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Time Bombs On Fault Lines

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His finger must have slipped on the trigger, because there's a bang that resonates through the room that could only be a bullet. He curses his clumsiness, his shaking hand, because he hadn't been ready. Hadn't thought of Holly in the last moment. Hadn't even thought of Sian.

But then, no. He's still thinking, still breathing. Oh, yes. He's still alive, isn't he? He can still hear his breathing, loud and stuttered and gasping, in his own head.

Where is he? A rushing in his head, a trembling, and everything is blurred. Maybe he had pulled the trigger after all, and his brains are splattered across the wall behind his body and this is where he ends up. This panic, this confusion, this purgatory where fathers go, fathers who can't even think of their twice-orphaned little girls in the last split seconds before bullets penetrate.

Through the fog, there's a voice.

"...atheson! Matheson! Take the fucking gun out of your mouth! James!"

That startles him, the name he recognizes as his. He opens his eyes, blearily; they almost work. Hands then, cool and trembling, taking the gun out of his mouth. The click of the safety being flipped on.



His eyes work now, damn them, wild and searching. The door's swung open - must have been the bang, then - and he's huddled on the floor, gun useless in his lap. And Lyndon, already away from him, standing, leaning over the table. It comes back: the deal is off.

"You killed her!" is what finally pushes past his lips, strangled and desperate. It wasn't supposed to end like this. He was supposed to save her, his little girl, his life for hers. CJ wasn't supposed to take that from him. That wasn't her right.

There's still a fog, a loud rushing in his head. He hauls to his feet, stumbling, clutching the gun again, metal cold and heavy in his palm. "You killed her," he snarls again at her, at Lyndon, his betrayer. (The other sound, he doesn't know where that's coming from. A dry sobbing. It's so loud he can feel it in his chest.)

She turns and grabs his arm, pulling him, pointing, his name again, a chant, a plea. The sneer on Boylan's face mocks him, and he can't look, won't-

There's a countdown, run out, and an empty chair on the laptop screen. He blinks, once, twice, and the rushing in his head and the blurring in his eyes doesn't let him comprehend at first. When he sees the open door in the background, finally, he turns. His stomach heaves and he vomits over the concrete floor until he's empty.

"You sick fuck." He comes up, wiping his mouth with the back of the hand that's still clutching his gun. "You fucking sick bastard." He spits the words into Boylan's face, and misses the vague look of disappointment there. "You were never going to kill her." His stomach rolls again, but there's nothing left.

"It was a fun game, though."

His head, rushing again; his vision, narrowed to a pinpoint. Lyndon's hand, a warning, on his forearm. He wrenches away from her.


There's no question now: his finger never slipped on the trigger.

There's a bang that resonates through the room that could only be a bullet. Blood and brain on the wall opposite, and Boylan is slumped, the smirk finally wiped from his face. Matheson places the gun on the table in front of him and the rushing in his head is quiet, at last.

He thinks of Holly and Sian the whole time.