Exhale, All Empty

by Jane Davitt

Air. Up there, out there, the world's full of it. Ray remembers all those breaths he took, ungratefully indifferent, taking the air for granted, my God, like the world's biggest jerk. Breathing in, breathing out, not even noticing -- so goddamned ungrateful. (Except he's not sure who he'd send the thank you letter to.)

And now he's here, water and steel pressing coffin-close and there's no room for air, no room for anything (no room for him), and he can see the bubbles spurt from his lips, going, going, gone, and he's wasting it, that air (even though it's dead air, empty air, now, stripped bare of oxygen, he still wants to keep it, as much as he's yearning to exhale), he's letting it go.

Then Fraser's lips find his, chase them when he jerks back (stupid, he's so fucking stupid sometimes), part them, and he feels, oh, God, he tastes it, air, oxygen, life measured in a few more seconds, a handful of heartbeats, flowing from Fraser into him.

And he's got someone to say thank you to, now, but it's all mixed up and shit, because Fraser's mouth -- on his -- his mouth, and it's the mouth he'd struck not so long ago (feels like forever, that slow-motion blow). Fraser's hand had come up, his thumb stroking the sore place, right in the corner, a testing, thoughtful stroke, and Ray recalls wanting to hit him again as intensely as he wanted to taste that place his knuckles had torn open, taste Fraser's blood.

Fraser's breath is in him now. He's breathing it. They're linked, they're joined.

Still partners.

He kicks out wildly and calls it swimming, kicks out and follows Fraser to where there's air for them to breathe and no need to share.

(He wants Fraser's mouth on his a different way. Yeah, he's ungrateful.)

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