Author's Note:I wrote this in study hall one day, while I was still working on "Bring Me to Life." My other story took place sometime before Season 2 began, but I wanted to write something in light of recent events. I know things similar to it have been done before, such as Red Moon Kree's "Say It With A Song" and Toast's eleventh Account from the Tower. But I had this idea swimming around in my head long before I read either of those fics, so I promise you, I did not take this from anyone else's work. This is based not on a song, but on a poem by the sixteenth-century writer John Dryden. However, I found one song that also described the situation perfectly…I recommend that you look up the lyrics to Evanescence's "Solitude" for even more insight into this short thought fic (I've never actually heard the song, since they've never released it on CD…but being the die-hard Evanescence fan that I am, I actually found it online somewhere and loved it simply for the lyrics, heehee). Mind you, this is a one-shot, but hopefully I'll be contributing another story to this section in a few weeks' time. Please be kind, read and review.
Disclaimer:I don't own the Teen Titans, or John Dryden's poem "Hidden Flame."
Hidden Flame…by The Sage of Story
You won't see it in my eyes.
They always told me that I was dangerous. Capable of destruction. With a single expression of affection or anger or happiness, the world could be plunged into a torrent of chaos. The universe could shake beneath the power of the things I feel. That's the way it has always been.
I have learned to control it. I have learned to conceal myself from others, to wear this mask of stone that has no ability to change. I have mastered the art of the masquerade. Over the years, I suppose I've forced my colors beneath my exterior, restricting myself to a single one:
That's why you see only ice where I stand. The frozen monotony of silence. The immobile, constricting aura of darkness. I am nothing more to you than what you can see.
But you don't know about the flame that burns here in my heart.
It leaps and flickers and grows beneath the chilled exterior, eating my flesh away from the inside, consuming me. It hurts with a sting I have never felt before. It melts away the numbness and lashes out abruptly, warming me for a moment, burning me the next. It has wavered at times, threatening to fade out—but I know secretly it never will. It has forced my soul to emerge from the darkness and stand in awe of its dancing light, covering my face, hoping that I am not burned alive. I fear it, but I love it, and when it dies I know that my body is going to fail along with it. So I cherish the flame, I cup it in my hand, I shield it from the public eye—I conceal it even from you.
But how could I have told you? My burden is my own. The ones I love are eventually destroyed. That's what I've been taught, and I can't deny that truth. As I told you once, we cannot change the truth, no matter how much we dislike it. I have accepted this fate…it is my cross to bear. I have agreed to live unselfishly, to love without asking for anything in return.
Why is it so hard to give up this flame?
I don't understand it. One day, you're like my little brother. The next, a cerulean-eyed angel falls to the earth and steals your heart, and I wait here hating her, envying her, loathing her with everything I have in me.
I could tell the first time you spoke. God…you're so painfully obvious. You fell head over heels on the spot. She laughed lightly. "He's hilarious!" she giggled, her thin frame swaying slightly, long blonde hair tumbling onto her shoulders and down her back. Of course you love her. She is gorgeous, hip, friendly, funny. She is everything I'm not. That little blonde toothpick was made for you, and I want more than anything to interfere…to pray, to scream, to call for you as if it would bring you back.
What am I saying? You never belonged to me in the first place. That's where I made my mistake. I read into your eyes, your words, your gestures too deeply. I saw something that simply wasn't there.
You were always hinting at things. Edging toward me, slowly but surely prying into my heart with no invitation. That's the way you always were. All the others were content to let me be, to accept me as a friend and allow my façade to grow stronger. They succumbed to intimidation. You did not. I pushed, and you pushed back. I ordered you to leave me alone, just like all the others—and you busted the door open. You were so curious about me, so concerned about my well being. No one had ever had the nerve to care about me before, but you longed to peer beneath my mask. Only you ever wanted that. Only you ever tried.
These were your signs, these were your lies: a boyish grin. A reassuring nod. A single hand that rested on my shoulder time and time again. Eyes that bore down into me like I was just some open book. Oh, don't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about. You never could just look at me. You had to look through me. You had to beckon with an openness that wouldn't leave me alone. You had to set a spark alive in me, the first light that had dared to interrupt the darkness. The only light.
I thought it meant something, the way you asked if we were friends. I must have jumped to conclusions. You don't think in the same way I do. You don't speak in metaphors, and I guess I distorted your message. We never were anything more than friends, were we? You're so simple…why couldn't I have understood that I was just another friend?
Just another friend. Just another…just another…just like anyone else. No more. Everyone is your friend. Oh, everyone loves you. I was a little more difficult to soften, but now I love you too. That doesn't make me any different. That doesn't mean that you feel the same.
I guess I just misinterpreted it…considered too carefully the kindness of your words, the joy in your smile. The way a certain warmth sprang from your touch, a current of heat from you to me. I needed that warmth desperately…I was too cold.
The thing is, I never even realized this until now. I never stopped to wonder why the atmosphere grew lighter when you walked in, or why I was so grateful for you, or what made the color rush to my cheeks sometimes when you were near. It never occurred to me that I pushed you away only because I was afraid to draw you closer. There is a raging storm inside of me, there is a medley of incomprehensible emotions, but you would never know it. I am bound within this prison that is my body, these powers that I have inherited against my will, this burden that is mine alone. I am trapped here, screaming. No one ever heard me except you.
I made the mistake of thinking you could save me. The truth is, you can save me no more than I can save myself. Do you think I choose to be this way? I envy her vitality. I am so angry that while she can laugh, and charm, and fling her personality all over the room like exploding firecrackers, I can't. I thought that you saw beyond what I had to be—I thought that it was in your eyes. Now I understand that you never saw me…no one ever will. And I can't blame you for this. It's my fault for being so easily corrupted by my own wishful thinking. I was simply misled. It won't happen again.
But still, the flame burns.
I don't trust her in the least. There is something dangerous all around her…the sting of betrayal has become her aura. I sense that she does not have good intentions. And she thinks that I actually like her…she doesn't know how good I am at wearing someone else's mask. Maybe I'm just as clever as she is when it comes to things like that.
If she even dares to put you or Starfire or Cyborg or Robin in danger again, I will not have mercy on her. God only knows what she'll have to suffer before I stop. These are my friends; this is my life. She has no place to come in and destroy it. I'm not some fault line that will be cracked open at the vibration of her earthquake. And this is not a simple jealousy. I don't want her to hurt you.
But at the same time…I want her to betray us. I want her to have deceived us, so she can reveal some evil intent. I want a reason to hate her, so that she can be cast away, and I can remain.
How selfish is that? I was taught to fight against myself. I am my greatest enemy, my deepest fear. But I am being scorched by the tiny flame, a selfish flame, one that doesn't judge me or view me with disdain. It makes me love myself, and it keeps burning, always, always. I don't even try to smolder it, because every attempt is futile. It hurts, but it's a part of me now.
When I see you with her, or when your eyes catch hers from across the room, making a smile light your face, the flame leaps and scalds with contempt so sharp, I almost wince. I almost scream, laugh, cry out, break free. But I don't. I remain still. My hands don't shake, though my heart is shaking inside me. My eyes don't tear, though there are silent tears falling all the same. My mouth doesn't open…though inwardly, I am crying out for someone, anyone, to rescue me from this despair I've sunken into.
You are the flame. You left it there, your remnant, your imprint on my soul. The piece of you that you've given away so graciously to me. Every smile I misinterpreted, every gaze I misconstrued…burning here, a fresh memory in my mind. The way you giggle at the most inappropriate times, finding laughter in everything, finding the beauty in me…you will never know the warmth, the strength, the love you have provided me. It has kept me alive. This tiny sliver of red, orange, yellow, blue, and green—this fire—this flame—it lives in me!
You won't ever have the ability to save me. You may never take my hand and pull me close the same way you do her—you may never realize how much I long to be her, just to be close to you. Though it's a difficult truth to admit, you will never feel the strength of the tiny flame you have kindled.
I will be alone…that's my destiny, my responsibility, my burden. But I will never give up this flame. I love you, and I don't care if you don't love me. All the life left in me is you.
Let it creep up into my heart and burn away the callus. I am already melted. Let it burn, knowing that it will never be quenched. Just let the fire ignite in me.
Let my eyes never show it…
Hidden Flame…by John Dryden
I feed a flame within, which so torments me,
That it both pains my heart, and yet contents me:
'Tis such a pleasing smart, and I so love it,
That I had rather die than once remove it.
Yet he for whom I grieve shall never know it;
My tongue does not betray, nor my eyes show it:
Not a sigh, nor a tear, my pain discloses,
But they fall silently, like dew on roses.
Thus to prevent my love from being cruel,
My heart's the sacrifice, as 't is the fuel:
And while I suffer this; to give him quiet,
My faith rewards my love, tho' he deny it.
On his eyes will I gaze, and there delight me;
Where I conceal my love, no frown can fright me:
To be more happy, I dare not aspire;
Nor can I fall more low, mounting no higher.