CHOICES MADE

Disclaimer: Own nothing, no profit being made. Episode 35 "Choices" is quoted; I definitely don't own that.

Warning: This is a 'shippy little piece in the hurt/comfort genre; if this is not your cup of tea I commend you on your good taste.

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"And what do you have to show for this feeble plan of yours?" jeers Lord Fear.

She turns to face him.

"I have this," she says, and opens her palm to reveal a piece of the Amulet.

Lord Fear snatches the Amulet from her, and adds it to the other pieces. They fuse together in the sorcerer's hands, gathering a nimbus of light around them…

…and there's a swirl of pink in a window and a cackle of laughter. Googler bounces in.

The jester laughs.

"Googler's back and good to go! Let's googlerise Lightning!"

-

"Thanks to Lady Illusion, our power is now complete. And Ace Lightning's fate is sealed," Kilobyte says.

He turns to her.

"Your loyalty will be rewarded," he says, and brushes a tentacle across her face in an oddly intimate gesture.

She cringes.

"I had no choice," she says, and meets Kilobyte's eyes. "This is where I belong."

Kilobyte laughs.

"And do you realize how close that little piece of justification is to a confession?"

She doesn't reply.

He turns his attention to Lord Fear.

"I'll need her alive, and intact," he says, and turns to leave the room, tentacles slamming the door shut.

She watches Kilobyte leave.

"If you'll excuse me…" she says, turning to the door.

Staffhead laughs. "In a hurry are we?"

"Yes," she says, settling for telling the truth…for once…and backing away.

She's nearly reached the door when the first blow hits her.

"You really thought you could get away with betraying me?" Harsh laughter echoes around her. "This is only the start."

I knew the risks from the beginning, she thinks, I knew what happened to traitors, I'd seen it, and that's why I'm still afraid…and she bites her lip to stop herself from crying out in pain.

She has other memories of pain, fighting Good, imprisoned in the Sixth Dimension, burned from the inside out by a transformer, the subtler but no less intense pain of emotion, but she can't concentrate on anything else but this pain, vicious green piercing her, forcing her to the ground.

Please stop, she wants to say, to scream, but she knows it'll be useless. And she's had time, over the past few weeks, to get used to pain.

She doesn't know how long she's been there, forced against to the wall by green fire, burning, searing. Doesn't think of anything but the pain of torture, the price of betrayal, refusing to beg for mercy, kneeling backed against the stone for who-knows-how-long.

The blasts stop, and she looks up warily to see him, elongated skeletal face looming above her, her nightmare and master.

"Dismissed," he says, and laughs.

She picks herself off the ground and turns to the door half-stumbling, walking as quickly as she can, hoping she won't be called back. She hears the doors slam shut behind her blocking the sound of that laughter, relieved she's finally out of there, feeling the cool night air on her skin. She lets herself sag against the wall, still shaking, trying to regain her strength.

When she sees the figure flying through the night towards her, she takes up a fighting pose.

"What do you want, Lightning?" she says, coldly.

He holds up his hands. "Mark told me you saved us. I came to thank you."

"I did what I had to. We're even." She tries to turn away, but he places a hand on her shoulder.

"You told me Lord Fear wanted you dead."

"I'm…under Kilobyte's protection," she says. She reaches a hand up to remove his from her shoulder, holding it longer than necessary.

"I gave him a piece of the Amulet," she continues, meeting his eyes.

He nods, not looking surprised.

"We both…have jobs to do," he says, sadly. "I wish…things had been different. Do you want to stay here?"

"As you said. We both have jobs to do, and one could say business here is difficult at present. Just try to win, Ace."

She tries to turn away again, but this time he takes her arm, gently.

"You should leave now," she tells him. "The others might see you."

"I'm sorry," he says. "I never intended to cause you trouble."

She steps forward, and allows his arm to wrap more fully around her.

"Too late," she says, or tries to say, because by now her face is half-buried in his neck, and they're locked in a desperate embrace.

He holds her, and tells himself that the only reason why she's still shaking is because of the cold.

A/N: It would be hypocritical of me to refuse any feedback; honest reviews are, as always, very much appreciated.