Part of a rescue told from a different point of view. Set during the run-up to Christmas.

Author's Notes: Thanks to my beta Pen, also for the title suggestions and letting me use her passenger lounge idea :)

You're human.

Those were the first two words that came into my head when I saw your face appear at the window. I don't know if I said them out loud - you must have thought me crazy if I did - but it hit me in a strange way nonetheless.

Your figure was dark against the bright Christmas lights outside, but when I did see your face, you looked tired and washed out. I hadn't really thought about how your operatives must feel after long rescues like this one. I see articles in the news about you pulling off a successful rescue time and time again, yet the only thing I think about is 'Hurrah for IR!' Didn't you once undertake a rescue that took nearly sixty hours? A space rescue?

You must have been exhausted.

Before I had a chance to think anything else, you grabbed me around the waist and pulled me from the building. I screamed. I'm sure I did... unless there was another girl with us. I don't think there was. I was on the forty-ninth floor. Surely we would die? But it turned out you were secured, dangling from the big green plane above - the second one, right? So for a moment I felt safe, until I remembered that the only thing holding me up was you.

I needn't have worried. You had a strong grip. You probably train every day, to ensure that if things like this happen, you're prepared. You secured a harness around me anyway, just in case.

You lifted your other arm and spoke into your watch. At first I didn't realize what you were doing. I was scared you'd gone loopy. But then something - someone - replied. They said 'FAB.' What does that mean? Does it just mean fab? Or does it stand for something?

I would have asked if we hadn't been suspended three hundred and fifty feet in the air, dangling by a thin wire that looked like it might snap any moment. Don't look up, I thought, scared that I might panic seeing how far we had to go to get to the big green craft. So I looked down.

"Oh my God."

Somehow you sensed my unease, because you squeezed tighter and reassured me that I was fine, and it would all be over in a couple minutes.

Then I looked again and got the first real glance at your face. God, you're so young. Thirties. Not even a touch of grey in your dark brown hair. Yet your eyes have seen so much more... they're such a deep blue. What horrors have you seen? How does it feel when you fail? How much death do you see?

Your hand with the watch gripped the wire and you let out a breath of air. You glanced over at me and caught me staring at you. I turned away, embarrassed, and you let out a short laugh.

"Are you feeling okay?" you called over the wind, and I nodded dumbly in reply. I was too shocked to say anything. It's not every day one finds themselves hanging from a thin wire in the arms of an IR operative, hundreds of feet above the ground.

I've heard hundreds of theories about International Rescue. Some say you're an underground rescue organization that has been planned since Jesus walked the earth, but has only recently come into practice. Others think you're robots, complete with rubber faces,capable of emotions and working hands. That's why you're always wearing the full-length uniforms: to hide your mechanics. Some crazy fanatics even came up with the idea that you're from outer space and operate from a space station orbiting the earth.

Up close, I had no doubt it was flesh and blood, bones and muscle under that uniform. You looked shattered. We were higher up the wire and closer to the big green plane when I realized you were worried. It was in your eyes.

At first I thought it was because the wire was snapping. It couldn't take the weight of both of us. But it became obvious that it wasn't - it was something less direct, something going on in the background. You looked like you wanted to do something, but you couldn't make up your mind if you should.

Eventually you did. You lifted your watch and spoke again. "How's he doing?" I didn't catch the answer. It was swallowed by a large gust of wind, just as you swallowed something else and cut the connection. You saw me looking and shook your head.

"One of our operatives was injured on the ground. He's the one who usually - " You stopped yourself and turned away. I wasn't sure whether it was because of something you were going through, or because you didn't want me to know that you didn't usually do this job and were less experienced with it. It's okay. I'd trust you with my life, anyway.

Surely you must have back-up for each job? A huge organization like yours must have at least a couple of dozen operatives. Otherwise what would happen when you get two rescues at once? Do you have two of every vehicle? How many bases are there?

I guess there aren't many rescues, though. Well, not that we hear of. So many questions - if only you weren't so secretive. Apparently cameras are disabled by something in the big rocket-like thing. I don't know. I never was fantastic at technology.

Then the office block collapsed. I turned wildly when I heard the first rumblings, and caught a glimpse through my window at my special orange chair descending rapidly out of sight, before it was crushed by the floor above. Oh, God... how many people were down on the ground? Were they all out of the way?

I was screaming wildly, shouting incoherent things, I think. I caught a glimpse of your face and you were trying to get me to calm down. When the block hit the ground, it was so loud it was like I was trying to drown out the sound. I think I might have sworn a bit, and at one point I think one of my flailing arms contacted your face. I'm sorry about that - I think I just had a panicky moment. You probably never panic. You don't look like the panicky type. You grabbed my hands, stopped them moving and looked me in the eye, and you said,

"Calm down. We've got everything under control. We've evacuated everything down there. Nobody will get hurt."

I must have looked puzzled, because you explained. "You were the last one we got out of the building. Ssh, calm down now. It's okay."

When we finally approached the big green plane, I reached out and touched it as we were pulled inside. My fiancÚ would be so jealous. You gave me a bemused look and shook your head.

"It's just metal," you said, as if you thought I believed it was some special material. I knew that. Did you know I knew that, or were you just trying to cheer me up?

"I know."

I like the way you take every effort to ensure your 'rescuees' are as comfortable as possible. You could have easily left us in a small, metal room until we landed, but no - you've thought of everything.

There was a bright blue sofa that I decided to sit on, because I liked the color. Maybe you chose it. There was another lady sitting on it, and she smiled at me. I vaguely recognized her as the woman who works a couple floors under me. There were three other sofas, occupied by others. Why weren't there more of us? An entire office block falling at this time of day -

Ah, this time of day. It's evening. I remember now... I stayed late, trying to finish something. I can't even remember what it was - it hardly seems important anymore.

You made sure I was comfortable and then left, presumably to find out how your colleague was. There was a big logo on the wall. I remember staring at it until we landed. I liked it... a lot. It reminded me of that old song we used to sing in kindergarten... He's got the whole word, in his hands... talking about God, of course. I always loved pictures like that, because they felt safe. You're kind of like God, in a way. You help all these people and never ask for anything in return. Except maybe you're better than God, because God asks for love and you don't ask for anything.

My fiancÚ always tells me that I talk too much when I'm faced with a free minute or two. If you were here with me, I'd probably be saying all this out loud and you'd think I was crazier than you already do.

If things were different, I'd probably have been saying that to everyone else there, but the mood was so somber and serious that I didn't want to break the silence, awkward as it was. No-one said anything for the whole five minutes we were in there together.

When we were back down on the ground, you came back and led us outside. All the others wandered away, after murmuring an acknowledgement to your shoulder. I would have scolded them if I had the courage. I promised myself I'd give you a heartfelt thanks when it was my turn, and look you in the eye when I did. Just before I got the chance, a man came down from the front of your plane and joined you, putting a hand on your shoulder. He was shorter than you and built like a tank, and his hair was a shade lighter. But I was struck by the resemblance between the two of you. You could have been brothers.

"We missed someone," he said to you in a quiet voice, the same voice that had informed us when we were a couple minutes away from landing. I guessed he was the pilot.

I wasn't supposed to hear your conversation, but I did. Everything seemed louder than it was, and his voice reverberated around my head. "Apparently there was someone on the top floor."

You sighed and rubbed your hands over your face. In your eyes, you'd failed. You'd let someone die, and that wasn't acceptable. I wish I could have told you that you'd saved dozens of others, and that was all that mattered, but the words wouldn't come. The other guy put a hand on your shoulder and looked you in the eye. "It wasn't your fault. Don't you dare go blaming yourself, OK?" I was glad someone was able to reassure you.

He told you that you needed something to eat. You shook your head before he'd even finished the sentence and insisted you were fine, but it didn't take a genius to work out that you weren't. The other guy thought so too.

"Go and eat something. Now."

"In a minute. I need to make sure she's okay." Make sure who was okay? There was nobody else within a fifty meter radius of us.

"I'll deal with it. Now go." You sighed and rubbed a hand across your face. I could understand. Rescues like this must put enormous pressure on you.

"FAB." It was that phrase again... FAB. I guess I'll never know what it means. He pushed you back into the green plane with a no-nonsense look on his face and turned to me. I couldn't believe this was happening. It felt surreal. I should have been upstairs in my office, dreaming about our wedding and pretending to work when my boss came near. Things like this don't happen to normal people like me. I should have been skirting through sites on the Internet, looking at possible transportations to and from the wedding. I'd like to go in a Thunderbird... I'd feel safe... you wouldn't let anything happen...

"Are you okay, ma'am?"

"I'm fine." I should have thanked you there and then. I should have asked the man to thank you for me, even if I couldn't say it to your face. But the words wouldn't come. My voice sounded strange to my ears - it was hesitant, and not like me at all.

"Any injuries?"

I shook my head, too stunned by - everything - to reply. He really does look like you. He looked just as worried and his frown lines were exactly the same shape.

I could never work in an organization like this with my brothers and sister. We'd just fight and make up constantly. It'd drive everyone else mad. I wondered if they were okay... they must have been worried sick. Theyhad all arrived that day to stay for Christmas.

He turned and went back inside the plane; presumably to make sure you were doing what he told you to. I don't know how long I stared at the green bug afterwards. I don't know why, or what I was looking for. If it wasn't for the genius who created these, then I wouldn't be here today.

There was a floodlight to the left, highlighting the nose of the craft, outlining it and making it look bigger. There isn't usually a floodlight there, and I wondered where it came from. Was it yours? I was glad it was here. All the Christmas lights had gone off and everything else was dark. Even the street lamps had turned off.

The contrast between the light and the darkness seemed to swell and blow out of proportion, and there were weird shadows everywhere. Everything was twisting, and creating impossible shapes. The craft got bigger and filled my vision. Strange shapes wondered around me, making no sense, and I was scared... so I stared at the big plane. It was usually green, but it looked black because of the floodlight next to it. The light was catching something on the side of the craft, causing it to glint... and the outline to shine white out of the gloom.

There were markings that I was staring right at. Big, white letters. Words.

Thunderbird 2. Bold, unafraid letters. Letters that meant business.

Your face flashed back intomy mind. Your worried eyes, trying to concentrate on the job when one of your colleagues was injured. How hard that must have been. Is he okay? Do you know yet?

Are you close to him, too?

I was scared. Suddenly my mind was overwhelmed with everything. I was confused... was it over? What was going on? We were swinging in the air, with nothing below us. Nothing. Your arm was around my waist, feeling like it was the only thing stopping me from falling to my death. My death... a fall of over 300 feet.

I don't want to die. Don't let me go... please. If you do, I'll fall, and there won't be anything to stop me. It'll just be me and the thin air. The air's too thin to support my weight. I'll fall, I'll keep falling... the lights will get bigger until they're right in my face and then I won't... I won't see anything, I'll stop feeling, except there might be pain, or something... I don't know... just don't let me go.

Thunderbird 2. The big green plane that was carrying us and saving us. Did it get to us in time? I couldn't remember. Where was I? Where were you? Why weren't you with me? Why couldn't I see your face anymore, or feel your arm? Was I falling? I don't want to die. I'm too young. I'm engaged, my fiancÚ will be devastated... who'll pick up my body?

I tried to breath but the air was full of smoke. It was all around me, and I couldn't see properly. I breathed harder, trying to get oxygen, but my breaths got shallower and shallower and it didn't matter anymore... I was going to die...

There was something under my feet. I didn't understand. I could hear voices, but I couldn't understand what they were saying. Someone put their hands on my shoulders and pushed gently, and somehow my feet corresponded and moved with them. I wasn't doing anything. I was falling. Surely. You were falling with me. I could see your face and you were worried. You were going to die too, and you wouldn't have to do the winch job anymore. It was your hands on my shoulders. Your mouth was moving and you were trying to say something, but no words were coming out. You weren't surprised... or scared. Why weren't you scared? Are you used to dying?

Your face disappeared and was replaced with another face, an older face. I must have been dreaming.

It was dark. I felt like I was climbing out of a black pool of darkness, reaching for a light just above me. I didn't feel any pain. Is this death? My hands were down by my sides. I should have been swimming, reaching for the light, but my hands weren't listening to me. I tried to force them to move, but only my middle finger heard and twitched a bit. My legs wouldn't move either. They were up against each other; I could feel each one against the other. The green of your uniform drifted about in the light above , moving from left to right and back again.

"Hey there," you said, but your voice was gruffer, older. The green moved down and I saw your face - but it was different. Your hair wasn't the same color. Your eyes were different and there were more lines on your face - oh no, did your colleague die?

Your uniform wasn't green.

Then I blinked and saw it actually wasn't you. It was a paramedic. He was in his forties, at least. Where are you?

"What did you say?" I didn't realize I'd said that out loud. The paramedic helped me to sit up and I shook my head to try and clear some of the nausea.

"What happened?" My voice sounded different. It wasn't mine... it was too loud. It was someone else's voice.

"Ssh, it's okay. Calm down. You went into shock."

Shock. Shock. Shock. The word echoed around my head and gave me a headache. I didn't want to be ill. I wanted to go outside and see you again. This place was too small. I realized it was an ambulance, and I was the only person inside it. Except for the paramedic.

I wanted to go outside and see the office block. Did it fall in the end, or did you manage to save it? Then I remembered hearing it crash behind me when you picked me up. It fell down and the cloud came up.

"I'm not thinking straight," I said to the paramedic. He gave me a funny look - like the one you gave me when I touched the big green plane. Thunderbird Two.

"Do you want to get some fresh air?" I nodded and he took me by the elbow and led me outside. I felt like a small child. When I saw the heap of rubble that used to be my work place and the fallen Christmas lights that weren't lit up anymore, I wanted to cry. I took deep breaths, but the air smelt like smoke and I was scared. The paramedic gave me an oxygen mask and I was so grateful I could have hugged him.

"I couldn't breathe," I said. He had his hand on my arm, supporting me.

"I know. You were hyperventilating."

I looked at him and saw that he was looking at me. He was trying to decide if I was still in shock - I guess I wasn't making much sense.

Everything around me had changed, I saw. The floodlights shone bright columns into the sky and lit up everything below, making the sky harder to see. Beyond the bright lights, it looked dark. Much darker than it had been. There were more people milling around, to help clear up. I wanted to help. If there was anything I could do, that was it. A truck was arriving and its orange flashing lights reminded me that it was nearly Christmas.

I looked to the left of the office block to see if you were anywhere near Thunderbird Two.

It was gone.

"Where are they?"

"They left half an hour ago, ma'am. You were out for quite a while." You've left already? I wanted to say goodbye. I never even got to thank you. How do you carry on if people don't thank you? I wanted to thank whoever had been flying Thunderbird Two with such skill - was it the second man I'd seen? I wanted to thank you, for holding me and making sure I didn't fall and ensuring I'd live to see my wedding day and get to live with my husband.

By Christmas I'll be married... thanks to you. I hope you have a brilliant Christmas. You deserve it.

I couldn't see the sky, but I was sure I would have been able to hear you if you were still nearby. A craft the size of yours couldn't be quiet. There was no sign of you - of course there wouldn't have been. Your planes are really fast. You were on your way back home. To your base - underground, outer space... wherever. Somewhere you can get some sleep and your colleague gets better. I hope he's okay now - I never even found out what happened.

How many people like me do you deal with every time? How many people go through the same thought processes as I did, and wish they could go home with you, just to catch a glimpse of what your base is?

And how many times do you have to face death and failure, and be accused on the news the next day of not being good enough? You try your best. I, for one, can vouch for that.

I hope you get a good meal and a long night's sleep. I hope for your sake you don't get another call out for a few days.

But sometimes people forget your fundamental flaw, and that makes the failures so much harder. You guys are normal - you're just like the rest of us. You try to make the world a better place, but sometimes even your best effort is just not good enough. It's not your fault. What you do is fantastic for who you are.

You're human.

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