A Fighting Chance
He could pin-point the exact moment in time when he had walked away. Given up. Stopped.
He could tell you in graphic technicolor, surround-sound quality, every detail about the moment when everything had changed.
When he'd *made* everything change.
The moment he'd looked into eyes that weren't hers and sparked the second shot. The moment he'd killed himself.
'Caring' so damn *much* yet still pulling the trigger.
The single moment in time when he'd chosen.
No more giggles, grins or small touches that should have been accidental but never, ever, were.
No more late nights around camp fires listening to her talk just for the sake of listening to her *talk*.
No more anythings that would hurt him so badly, taunt him so cruelly when she was gone.
He couldn't do it anymore. To either of them. It was too hard and hurt too damn much.
He'd stepped away. Denied, suppressed and retreated into himself.
A year's worth of forced absence.
To protect her.
To protect himself.
It was the second hardest decision he had ever made. It was a second decision he should never have *had* to make.
He'd made too many difficult decisions in his life. But he'd made this one; as he had the ones before.
He'd stepped away and pretended so well that he'd almost believed it himself.
Even when he could see her pain, could feel her anger and had wanted nothing more to help her grieve – he hadn't.
Even when she'd tried to reach him, to throw a light in his darkness with the power of a smile, he just pushed her further away.
Watched as her eyes shuttered and clouded, watched as his soul splintered once more.
He'd limped through a year of desolation, a conscious participant in a painful charade.
Dying inside while he watched her laugh and smile at everyone but him. Touch and tease. Everyone but him.
Crying inside as she withdrew so completely; protecting herself from him. From his choice.
Believing he was doing the best thing. That not 'caring' so damn *much* must be better.
He was wrong.
It hurt so damn *much*.
As much as losing her?
There was more than one way to lose her and he'd been the instigator, literally and figuratively, then and now.
He could survive neither.
And then that single moment of clarity when he *knew* that being without her was the most shattering of all.
Nothing could be worse than missing her.
Not having to watch her die. Not even being the one to pull the trigger.
That whatever pain he felt at being there, with her, was nothing compared to… not.
That he had to live *for* her, *because* of her.
Fight with her, for her.
Not die alone; without her.
Without her giggles, grins and soft touches that should have been accidental, but never, ever, were.
His world shook, the lights flickered. A lone voice sounded.
"This is it. All you ever wanted was a fighting chance, Jack, now you have it.
And this time he took it, swearing never to let go again.