The air is thick with tension, and the only sound he can hear, despite the screaming around them, is the sound of their breathing. He releases a puff of air heavily, and rubs his hands together, and for some reason doesn’t know why his gloves weigh more than they usually do. He can see flashes of familiar colour, but they don’t do anything to calm him down. They make his pulse race, and the adrenaline kicks in before it should.
He spreads himself, trying to cover as much ground as possible before steadying himself, though something wiggles at the back of his mind, drilling the thought that something was wrong deep into his psyche.
A sharp, piercing noise cuts through the air, and instantly, he freezes, and it takes him a moment to shake himself up and bring himself back into the now. Somehow, through his self-deprecating panic attack, he doesn’t hear the rest of them cheering, though when he does, he claps weakly along. It’s too early, a small voice at the back of his head whispers coldly, and subconsciously, he believes it.
The first miss makes him reel, panic flaring through him as he forces himself to keep calm. The band on his arm tightens, he feels, though it really hasn’t, but it’s enough to send him into a full-blown panic. There’s a reason it’d been given to him, he’d reasoned when he’d first received it, but all those motivating memories sank into a mushy puddle at the back of his head the moment he misses for the second time.
Soon enough, it’s raining, and he can feel the water seeping through his shirt, soaking his skin and he can’t even rake a hand to push his wet locks away from his face when they fall into his eyes messily. The next three misses send him into a pathetic frenzy, and finally, finally, he finds himself.
Rejuvenated, he throws himself bravely at every chance he sees, catching and sliding and falling. The pain is numbing slowly, but a hopelessness fills him when he looks at the clock. It’s too late, the same small voice says, and once again, he believes it.
It’s too late, and he’s been too slow.
He’d be the laughing stock of the entire world, if he ever told anyone what went through his mind for those ninety-odd minutes.
He can barely meet anyone’s eyes as he trudges off the wet grass, drenched and stained like never before. When he finally makes it away from the suddenly obscene cheers, he takes a moment to open the door. And when he does, he hears only silence.
And it’s louder, noisier, and more obscene than anything he’s ever heard.
He does his own thing in silence as well, and it’s like a funeral … their funeral, with only the coffins missing. Emotion wells up in him, but he swallows it down thickly. His throat tightens when he sees the band on his own arm, and that somehow gives him enough courage to meet their eyes.
He apologises, he blames himself, he shoulders all the faults in those minutes, and tries to take all their burdens off of them. Somewhere in that talk, the door opens, but he’s on a rant and he knows that if he stops now, he’ll never start talking again. When he finally does stop talking, the silence has somehow thickened, and a quick look to the door informs him of who’s listened in on him.
And suddenly, there’re hugs being passed around, tight and oddly comforting, mutters to him that it’s not completely his fault, and that they wouldn’t let him take all the fault on himself even if he tried to. Their words lighten his heart a little, but the little voice is still at the back of his head, and he’s not yet strong enough to get rid of it.
He doesn’t know why, but there’s a sort of finality in the way he shoves his gloves into his bag, and he’s weighed down as he leaves.
A/N: Read the sequel/not-really-a-sequel here