Scene inspired by an episode of Casualty.
While discussing this with Sue, we decided to write it from each of the lads' perspectives.
As Adamson threw himself backwards out of the line of fire I fired. Even as my shot spun the gunman I heard a loud ominous crack and watched in horror as the gantry railing gave away behind Adamson. I lunged forward to try and grab him, knowing I was too far away.
He hit the edge of a crate below, tumbled off to the ground and was still.
"Rick!" Haring for the stairs behind me I fumbled automatically for the R/T to summon help before remembering I'd dropped it soon after this fiasco started. It took me precious seconds to find my path through the triple-stacked crates until I could see Adamson's motionless body twisted in an impossible fashion, eyes open and staring.
Staring at me - and incredibly, conscious and blinking.
"Rick?" I crouched beside him. He groaned and attempted to lift himself to his elbows. "No, stay still. Don't make things worse."
There was silence as he twisted to focus on the impossible angle of his lower body. "Can't feel my legs..."
"I'm going to get help."
I paused as he gripped my arm. Adamson had broken his back; a few minutes wouldn't hurt. He knew it, could see the truth in my face.
"No point, Bodie."
"Every point," I responded quickly. "You're not dead yet."
"Might as well be..." His eyes held mine. "Can't walk away from this one," he added mirthlessly when I didn't respond.
I tried again to rise. "You need an ambulance."
His grip tightened on my arm. "What I need is a way out of this. I'm not living the rest of my life as a cripple."
"You don't know..."
"I do, and so do you. You have to help me, Bodie."
I had more respect for him than to wilfully misunderstand or try to utter pointless platitudes. But what he was asking me to do...
I shook my head. "I can't."
"You'd put an animal out of its misery. You'd probably even put an enemy out of theirs. Why not me?"
It was different; he had to know that. I could see the desperation in his eyes and just for a moment thought about how I'd feel if our positions were reversed. I couldn't go on living like that.
But I shook my head again.
He swore. "I thought you were the one without a conscience. Didn't realise you were too much of a coward to help a mate..."
I'd have done it without a second thought years ago; but now my partner was my conscience. "Rick..."
"Oh, sod off and get the ambulance." Releasing my arm at last, he focused now on his gun which had dropped to the ground just a few feet away. "I can manage."
I straightened up. Could I let him do it?
His feeble attempt to drag his body forward ended quickly as he slumped forward. That few feet might as well be a mile to Adamson; I could leave him but he wouldn't make it by the time I returned with help.
Decision made, I fetched the weapon, and laid it into his open palm. There was no further need of words as I stood up and began to walk away, not looking back, beginning to run. I couldn't possibly get far enough away in the time but I didn't want to hear that shot...
Bursting out of the warehouse I ran straight into Doyle and Cowley. "Bodie! Where have you been?"
"I was with Adamson. He's hurt - seriously hurt, we need an ambulance."
I jumped along with them at the sound of the shot, feeling my stomach heave. I'd given Rick the choice, made it possible...
Then I had to run back to him, to show the others where he was, but I couldn't approach his body. The waves of nausea seemed to be affecting my hearing; I could see Doyle and Cowley talking but couldn't hear a sound. Not that I needed to hear to know what Doyle was thinking as he stood up from Adamson's body, and I forced myself to walk forward, their voices becoming clearer.
"His spine was obviously broken," Cowley was saying, as he turned to glance at me.
"He said he couldn't feel his legs," I stuttered out.
"So you left him, with his gun in reach..." Doyle's stare was accusing.
"I didn't think..." My stomach was beginning to heave in earnest now; this was bad enough without having to defend myself to my partner.
"It's probably for the best," Cowley murmured. "I'll organise the coroner." He squeezed my shoulder as he passed.
"For the best?" Doyle repeated as he watched Cowley leave. "Will Rick's family see it like that?"
I began to get angry. What would Doyle have done?
"Even if he'd made it, he would have spent his life in a wheelchair. If it ever happens to me, I hope you're nowhere near me, if you wouldn't..." The emotion in my voice got through to Ray and he flinched, muttering.
"Life is precious."
"That wouldn't have been a life," I snapped back, turning quickly away. I needed some fresh air.
It wasn't the first time I'd had to leave a colleague like I left Rick. The SAS doesn't have time for niceties; in battle or covert situations anyone who fell was on their own. You called it in if you could, and moved on. If there was time you made sure they had a way out - better dead by their own hand than taken by an enemy.
If Doyle thought I'd found it easy...
He found me at the car a short while later. "Sorry, mate."
I shrugged. "It was Rick's decision."
I could see a question hovering but after a few moments Doyle merely nodded. Whether he thought he knew the answer, or didn't want to know the answer I wasn't sure. Whichever, I was relieved. Because if Doyle had asked me straight out about the gun, I wouldn't have lied to him.
"Cowley's stood us down. Let's find a pub before we head in to do the report."
I shook my head as I started the car. "Let's get the report out of the way first. Then we'll go down to the Red Lion with the rest of the team to see Rick off properly."
I'd do what was expected: go with the lads for the warm-down. Later, when I was alone, I would deal with the guilt.