Into the Fire

He has burned before, too many times. Every time has been like touching death itself, only to have it snatched away. Fire has cleansed him, given him new life, wrapped around him and burst him apart, and he has survived.

Never before has burning hurt so much.

He can feel this new and alien inferno beneath every inch of his skin, inside his bones, behind his eyes. Everything he sees is on fire and everything he breathes is pain. A fresh surge of agony explodes inside his head and he screams, and suddenly the hands that he has grown to depend on so many times over these last few frantic days are gone and he is alone.

He has burned alone before. He can't face it again.

"Martha, where are you?"

Her hands are back round his shoulders again, supporting him to the chamber; doctor's hands, assured and calming, though the shrill note of panic in her voice betrays her fear. The fire is in his lungs now and he can no longer draw breath, something so powerful and so deadly rising in his throat that he knows he cannot keep up the fight for long.

"There's this process, this…this thing…that happens…if I'm about to die..."

He has longed for death, welcomed it, run from it, over and over again, but now that it is upon him the horror of it penetrates everything else, even the pain, because he knows suddenly that if he is to go down now it would be the end. Fire can only kill him this time.

That is when he knows he wants to live.

"You ready?"

"No."