A/N: My take on what would happen if Alex Mercer and PARIAH met. And not another frakking fight. (*ahem* SCREW YOU, MCMULLEN!)
Once upon a time, on a United States Air Force base somewhere in the American Southwest, there was a little boy.
This little boy had black hair and dark eyes and a perpetually empty expression. This little boy lived a lonely life, with only the birds up above and his rubber ball for company. He couldn't play with anyone because the men in white coats told him not to, and he never met anyone new. He couldn't.
This little boy could kill things by touching them.
He had tried to coax the big, black birds close so he could have friends who could fly, but after the first one landed on his hand, it grew deep red boils and cawed frantically until it stopped moving. The others didn't come near after that.
It wasn't anything he understood. He was eternally young, eternally a child and had no idea of the concept of death and certainly none regarding disease. All he knew was that whenever he touched someone, they started to scream and writhe and twist their limbs into impossible shapes, and then they stopped moving. It had happened five times.
All he could do was play with his ball and his other toys, day-in and day-out. He didn't notice the years pass by, not even as the men in white grew old and stopped coming by, or they were replaced by younger, harsher counterparts that were still afraid to touch him. He felt lonely, but he never lashed out. There was never any reason to. It was everything he had ever known.
Then, one day, he felt her. She was different—she wasn't afraid and she always listened to his troubles, even though she was terribly far away. Even when she was trying to do other things, she still listened to him. Having discovered this, the little boy was happy. Here was someone the men in white couldn't warn away, someone who felt for him in a way that no one else did. Once, even, he asked her to come find him and take him to her world, a world filled with people.
And then, one day, she was gone.
It happened quite suddenly—up until less than a second before, she had been whispering soft reassurances to him through their secret link. Then, without any warning, the bond they shared snapped. And the little boy was alone again.
The men in white spoke quietly for some time afterward and this time the little boy listened. They spoke of places far away from the little desert niche they lived in, of huge cities and of others. Of others. The little boy heard stories of people unlike which he had ever known—people who were not soldiers, not scientists. Places where there was water everywhere, places where people roamed so widely that there was no way to avoid them.
The men in white noticed over the next few years that their subject became even quieter than normal. There was no sound of the ball bouncing, no crows circling overhead, no click-clack of the plastic toys he had been given. Every day, the little boy sat in the corner of the chamber where he lived, and that was all he did. The men in white had no explanation for it, not even when the mask-wearing men in black threatened them. Quite suddenly, their subject that withdrawn so deeply that nothing would draw him out.
One day the little boy sat outside when he noticed something different. There was no more ache of suddenly-realized loneliness. There was also no more chatter from the men in white, who all of a sudden seemed to have gone away. There was red all over the yard when the little boy looked. He was very confused. What had happened while he had been sad?
"Hey." The little boy looked up to see a man all in black standing near the door. He looked exactly like every other mask-wearing soldier the boy had ever seen, but he felt different. There was strange warmth that the little boy had only ever felt once. He stood.
The man knelt down on the concrete floor as the boy walked over to him. Having never seen a man kneel, the little boy mimicked him when he was within arm's length. The man spoke, "What are you doing here?"
The little boy did not speak. It was not because he was shy, but because he had no idea how. No one had ever taught him to speak, and though he had listened and understood, he could not form the words.
The man tilted his head to the side and the boy copied him again. "You can't talk?"
The boy just stared blankly, not knowing what to say.
"Here," the man said and he held out his hand to the little boy. The boy flinched.
No, no, no! Not supposed to touch anything—bad! Should never touch a person because "I can't keep getting staff to sign up for this! Stop it, you monster!" The little boy lowered his head and stayed still.
He felt a hand on his shoulder and winced again—no one touched him except through thick gloves, and then only to poke and prod at him. But he felt warmth there and blinked, looking up.
The man looked entirely different now. He was not a soldier anymore, or even one of the men in white. He was still the same size, but now he wore black only on his torso in the form of a jacket in a material the little boy had never seen. He wore a gray hood that covered his hair and looked at the little boy with blue-gray eyes that showed no fear.
The little boy reached up and touched the man's arm. Nothing happened.
Staring in wonder, he reached out again and gently tapped the man's chest, poking the point where his inner shirt was open and his chest was partially showing. Still nothing happened. Even though he had touched bare skin, nothing had happened.
Nothing happened! No more crying, no more screaming or writhing or not moving…
The man gently took the boy's hand, and the little boy saw that even his hands were the same even after holding the boy's in his own. His hands were so big…
"This must be new, huh?" the man said in a voice much lower than before. The little boy didn't care. Someone wasn't running! That was all that mattered. "Here, come on."
The man got up, carrying the little boy in one arm. The boy clung to his neck instinctively, burying his face against the man's neck. There was something familiar here. Something he should have remembered. That warmth…
"You can feel her, can't you?" the man murmured, allowing the boy to move onto his back. The little boy pressed one small hand against the left side of the man's back. He could feel someone. It felt so familiar…
Mother. That one word whispered through the boy's head, tugging violently at the ache of loneliness and loss that had been silenced before, making him stop and almost lose his hold on the man's neck.
"That's right," the man said quietly as they both walked through the deserted building. The little boy wondered about that for a moment. The building had never been empty before, and it had always had white walls, not red… "Your mother." And mine, said a voice from somewhere both far away and deep inside.
The little boy couldn't say anything despite how much he wanted to. He stayed quiet, hoping to hear more.
"Maybe she would have been a good one," the man remarked. "I don't know—I never saw her do anything motherly. But I guess that's not really the point now. Do you have a name?"
PARIAH, the little boy thought, but it didn't sound good to him. Few words he had ever heard from the men in white were ever good.
"They called me ZEUS," the man said, and the little boy thought that his voice sounded distant, as if he was remembering something else. "And they called her MOTHER. But we weren't defined by those names." There was a pause as the little boy tried to grasp what he was saying. "My name is Alex Mercer, and your mother's name was Elizabeth Greene."
Then…I am…who? The question came up into the little boy's mind entirely unbidden.
"We'll figure that out later," Alex said. "No one ever said everything has to get done today."
The little boy formerly known as PARIAH leaned his head against Alex's shoulder and yawned. Today had been a long day.
A/N: El Fin.
SPOILER WARNING FOR THE WEB OF INTRIGUE.
Though no one seems to have any idea what PARIAH actually is, I don't think he's like Elizabeth Greene. At the very least, he was born without any traces of the virus and he seems to be normal enough (if immortal and capable of killing everything he touches). At the very least, I don't think he'd attack Alex on sight.
And if you're wondering why Alex is apparently immune to the Touch of Death, this takes place nearly seven years after the events of [Prototype] and he's been adapting pretty much continuously since then. He's actually nothing PARIAH can hurt anymore.
But since he is still technically part of the REDLIGHT strain (even if he's actually based on BLACKLIGHT), PARIAH is capable of communicating with him without needing to talk.
And if he ever does get a normal name, I think it'd be Abel or Adam.