coughed, each breath he drew making him cough even worse. He could feel the dust irritating his throat, knew it would have his allergies acting up in a minute.
Faint voices reached him, and he tried to answer, but the stone dust made his mouth dry and his lungs felt too small. He was pretty sure no one could hear his cries. The thought woke a small and cowering ounce of panic in his gut, and he had to force himself to not give in to it. They will find me, he told himself. They will find me, they will find me, they will find me, they will find me…
Other sounds started sifting down through the rubble. Stones moving over other stones. More dust sifted down with the sounds, making the air thicker by the moment. Spots danced in front of his eyes. The breaths rasped into his lungs, his air pipe seizing up and shutting out the air. He groped through his pockets, belatedly remembering that his inhaler was in his vest pocket – up on the edge of the pit. Please, please, find me…
Just as the darkness seemed to be getting darker, like the world was slipping away from him, there was a sliver of light shooting into his living tomb. Dust rained down, but the light also brought with it a flood of fresher air. The hole above him widened and for a moment he could see the sky, before it was eclipsed by faces. Hands reached down to him. Voices called. At first he couldn't make out the words, but then he recognized Sam among them.
"Can you move?" she asked.
He nodded, almost reflexively, and tried to push himself up from the ground. He felt heavy, but he knew it was just weakness in his limbs. He reached for the hands and felt them grab on to his arms, pulling him up into the light. They carried him a few feet, and then gently placed him down on the ground. Sam's face appeared in his view and he went to speak, but ended up coughing instead.
"I'll fetch you some water," she said and gave him a pat on the shoulder before she disappeared.
A shuffling noise announced Jack, staggering over to him and nearly collapsing by his side.
"Hi there, buddy," he said, his voice a odd amalgamation of relief, regret and groan of pain.
Daniel gave a chuckle that turned into another coughing fit.
"You look worse than I feel," he managed when it had subsided.
A grin cracked across Jack's black and blue face.
"Yeah? Not all of us can be lucky-Daniel, you know. Do you have nine lives or something?"
Daniel settled for a smile this time. He'd wondered he same thing more than a few times lately, but he had decided not to give it too much thought. He might just jinx his luck.
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