A Waiting Pause

by Jane Davitt

It takes five seconds for the echo of the explosion to fade from Jim's ears.

Five heartbeats maintaining a body in shock, resonating to a single screamed word Jim can't allow to escape his lips, so it fills his head, hurting him because it doesn't fit, there isn't room.

(Five steps to the window.)

Five fast blinks from the man he's holding close, face twisted in a sick triumph turning to fear as he reads Jim's intent.

(The window. Five steps away.)

Five seconds to contemplate the certainty that Blair is dead, to picture a body Jim's memory of similar deaths supplies a bloody template for, to match against his last sight of Blair in the flesh, sleepily smiling at breakfast, his hair wild, rumpled, scratching idly at his ribs as the kettle boils.

(They were struggling. Fighting. Accidents happen.)

Five seconds to regret so fucking much.

(No one would blame him. Hell, no one would know.)

His hand. Four fingers, one thumb, squeezing, digging into skin, hurting, bruising, but it's not enough pain.

One step. Two. Terror shining in wide-open eyes. Three, four. Babbling, begging, promising the world, when the man's got nothing to offer because the only person Jim cares about right then is lost to him.

His muscles flex, anticipating the smooth shove they'll perform, forceful, final, and he wonders how long the fall will take, how long until this body dies, bones cracked, flesh split, blood pouring.

Five seconds? Blair had known death was coming for much longer than that.

The glass, sharp splinters waiting to be set free from the smooth pane, is right there.

Then he hears Blair's voice.

"Man, oh God, we're alive, are we alive? Is everyone okay? Talk to me, people, are we good here? Did you see that flame? God, I thought we were dead. I really thought that we were -- Hey! Is anyone out there? Is anyone listening? Get us out of here! We're alive!"

Jim closes his eyes and hears Blair's final words, whispered, not yelled, confident, exultant, trusting him to do the right thing.

"Jim? Come and get me."

(He wouldn't have let himself fall with Rachins. He wouldn't.)

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