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Killer Instinct

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Claude let gravity take him, body free-falling, losing the special powers of the Huntress as the distance between them increased. His eyes closed, refusing to dwell on the rush of air and the impending impact with the ground.

The fall from the skyscraper should have killed him but one of *them* had been down there, one of the mutants whose body stretched like rubber, and Claude soaked up the mutants abilities immediately - and bounced. Yeah, bounced right off the ground like a rubber ball, high into the air before falling and bouncing again until he was out of range of his savior; he dropped the final four feet like a sack of flour, finally coming to rest painfully sprawled on his back on the sidewalk, bruised but not broken.

She arrived then, having easily scaled the tall building, landing just far enough away so that his mutant ability to absorb the powers of others was unable to work. The Huntress forced all of the others to step back as well, leaving him all too-human as he lay on his back groaning. He stared up into the night sky trying to make sense of it all and tilted his head when he heard her speak.

"Probably for the best. You didn't deserve the easy way out," she stated with anger coloring her voice. He shuddered as she stepped closer, close enough for him to feel her powers tingling on the edge of his senses before she stepped back again, keeping her distance from him. Claude rolled away from the Huntress, still too winded to speak or run. He could hear the sirens approaching, could hear the patrol car screeching up beside him. Strong arms grabbed for him and he knew he would not escape this time and, for some reason, that pleased him. He was sick of fighting, sick of hunting down the mutants and ending their miserable, vile existence. They were criminals, all of them, spreading their genetic disorder among the normal humans, spreading their lies and their vices, and their crimes.

The courts sentenced him to a maximum security detention center well away from Gotham City and its abnormally high population of mutants but he could still feel some of them tingling at the limit of his range. He felt their presence in the corridor beyond, passing by his cell door. He felt them in the exercise yard, aware that most had hidden their abilities from normal human eyes. The temptation to go closer, to absorb their power and turn it against them was as strong as ever but somehow he resisted. Most were so weak anyway that they probably didn't even know they were different from the rest of humanity; all except one, the fire-starter.

Claude noticed that he was kept apart from the rest of the inmates and that his clothes were made of non-combustible material. Occasionally, Claude would see sparks almost dripping from his fingertips as he rubbed them together in an unconscious gesture, like someone with an eye tic unable to control the impulse.

The man noticed him staring, curious eyes turning in his direction but making no other attempt to communicate. After a while, Claude lost interest in all the lesser mutants hiding their pitiful abilities within the general prison population, unable to focus on anyone other than this one man. Every day he drew closer, his skin starting to crawl with the tingle of flames licking just beneath the surface as it touched the outer limit of his range. Just a few more feet and he would be there, experiencing the burn, but the fire-starter was held just too far out of reach, taunting him daily.

Time passed slowly, with the psychotherapist's weekly attempts to drag out his childhood memories serving as a distraction only, and solving nothing, especially as the doctor did not seem to understand that the world was made up of two types of humans - them and us, with Claude caught on the cusp as a human among humans, a mutant among mutants. The true bright spot of each day was in the exercise yard, watching those rubbing fingers and the sparks they created. Claude wanted to get closer to Hector Freimark, craving the very sensation that had driven him to kill in the past. He wanted to feel the fire crackling through his body, wanted to rub his own fingers and experience the heat warming his finger pads and palms. He wanted to feel the heat burning across the fire-starter's skin, and feel it sear his own.

**

The riot started over something insignificant, a mountain of complaints building from that tiny molehill until the whole prison seemed aflame with anger and violence. Claude wanted none of it but the inmates set cells on fire, driving them all out into the yard, and then some fresh-faced guard made the mistake of opening the wrong gate, sending the crowd across the unused courtyard separating the main prisoners from Freimark. Suddenly Claude was barely ten feet away from him, feeling the strength of Freimark's mutation sinking into his skin, into his bones, warming him from the inside out. He stood face to face with the mutant, body thrumming with a desire to slake his need to rid the world of another one of *them*. He rubbed his fingers together, feeling the heated pulse of his blood igniting as he circled his adversary.

Blue eyes flashed, first in confusion and then in realization, but not in fear. He saw flames dripping from the other man, and then they were clashing, bodies slamming into each other, hair igniting, skin, eyes, lips burning as the flames consumed them both. Claude sucked the fire from Freimark's lips, fingertips tearing aside the fireproof clothing, desperate to sear flesh with his touch. Heat burned in his blood, in his groin, ecstasy engulfing him in a fireball as they burned together amid the screams and shouts of terrified normals literally caught in the inferno of their passion.

**

They kept him in solitary now, away from all the others, and away from Freimark, whose fire blackened skin had sloughed away to reveal new pink skin beneath. His own skin had healed too, before he and Freimark were driven too far apart for Claude's body to mimic the fire resistant and regenerative qualities of the fire-starter's genes.

At his next session, Claude was asked about his compulsion to kill other mutants and he was surprised when he realized that compulsion had gone. The only remaining obsession was for blue eyes smoldering with fiery passion, for heat searing kisses and a desire that burned so bright that it consumed all the darkness in his broken soul.

END