Actions

Work Header

No Air

Work Text:

Tell me how I'm supposed to breathe with no air
Can't live, can't breathe with no air
It's how I feel whenever you ain't there
It's no air, no air

Two Years Before the Blackout

Bass can't breathe. He's not sure he wants to. In fact, he's pretty certain that he doesn't, but his lungs simply haven't gotten the message. They burn, desperate to pull in oxygen through the tears that have distorted everything he sees. All he can taste is salt-water, like he's drowning in the ocean. (How's that for irony, Marine?)

The gun is cold in his hand, as cold as the ice running in his veins, chilling him from the inside out. The whiskey burns as it runs down his throat, salty and sweet. He chokes on it the first couple of swallows, coughing and shivering against the cold. Just another sip, another ounce of courage, and it won't have to hurt anymore. A breath, a squeeze, and it can all be over.

No more pain. No more loss. No more sense of nothingness.

Lights hit him, two beams illuminating the mounds of dirt, clumps of flowers, shining through where markers should be, but he hasn't picked them out yet. There's one too few, after all. A stupid question in the night (Miles shouldn't be so stupid); he shouldn't have to explain. That command, the one he follows everywhere, but he stays where he is.

The words slip and slide from his lips like jagged pieces of a shattered windshield. It should have been him. Figured he'd be dead by now. High-risk gig. The impossibility. The irony. And there isn't any answer that comes.

"How do you square that?"

"You don't. I mean, I don't know."

The first answer was the better one.

"It shoulda been me."

The whiskey bottle's gone, and he clutches the gun a little tighter and the words of the realization he hasn't wanted to admit aloud come spilling out.

"I got nothing left. I got nothing..."

"Well, you got me."

Bass chokes back a laugh, wants to ask just how much so, but the words won't come and Miles goes on.

"I mean what would I be without you? We've been brothers our whole lives, since we were kids."

Bass lets that sink in, holds on to it, clings to it.

"Bass, give me the gun. Before you do something stupid."

A moment, a breath he can finally take, and he lets go of the cold in favor of Miles' hand.

* * *

Three Years After the Blackout

Bass can't breathe. He's not sure he wants to. In fact, he's pretty certain that he doesn't, but his lungs simply haven't gotten the message. They burn, desperate to pull in oxygen through the tears that have distorted everything he sees. All he can taste is salt-water, like he's drowning in the ocean. (How's that for irony, Marine?)

The blood is hot, flowing impossibly forever, refusing to stop, even when the screams do. But it coats his hands and feels like ice and he cannot stay there where life just was and isn't anymore. The light hits him, the sun illuminating the stretch of dirt tiny feet were supposed to mark up, carry everywhere, but will soon be shoveled into two more mounds. No headstones. There's one body too few, after all.

When he falls, strong arms catch him, wrap around him, hold him tight, close. Familiar. Forgotten. Forsaken. There are no words, just echoes.

"How do you square that?"

"You don't. I mean, I don't know."

He knows the truth, though. His fault. He did this to her.

"It shoulda been me."

Another echo, but one that pulses, pushes in his ears as he gathers some of their men. The gun is cold in his hand, as cold as the ice running in his veins, chilling him from the inside out.

The other camp has guns, too. A line of fire, a breath, a squeeze, and it can all be over.

No more pain. No more loss. No more sense of nothingness.

The blood is hot, flowing impossibly forever, refusing to stop, even when the screams do. Success feels like failure, as he finds himself back by that bare patch of dirt, jovial men all around. The whiskey burns as it runs down his throat, no tears to cut through, but still salty and sweet. A breeze that feels warm compared to him flutters through with the lift of the tent flap.

"We did what you wanted."

It's there again. A stupid question in the night (Miles shouldn't be so stupid); the fire and ice try to choke him, but he cages them away, gives Miles the answer he knows he doesn't want.

"Who asked you to kill anybody?"

"Who asks for anything, Miles? Bad things, they just happen."

It's a moment, a flicker, a look he can't decipher, but it plunges into his heart like the bullets wouldn't. When he stumbles out, later, he's freezing and his hand's wrapped around the cold steel again. He sways to a stop in front of their tent (his tent) and tightens his grip.

The step behind him doesn't make him turn from his course until a strong hand pulls him back, away, toward the warmth of another tent. For a moment, he resists, but the hand slides down, covers his own, and a familiar heat holds steady at his back, waiting. Still there, always there.

"You've got me."

He's not sure if there are words, or just another echo.

"Bass, give me the gun. Before you do something stupid."

A moment, a breath he can finally take, and he lets go of the cold in favor of Miles' hand.

* * *

Eleven Years After the Blackout

The gun is cold at his temple, as cold as the ice running in his veins, chilling him from the inside out.

His eyes widen, stare up the length of the arm (warm hands, warm heart, but everything's cold tonight). He doesn't say anything. The words of concern that were rising to his lips die somewhere between his heart and the air.

Even through the shock, he almost wills it, the sense of rightness, finally. A breath, a squeeze, and it can all be over.

No more pain. No more loss. No more sense of nothingness.

He won't close his eyes. He knows what he wants to see as he leaves this world, and it's right in front of him.

And then it's gone.

Bass can't breathe. He's not sure he wants to. In fact, he's pretty certain that he doesn't, but his lungs simply haven't gotten the message. They burn, desperate to pull in oxygen through the tears that have distorted everything he sees. All he can taste is salt-water, like he's drowning in the ocean. (How's that for irony, Marine?)

The whiskey burns as it runs down his throat, salty and sweet. He chokes on it the first couple of swallows, coughing and shivering against the cold the blaze in the fireplace cannot seem to dispel. He's had a lot of it. Disappointment turns to hurt then to bewilderment and a touch of anger. But mostly betrayal.

"Miles paid me a visit, and he put a gun to my head."

It's good, helpful, to see someone else barely believes it, either. He was afraid he was going crazy. Hallucinating--not the gun, not the man, but that it couldn't be real. That somehow he'd made it all up in his head, that they were friends. More. That's good then.

"You know, after everything I've done, I would've put money on someone coming for my head."

There have been nights, many of them, when he's alone in the dark (and it counts as alone when the wrong person is beside you) that he's wished someone would.

"Just...not Miles."

A stupid question in the night (Miles wouldn't have been so stupid).

"He stopped himself. You know Miles--he's a little sentimental."

How is he talking when he can't pull in oxygen? Right. Tom. Can't show weakness to him. Though, maybe, if he does, the other man will finish what Miles started.

"You know, the worst part is, there's a part of me that wishes he had pulled the trigger."

No, the worst part was that he hadn't, wouldn't even put Bass out of his misery, after stopping him doing it for himself so many times.

"What am I supposed to do now, Tom?"

Too plaintive, too lost, not something to say unless he wants the man to pick up the gun. (Does he want the man to pick up the gun?)

So, pragmatic, Tom. So ambitious. (How dare he insult Miles?) Bass bites back the defense. Just another sip, another ounce of courage. The gun is cold in his hand, as cold as the ice in running in his veins. Most people try and save their lives. (Be a threat to be removed.)

It's an extension of his hand now, heavy and unwanted, but up and down, banging on things for emphasis, waving toward his own temple, a question, a test.

"You can trust me, sir."

Does he think Bass is stupid? (He can't trust anyone except Miles.)

He's alone again, the weight still in his hand. Moving back to his desk, he sits on the edge, pouring another glass of whiskey. Just another sip, another ounce of courage, and it won't have to hurt anymore.

"I got nothing left. I got nothing..."

No words. No echo. No moment. No breath.

No warm hand to let go of the cold for.

(The gun and ice will have to do.)