She was screaming words she didn't understand - or were they words at all? Her throat was raw. She screamed again and lashed out - Away, away, get him away, get him off... The glint of a gun barrel flashed behind her eyes, and pain seared through her abdomen. She was back on a London street, the world gone hazy and grey, numb to anything but the agony, and...
Hands were on her, tugging, pulling - fresh air hit her face and she jerked, panting, lungs on fire, a blazing fury of pain and panic, gasping - can't breathe, can't breathe, oh God - when a familiar voice cut through the terror sharper than any sword.
"Easy," the husky baritone murmured, "easy."
Heat bloomed on her back, the steady weight of a familiar palm, and she breathed for the first time in what felt like years.
She felt the air fill her lungs, but focused only on that circle of warmth - the only thing that existed, the only thing that mattered.
The heat began to move - no, no, don't go, I'm not ready - until it was a solid bar at her back, and she felt the shudders take her.
She curled into that heat, into her partner's chest, and held on.
His arms came around her, so tight and so vital, and the dam broke at last. Wrapped in his strong arms, she felt terribly small and fragile. He held her as if he couldn't bear to let her go, as though she were something precious that deserved protecting, and though she should have hated feeling this way, for once she didn't resent the way he touched her as though she was made of glass. It was a profound relief to know that she didn't have to be strong and hold on, and all her resolve crumbled into dust as though it had never been.
Trembling, wrecked, broken but finally safe, she began to cry.