SUMMARY: I've had a few requests to deepen my interpretation on the relationship between Mirage and Syndrome, and here's a one-shot for that specific purpose. I may expand later to create more one-shots that slowly evolve into a multichapter work, but for now, my swift stories in the dark are all you're gonna get.
WARNINGS: Rated teen for sexual subject matter and language, that is, use of the f-word. My apologies, but it fit.
DISCLAIMER: Pixar owns The Incredibles. If I did, I would've given them all different outfits.
Quiet Moments in the Dark
It was never love. I feel the need to make that clear. It was never love between us. I've never fallen in love, so I don't know quite what love is. If love exists. But it certainly wasn't love, the relationship between Syndrome and myself. The thing between Syndrome and myself. I think the word "relationship" makes most people – most people who are romantic at heart, anyway – think of flowers and hearts and silly kisses and laughter and quiet moments in the dark, listening to one another breathe. We didn't have most of those, the petty things that define relationships. But the last one did exist, for that short-long time.
I would lie awake at night, feeling the artificial chill of the silently humming machinery that ran the complex, keeping it cool in the midst of the very active volcano. I didn't like sheets, never slept below sheets, and so I was bare and inviting the chill to come to me. I worshipped the cold. I could feel the cold, and it reminded me that I was still alive.
To my side he would lie perfectly still for only the slightest of moments, before beginning to toss and turn in the wake of nightmares. It was a strange thing to see the man who so inspired terror in the hearts of his victims reduced to the state of quivering child, crippled by the power of darkness. He would twist beneath his sheets, and pull them out from under me, kicking his legs, his face a myriad of emotions, most sad or terrified.
It was those nights, seeing him as little more than child to be comforted, that I kept in mind whenever I felt the urge to run away from this little paradise/hell. He frightened me so often in the daylight, strutting about with an impetuous, but slightly bored look on his face. It was dangerous, how that bored look could hide his anger.
When he was angry, it was close to petrifying. He wasn't tall, but he was strong, and more than that, he was vengeful. A grudge might be, for anyone else, simply a bright ember that sparked and flew away into the night. For him, it was a live, burning coal that only waited for the right moment to burst into flame. Workmen who annoyed him disappeared. Negotiators and businessmen who gave him a hard time found themselves dead, courtesy of my own handiwork.
He only struck me once. I made some foolish remark, probably about his quest to destroy all Supers. Probably questioning him about his devotion to destroying Mr. Incredible. Probably about his past and how it entwined with the fabled superhero. And in my way, I did it with just enough distaste or disapproval mixed in with my curiousity that it angered him enough to hit me across the face, hard, in that way that all men seem capable of to bring a woman to her knees.
I felt that red mark burning its way across my face and I turned and ran from the conference room, stumbling in my heels but refusing to let myself fall and face further embarrassment. I ran and ran until I reached my rooms, and then I slammed the door behind me, promising never again, never again. I would not be his Mirage, his little puppet. Never again.
I was exhausted with the weight of my unshed tears that I held back against the strongest urge to let them fall. That was something weak, something that Penelope Nox might have done a long time ago in a childhood that had died a cruel death. I couldn't allow myself to cry, so I allowed myself an anger that nearly matched his own. If I wanted I could reach out, thrust him into an illusion, and watch him sleepwalk into the molten lava, never realizing his legs were burning off. At that moment, I wanted to do it so badly.
I am thankful for both our sakes that my rage was tiring. I unclenched my fists and did not wince at the blood leaking slowly from my palms. I washed my hands, removed my professional work clothes and slipped into a large t-shirt, as a young teenager might have done. I was not far removed from teenage. It worked well enough, like comfort food only healthier. I think I was asleep within minutes.
The dark came. With the true dark, the dark that signified midnight, so did he. I awoke to his footsteps, clumsy because they were the footsteps of a man. I tried to pretend I was asleep, and closed my eyes tightly. He stood over the bed, and I knew he was looking down at me. I wanted to ignore him. I wanted to – but I couldn't. I sat up suddenly, and I think I startled him because when I turned in his direction he had backed up slightly.
"What is it, Syndrome?" I kept my voice cool and professional. It was the only thing to do. The rage had died down, but the anger still simmered beneath the surface, teasing me, calling for me to use my powers. I kept it in check, watching his mouth move as he struggled to form words.
"I – I'm. God. So sorry, Mirage. So sorry. I didn't mean to hit you. I swear I didn't mean to hit you. I just felt so angry, so goddamn frustrated, and it just got to me and… I 'm sorry." His confession sounded less like a man who had struck a woman and more like a child who had hurt a pet very badly.
A pet. Was I a pet? I felt more like a parent as I beckoned him forth, watching him slowly sit down on the very edge of the bed, looking less sorry than nervous. He swallowed several times. I wanted to choke him, but at the same time I wanted to hold him. Holding him came first. He relaxed bonelessly into my arms, and I held his weight and felt some small dim sense of comfort.
He was still so young. Older than me by a few years, yes, but still so young. Delusions of grandeur that had expanded too quickly into reality for him to fully understand it. We were alike, I realized, in that sense. We had reached another plane of existence before we were every fully ready for it. I tried not to cry, thinking about it. It was so much harder to resist that temptation at night, when there was no one there to spy them glinting on my cheeks. I held him tighter, then, and he sighed against my neck.
I stiffened, almost gasped. Warmth in the cold night. Warmth. He was so warm. I could feel the part of me that I kept under lock and key in his presence start to break free, wiggle forward and take hold of me. It allowed me to lean more into him, to press down with my fingertips against his back. It allowed me to enjoy the feeling of that first, cautious kiss on my bare throat.
He was experienced, I knew. Perhaps moreso than I was, though I never asked him before how many girls he fucked and he never asked about the men in my life. I just lay passive except for my hands, my fingers, trailing lightly over his skin, and then coming to rest on my own lips so I could hear the words I said to him in the darkness as we fell together, draining one another in the still, dark night. It was feverish. I know he was trying to prove something, but I didn't care. Apology accepted.
On that first night I lay awake far after the exhausted, blonde-haired man had fallen to sleep, arm still thrown possessively around my waist. His ardor had not surprised me, and I'd, to be honest, loved it. It felt like a present and punishment all at once. There was the slightest smile on his face, as if he'd meant to do this, had planned this scenario, but I know he hadn't. He was attracted to me, as I was attracted to power and to him, but I knew that his real obsession lie only with the man, the hero, he hunted. I was the pet. I didn't try to examine his hero-worship further, just let myself contemplate being the pet.
Then I really hated myself and wanted to leave or die, but as the night wore on, he lost his relaxed countenance and regained one of fear and hatred as he battled invisible foes within the confines of his own mind. It was fascinating to see the man who had been so strong before become the child once again, and my maternal instinct (what I had of it, anyway) allowed me to put away anger and to hold him tight, wait for him to calm enough so that he stopped frantically moving.
I lay above the sheets as his breathing returned to normal, wondering how I have could let this happen. I wondered, but decided against further scrutiny. It wasn't a relationship, just a personal relief from the stress and strain of our daily lives, avoiding the law, dealing with the illegal, finding and systematically destroying the remaining Supers. It felt good to relax into the familiar rhythm of the bedroom ritual. It felt good to scream a name, any name.
I dreamed of a faceless man often, when we did our deeds. A faceless man within the stars, beckoning to me. But the face of Syndrome did not look bitter to me, and I never found his touch repulsive, for whenever anger began to overtake me I imagined him there, lying helpless, seconds away from breaking with strict training to suck his thumb. The image of that helplessness stayed with me even beneath the harsh truth of daytime. It stayed with me as he created monstrous modifications to a machine of destruction, it stayed with me as he killed Super after Super on his delusional quest, it stayed with me even as I was hugged in a death-grip within the arms of the man he had so long wanted to find.
When I was released I wanted to kill him more than I ever had the first time and the last time that he had struck me. This was the worse kind of betrayal, and I had nearly died to save the life of a man I did not love, locked in the arms of a man I could've loved. It was irony, blessed, cursed, irony. I didn't kill him then, only betrayed him as he betrayed me. Simply. Casually. And then I ran. Even as I ran to escape it all, I thought of that moment, that betrayal. But for all the anger, I could not hate him.
I would think then of those still times that followed what was too significant to be called sex and too casual to be called lovemaking, where we were just two lovers among the stillness of the night, escaping the harsh light of day and reality, coupling beneath the silver moon, me holding him as he cried in his dreams and I allowed myself a single tear to mingle with his own. It wasn't love, I know, but it was as doomed as Romeo and Juliet for seeming like love.
I don't know what love is. I ran away from the thing nearest to it. I was afraid, and I ran, and he was so blind to it that I finally allowed myself to cry fully. I, Mirage who was Vega who was Penelope a long, long time ago, knew as I cried only that it had felt right, love or not, to have had, once, those quiet moments in the dark.