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Simon‘s lungs burn as he runs through the forest, winter boots slipping on the frozen ground.

He hopes with all of his heart that he doesn’t fall down, because he’s not sure if he’d be able to stand up again.

The pain where the bullet hit him is still manageable, but he’s sure that it won’t stay that way for long. Shock is a great thing when you have to get away as fast as possible from someone with a rifle who’s shooting at cell towers, but not so great if you have to figure out how to get help when you’re alone in the middle of a forest.

He slides around a fallen tree, panting and coughing, his breath a white fog in front of his face. He feels as if he’s starting to boil alive in his thick jacket, but taking it off is a very bad idea. He’s at least conscious enough to acknowledge that.

Another shot cracks through the woods, and he gives his best to run even faster, until he’s wheezing and his sides are screaming together with his lungs and shoulder.

God. He’s never been shot at before. It feels worse than an asthma attack or the time he broke three of his fingers when he closed the car door too quickly.

He grabs for his inhaler in the pocket of his jacket, just to go sure that it hasn’t fallen out, and almost brakes his run with his face on the ground because he took the wrong arm to check. Fuck.

On a lighter note, he seems to have lost the shooter.

On a less lighter note, he’s starting to get dizzy.

He almost collides with a few trees that seem to jump in front of him because that one certainly wasn’t there just a moment ago, and because his brain wants to see him suffer today, it starts to produce some nice little panic hormones or whatever when he asks himself if he’s running in circles.

Maybe he didn’t lose the shooter. He’s just waiting off the side, amused by Simon helplessly running in circles in front of him.

This is, of course, the point where his lungs have enough. With a loud wheeze, feeling as if the icy air becomes water around him, and he’s 700 feet below it, water pressure denting his breathing apparatus, Simon comes to a halt, holding his hurt shoulder still this time and reaching into his pocket with the other hand. The inhaler comes out and is set to his lips. One breath, and… there we go. The air gets flowing again, still feeling sharp, but it arrives where it’s supposed to, and just like that he can distinguish trees from not-trees again.

And back there, behind that oak tree -

“Oh, thank God,” he gasps, pain momentarily forgotten at the sight of his wonderful, beautiful little car parked just a few feet away.

He wraps a plastic bag around his arm as soon as he is safe and inside the car, to stem the bleeding and also to not bleed on the seats, and that is the moment his body decides that it’s not in the mood for consciousness anymore.

It’s blood loss but probably also just plain exhaustion. Either way, Simon passes out for a few seconds and comes back around when his face collides with the car horn. The loud honk almost makes him pass out again from the shock, but he clings to wakefulness and shoves the key into the ignition and tears ass away from the woods, towards the nearest hospital.

He thinks about calling Carla, but he needs all of his concentration to hold his head up and not drive against a streetlight, so he postpones it until later, no matter how guilty he feels about it.

His arrival at the hospital is his last coherent memory, anything after it is a blur, except for a few fragments of conversations with various nurses and doctors.

“Sir, you’re going to be okay. You’re not going to die.”

He’s vaguely aware that he’s making a scene. Embarrassment courses through him.

“No, Sir, you’re not an inconvenience. Please don’t stand up… No, you’re wasting no one’s time, this is our job, we're getting payed for this, Sir.”

Well, if they insist. The room starts to take on a weirdly muted hue, as if he’s looking through a fogged lens. It scares him.

“No, you’re not dying, it’s just a sedative, Sir. You’re in shock.”

It still sucks, though.

The nurse that moves around somewhere to his right gives a breath that kind of sounds like a laugh. Did he say something funny?

“Can we call anyone for you?”

That question sets his brain back into gear, at least for a moment. He can even hear his own voice again.

“Yeah, please call my wife…”

A gentle hand wipes at his face with a paper towel. He notices that he’s crying.

“Everything will be just fine,” the nurse soothes him, nodding at another nurse at the door. “We’ll fix you right up in just a minute, and then you can go home with your wife.”

That sounds nice. He probably won’t be able to help Carla chop wood, but she’s way better at that than him, anyway.

“No chopping wood for a few weeks,” the nurse says sternly.

He’s not surprised. Carla will surely understand.

“Of course she will, Sir.”

Yeah. Of course she will.

He leans back on the hospital bed, the voice of the nice nurse explaining that he will get sedated some more while they stitch his wound, and then his wife will be there to wake him up.

“That sounds great.”

Was that his own voice? Whatever. There are no trees here, and no cell tower-murdering riflemen, so it’s okay.

He gives in to the drowsiness without a fight.