A/N: I know most of you asked for a continuation, and this isn't quite that, but I will say that a sequel isn't completely out of the question. I just hope this works in the meantime. It's basically a prequel to From The Ashes.
God, it hurt! It hurt so fucking much. The pain. The burning. The fires of hell were finally consuming her, making her pay for every wrong she'd ever committed: all the lies, the deception, the death…and Sylar.
Fucking Sylar! Of course he'd be on her mind in her dying moments, when agony had reached its zenith. He did this to her. He was responsible for her death, which was coming in mere moments.
The pain was so intense. She could feel it radiating at every pinpoint on her body. She'd once been told that you couldn't feel pain in two places at once. What complete and utter bullshit. But, it was justice. Sweet justice. It was what she deserved. She wondered if this was how her mother and grandmother must have felt as they burned in the fire she'd caused with her power.
It was an ironic twist of fate, really. Elle had been told for years before her mother's death that she was the spitting image of her, that it ran in the family: she was her mother's daughter, and her mother her grandmother's daughter, so it was fitting for three generations to all die the same way, in a fire that could be traced back to her.
As the thoughts raced through her mind, Elle became aware of a new sensation. She was becoming dry. Her skin's moisture was disappearing as the heat filled her, drying her out from the inside. Strangely, she noted in the back of her mind, the hottest point she could feel was in the pit of her stomach. Then she could feel her skin peeling off like old wallpaper. She was disintegrating.
The salty wind blew across her, but it did not cool her. In fact, it intensified her pain. The flames seemed to thrive on the salt in the air and her own ashes began to swirl in the wind's invisible fingers. The ashes made her stomach turn, not that that would be the case much longer. It disgusted her to see herself dying right before her eyes: being picked apart by nature itself.
Then it happened. A final burst of flames welled in her abdomen and she managed to cry out, even sparking electricity along her body in time with the savage burn, and then she felt herself rip apart at the seams. Everything was so hot: red to orange to blue to white and then…to black.
The next thing she knew, the pain was gone. It felt hazy, like a bad dream that she could partly remember but not really. She stared up at the sky. It was a perky blue, like the kind one sees in fairytales.
"Am I dead?"
No. She shook her head, feeling granules of sand dig into her scalp. If she was dead, she wouldn't be staring at a beautiful sky, she'd still be suffering in the pits of hell. In the distance, she heard a seagull's call and tilted her head to listen more intently. She heard the lapping of the waves, the whistling of the breeze.
Elle finally sat up. She was on the beach. Memories flooded back. She remembered herself, in pain and laden with blood. She instinctively moved her hand to her leg and was shocked to find it perfect. No gash, no blood. Then she remembered Gabriel, no Sylar. He had been leaning over her, almost as if he wanted to take her right then and there. But to her horror, he hadn't. He'd kissed her so passionately, he'd laced their hands together, and told her that he'd been thinking.
"No one ever really changes," he'd whispered, blunt and to the point.
Elle felt her eyes prick. She'd told him she'd seen him change and he'd insisted it was temporary. She didn't understand how he could say that. After all they'd been through. It had made her stomach curl. Not the fear of him, per se, but the fear of losing him.
Then she touched her forehead, remembering how he'd held up his finger and cut into her. But it wasn't the same. He'd cut into her head on two different occasions and when he'd done so on the beach, it wasn't the same. He'd been gentle. The blood didn't gush, it trickled. She didn't scream, she didn't go all electrical storm on him, she'd cried out at the pain and silently begged him to stop hurting her.
Elle's fingers traced where the cut on forehead should have been, but she felt nothing. No pain, no line, no dried blood. Then she remembered something else. Him telling her to sit down, him moving his hand to her head protectively…and her flinching away.
"Oh god!" she breathed. "That was it. That's why he did it…I made him do it." She squeezed her eyes at the realization. A tear flew down her flawless cheek. The calm of the thumping waves seemed to bring clarity to her mind. "I flinched and he thought…he thought I'd lost my faith in him. I made him think he couldn't change!"
She wanted to hurt herself. She wished she'd died. Officially, she'd made him second guess himself twice, she'd betrayed him twice. She no longer wanted to hurt him, she wanted to hurt herself. Her eyes lingered on the crystalline ocean. An idea was slowly molding in her head. She could go electric, walk into the water…make herself pay for hurting Sylar, no, Gabriel.
Elle pulled herself up from the sand. Her eyes swept the area around her. She noted that the sand was beyond charred, melted together by hell's fire. She swallowed hard and returned her attention to the ocean. She curled her fist and sparks sizzled along her knuckles. She curled her other fist and repeated the movement: this time electrical currents crackled up her arms. She felt like Carrie White, walking stiffly towards her fate.
Electricity sizzled along her skin. Usually it made her excited, but in that moment, she felt dread and remorse. It had to end. She reached the wet sand and it oozed between her toes. It felt good, like a long forgotten memory.
Sparks surged around her legs, making their way to her ankles. The water rushed back again, tickling her toes and washing away the soft sand. As it receded, the electrical current finally washed over her feet. She felt sharp pains in her heels, the balls of her feet, and between her toes. She took another step and then felt something tight in the pit of her stomach. Something akin to the feeling she'd had when she'd been on fire and ready to die.
Dread raced through her. Her eyes watched the water, as if in slow motion, as it came back towards her. "No. No!" She stepped back, then hopped and jumped. She realized she didn't want to die, not yet, not like this. She jumped back, away, just in time. The watery hands of the sea swiped at her ankles and barely missed her, only succeeding in erasing her footsteps.
But Gabriel! She owed him. She deserved to die. She touched her stomach, waiting for the dread to return. It didn't. The wind rustled her bangs. "I need to see him," she thought aloud. "I need to talk to him." Her eyes stung again. "I need to apologize…and then I can die. He can kill me again if he wants, I just need to see him and tell him…" Her voice caught on an inner sob. "Tell him I'm sorry for doubting him, for flinching." She fell to her knees in the sand. The tears flew down her cheeks. "I never meant to hurt him. Never!"
She thrust her hands into the grainy sand. Her body shook as she cried. She felt so weak, so wrong. It hurt so much more than the first time she'd betrayed him. She'd hurt him so badly that he had tried to kill her, a crime of passion. And for whatever twist of cruel fate, she had somehow come back like his own personal ghost.
In the back of her mind, she could see her father, sitting at his desk, stone faced with a folder in his hands. She recalled the name label, Gray, Gabriel. She could remember him telling her about her mission, about what she must do.
Bitterly, the words rolled out of her mind, onto her tongue, and into the present. "You've got a job to do, Elle. It's time to rise to the occasion."
And she rose to her feet. She silently vowed to find Gabriel and right her wrongs. Then and only then, would she be able to move on, whatever and where ever, that meant.