A/N: Don't try this at home. :-)

'U' is for Unhinged

The third-floor room I was in flashed over about a minute before I thought it was going to. I knew I had about twenty seconds to get out, or I was a dead man. And even before I'd crawled into the room to search it, even before I'd determined that there was nobody in here but me, I'd made one of the worst mistakes I could've made in that situation.

I had no idea which window was laddered.

It was a fifty-fifty chance. Whichever window I cleared, I'd have to go out—there'd be no second chances, once I added fresh air to the fire. If I picked the wrong window, I'd have to drop farther than I wanted to think about. If I picked the right window, I'd bail out, head first down the ladder, and get the hell out of there as fast as I could.

No time for eeny-meeny-miney-moe. I crawled along the perimeter of the room, dragging my hand along the wall until, I came to the first window. At that point I didn't have a choice—it was too damned hot to stay in there the extra fifteen seconds it would take to get to the next window. I cleared it as best I could in the seconds I had left—I could feel my neck starting to burn, my wrists, all the least protected parts.

I'd never been so glad in my life to see the two painted nubs that were the tips of the rails of the ladder. Staying as low as possible, I bailed out the window and slid head first down the ladder, controlling my descent as well as I could with a hand on each rail. Which wasn't very well.

I landed with a "whump" thirty terrifying feet later. I was shaking like a leaf, and my regulator wheezed as I panted. My heart was pounding so hard I thought I could hear it. I didn't have the energy to shut my regulator off and disconnect it; my hands were shaking so hard I doubt I could've done it anyhow. The guys could yell "yard-breather" at me all they wanted, but I wasn't going to move again until I damned well felt like it.

With the abrupt temperature change, my mask was fogging up rapidly, but I could see that the boots that abruptly appeared in front of my face were enormous. That could be only one man.

"Hey! Hey! You okay?"

I moved a little so Cap would know I wasn't unconscious. I stayed curled up on my side, partly because who wants to lie on top of an air tank, and partly because the fetal position is really comforting when you've just had the life scared out of you.

And not just the life, either, if you know what I mean. Yes sir, I'd be changing my pants back at the station. If they didn't make me go in to Rampart, that is.

"Yeah, Cap."

"Holy crap—your coat is smoking."

I believed him, but I didn't have the energy for a reply.

"Can you sit up?"

I didn't really want to, but I got to my knees, and Cap—and boy, I hope he had his gloves on, because I guarantee you there's nothing on me that's not too hot to touch—took off my helmet, regulator, face piece, air pack, gloves, and finally my smoldering coat. The back was so blackened you couldn't even read my name. I cringed when I saw that the back of my helmet was sagging—melted ever so slightly.

The outdoor air, which was probably about ninety degrees, felt heavenly and cool. I still couldn't get up—I was so rattled I thought I'd probably keel right over if I even tried. So I didn't.

I reached a hand up to feel the back of my neck, which, now that the adrenaline rush was subsiding, was stinging mightily. I definitely had a trip to Rampart in my future, because I could feel blisters forming already.

"Your hands are shaking—I've never seen you like this before," Cap said. "You're usually so unflappable."

I shook my head. "Not today, Cap. Right now, I'm completely unhinged."

The End

A/N: This can be about whoever you want it to be. The word "Unnamed" comes to mind. Also, I apologize if I'm Unfairly hogging the letters. But "U" was just sitting there, just looking lonely and sad, and then this popped into my head.