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He didn’t need to take my head -- I was going to die of embarrassment!

I wasn’t wounded -- I was barely scratched. He’d disarmed me, and with insulting ease. I had a gun sheathed at my back, but with my hands out from my sides I’d never reach it. He stood practically corps à corps with me, his sword held high against my neck so that the crossguard dug into my adam’s apple when I swallowed.

“There can be only one, y’know.” He leaned in closer, and whispered “Die for me!”

His blade sliced a sheet of bright pain through my neck, and I was falling, tumbling dizzily. Something hit my head, and I felt the oddest pulling sensation.....

I couldn’t get my bearings, it was too strange. No sight, no sound, nothing but flashes of touch. I wasn’t in the alley any more, the alley was in me. Concrete and asphalt my bones and flesh, rebar and wire and pipe my veins and nerves. And at the center of my being he stood, the only thing I was not.

“Burn for me!” he shouted, unheard, but I felt the words vibrate in the glass of the windows. No thought, no choice, I struck, lashing out at him and into him. I would have him, take him, make him part of me.....

I touched his mind and ripped into it, instinctively trying to overwhelm him in the crucial first moment of contact. He was ready, and strong, but he couldn’t keep me out, couldn’t hide the doubts and weaknesses and griefs, tempting targets.

One was recent and familiar: yesterday’s “accident” coming back from lunch with his friends. If he’d had family I would’ve killed them instead, but this had worked nicely -- I threw my memories at him: setting the tiny charges against the brakes and the fuel line, watching the car careening out of control, watching him drag himself and just one companion away from the wreckage, triggering the explosion that engulfed the car and both of them, just a few yards from safety.....

He swallowed it down and howled -- he’d had no idea. I followed up fast against his doubts: “You shouldn’t’ve cared for them, shouldn’t’ve known them. I always kill family and friends first, lots of headhunters do, you knew that, knew you were endangering them.....”  I chased that with a montage of my hunts, the slew of mortal deaths that heralded my challenges.

He took it all, and staggered, and waited helplessly for more. I hit him again and again, I poured the lives I had taken into him, terrors and horrors and years of despair gleaned from the Quickenings of fallen foes. He flinched, and screamed, and took it, took all of it.....

Too late I realized the half-remembered danger: everything I used against him was lost to me. I was spending myself, literally, and I couldn’t stop. I’d lost touch with the alley, I had nowhere to go back to, nowhere but into him, and I was losing this fight, losing myself, losing!

I hurled insults and threats and accusations, but they all disappeared into the same bottomless pit. I scoured myself and the Quickenings I held for memories that would hurt him, and had none left. Helpless, I felt the rest pour out of me: Beauties, and joys, and happy times. Picnics on hillsides, sunsets, friends, laughing at a favorite TV show, enjoying a play, being enthralled by the sacred drama down in the amphitheater, researching, learning, solving a particularly thorny problem, climbing a mountain up into the clouds that ring it, sparring with teachers, sparring with students, children’s laughter, meals in front of the fireplace, around the campfire, s’mores, toasting marshmallows, making love on a lazy afternoon, waking in the night to a lover’s touch, looking into her eyes, his eyes, so many, so much.....

The last of my power spears through him, into him, and I let it, let it happen ..... why not? Wasn’t I supposed to ..... I don’t know if ..... it was ..... I can’t ..... why am I ..... ?????