Title: Fleeting
Author: Thing With No Talent
Genre: Storm Hawks
Disclaimer: I'm just a fangirl, seriously.
Warnings: Implied violence to a child and graphic description of a feeding arachnid.

The spider is working, turning its prey over and over, winding silk all around it. Its pace is methodical, leisurely. It has no need to hurry. Though alive, the fly can't struggle. A potent, paralyzing venom has already taken care of that. The insect's fate was sealed as soon as it blundered into the web.

The child is sitting, his legs drawn up and body hunched, his nose only a few inches from the predator. His clothes are too small for his age; even still, they hang loosely from his scrawny frame. His eyes, however, are as big as saucers. Every so often he reaches up and brushes long, limp bangs out of their way. The tiny spectacle in the web has him mesmerized.

As he watches, the spider finishes wrapping its meal and tucks in to eat. The long legs hunch. The pedipalps gather the silk-bound bundle close. The chelicerae extend, and thick, curved fangs puncture the fly's exoskeleton.

The young merb shivers, his body growing cold at the sight. He can imagine how it feels to be the fly, trapped and helpless. He can imagine all too clearly that fatal bite and the subsequent slow liquefying of his insides. But he's caught up, too, in the spider's power, its calm and quiet confidence as it feeds. He's riveted by the symmetrical angles of its legs and the gleam of its many jeweled eyes. Even the poison-bearing fangs, which could make him gravely ill with so much as a scratch, he watches raptly. It's deadly. Terrifying. Merciless. And so beautiful it makes his throat ache.

I wish I were you.

The child hunches a little closer still, his nose perilously close to touching the dusty strands of silk. As he pushes his hair back for the millionth time, his fingers brush a fading bruise on his temple. He smooths the hair down over it without thinking. There's no one to see it - or the dark thumbprint on his neck peeking out above his loose collar, or the scrape on his forearm that's bared for a split second as his sleeve slides down - but covering up is an automatic habit. He doesn't even think about it. His thoughts are on the spider.

How reassuring to be able to let go of everything else, just for a moment, and concentrate on something so small and perfect. Even as his skin prickles and his heart beats a little faster with anxiety at how close the thing is, he feels a kind of calm he seldom gets to experience. In such primitive terror, there is a form of ecstasy, a glorious freedom from higher thought. Everything in his imperfect world condenses and crystalizes around the creature in front of him. There is no doubt or insecurity, no ugliness or injustice. There is only the spider and his own, quickening pulse. He's suddenly acutely aware of being alive.

The rush of air by his head startles him as brutally as an electrical shock. A foot slams hard against the wall right in front of his face, so close that a toenail scrapes his cheek in passing. Stork reacts instinctively, falling back, scrambling, one arm half-raised in a mockery of self-defense. His heart hammers against his ribs. His thoughts lie shattered like broken glass.

The greenish, three-toed foot slides down the wall, wiping off the remains of the crushed spider on the uneven wooden floorboards. Stork's eyes travel dumbly up the long, wiry leg to which it's attached, to the towering figure above him. A familiar face returns the stare coldly. Almost indifferently, but there's a glint of sadism in those narrowed eyes. The mouth is twisted just slightly into a shadow of a sneer. The spider had looked on its prey with more warmth and compassion than this merb looks at Stork.

Anger, outrage, defiance, all well up inside the child. They die just as quickly. That look paralyzes him as effectively as any venom.

He lowers his gaze like a good little merb, stares down at the shadow that's fallen over him. Trapped and bound, he waits for the bite. But it doesn't come. Maybe making him flinch was enough... or maybe the spider's death was sufficient to appease the god of violence. After a breathless moment, the shadow moves on, passing Stork without a word.

He lets out the air he'd fearfully held in, and sits panting while the adrenaline subsides. The scrape on his cheek stings in a dull sort of way that he doesn't really feel. He's intact otherwise. No new bruises. Only now does he let himself look at what's left of the spider.

There isn't much. Where there was perfection, symmetry and terrifying beauty... now there's a tiny smear of ichor and a few torn strands of cobweb. A deadly predator, wiped out in an instant by an act of casual cruelty.

He wouldn't even have noticed you if I hadn't been watching.

Stork's vision blurs. His eyes are prickling painfully. A tear slides down, stinging his abraded cheek, hot and heavy with unvoiced anguish.

I didn't mean to kill you.

He knows he's not supposed to cry. It's okay to scream, whimper, cower and beg... but not to cry. He hasn't shed a tear for himself in a long time, not even in private. But once he starts weeping over the spider, he can't seem to stop.