Disclaimer: A statement made to cover one's own backside.
Special thanks to crzysheelf, who helped me get this up and running, and to Guille van Cartier for giving me the inspiration to get up and write something at all.
...if she stopped, sometimes, at a particular turn of phrase or a certain taste or smell – remembering suddenly the shape of a long-gone body, the ways of it, its undeniability.
Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction.
She hasn't slept in months.
Her room is too big, the walls too complex, something missing, always missing, creatures crawling about the walls that try to hunt her. She feels like she occupies another plane of existence now. She's higher up, everything's calmer, pleasantly darker, and the sounds she hears are the pale echoes of what other people say. They look washed out and quiet, existing someplace below her. This isn't arrogance, no, but her brain has found a mechanism to ensure survival and that's to transcend reality.
When she's alone and in bright light, she shuts her eyes and sees four grey walls with a door through the glare in her eyelids. She looks at the door, watches it, feels her heart race but nothing ever comes through. It frightens her, terribly. She can't figure out if that's what she's afraid of, or what she wants. And she sees that door everywhere nowadays, like a choice waiting to be made. Maybe what comes through it is up to her, at some bizarre unconscious level.
She understands it now; it didn't take him long to teach her. And the lessons remain, locked up and suppressed but undeniably there. When she was found (when her own kind of death took her) she was trapped inside with those teachings and the only way to let this cured and purified form of herself out again –
– is impossible. He's gone someplace, someplace far away. But he Won, and she knows that he knows. He did what he set out to do. He was too clever about it to fail.
When she's alone and in darkness, she can feel pressure on her wrists and on her lips. It's too much to bear so she clamps her mouth shut and scratches furiously at that vulnerability in her arms. Sometimes she scratches until she bleeds, and the scars are still there, but she doesn't mind – anything that distracts her from the moment of memory and the want that accompanies it. He's there, she can feel it, the part of him that she took with her, the part of him that is still in that little grey lockup in her skull. She's peering out through the cracks in the walls in day-to-day life, living in another plane of being, another dimension of existence with his hands upon her shoulders and his mouth waiting by her neck.
She doesn't know if she wants it back or if she wants it to go away. Both, she feels, sometimes.
But it's not sleep, not by any stretch of the imagination – there's no drifting away, no black shutdown, just endless enduring consciousness. And endless enduring need.
She functions, though. Every day. She can walk and talk and take care of herself but she's just not there anymore. Not in herself. No-one can tell, of course; the new her, the part of who she really is now is hidden away, so the face that sees the world is the face that everyone recognises. But people's faces are a succession of masks: people have a transitory nature and a contingent existence. Day to day, people change their facades to reflect who they are underneath because a person is never the same, moment to moment. Events change people, and could merely be the passing of seconds. People are strangers to themselves in the past and in the future. Different people, different masks, shifting all the time.
When she alone and restful, in low light, she feels warm, sleepy, unaccountably comfortable and desperately missing something. Like legs following her own, the contours of a chest fitting to her shoulderblades, arms like bars across her stomach. Like safety.
The ocean of the personality washes itself different every day. She watches this happen, to others and to herself. She doesn't sleep. She doesn't have a blank period where she loses time (like everyone else), so she can observe the changes as they happen.
So she's operating on automatic pilot, if she had one (the brain is too complex and ever-moving to ever let the body take care of itself). She exists through the daytime, and in the same state through the night-time. She finds herself watching people now, eternally guessing and criticising inside herself. She hears a conversation and rebukes the speakers for not having mastery of their own words. She observes a fight and disregards the struggling adversaries for their lack of careful control. She watches a competition and criticises the participants for not having pure, pointed focus. All internally. And she knows that she's looking for him in other people. She can see the mixture of colours that make people up, a murk of their emotions and desires; through this human complexity she is reminded of him, who isn't really human – his pure and complete machine of simplicity. He made her into something new, burned what taint and confusion she had. He focused her, magnetised her to point due North. And now, that North is gone and she will wander aimlessly until it is back again.
She wanders a lot, these days. Especially through trees. She likes them. They are quiet and prefer to communicate wordlessly, like her. They become what nature, their master, has made of them. She can appreciate that.
She works. Of course she works. She works in the office and on the front line of the agency that took her away, the agency that did what they thought was right for her. She doesn't blame them for it. They are a product of their morals and beliefs as she is a product of his control over her. That's balance, and it's an irony she can live with. It's also a bizarre relief. She took his mission because she wanted to be right and brave, strong and smiling – the compulsion was too strong. But he cleaned her out of such tainted wishes. She doesn't feel that surge any more, that desperation to do things their way. It has made her life easier and has made her enjoy her missions more; in some respects, what made her talented in the first place was holding her back. Now she allows herself to enjoy the stretch and twist of her flesh when working, that control over her own body, the way that every breath of clean and cool air fills her from her head to her working toetips. It's a good feeling. She wishes he could see what he made of her. He made her better, but not the way they would think. He got his revenge. He made her efficient. He made her more like him, and perhaps that is no bad thing.
Sometimes, when she's in a limbo between a sleep she never reaches and the consciousness she never one-hundred-percent achieves, she feels so deeply scared because he might never get to finish what he started. She knows she's something different now, but it's only half the transformation. Oh, she'll never be evil, like him, but that's not what she means. She means she's on her way to being a new person and whoever that person is, she'd like to get there.
However long it takes.
However secret the agency is, however fantastical, it still has roots within the mundane.
She is filing paperwork the day it happens. Not focusing, brain idling, mind flicking its eyes through the cracks in the walls of the cell in her head.
The whisper flows through the room like wind, sweeping through people until the noise of it is like millions of leaves rustling. She puts her hands over her ears for a moment. She can't stand noise anymore. She lets the soft sound buffet her from every side, shake her like the leaves in the trees she loves so much, until it moves onwards and upwards and leaves her be.
No-one tells her the secret. They're afraid of her and of what she will do, but she knows. At some primordial level she's already aware of what's happened.
There are stairs. She knows where they go but she follows them as if they were new. Her eyes are dark and so violet, she is strong and pale, and her heart beats like the butterfly he trapped of her.
The door swings open at her touch, cool metal at her fingertips. There are men there and they look at her, startled, halfway through a conversation with someone. She looks at them, completely expressionless, and without a word they file away, past her and out of the door. The oldest with a tired face and a worn-down demeanour touches her shoulder on his way by. She pities him for his lack of understanding, but appreciates the gesture.
She turns gently when they are gone and locks the solid door. And whilst her hand is there she sends a powerful surge through it, a purple blast which shorts out the security cameras and emergency overrides. It is subtle, quick, untraceable.
So she turns and walks forwards, and she sees him.
She has the unexpected, shocking, unpleasant feeling that she has suddenly landed on her feet as if falling from a great height. Her eyes are hot and dry and she breathes in calm, measured paces. Through the clear perspex that separates them she can see the cant of his mouth, behind his interlaced fingers, as it twists upwards in the barest of movements.
He is thin and burning. That much has not changed. But it has progressed, like the disease it is: he looks human, but he reminds her of a length of firewood, almost completely black and used. He's nearly gone. His hatred has eaten him, and there's not much human left in him at all.
There fire is still raging in him (like the forest fire that eventually burns itself out) and she can feel it flare at the sight of her. His eyes darken and that smile she sensed before holds place.
There is an echo in her mind, what happens to you here is forever, and although she never doubted the sentiment in the first place it comes back, bouncing and stronger.
There is a door in the perspex wall that divides the room in two and she pushes it lightly with her fingertips. It's a thing of grace – thin, strong, clear, delicately put together, unlocked by her previous power surge. It slides open with no sound whatsoever. He stands, unfolding himself, and she feels the fresh heat from him like a wave. It hits her and her eyes slip closed for a second before she acclimatises. Yes, that cruel smile is still there, and he's taller than her, so tall and so thin without being wasted. So burned up.
He takes a few steps forward, easy, ranged strides that are perfectly controlled. She feels something, suddenly: she's missed this. Sometimes she wakes from wherever her imagination takes her, sweating and cold, frightened beyond belief, and she missed it. She missed his perfect control, the way he never wasted words (he spoke thirteen words to her in total, she counts them every day) and the way he understood the way power flows.
She has the influence now. She has the weight on the end of the scale this time. She can take a step back, close the door, have him do exactly what she wants him to do. She can hurt him, strike him, and they both know he won't fight back.
Power is a weighty thing, and whether or not that weight is enjoyable is entirely subjective. But she feels brittle, balance-stricken. What tips the scale is not the weight on it but where the fulcrum is placed – she has the power, but ultimately he has the control. And oh, they both know this. Like last time, he can still control her. She knows this through her sudden, random desire to touch him – just to see if he's real, and whether or not he'll blister her fingertips. But she's afraid, because he looks so gaunt – one touch and he'll disintegrate into ash.
So the reason she steps back over the threshold of the perspex door is not because she has fought his control of her and won: it is because she wants it to continue. He has formed her into the beginnings of a new person and without him it will die. She doesn't want to die. Not again. So she leaves, holding that rule of self-preservation close to herself.
Things are said. Words are spoken. They're harsh-sounding declarations that all start with the unforgiving letter T. Tests. Trial. Testimony. Tribulations. Testify. Time. They're syllables spat into the air in a joke of communication, a soft parody of speech. These phrases all come to her from different people, gentle words meant to be reassuring and helpful. They don't realise that this isn't what she wants. They don't understand it at all.
He wanted revenge, and he got it. She's now completely attuned to him, in every way. But in some new way she now possesses a measure of control over him: she can ensure his future, can ensure he continues with his revenge. His mastery over her is direct and straight. Hers, over him, is indirect, broad, but still with measurable force. Is that balance?
No. Objectively it's balanced, but to she who exists within this complex relationship and interaction it's not balanced in the slightest. But it's not like it's a problem.
She wants herself back. She wants herself to be who she is. She wants rid of any more taint inside of her, she wants to be that pure creature he created for her (pragmatic, defiant to the last, and totally ruled by him) and there is only one way to do that.
So she visits him again with that barrier between them. He's right up against it, standing scant centimetres from its cool surface. She looks at him impassionately, perspex blocking the heat from him, but she can see the firelight reflected in his eyes.
She says, they caught you.
He says, no.
She knows what he means. They could never catch him, not properly – he'll be out again, soon enough. Same way as last time. Lies, trickery. She appreciates this; it's pragmatic, a quality she has come to admire intensely. And –
His eyes dart to her lips and back again. Something happens which she hasn't felt in a long while: the first few trickles of adrenaline that dilate her pupils and up her breathing. The chain reaction she remembers so well.
He sees this and smirks. Now he knows what she's been aware of for a long time – he still controls her. Pavlov would be proud.
She knows she's being selfish. She knows the best thing is for him to be put behind bars (where he belonged in the first place) to stop him hurting anyone else. But it's also true that principles become selfish when they're more important to you than the people they protect, and by putting him behind bars it wouldn't be protecting her. It would be destroying her.
So she starts making plans.
She is an employee at the agency, and one whom everybody is tiptoeing around at that. She can pretty much get her own way. She gets codes and access keys, bits of information and data. She pieces it together, gets into his accounts and details. She hides money, changes property deeds, uses the government computers to create and destroy, Picasso all over again. Quietly, surreptitiously. It takes a little time, but she has that. Politics are always time-consuming and they have given her the leeway to complete this task.
More people arrive, this time for her. Faces she recognises strongly, faces who console and hug, all except one: a strong, lined forehead, blonde hair that's greyed out, bleach replaced by the ash of a fire burned down low. He is furious in the way that a volcano is. Soft murmurs, suggestions here and there of the activity below before he explodes and consumes whomsoever is in his path.
My little girl, he says to her occasionally, and she hugs him with all the love she has for him (more than can ever be measured) and she thinks, I love you, daddy, but I belong to someone else now. For as much as she adores him, she knows that this chapter of her life is over and she must fight to turn to the next page. It will hurt him, but she knows he has always wanted her to do what made her happier, made her a better person inside herself. She can't tell him any of this, of course. But she wishes she could. She will miss him. But life goes on and her plans grow, and soon that is all she can think about.
She doesn't visit him any more. She's laying the fine railroad tracks of her plans beneath the sands of politics, doubt and suspicion, and that last thing she needs is for them to be uncovered by an ill-timed move.
She thinks he honestly doesn't know what she's planning, and the thought surprises her a little through its logic. She's still used to seeing him as all-powerful, all-knowing, but he can't know that she's setting up shelter for him. He's well aware that somehow he's going to walk away from this but he doesn't credit her intelligence. She's worked in the system long enough to know how to corrupt it. She'll twist it for her purposes. He would be proud. It's all his doing, anyway.
So when the time comes she doesn't actually know it. It's just a day like any other. Calm routine, steady nerves, quiet hands, mind several floors below her. But that's okay, she's used to that now. Part of her is always elsewhere.
Then there's a rush, a call, an alarm: a red light turns on and there is a moment's silence before the rush. The deep breath before the hurricane. For a moment she thinks it's him; that he's broken out under his own energy. But no, reports start filtering through the network, it's a new guy, he's fast and strong and powerful, watch out, we'll need everybody on this one, move people, MOVE!
All hell breaks loose. People rush and shout, hurry to change into suits, and in the confusion she's flying down the stairs as fast as she can run. She's prepared and set. She knows all about the best-laid plans of mice and men, and is thankful she is neither.
She throws open the door to his cell and skids through, barely in control, shorting out the door to his plexiglas prison. She's looking behind her, careful careful can't let anyone know she's in here when she should be outside and joining in the team effort against evil, oh ho what fun. She's not concentrating on him (a mistake in any quarter) and she's too consumed with panic and the fear of discovery, so when she turns to gauge him she finds him moving toward her with deadly purpose. Her fear of what she's doing is instantly overruled by the more immediate threat of the way he's suddenly in front of her. She moves backwards, trying to stay ahead of him, trying to stay just beyond that blistering warmth that pours out and away. It's not until her back hits the wall that she realises that's what he was aiming for. There is anger and heat in him, she sees it, feels it, bathes in it. Oh God, yes, she needed this. But she can't focus on it, focus on him, because she still has half a brain concentrating on her absence upstairs.
She's frightened, at the same time. Deeply. He's dangerous, he's wildfire, and she'd be a fool to forget that... and as much as she needs this precipice, there just isn't time.
He's close. He's full of rage. She holds up her hands in a warding gesture, and he stops bluntly in his tracks. There is flat surprise in his expression, and he does something she never expected of him; something she shouldn't be surprised at. He reaches forward with one hand, and delicately removes the folded paper obvious in her left hand.
She never expected him to be gentle. But, she reminds herself, gentleness can be another form of cruelty. That's okay. That fits.
The paper is a folded amalgamation of the admission keys and codes that will allow him access to everything he will need to get out and set himself up again. A new name, a new existence, a new realisation of ideals. A different person, a different mask, but shifting all the time.
There is a moment of viscous heat as his hand brushes hers. They have had closer contact, a long time ago, a fortnight she carries with her, but nothing like this angerless curiosity. He is genuinely surprised. She was right. He doesn't credit her with enough intelligence.
His eyes move to the paper in his hand, and then snap back to hers. She senses as though he is waiting for an explanation but damnit, there just isn't enough time. She takes a deep breath, flushes away her fear, and leans closer to him.
You're a different person out there, she says, and then she's ducking away from him and running up the stairs, away, quickly quickly, can't stop, door open behind her, pause and he'll break free from this fevered web she's spinning, another form of desperation.
Desperation, and heat, and time, and desire.
She takes it all in her stride now. She's laid the escape and it's his job to see it through, so she joins her team-mates in facing this latest threat to peace, harmony, and all things righteous. And now she moves, twists, flexes, fighting to do the job she's paid to do. She can see the figure causing all this confusion, and she doesn't fear it. They're not worthy of the fear she has reserved in her; that's all for him. Instead, she treats this new threat like a puzzle, something to be solved, worked or wrought. Maybe even something to be broken. What would Picasso have to say about that? Maybe that it's true human nature: see it, work it out, destroy it. It's a time-honoured pattern, and today she's feeling traditionalistic.
She fights like she never would have done before. When she was tainted, rusty from use, she used her gifts as a bonus, and useful ally. Now she treats them like appendages – seamless, co-ordinated, effortlessly in sync, taken for granted. She's at her peak. She's cleansed and pure, inside and out. He made of her this, he turned her from that functioning machine into this sleekly-tuned animal, all sense and nerves and polished chromium.
She wins. Not the team, not the Big Group Effort, but her. She gets close enough to this opposing combatant, this man who thinks of himself so highly that he brings out these exemplary citizens, these supergifted united, in full force. And she strikes him, permanent fast, parries a blow with a purple wall, down to physical hand-to-hand, misjudges, takes a shot to the jaw, grabs hold of his head, braces, twists, drops.
His body hits the floor, a pointless shell devoid of sentience. Muscle and sinew, ended and useless, and she looks at him for a moment. You can't replace him, she thinks angrily. He's the villain, and you can't ever hope to replace him.
She knows who she thinks about. Who she ever thinks about.
Now it's over, she touches her mouth to find a thin stream of blood flowing freely from one corner. She doesn't wipe it away, doesn't smudge its clean lines. Instead, she walks away from this freshly-turned conflict, body loose and moving freely, and feels eyes upon her back.
She doesn't turn, but she does glance over her shoulder: she sees a man, thickset, judge and jury with those strengths of his. Grey-blonde and blue-eyed, suspicious and a little frightened.
His eyes say: You're different now.
Her eyes say: nothing.
She turns once again and walks away from him, from that life she left behind a long time ago, and casts her eyes to the future.
She still doesn't sleep.
They think she's angry about his escape. They are wrong. She is in a purgatory-less limbo, a grey world where she waits patiently for the next step.
It's all up to him. He might never try to seek her out.
But all fires that burn have a starting point – an ember from whence they came... and perhaps, for him, it was revenge and anger. He once tried to rationalise it, to reason it out: volcanoes are full of fire and fury so he gravitated there, trying to find homeground, a place to be real. Then he will have realised that he can carry that volcano around inside of himself. He did, and now it's out of control. Wildly.
She thinks he will come back for her because he's so thin... so dimensionless. The fire he has held and nurtured since his childhood has almost finished its job of eating him away, catalysed by his first-time failure to exact that revenge. He'll never manage it now, never reverse the damage, never replace the human inside of him that was consumed by the fire. But he can have it balanced. He can stop its progression. And he can do that by doing something he knows will hurt the man he hates so much. He can take away from that man what matters to him most; steal away the violet butterfly he has kept captive in bars of morals, tendrils of familial love, and eyes of hash blue. And when he knows that not only did he manage his revenge this time, but the stolen creature will return to him of her own free will... it will be like some kind of perpetual vengeance, a retribution renewed every day. He changed her, transmuted her, made her into something his own. And that might just be enough.
She will fill the hole inside of him where a man used to be. The fire can't eat that. He can stay balanced, stop degenerating, never blow away like so much ash in the wind.
She's a smart girl; she's always been a smart girl. Being controlled by him doesn't mean she's stopped thinking for herself. She can wait. She's waited a year, maybe a little more, for him already.
So she settles back and lets the changes come.
But still she doesn't sleep.
A while passes.
There's a strange feeling in her skull nowadays, as though her mind has been suspended in some kind of clear jelly. That grey cell she carried with her for so long is gone, faded away like a watercolour in bright light. That's okay. She doesn't think she needs it anymore.
There's no light outside. No wind, no rain, nothing – the weather in these ridiculously early hours is an emotionless void. Much like herself, these past few years. Three years, in fact. She's been metamorphosing for three years. And in that time, she hasn't felt as empty as she looks. She feels comfortable inside herself, pleasantly solid, emotions put away on the shelf along with her stuffed toys. She hasn't any use for them anymore, but it hasn't damaged her.
She leans against the windowsill, unaware of the long-since unused bed behind her. She's used to this window, this view. It's all she watches through the night, instead of dreaming. She likes to pretend she can still do that, but she's out of practise. So she switches all the lights off and keeps the curtains thrown wide open to let the meagre light of the moon and the stars in. The dull silver glow highlights this space that is here and hers, distanced from Mr. Blonde-and-blue and those that try to care for her. Her thoughts touch upon them briefly here, in this house away from them. There's a pause for a nostalgic, fond thought for them – a goodbye under her own terms. Bye bye, Daddy, never forget I loved you.
Then the softest of touches draws a line from the base of her skull to her shoulderblades and she gasps audibly. Instantly, there is an uncontrolled terror in her system that she has not felt in three years. She thought she'd archived her emotions, but –
He, the master manipulator, has started this game again – he has started the chain reaction of dread in her brain and pituitary gland that will trickle down to her adrenal cortex.
This is how it will begin.
She has turned, fast, fingers grasping the ledge of the window so hard she feels splinters under her fingernails.
No, she whispers involuntarily.
He does not reply. Instead, he has shifted, pinned her to the wall beside the window with startling pragmatism and hands that burn raw. He's just highlighted by the edge of the moonlight for a moment, enough to see the harsh lines he's made of, that edged cruelty and needless sarcasm that makes him up.
But that's only for a moment because the next he's pressed closer. Reality dissolves into memory and there's harsh steel lighting, solid grey walls, a few bars here and there for effect but they aren't what's keeping her here at all. Her heart flickers shallow in her chest, panicked wildly. And her skin sears with the heat this close, shrill protestations from nerve endings that she'll burn up like this, the poisonous radiation he throws out will destroy her –
She focuses on her breathing for a moment – in, out, thrice, calm. And when these treble memories have been placed under careful arrest, she leans into his capture ever so slightly. Let's see what he makes of this.
She can feel his weight now. He's not as light as she thought. It's as though there's a solid part of him, a centre of balance which keeps him anchored. But all thoughts of daring and change are forgotten as his fingers shift their grip on her wrists, by her sides, incredibly unexpectedly. And then he's moving her arms, up, over her head, where he pins both her wrists in a crossing gesture with one powerful hand. Her hands curl and flex like dying spiders, automatically trying to break free from this grip. There's a hand under her chin, raising her head almost defiantly. She sees him, sees the way the pale moonlight catches the edges on the faint upturn of his mouth. His eyes are entirely in shadow. The heat is colourless, odourless, and makes patterns in the short space between them.
She is shaking, scared throughout her entire frame, breathing shallow and fast. Her mouth is a defiant line, her throat exposed by the way he lifts her chin up. Totally at his mercy. He sees this and there is a contemplatory breath in the dark. He is thinking. And whilst he does this, his thumb draws a soft and delightful line down her jaw.
She tenses instantly, head tipped back a little. There's torque in her shoulders and throat, a steady humming tension that he can feel through his fingers. Her eyes move quickly over his, searching for some kind of reference point to base her situation on. She's wildly adrift now, absolutely no clue as to what's going to happen to her.
He shakes his head slightly, and the grip on her wrists loosens and drops away. Her hands move to her sides, flatten against the wall as if on automatic. He begins to move away.
I killed a man. What have you made me? she asks him, sharp and a little frightened, because she still hasn't figured it out yet.
He stops and looks back at her, finally turning to face her properly. He's thinking, a new thought amidst the seeds of the old ones. He approaches her once more, and again his hand lifts her chin.
You're not me, he says at last. I never justified myself.
I know, she replies, satisfied with their answers. I know.
She feels him begin to move away again, and she's so scared that he'll leave her deficient and incomplete that she makes a move, powered by sheer desperation.
Don't leave me unfinished, she whispers.
A pause. He nods. A decision made by equality, for the sake of control.
He places a burning hand over her eyes, and as she shuts her eyelids she hears the single word: sleep. She drops away from the world like a stone butterfly from the air, and crashes hard into the blackness for the first time in years.
She wakes, and it's like coming home to a house that's condemned. For a moment, she thinks she's hallucinating, or having a flashback: grey walls, solid bars, shadowless light.
Everything is suddenly confusing. The last few years were a dream; she's always been here. It's the only thing that makes sense. She touches her arms, looking for bruises that aren't there, and is momently disorientated when she thinks she's in the wrong clothes.
Then her brain registers the differences. The door set in the bars that divide the room in two is open. There are no guards. This is not the past. The last few years happened, they were real, they were true, he's brought her back here for some extent or purpose. Maybe... she doesn't dare hope... to finish what he started.
So she does what she never thought she'd do, which defies the physical laws and gravities set in this place: she steps through the door, crosses the remainder of the room, and leaves the cell.
The corridors are lit low, as she remembered. There's steel mesh walkway that clanks under her feet, and she recognises the sound, if not the texture. Her eyes flicker across this endless corridor, once-twice, and she settles on the one anomaly – the open door about fifty paces down. There are no people, just silence.
She makes for it.
It would be jet-black inside if monitors didn't cast their blueish glow over the otherwise-unlit room. She can't see the corners of the chamber, just the screens which show figures, words, the occasional view of an empty corridor.
He's stood behind her. She knows it. So she says, this time with authority, Don't leave me unfinished.
A hand on the vulnerable spot on the base of her neck turns her around to face him. She's afraid, but it's buried beneath her own rock-hard strata of determination. She knows she can see this through. Can he?
There's no wall behind her to cower against. She comes here, to him, of her own free will, and it's evident in the symbolism of her gesture.
He doesn't touch her, apart from that one hand curled around her neck. But he does bring her closer, nearer, until her breath moves faster, spiked with an adrenaline she fully endorses and expects. He's looking at her, all the time, fully in control, judging, calculating, ineffably pleased with how this has turned out. He holds her at his power for the longest time, long enough for her fear to bump up a few notches and to reinforce the message of who is in control. But then, some decision made, he brushes her lips with his own for just half a second.
She inhales sharply and her thought patterns explode into bright white chaos. All she can think is more, somehow, now. She's begging on the inside but it's okay, everything's fine, she's all right with that. She's so used to him holding her under his influence that she's shocked beyond comprehension when that dancing form of touching, passing over her lips with his, becomes undeniable contact.
That's it. The last piece in place. He's done it. She's all been put together now, but she's still raw and unglazed. She may be complete, but she's far from finished. There's much work to be done.
What was undeniable contact becomes fiercer, darker, hotter. The furnace inside him is blazing out, but she's unaffected. She can touch it and won't burn away. She can keep him stable, whilst he finishes her.
His other hand slips to the small of her back, under her shirt, and pulls her into him. She gasps into him in surprise: last time he touched her his hands were cold, a startling contrast to the rest of him. But he's warming up, the fire spreading through him and finding more to burn (but now without consuming), and now his fingers are just as hot as the rest of him. But she likes it. She's always liked it.
He pushes her away from him, gently but with enough persuasiveness to show his concern only for control. She would feel angry at it were it not for the endorphins in her making her oblivious to everything but him. His hand moves from her back and rests itself on her shoulder, and the fingers on her throat slide to rest on the other. He turns her around.
She sees the faintest outline of a door, masked by the shadows. If it was dark in this control room, then it's pitch in there.
He pushes her a little and she starts moving with easy, unconcerned steps. There's intentness in her eyes and in her mind, and as his footsteps fall into sync behind hers, she knows that she chose the right thing. Others will be upset, especially when they never find her. Yes, she had a duty to them. But she also has a duty to herself and somehow, that justifies everything. She needs to be who she was created to be.
He's behind her, and she has a half-substantiated idea of what will happen next. She closes her eyes as she passes through the doorway, his fingers burning their impressions on her collarbones. But what she knows for sure is that there's darkness where she's going.
Somehow, she's glad of it.