You could have saved me.

 

Matt Clipper shook his head. Great. Now he was hearing things. Man, he must've whacked his head on something. That voice sounded a lot like...

 

You could have saved me, mate.

 

He nearly jumped out of his skin as a cold breeze danced down his neck, and the words repeated in a voice he shouldn't hear.

 

"I'm not hearing this," he muttered to himself as he prowled restlessly through his quarters. Kelly's funeral was over hours ago. He'd retreated here to be alone, though it'd torn him up inside to see the hurt on Jen's face when he walked away from her. Still, even that pain was preferable to her knowing about the voice in his head. He shuddered. "I'm not fuckin' hearing this!"

 

He glanced nervously over his shoulder. His pulse raced, and sweat stood out on his brow. He swiped a nervous hand over his face. Doubt swirled in his stomach. "Kelly?"

 

Only the silence of his quarters answered him, and Matt collapsed against the wall, letting it bear up his weight as he fought the swirl of guilt in his gut and the tightening of his throat. He swiped a shaking hand over his face, again. Hell, it would serve him right if Kelly was haunting him. Normally, he left the ghosts and ghouls to Jen -- with her rich Creole heritage, the otherwise skeptical psychologist had a surprisingly superstitious side. Matt, on the other hand, learned the truth a long time ago. Things that go bump in the night are most likely armed, dangerous, and after the family valuables.

 

Still, after what happened, he couldn't quite dismiss that voice. He took a page from Jen's book and tried to convince himself it was the guilt talking. Dammit, he should have done something!

 

With a strangled scream of pure rage, he slammed his fist into the wall, feeling the satisfying sting of pain as flesh and bone impacted concrete and metal. It was less than he deserved.

 

He watched Kelly get hit. They were partnered that mission, and he saw the guard with the Long Knife, heard Kelly's involuntary cry of pain. She swore to him she was all right, that the beam only brushed her arm. And he'd believed her -- right up until he saw her laying there in a bed soaked in her own blood.

 

"Goddammit!" He swore and punched the wall again, the physical pain sending a comfortable rush of endorphins through his body.

 

He knew the protocol. He should have called a halt the moment Kelly was hit, sent her back for a medcheck. But they were so close to bringing Horner down and, selfishly, he'd wanted it over. So, he believed her, and put the whole situation out of his mind. Until he walked into Kelly's quarters to a gruesome scene he hadn't been able to erase from his mind, since.

 

The rage and pain built like a volcano inside of him, until the pressure was so great he couldn't hold it in any longer. With a strangled, wordless cry of anguish, he pummeled the wall until it was smeared with blood and his knuckles were raw and bleeding. Then, panting, he collapsed on the floor, curled up with his bloody hands covering his head, and let the tears he tried so hard to fight flow.

Contact Esther Mitchell at:

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