"Don't let me fall!" God, that sounded so needy, but I couldn't help it. Oh, man. This was just so not good, so very, very not good.
"I've got you, Chief. I've got you." The words were strained, coming on the panting exhalation as Jim refused to let go of my wrist. A chill wind whipped around me, snapping the folds of my coat against my sides. Don't look down. Don't look down. No matter how much you tell yourself that though, you always look down.
The ground was far below me, cars and people mere dots on the pavement. A small crowd was forming below, no doubt drawn to the horrific sight of a person dangling from the top of a fifteen-story building. They were probably wondering if I was a jumper. Like hell. If I were going to off myself, I wouldn't do it this way. Oh, man. God, that's far down. I looked past Jim's rigid arms, up to his face, twisted in concentration. He wasn't going to let go. I was going to be fine. Everything was going to be fine.
"This *really* sucks, Jim!" I managed to squeeze out of my burning lungs. The strain on my arms was moving down to my ribs, the muscles pulled beyond limits. My shoulder was probably dislocated from the jerk and I was pretty sure my wrist was broken. There really wasn't much doubt about that, what with the burning fire that radiated down to my elbow. Jim hadn't too worried about one or two broken bone when he lunged to grab me as I went over the edge; he was a bit more concerned with a whole broken body.
It had all happened so fast. We had been chasing this hired goon up to the roof of this apartment building. He tackled me from behind and I got knocked off balance. I fell, Jim grabbed me and managed to shoot the guy *with his left hand*. He then proceeded to drop the gun and grab my arm with his other hand too. It wouldn't have been really cool if I hadn't been staring down, seeing my immediate future as the newest flavour at the nearest International House of Pancake.
They say fear makes you either incredibly calm, or hysterical. I think I'll settle for slightly amused.
Jim couldn't pull me up by himself. I was hanging too far down. So we were frozen in this tableau, me hanging about, Jim sprawled half off the top of the building, waiting for help. Help that was taking too damn long. I glanced down, wondering where the hell the fire trucks with the nice big airbag were. My heart pounded as Jim's grip slipped. My skin was cold and clammy, his palms were sweaty. With a jerk, he readjusted his grip, holding on to the sleeve of my jacket rather than my slippery wrist. The cloth bit into my arm, but it was the last thing on my mind, quite frankly.
I looked back at Jim and noticed he was looking at something on the roof.
"Jim?" I grated out between clenched teeth, willing myself not to pass out. "What's going on?"
"Someone's coming," he said .
"Oh. Well. That's good." Thing is, Jim didn't look happy. In fact he looked so incredibly *not* happy that I had a feeling the whole situation -- which I didn't think could get worse -- was going to get worse. Much worse. "That's good, right? Jim?"
"It's Markenson's other man."
Well, shit. Did I forget to mention that there were two men, only one of which we managed to find and chase up here? The other guy gave us the slip. And we were now sitting ducks. Jim couldn't let go and retrieve his gun, which meant he was defenceless.
This was not good.
They say that your life flashes before your eyes when you're about to die. Either I hadn't had much of a life, or it was on fast-forward, and all I got were the squiggly lines. As it was, the decision became clear. Simply obvious. Jim wouldn't let me fall, stubborn idiot that was. He wouldn't. And that meant the onus was on me. I had to save Jim. A Guide's work is never done. It would have been simpler, easier, if he would have simply nodded, and let go. But he didn't. His hands tightened even tighter as he read my intent in my eyes.
"You never let me fall, Jim," I whispered, knowing that he could hear me. "Never."
It was incredibly easy. I had never made an easier decision in my life. It was even easier than getting up in front of everyone and denying my life's work, which I didn't think I'd ever top. But this, this was as natural as breathing.
I smiled, and his own lips quirked up a little, the oddest juxtaposition to the incredibly deep pain in his eyes. May he never have to feel that again. The jacket slipped off and I was free. Air whistling in my ears, a shout of pain muffled by the rushing wind, and I remember the vivid sight of a white dove, spiralling upward toward the sliver of pale blue sky. Pure light, pure peace, pure sacrifice.