Title: Hindsight
Rating: PG, language
Word Count: 520 Words
Warning: Character Death
Nothing's mine, much to my chagrin.
Author Notes: First dive into the fandom. Dedicated to Minka, to whom I owe my new obsession and my friendship. Written in 15 minutes after the Writer's Block From Hell Version 8.

The taste of blood wasn't something Jack was unfamiliar with.

Since he could remember, it had lingered somewhere in the back of his throat, like a bitter reminder of his weakness against his father's hands. The vulnerability- and the taste- remained throughout his stays in various foster homes; the metallic tang rose up every time he screamed his throat raw, every time he was forced to go down on someone. It was there the time Jack had taken too many of the wrong drugs and he'd thrown up actual blood before waking up in a hospital at age twelve.

The blood meant nothing but weakness and fear and hateful words that scarred on the inside.

It was only in the Mercer's household, that Jack came to realize that the taste of fear and the taste of blood were two different things. He still had that bitter taste in his mouth whenever their hockey got too violent and whenever Jack couldn't hold off against someone at school. But it wasn't the same when you suddenly had a mother fussing over you afterwards and brothers that apologized when they'd gotten out of hand or beat the shit out of anyone who got the better of Jack in a fight. Suddenly the blood meant family. The taste of fear was sharp and violent and Jack came to realize it was the trigger for his flashbacks and his tremors and the fucking need for substances he'd abandoned to gain bigger things. And it was no longer there.

Until it was.

Until Jack couldn't stop screaming and the familiarity of the taste brought out all the wrong vulnerabilities. The fear was sharp and agonizing in his chest because the rain of bullets wouldn't stop and he didn't think anything had ever hurt so much as the pain of the shots or the slow numbing of his body that crawled over him like a fog. He cried for Bobby because he didn't want to die, but he knew he was, and at least he didn't want to die alone. He could feel the blood pooling in his lungs like red oxygen that was thick and heavy and it was suffocatting him. He was dying. And the taste wasn't at all unfamiliar, but Jack didn't welcome it back. He choked on it, wishing he didn't know what it felt like on his tongue, and suddenly his brothers were there and they were crying. Bobby was telling him not to die but it was too late now and the blood was slipping past Jack's lips, preventing him from saying I love you and thank you just one last time.

The fear was abating along with the light and Jack smiled hollowly when he thought he saw Evelyn above him. The blood meant nothing but death, pain and goodbye, but he still clung to the flavour just a little longer, just long enough to look at Bobby in the eye one final time.

It was familiar and it was painful and it was ending but Jack accepted that blood tasted like life just before his eyes closed for good.