Glory Midst the Fires
Disclaimer: I don't own Xiaolin Showdown or any of its characters, nor do I make any profit or attempt to with the writing of this or any of my other pieces.
Warnings: Language, homosexuality, implications of sexual situations, nonsexual graphicness, etc.
"Are you sure I'm ready for this?"
"Are you sure you're not?" Chase coolly inquired.
Jack shrugged. "Honestly, I'm not leaning one way or the other right now."
Chase clucked his tongue disparagingly. "That's an awful attitude to go into immortality with, Spicer."
"So is, 'A talking bean offering me eternal youth and power in exchange for my soul? This seems legit.'"
Chase laughed. "Touché, Jack, touché." Nonetheless, he began to add the finishing touches to the steaming bowl of soup before him.
Jack watched his master do so, his expression calm, but his eyes apprehensive for the first time since this began. His gaze seemed locked on the peculiar garnish adorning the bowl, a long, bright red feather that shimmered like flame in the light.
"I don't…have to eat that feather, do I?" he wondered. He grinned as he joked, "I get the feeling it wouldn't go down easy."
The warlord offered a wry grin in response. "Considering that one feather is sharper than steel and murderously hot to the touch? I would rather you not eat it."
Jack gulped. "Yikes," he agreed, "that'd be…bad."
"Are you starting to get nervous?"
"A little," Jack admitted. "Were you? Y'know, when you…?"
"A little," Chase said. "My desire outweighed my fear." He turned a critical golden gaze on his consort. "Does yours?"
"I don't know," Jack said honestly. "Could you…I don't know, walk me through it? I'd feel better if I knew what to expect."
"Pain," Chase responded immediately. "It will hurt more than anything else you've ever felt. You will feel as if you're being ripped apart little by little; like your skin is being peeled away, your muscles shredded with a cheese grater, and your bones plucked out of you and thrown straight into the fiery pits of hell."
Jack stared at the bowl. "Well, that is honest."
"Lying to you would serve no purpose here," Chase said. "You want to be informed: I'm informing you."
"Can I ask other stuff?"
"Did you kill it?" Jack asked.
"The bird? No," Chase assured. "Save for that one feather, it is perfectly fine."
"How? Don't you eat the whole dragon in your soup?"
"Yes, but that's because the secret to a dragon's immortality lies in its very flesh," Chase explained. "I must eat the whole dragon to yield the desired effect."
"And phoenixes have the immortality magic in the feathers," Jack deduced.
"Precisely," Chase confirmed. "One feather's magic is enough to sustain a mortal's youth for a century."
"So, I'll only have to drink this every hundred years?"
Chase nodded. "That's exactly the reason I chose the phoenix for you. Lao Máng Féng is far more efficient than Lao Máng Lóng because the phoenixes don't have to be killed and the effects last so much longer. That," he smirked, "and they do so fit your character."
Jack raised an eyebrow. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"What else?" Chase set the bowl of soup before his consort. "You love to fly, reds and yellows are most definitely your color, and how many times have you 'died' only to rise from your own ashes undamaged, if not better than before?"
Jack blushed even as he eyed the Heylin soup. "It's not gonna taste like…dirt or something, is it?"
"It will taste like phoenix," Chase said simply. "Its magic, dissolved into that concoction, is what flavors the whole thing."
"Well, what does yours taste like?" Jack challenged.
"Frog's legs," Chase said automatically, only to pause. "Well…somewhat like frog's legs. Dragon muscles are tougher than a frog's, more robust and tinged with magic and wisdom, but the basic flavor is the same."
"What the hell do magic and wisdom taste like?"
Chase frowned. "You're nitpicking, Spicer."
"Yeah, maybe," Jack conceded. "I don't think I'm looking forward to that whole unimaginable pain thing."
"Your experience may be different from mine," Chase allowed. "The pain likely varies with how different from your original human form your new bestial body will be."
"…you're saying something with wings is closer to a human than a dragon?"
"You're fucked, then," Chase said bluntly. "Is that what you want me to tell you?"
"That's the opposite of what I want you to tell me," Jack pouted.
"Then, stop being so precious about it," the warlord ordered.
"I'm not making you do this, Jack," Chase reminded calmly. "This is your choice and no one can make it for you."
Jack stared at Chase. Something cold that felt heavy as lead began to pool in his belly. "I thought you wanted to keep me," he said.
Chase was easily able to identify the accusatory tone in the goth's voice. "I do want to keep you," he promised. "You are my consort: you are mine and I would sooner slay a million men than face an eternity without you."
"I won't force you," Chase said firmly. "I will not. There is nothing worse I could do to you than trap you in an immortal body against your will."
If Jack's skin hadn't been albino-white already, he'd have blanched at the implication. "You'd let me die?" he asked, his voice harrowed and shaken.
"Of nothing less than old age," Chase assured. "I would be sickened and furious to have to watch death slowly take you decade by decade, but if it was what you wanted…" He trailed off, but his meaning was abundantly clear.
Jack shook his head. "I don't want to die," he said. "You're…you've always been…I always…I don't want to die."
Chase smiled, though the sentence was largely unintelligible. He had become quote good at translating the highly complex tongue unique to Jack Spicer and undoubtedly, the latest bout of Spicerese came out to mean: 'I don't want to be where you aren't.'
"Jack," he said seriously, "I am allowing you to be your only master in this one instance. There is only one way to know that you have chosen the right thing, and that is to make the choice yourself. Once you've made it, I will resume my role as your overlord: for however long that is."
"Forever," Jack said without hesitation. "I don't want just one lifetime with you. I want as many as I can get."
"Excellent," Chase declared. "We're on the same page."
"I've just got one more question," the youth said. "Y'know, before I," he gestured to the soup, "do this."
"How should I handle the pain of the transformation?" Jack asked. "Is there, like, a meditation technique you can teach me? Should I go to my happy place?"
Chase snorted. "Honestly, what you do to deal with the change is up to you. As for what I do…" He smirked. "I remind myself of my reasons for becoming Heylin in the first place: the power I needed, the extra years I wanted to have, the status I had to achieve. Whenever I change, I remember all of these things and know that I could not call myself Chase Young, lord of all I survey if I could not endure a little bit of pain."
"Desire versus fear again?" Jack guessed.
"Exactly that. Which is stronger in you, my Jack?"
Jack took a deep breath. As he did so, the scent of the hot soup in front of him wafted up into his nose. It smelled distinctly of fire and ash.
Briefly, he was reminded of his crippling pain allergy and that damn self-preservation instinct of his, both of which were screaming at him to not do this. Alongside those shrieking voices, however, was his love for his master, his devotion howling just as fervently that he go through with it at any cost.
Though it was outnumbered two-to-one, there was no doubt in Jack's mind which was the loudest.
Chase watched as Jack reached out and took the bowl in his hands. There was no relief for him: he had known from the beginning what Jack would choose.
"Well," said Jack, "bottoms up." And with that, he tipped the bowl decisively, drinking down the Lao Máng Féng.
His Adam's apple bobbed once, twice, thrice…then, the bowl fell to the floor and shattered, spilling what was left of the soup across the marble tile.
Chase was already on his feet and at the ready. Three swallows was all he had been able to handle the first time, too.
Jack's body jolted and reeled backwards, as if he'd been struck in the solar plexus with a sledgehammer. Chase caught him as he staggered and fell.
Jack was oblivious to his master's arms around him, but with good reason, for Chase had not been exaggerating in the slightest when describing the pain.
Agony lit his every nerve on fire. He broke out into a cold sweat, but he didn't even feel it. The heat building inside him was enough to smother any chill and suffocate the very idea of 'cold.' Like an incendiary explosive detonated in his body, something hot was eating him from the inside out. It felt as if his organs were boiling from the fiery pain that licked at them, singeing his innards right down to the very marrow of his bones.
It hurt so badly that he almost forgot to scream.
Chase resisted the urge to drop his consort and cover his ears at the tortured scream that ripped through the air. It was painful to his sensitive hearing, but Jack was clearly hurt more if the volume of the outburst was any indication. His scream was loud and only seemed to be getting louder by the second. Louder and higher-pitched; less human.
The change was happening.
In a sharp motion that reminded Chase of the crack of whip, Jack arched his back with an alarming snap and his body began to grow. While he started to become overall larger and taller than a normal human, the most obvious growth occurred in Jack's arms. Both appeared to be lengthening with a disturbing swiftness and entirely out of the normal proportion; soon enough, Jack's arms and fingers had put on several feet in either direction, giving him a total wingspan of what had to be no less than fifty feet.
Wingspan, however, was the most appropriate word, because Jack's arms no longer resembled that human appendage. The Heylin soup had, in essence, made evolution its bitch within Jack and was using the concept of homologous structures to change his forelimbs' function. In this case, arms to wings.
No sooner than the thought crossed Chase's mind, Jack's pale skin turned an irritated red as something from beneath it struggled its way up. The warlord jumped, startled when a tiny jet of flame spurted from a spot on his consort's flesh and disappeared, leaving a feather in its place. The surprise was not repeated when this occurred countless more times all over Jack's body, covering him with a fine coat of avian quills, though Chase did admire their softness against his hands.
Jack's face, twisted with pain as it was lengthened and hardened, forming a beak with all the unimaginable strength of the human jaw. It would surely be dangerous risking anything one wanted to keep near that beak; would be if Jack had any mind to close it on something. At the moment, it was still open in a shriek, but all humanity had left it. Jack's scream was now distinctly the scree of a bird in distress; a predator's battle cry.
Jack's kicking legs were not to be ignored either: they were changing, as well. In what looked like a positively agonizing process, they were bending at the knee…forward at the knee as if to laugh at the very mechanism of human legs. Taking on a pale shade of gray, the skin grew rough and ridged with terrifyingly sharp talons bursting forth where feet had been. Chase was sure to stay clear of them as Jack continued to thrash wildly in his arms and was especially glad for it when one of them clawed into the marble floor and tore out a good-sized chunk of rock.
Clearly, Jack was getting a good deal stronger.
What Chase couldn't see was the transformation occurring inside his consort, but that didn't mean it wasn't happening.
All of his muscles were being enhanced beyond all things imaginable for a human. This included his clearly powerful legs and talons, but neither came near the intense musculature being added to his chest. It was strength he would need to be capable of flapping his new wings hard enough to get himself off the ground, and the stronger heart, larger lungs, and more hollow bones were going to be just as important when Jack attempted his first flight.
That flight, unfortunately, looked to be quite a ways off from now.
Jack's shriek ended abruptly and just as suddenly, he went limp in Chase's arms like a puppet whose strings had been cut. Lying against his master for several long minutes, he was unable to do anything but pant for breath.
Chase held him and waited patiently for his consort to speak.
"F…fuck," Jack uttered breathlessly. "You were not kidding about the ow-making."
Chase chuckled. "Should I take your attempt at humor as a cue that you're alright?"
Again, Jack was momentarily quiet. He shifted awkwardly in an attempt to sit up only to flop back against Chase. "Is it normal to not be able to move right?" he wondered.
"Yes, actually," Chase said. "Your body has changed. You have new appendages that your brain doesn't recognize. Until you become accustomed to them, it's going to be difficult sending the proper impulses where you want them to go."
"Then, I think…I think I'm okay," Jack decided. He attempted movement again, this time managing to lock eyes with Chase. "How do I look?" he sheepishly asked.
There was no consideration before the reply. "Beautiful," Chase said and meant it completely.
Unlike his own beastly form, Jack was hardly menacing and ugly. Just like the creature he now shared immortality magicks with, Jack's new body was lovely and majestic.
Deriving a sort of grace from the birdlike shape, Jack looked up at Chase now with glimmering red eyes set above a long, narrow beak. At some point, his napalm orange hair had changed to fit the rest of him, becoming a gorgeous plumage of scarlet and gold quite befitting a virile male. A lengthy tail of the same colors sprouted out from the base of his spine to splay across the floor in a way that was inherently pretty.
What truly enhanced the vibrance of Jack's colors, though, was the lack of them everywhere else. Yes, save for the vivid plumage, Jack's coat of feathers was pure white from head to toe and soft as silk to the touch. Really, the only things preventing the feathers from comparison to a fresh snowfall was the heat radiating from beneath them and the opal-like shimmer they held in the light; reds and oranges and yellows glittering with each of Jack's movements.
"I'd never have imagined an albino phoenix could exist," Chase mused, "but now that I've seen one, I can't imagine a lovelier sight."
Jack made a strange noise. It sounded as if he tried to snort, but squawked instead. "Stop trying to make me blush," he demanded. "I'm not sure I can like this."
Chase laughed. "No, probably not," he agreed. Again, he observed his consort's body; felt the magic and immortality pouring from his very aura. "How does it feel, my Jack?" he wondered. "Now that you're truly Heylin?"
"A little weird," Jack admitted. "I always wondered why you tried to say that 'urge to disembowel' was a legitimate emotion whenever we played Scattergories, but I think I'm starting to see where you're coming from."
Chase laughed again. "Humor truly is your defense mechanism, isn't it?"
"Yeah, maybe. How do I…y'know, turn back? Not that it's super-important," he delegated, "but I'm pretty sure birds don't have penises and I'd like to be able to perform my duties as your consort eventually."
With a grin, Chase advised, "Will yourself human again. You have the magic, now, and you've gone through the change once already. Try and make it work for you."
"Jeez, you're so helpful," the phoenix-Jack muttered, but he nonetheless closed his eyes and tried to concentrate.
It took awhile for him to find and tap into his magic, but once he did, Jack slowly began to shrink. The long feathers atop his head shrank back into hair while the rest began to drop off one by one, disappearing in a puff of flame before they could touch the floor. The beak retracted into nose and lips and talons reshaped themselves into feet. Wings were rapidly shrinking into limbs once more and Jack shuddered at the strange feeling of his organs resituating themselves inside him.
By the time he opened his eyes again, his form was once more human. The only difference he could see from before he'd drunk the soup was…
"And I'm naked why?"
Chase smirked. "You'll learn how to incorporate clothing into your transformation later," he assured. "The harder things come first: flesh, bone, muscles, that sort of thing. Once you've got that down, I'll teach you how to change back into something besides your birthday suit."
This time, Jack laughed. "Now, who's funny?" he challenged.
Chase stood and offered a hand to his consort. Though Jack had not noticed it yet, his human form had changed and the lean, toned body he pulled up from the floor was not the same thin beanpole it had been pre-Lao Máng Féng. The beaming grin Jack gave his overlord was without fangs, but the bright eyes above it were a different shade of red; a mystic fire flickering within their depths, and there really was no mistaking the newness of those pointed ears. In fact, looking closer, Chase was able to pinpoint several strands of gold peppering Jack's once purely red-orange hair and adding to the absurdity of its naturalness.
If the change bothered him, Chase didn't show it in the slightest as he leaned forward and kissed Jack firmly, purposefully as if to mark his ownership on the newly immortal young man. Jack didn't bother to protest, happily accepting Chase's dominance.
"Mine," Chase said upon pulling away.
"Forever," Jack gladly confirmed.
Knowing Jack's legs would be weak, Chase plucked the youth from the ground and began carrying his lover to their bedroom for a bit of rest. Halfway there, a thought occurred to him, and he spoke.
"Jack," he said. "When you drank the Lao Máng Féng…what did it taste like?"
Jack looked away. "…You'll laugh," he said eventually.
"Tell me," Chase insisted. "I'm curious."
Jack was silent for a few more steps down the hallway. "Honestly?"
Chase only waited for an answer.
"…it tasted like chicken."
As predicted, Chase laughed and continued toward the bedroom with his consort. This was looking to be the start of a wonderful eternity.
A/N: This was written for thooruchan, who won the place of CHACKstar for December over on the Chack community DarkRenka and I run on deviantART. She requested a fic in which Jack becomes full-fledged Heylin and drinks the Lao Máng. I hope this fulfills that request! :)
Just one quick note: 'Féng' is standing in for 'Lóng' with Jack's soup because 'lóng' means 'dragon.' Obviously, 'féng' means phoenix.
As for the rest of it, JEEZ, it's been awhile since I've posted, huh? October! Damn, and it's almost Christmas, now.
So, knowing I likely won't get anything else written in time, consider this your Christmas/Holiday present from me. XD
Anywho, I hope you all liked it, you especially, thooruchan, and thank you for reading! :D