Disclaimer: I don't own them.
Summary: Warren's flame was going out. They told him it was stress.
After awhile the stress got to me. My flame started to go out, to the point where it was barely even enough to light the candles in the paper lantern. And for the first time in my life, I was getting burned.
Mom took me to shrinks. Hoards of shrinks, the best dad's money could buy. They all told her the same thing. It's stress. It happens to teenagers. He'll get over it… or he won't.
The flame could extinguish.
As you could imagine, that was exactly on my top ten things I really couldn't wait for. Which meant I had to do something about it.
Step one: find the cause. I think it was doctors four through six that told us that.
Well, I already knew the cause. Wasn't hard to figure out. I'm in high school, almost got killed by a psychotic old lady, and I'm infatuated with the next superman.
Yeah, step one was easy. I had a feeling step two wouldn't be. And that's the problem with two-step programs, isn't it? Too extreme. Even Mad Medulla knows that it's not just find and solve. There has to be something going on the middle.
Like actually admitting I might be bi, for instance.
And that was scarier than realizing you'd been going to school with an old friend of your father's.
But this whole extinguishing thing didn't exactly leave much room for step one and a half. So I told him. What choice did I have?
I remember the look in his eyes, knowing that if he said no, my flame would go out, and that doctors seven through ten had been under the impression that it could kill me.
So I stood there, feeling like an idiot and miles away at the same time. Then that miles away feeling got stronger. A lot stronger. Tunnel vision, the works.
They lie to you, in movies and books and stuff. When you pass out, everything goes white. And it burns, god does it burn. It's like having a dull spike through the temple.
Again, not cool.
I guess Stronghold panicked or something, 'cause I woke up in the hospital to my mother's muffled shouting outside the door. Doctor number twelve was really having a hard time of it. But it was quiet in here, and that was good.
"Hey." I heard Will and opened my eyes, turning to look. He was worried. He should be. I should be dead.
Will frowned and reached down, fingers brushing the back of my hand.
"What happened? They say your flame went out. I don't understand."
"But… you passed out. That doesn't happen from just stress."
"Does when you're made of fire, Stronghold."
He frowned and looked away.
At my hand.
If he couldn't stop looking at it, I did not want to know what it was he was looking at.
"Did you mean it?" He said after awhile. "What you said?"
"When have I ever said something like that just to get a rise out of you?"
Twice actually, but I doubted he'd remember. Still, it wasn't the point now, was it?
But Will was silent. Head down, he kept looking at my hand. Eventually, I felt his fingers curl over mine.
"Why do you keep doing that?" I had felt empty until he touched me. Then it was like a fire had sparked and taken hold.
"Your hands are cold." He looked up and I could tell it bothered him. "That's bad, isn't it? Your hands are never cold." He paused. "Your mom let me stay here." A smile, less humor than would have been nice. "Made me, really… not that I would have left." Another gap. "Not after what you said."
I shrugged. It was easier than forming a response. But Stronghold wasn't looking anyway.
"It's because of me, isn't it?" he held my eyes then. "You're sick because of me."
"I told you. Stress."
"Over me. Over telling me that." He looked at the door. My mother was silhouetted in its window, dwarfing doctor number twelve. "I told your mom. She said your flame would come back."
"Told my mom what exactly?"
"What you said to me."
He backed up, but didn't let go of my hand.
"I had to. She was worried, and she asked! Warren, I'm sorry, I didn't know I wasn't supposed to—"
"Let the whole world know? Would have thought that was common sense."
I'd never burned like this and not been on fire before.
"Warren, I'm sorry, really. But I wanted to make this better. This is my fault. I should have told you."
"Told me what?" The flames were gone. Cold panic now.
"This." He leaned forward, kissed me, and all at once I was up in flames. Real flames.
He pulled back, grinning like I'd given him a diamond or something. I had to force the flame out. I didn't want to. God, I wanted to burn, let the fire consume him and me both, and leave the wind to have its wicked way with the flames.
I wanted more.
But the flame caught my mother's eye outside the door and she flew into the room, still yelling at the doctor but over her should now.
Doctor number twelve looked very relieved.
"I told you! I told you he'd listen to this one." She said to the doctor, smiling at Will. "You and him, you make a wonderful couple." And then she turned to me. "Your father would be proud."
My father would be proud because I'd managed to steal his archenemy's son. But hell, I was happy too. What did it matter?
Will was still grinning like an idiot, still holding my hand.
He hadn't burned.
I guess being invulnerable has its upside.