xv. Ocelot

I gave him ten minutes after I heard the door close behind him. They were the longest ten minutes I could remember spending in ages. Leaning against the railing at the top of the stairs, watching the door, I tried to tell my mind to stop going over all the things that could be happening in there. It was like trying not to think about a zebra—impossible, in other words. I couldn't shake the irrational feeling that I had seen Winterhawk alive for the last time.

I couldn't have told him that was my worry, of course. On the one hand, I didn't want to insult him by accusing him of something so drastic, but on the other hand, I was scared of giving him ideas. I'd known 'Hawk for several years now, worked with him in the team for all that time, and I still didn't know what made him tick. I'd never seen him this distraught before. In fact, he usually made it a point to cover up any possible emotion with caustic wit, nasty sarcasm, or that quirky British sense of humor of his. That was what I was used to, and I could deal with it. I wasn't exactly a sob sister myself, so it was okay with me that my teammates weren't either. It wasn't like any of us were exactly sane, after all.

I'd never actually seen Winterhawk under stress, at least non-work-related stress. I had no idea how he would react to it. It wasn't every day that a guy was called upon to kill his own son, even if it was by all accounts the most humane possible thing to do. Would he snap? If I had told him I was hanging around because I was afraid he'd kill himself, and it hadn't occurred to him that that was an option, what then?

Ten minutes was all I could stand. If he hadn't said his goodbyes to Nigel by then, I could apologize and we'd go from there, but I wasn't going to take the chance. Quietly, but not so quietly I wouldn't be heard, I opened the door and entered the room.

I froze at what I saw.

The room was utterly quiet. Nigel was there in the bed, lying on his back, his eyes closed, looking pale and peaceful. Winterhawk half-sat, half-lay stretched out across his body, his arms out in front of him, his head buried in the boy's chest. Neither of them moved.

I stood there, horrified that I was too late, focusing my attention on my friend's still form. A second before I was going to run over there, grab him up and try to see if I could somehow still save him, I saw his shoulders rise and fall slightly with his breathing. I let out my own breath, my whole posture slouching in relief. I moved over near the bed. "'Hawk?" I said softly.

"Go away." His ragged voice came from the depths of Nigel's covers; he did not move his head.

"Come on, 'Hawk," I said in that same quiet, persuasive tone. "You should go now. Nigel's okay now...you need to rest."

"I said, go away," he said again, with effort. He still didn't move. "Leave me alone."

I waited a few more moments in silence, to see if he would say anything else. He didn't. I couldn't force him to come with me. Without speaking again, I left the room to find the only other person who might be able to get through to him.

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