A/N: Just a quick something I wrote. Please let me know what you think.
In the silence he lay. In the dust and the darkness. In the aftermath of the spinning, burning, roaring seconds of the heat and the light. In the noon-time twilight where only the very tips of the roots of the sun-rays had grown down through the fallen beams to where he was.
He breathed, and kept his eyes closed, because that way he didn't have to know. No pain, just numbness and a deep desolation which emanated from, and was because of, the silence around him.
It had taken so long to reach this point, and so short a space for chances to crumble to dust finer than the dust of a butterfly wing. Between breath and breath. Between heartbeat and heartbeat.
Life spiralled in cycles. Motes dancing in a draught. He had not saved the first man. He had saved the second. But now, with this third cycle of the old pattern he had hoped never to see the repeat of, he had failed again. And although he had not realised it before, he knew now through his dust-clouded brain that he would gladly let his own life trickle away and be absorbed into the splintered wood and plaster surrounding and partly covering him, and call it a fair exchange, if he could only turn back the world's revolving by a few minutes and seconds snatched from hours of time or degrees of angles.
Back to when they had been standing in a hallway, not knowing yet what was about to happen. He could see them both against his closed eyelids, see himself looking faintly amazed at what he had just managed to say by accident. And her green eyes glinting in the sunshine from the dirty window, changing from astonishment to incredulous amazement to sheer delight.
She had rested her hand on his arm, and although she had done this so many times before, this time he had felt it in his heart as well, effortlessly removing weight instead of adding it. He had not realised how much he had been pinned to the earth before.
And this would be where he would turn his watch back to. He would take her hand, and together they would leave, maybe by flying out through the window. But instead they had smiled at each other, almost shyly, seeing each other in a new way after years of spending most of the twenty-four hours of each day in the same building, in the same room. And then they had carried on with their job.
There had been a butterfly on the wall of the stairwell. She had made him stop to look at it on their way up, and he who would have done anything for her was only too happy to oblige. It was brown and orange. Tiger striped.
He opened his eyes a fraction, and saw that it was not as dark as he'd expected. A tiger dusk full of butterfly dust. But nowhere in the slice of his sightline could he see the brown of her hair against the brown of the stifled and diluted and dust-filled daylight. He didn't move. It never occurred to him to move. If she were here, if she were still alive, he would hear her and come and find her. But if she had left him here alone then he would lie here until the day turned to twilight, turned to night. He would never need to move again.
Buildings fell, and this was his fate. He didn't want to spend another six and a half years sifting through these ruins, salvaging only memories which corroded him when he turned to them for comfort. Didn't want to have to sort through her possessions. There was nothing he had which could keep her alive.
His eyes fell closed again. Everything was growing darker. Maybe it was night already, and that would explain why he was beginning to feel cold.
The building was supposed to be empty. That was why he couldn't hear her, because she wasn't here, because the building was empty. Except he was in it, but then it wasn't much of a building anymore. Just gaps and jagged edges and orange and brown shadows which had been there before he closed his eyes. Empty apart from him and the butterfly. The butterfly was too small to be hurt. It would still be flying, rejoicing in the lack of doors to bar its way now.
She was blurring in his memory now, a faded silhouette. Just a picture of them in the last shaft of sunlight, before they opened the last door and broken the contact switch hidden on the other side. Before they saw what was inside, and had to run, leap down the steps in a still moment when time was meaningless, when breathing stopped and heartbeats paused midway, trying to outrun the dandelion seeds illuminated in the single sunray from the single window which were pulled towards them by the draught of the open door.
Her laughing green eyes, and her smile. They didn't fade.
They had paused before the door to the room which had no one in, but was not empty. She had kissed him, once. Just once.
That was what he had to take into the dark. A single kiss, witnessed by a butterfly.
He could hear the butterfly, dimly, and the sound soothed him. Soft rustlings coming from far away, although his brain tried to tell him they were much closer than that. He felt it land lightly on his neck where his life still pulsed, and it was more solid than he'd expected, and colder. It whispered to him gently and he was not in the least surprised, because why should it not? But he thought that it would be a shame not to see it again, so he opened his eyes.
And she was there, hovering in front of him, streaked brown and orange through gaps in the jumbled mess that had been a ceiling. And her eyes were even wider than usual, and she was the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen, especially when she smiled at him and bent to kiss his cheek.
The palm of her hand was red, and he was confused for a while as he couldn't see where she was hurt, until she tugged off her jacket and pressed it firm against his side.
She whispered to him again, or maybe she wasn't whispering, but the sound was coming from so far away that he couldn't tell. But he gazed into her eyes and tried to tell her without words that he wasn't going to leave her, not ever, and he could see that she understood him, and so did the butterfly which had just landed on her shoulder.
And the warming sun spilled over them from the hole appearing in what had been a wall only a few seconds ago.