FIRE EATER
Written for Jellie Carnival Summer Challenge

Sequel to "TIGHTROPE" found here: .net/s/6052997/1/Tightrope

A/N: Spoilers for Season Three Finale; JELLIE friendship/angst/comfort, or pre-Jellie if you like?
Disclaimer: I don't own them. If I owned any rights to John Casey, we'd never leave the house!;D
Special Thanks to Kuryakingirl for the short-notice, yet excellent beta! ;D

.~.~.~.

Her heart pounds as she raises a trembling hand, the flames of fear and anger and disorientation licking around her, overloading her with emotion she can no longer bear and shouldn't have to bear, but must.

The burning is too much again, so she runs and is less and less surprised to find herself at his door, once again, silently rehearsing the reason for her being there and knowing with growing certainty that she no longer needs one.

He doesn't even look surprised anymore, to find her on his doorstep shaking and frustrated and so rattled she can hardly get the excuse out. Without words, he calmly opens the door wide enough to let her pass into his sanctum, his sharp eyes scanning the courtyard from long vigilant habit and quietly makes her a cup of coffee. Or tea. Or when the overwhelm has gone too far, a bracing tumbler of scotch, always neat, always at least two fingers. Pure and undiluted, cool burn to chase the fire back down, to keep her from combusting like dry powder and kerosene.

It wasn't supposed to be like this, none of her life was supposed to be like this. Her rational mind tells her he shouldn't have been the one to turn to, but her instinct tells her he's the only one she could've. The man she married is, in a word, awesome in so many ways. But despite his devotion, and despite her fidelity, he just can't comprehend the blaze eating away at her, and a bereft part of her heart says he never will and that just adds more fuel to the flames. She tamps them down, stomps them out as quickly and efficiently as she can, but the firestorm gets away from her and so she runs, seeking the only one who helps her contain the inferno.

She never meant to let it go so far, to depend on him so fiercely, but he understands. Of all of them, he gets it, never making her feel she has to put on the mask, and if he gets a little singed from her anger, he doesn't let it show. He comprehends the betrayal she feels from each of them, but he never apologizes because it couldn't be helped and it can't be fixed and she shouldn't have to try like hell to justify it as all right in her head when her heart's laying there in charred ruins.

He doesn't try to convince her that she shouldn't be feeling this distrust of every person she thought she knew, because he somehow can see that she's already forgiven them. But she hasn't forgotten, nor figured out how to forget. And if she can, it will be a long time in coming.

But most of all, he understands the betrayal she feels she's responsible for. She doesn't ask – won't ask, some things are too personal – but she knows without the telling that he's been where she is now, and that's why she knows she's where she needs to be right now.

The others who love her, who try to comfort her, try to tell her it will all be okay, that it's not her fault, but he doesn't say any of that. Unlike those who've never endured the smoldering guilt burning them up from the inside, he doesn't lie to her because it wouldn't make a difference in what she believes to be true anyway.

He doesn't tell her everything is fine, or even that it will eventually be fine, because it's not and to say such a thing would either be a lie or an insult. They both know she's too smart to fool herself that it's even remotely close to fine, and if the searing guilt ever dies out beyond embers, it still won't be fine, because ashes can't be remade back into wood or fabric or loved ones.

But he doesn't try to tell her she's not responsible. For leading the Ring to her father's doorstep. For bringing him out of hiding because he was worried for her and her brother. For being the reason that Dad's dead and gone and not coming back not ever coming back this time and its all her fault she did this she brought him here to die he'd be safe in hiding if she'd just been smarter been wiser been less trusting of the wrong people and more trusting of the right ones more trusting of him oh god how could she have believed he would ever do her family harm –

Warm gentle fingers cover her clenched fist on the kitchen table, and she slowly feels the bitter rage and anguish seep back into the pit where they permanently reside in her stomach these days. She opens her eyes and they fall first on his large strong hand calmly covering her smaller one, the pad of his thumb softly caressing the back of her hand near her wrist.

She meets his serene gaze as the last of the emotions threatening to engulf her start to slide back into their lair to wait for the next opportunity, the next spark to ignite them, but for now they're just banked embers.

To all the world, he appears calm and cool and collected, almost emotionless to hear the others tell it, unfeeling, uncaring, but she knows different. Emotions rage inside him so fierce and hot that they threaten to consume him, her, this place, the whole world if he ever loosened his iron-tight control of them. But he'll never let it happen. He doesn't let the burning eat him up, he swallows the fire down instead, takes it deep within himself and holds it there until there's good use for it and an enemy to rain it down upon.

She's realized it's that control, that ability to master and contain those emotions, even if he'll never be able to douse them entirely, that allows him to harness their heat and turn it toward the good. It's why she can come to him. Why she must.

Because if he can tame the inferno raging within him, then so can she. He can show her the way, teach her to be a fire eater just like himself, and maybe then the rest of the world will be safe.

.~.~.~.