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Mushrooms & Magnets

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"I'll take my chances."

The look on Heisenberg's face as Ethan let go of his arm with a defiant glare was almost worth it.  Yep, Ethan thought as he smashed his back on a stupid pile of stupid cogs down the stupid hole where the Lord had dropped him. Worth it.

He tried to hang onto that righteous feeling while a stupid thing with a fan for a head revved up a massive chainsaw. Because of course it did. 

Part of him was a little worried that none of this elicited the slightest shock anymore. A propeller-headed monster chasing him down a corridor in a zombie-ridden factory should have gotten more out of him than a mildly annoyed sigh. 

For months after Louisiana, he had seen a therapist, graciously paid for by Chris' boys and certainly reporting to them as well. He hadn't minded. Being able to tell another human being "and then the horrible lady spat flies out of her mouth and pushed me down the stairs" without them pressing a security button was worth knowing all this went in a file somewhere. 

No, she just nodded and took notes, and provided gentle advice like "you need to reacquaint yourself with vulnerability" or "try visiting an insect museum". 

He had done all that, dutifully. It helped, a bit. 

Hi doc, fresh new trauma just dropped , he would probably tell her if he ever found his way back home. I have a phobia of plane fans now. Guess why. 

He barely dodged the chainsaw that came thundering over him, and turned sharply to unload a deafening shotgun blast into the creature's face. One, two, and… 

"Shit."

Reload-reload-reload-fuck!

The clip slipped from his hands just as the creature gave a mechanical shriek, despite its absence of a mouth. He watched as the horrible blade roared to life and fell upon him. 

An explosion of pain sliced him from head to crotch, and a bubble of agony burst on his bleeding lips. 

Everything turned black. 

---

The clang of machines in the background was almost a soothing sound. It seemed to beat in rhythm with the tangs of torment crawling through his limbs, and Ethan tried to focus on the noise. Dang, dang, ting, blonk. Dang, dang…

As he slowly came to, his other senses tried to provide information in their turn, like a bunch of shy kids raising their hand behind the class troublemaker. 

Shut up, pain. You're grounded. I don't want to hear from you anymore today. 

It almost worked. He was lying down on something cold and hard, and his legs and arms were pressed into the surface by strong restraints. They felt metallic under his fingers, which he counted by reflex. One, two… eight. Relieved, he let out a discreet sigh. He couldn't really afford losing any more fingers. 

The smell of oil and coal filled his nostrils, and he could feel a presence close. Straining his ears while keeping his eyes firmly closed, he tried to pinpoint the source of it. 

"I know you're awake, you little shit", a voice cheered right into his ear. 

He jolted in surprise, and his eyes met Heisenberg's behind his glasses. A massive grin split the Lord's face, like a cat who just found the jar of cream. Ethan wasn't feeling very creamy today, and his heart was pounding in his chest with a growing panic. He bared his teeth. 

"Keep it in your pants, Winters", Heisenberg said, grabbing a chair where he sat backwards. 

"Let me go", Ethan growled with bile climbing in his throat. Quite literally, too. The pain had come back to knock down the tables and wedgie the other kids, and he could feel a good old gag coming up. 

"As if. You and I are going to have a little talk. You see, it's not everyday that…"

The revving sound came from the nethers of a pipe, and he screamed down it: 

"Enough, I swear to god!"

"Let me go right now!" Ethan barked, feeling nausea win the battle for his dignity. 

"I told you, I…"

The stream of sick that came out of him almost splashed on Heisenberg's shirt, and the Lord jumped back, arms flailing as he fell out of his chair. With a swear, he let go of the restraints on Ethan's arms, letting him roll onto his side. 

A few horrible chokes later, Ethan felt slightly better, if damper and stinkier. 

"Shit, would you warn people before doing that?"

Ethan muttered something between his teeth that would have turned Jack Baker's ears red, and swiped his mouth on his sleeve. He caught a glimpse of something on his torso, and stared at his own midriff. A long red scar was snaking on his pale, sweaty skin. It came all the way from his crotch, where his pants had been vaguely sewn back together. 

Gingerly, he touched it and slid his fingers up. It hurt, and kept hurting, on his sternum, neck, chin, up to his forehead. 

"Yeah", Heisenberg said, pulling his chair back at a puke-safe distance. "About that."

"What did you do to me?" Ethan shrieked. 

"I fucking sewed your panties is what I did!" Heisenberg yelled back. "You could show a little bit of gratitude for not waking up butt-naked before throwing up on your generous captor, couldn't you?"

"What happened?! What the everloving fuck-"

"What happened, the Lord shouted over his shrill panic, is that my boy down there sliced you down the middle like a rotisserie chicken, and you just went and glued yourself back together! Unlike a rotisserie chicken! "

Ethan's mouth opened and closed like a fish out of water. He felt very close to the memory of Moreau, suddenly. 

"Now, Heisenberg coughed. I've been watching you wreck the place like the gleeful gun-obsessed American Miranda told us you were, but that's not all there is to you, is it? I mean, people don't usually go ahead and paste themselves back up after being chainsawed. I'd have noticed that, I think. So what are you ?"

"I… I just heal fast", Ethan managed to breathe out. "Ever since... I just do, alright?"

"No, not alright!" Heisenberg yelled, grabbing him by the lapels of his torn shirt. He felt the slab under him move and twist until it resembled a vague, hostile chair. He tried slapping the man off him, but his arms felt weak. Metal groaned against his skin as his wrists were bound again. 

"Quit swatting. I'm not one of Alcina's sexy mosquito bitches. Ever since what?

"None of your business! I… I took first aid juice, alright?"

Heisenberg very slowly removed his glasses, and folded them neatly in a pocket of his shirt before taking Ethan's face between his palms. His hands were rough and callous, and his eyes piercing. 

"What the fuck, he calmly asked, are you rambling about?"

"The juice! The juice in my pockets!" Ethan blurted. He tried to bite Heisenberg's fingers, and snapped on the air. A slap stung his face, not as strong as it could have been. 

With a suspicious squint, Heisenberg rifled through his pockets, extracting a few cartridge clips and a dusty glass bottle. He flicked it with a gloved finger, then unscrewed the top and took a long swig. 

"Don't! Ethan yelped. It's not a drink, it's for external use!" He wasn't quite sure why he should care, now that he thought of it. Except that it was his last bottle, and chem fluid had been scarce in the last hours. 

"Yes it is, Heisenberg said, licking his lips. That's just a damn bottle of țuică with a bit of rosemary in it."

"Healing fluid."

"It's fucking booze, Ethan. It's booze with a herb in it."

Ethan looked at him, then at the bottle. The Lord pulled back his glasses from his pocket, swiping them intently before sliding them back on. 

"Let me get this straight", Heisenberg said with an incredulous look. "You douse yourself in some seasoned prune hootch and figure that's what's healing you?"

"It is", Ethan sneered. "Always has worked."

"No shit. I ask again, Ethan Winters…" 

The Lord kicked his chair back and watched him wriggle on the floor. 

"What the fuck are you?"

Ethan opened his mouth to swear back at him, but something stopped him. Maybe it was the voice of his therapist at the back of his head, pressing him to confront these questions instead of running away. Maybe it was the tingle of flesh reassembling itself along his middle. 

Maybe it was the fact that it was a really good fucking question, even if it was asked by Karl-Metalbending Jerk-Heisenberg, who lifted his chair with a grunt and muttered a half-baked apology for the kick. 

It took him a while to come up with an answer. Surprisingly, Heisenberg didn't press him. He just sat and stared. 

"I don't know."

The words fell heavy from his mouth. They were true, and they were painful. 

"Did Miranda screw you as well?" Heisenberg eagerly asked. His enthusiasm barely faded when Ethan shook his head. 

"Before. There was this place… in Louisiana. Moldy. Murdery. Bunch of redneck assholes with a torture fetish and biomutations. You'd have loved it."

"I'm not big on damp places. Not good for the machines."

Maybe it was being hit on the head with a chainsaw and then assembling himself back that had slightly wrangled his brain, but there was a strange comfort in talking to Heisenberg. Words came out of their own volition now, and he found himself recounting the tale of the Baker estate. Little details that had somehow stayed with him within the horror of it all. Zoe's voice and Marguerite's rotten make-up in the bathroom. 

"They infected me. I knew they did, the- my hand, when… Zoe just clipped it back on. After that, the doctors told me some of the virus was dormant in my cells, but that with time it would die out. Like - like a cancer. Remissive."

Tears were knotting his throat now, but he could think of nothing more ridiculous than crying in front of the man who had just watched him get sliced lengthwise. 

"Well, it looks like it didn't", Heisenberg reasonably said. "So you're a molded too?"

"Don't use that word", Ethan hissed between his teeth. The Lord's eyes narrowed between behind his glasses, but he didn't say anything. 

"Makes sense, he finally declared getting up. None of us were ever enough for whatever plan Miranda has. I guess the natural whelp of a mutated guy has got something that we don't."

"She's a baby, Ethan snarled. My beautiful baby. She likes being lulled to sleep and tugging on her plushie monkey's tail. She doesn't deserve any of this."

"Yeah, yeah. Neither did any of us, did we? And still, here we are." Heisenberg opened his arms and looked over his mechanical kingdom. He seemed lost in his thoughts for a while, then he turned to face him again and crossed his arms. 

"Do you want your baby back, mushroom boy?"

Ethan almost choked on his tongue at these words. 

"What? I told you I had a plan against her. I'm sick and tired of her little games, and you look capable enough. Especially now that I know that we can stitch you up with just some booze to help your willpower."

"It's not like that", he protested, but Heisenberg patted him almost gently on the shoulder. 

"It's alright. That's the point of alcohol anyway, isn't it?"

With a worrying moan, the metal around his limbs twisted and freed him. Ethan stroked his wrists, shooting a suspicious glance at Heisenberg. He was adjusting his jacket and his hat, and combed back his hair with a hand before shooting him a wry smile. 

"Follow me. You and I are going to have a grand fucking time, Ethan Winters."