Sublimation: Heat of the Moment

There's a realm above the trees / Where the lost are finally found / Touch your feathers to the breeze / And leave the ground -- Owl City, To the Sky

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Re: Sublimation: Heat of the Moment

Post by Crispin » Sun Dec 09, 2018 11:58 pm

"Cris! CRIS!!"

The desperate plea came through on a wave of pain, splitting his brain in two. He smelled smoke and blood, the air crackled with invisible power like the second before a lightning strike.

He heard dragging, sand on wood, and felt the slap of a palm on his face.

"Cris, wake up!"

"B--Bi…"

"Don't die on me Cris, I need you to wake up."

Eyelids stuck together, pain ripping its way down his body, Cris groaned.

"That's it. That's it, you're doing it. You're doing great."

"Bi--Bianca… Bianca…"

Fingers in his clothes, gripping tight and hauling him upright. Palms holding his face, claws sharp. The world before him was a haze of smoke, light and shadow.

"She's gone, Cris. She's gone. They took her."
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Re: Sublimation: Heat of the Moment

Post by Crispin » Mon Dec 10, 2018 12:59 am

It begins before the sun rises, when the threat of dawn is nothing but a purple bruise on the eastern horizon. The snap of bone, like the sound of a crushed egg breaks the silence of the room where two figures sleep. Some time later, a blue-white rune flashes into existence on the inside of Cris's left forearm, sinking into his flesh. Minutes then pass, another crunch follows. The scent of blood hits the air. Wet, thick and fresh, like a river without a bank to hold it in, it pools on his chest and runs in all directions. Finally, a solid crunch. Meaty, a fist into a punching bag. Crimson stains stretch on the sleeping figure whose eyelids had not fluttered.

Blame it on Lenore's feline nature that she sleeps heavily enough that the first crunch does nothing to stir her from her curled position draped across the Nephilim. Or the flash of a fresh Rune or the second crunch. It's the scent of blood that tickles her nostrils. Warm, metallic, and out of place in their room. She stirs and her first bit of drowsy surprise is to see Cris' sleeping face considering he never falls asleep with her, he only rests. The gentle surprise turns to delayed shock when her slick hand is lifted from his chest and it's stained with blood, bright red stark against pale skin even in the cover of darkness. She can't even begin to comprehend how it came to be before the last crunch rallies a yowl from her. "Cris!" Hands slip in a panic across his skin, trying to stir him without causing him more harm. "Cris, wake up! "Wake up!"

He does not stir beneath her hands, his breathing surprisingly even considering the damage to his body. The blood comes from a long slash in the center of his chest, crossing his sternum, right over a large Mark. The moments turn into a minute, where the beat of his heart, slow with sleep, begins to fade. It's not by her administrations that he wakes, but by the dream finally deciding it was done with him. His eyes open and a ripple goes through his body.

Crimson like a leaky faucet bubbles in his mouth and he turns his head so that he can spit it wetly onto the floor. Fear and pain make the spasmodic breaths he takes grate down his throat. All he can see is darkness. Darkness different from the smoke and the sunlight that he'd seen before he woke up. He groans, the sound akin to a wounded animal in its last ditch effort to get away from a predator and he attempts to pitch to the side. This close to the edge of the bed, he'll wind up on the floor and he does not seem to realize that Lenore is still on him.

She's so careful at first while trying to wake him, but the longer he stays like that the more panic overtakes her. The howling sounds of distress and calling his name turn into sobbing when she can hear the thud of his heart begin to weaken. She's not even sure what's happening, or how, but she's positive that she's witnessing Cris die right in front of her and there's nothing she can do aside from wail in sorrow, still pawing uselessly at sticky skin coated in thick blood. It's with the crescendo of her sobbing that his eyes open and he hacks a clot of blood aside. It was vile and comforting and she couldn't process it all quickly enough to stop her waterworks.

He's moving too much for all the blood he's lost and all the other injuries he could mysteriously have that she's not even aware of. Lenore clutches at his arm in an attempt to keep him in place on the bed. "Cris, stop! Please stop! You're going to hurt yourself, just stop!" With his blood covering him, her and the bedding, her pleading is clearly overwhelmed but trying to grab hold of the situation.

She does not have to clutch much. Most of his strength was going to making sure he could breathe. Violent pain had chased away the dregs of the dream, the confusion of waking up first to Salome's frantic, crying face, then to the darkness with another holding him back. The sheets stick to his face, wet with sweat and tears that had run back out of his eyes without his knowledge. Pain was not something he was unfamiliar with, but this agony inside him...he could live without. Red painted lips move around words and he clutches for anything of hers he can reach. "Stele...where is it. Go get--go get my... Go get it...stele." His other hand slides unsteadily into place over the wound in his chest and with each breath, he feels like all the air is escaping through it.

Stele. It's the first thought of action she's able to grasp onto since her mind is a jumbled mess of uncertainty. The moment he says it, even before he's asking where it is or telling her to get it, she's a mess of red stained skin and colt like limbs scrambling out of bed to find his boot and the Stele he kept hidden within. With it in hand, moving so diligently even though she can't completely stop herself from crying, she's at the edge of the bed to put the Stele in his hand with hers wrapped around it as they had done just a few nights earlier on a whim from him. "Come on, Cris. Just like before." Restraining her sobs by biting at her bottom lip, not wanting them to wrack her body and fumble the Rune. It took all the concentration she had to keep the hand wrapped around his as still as possible. "Do you have one I can finish?" Searching through puddles of red for a familiar Iratze in need.

Breath in and out through a minimal part in his lips, his face drawn and tight, pale under the blood and black Marks scattered all over him. His head full of his own mantras: that this would pass, that the next wave of pain was almost over, that soon he'd be able to breathe, the world would stop spinning, that he wasn't going to surrender. She puts the stele in his hand and the tip glows white-blue and throws the gore that is his body into harsh perspective. With goosebumps on his skin, he shivers like he'd been plunged into arctic waters. "No, I--I--on't. Like this." Hand leaves his chest, releasing a fresh spill of red and he shows her the black Mark on the inside of his forearm. "Just like this. Under the--wound. Don't s-stop at just--one."

She releases another choked yowl. Lenore is capable of seeing in the dark, but having the glowing tip of the Stele put Cris' maimed body even further on display is a hard thing to swallow. It only makes her that much more determined to fix this for him. She wavers briefly, tucking her face into her arm when more blood oozes but he's offering directions and hazel eyes lift to follow them. "I got it. Just hang on, okay? It's going to be okay, Cris. It'll be okay." She's saying his name to assure him but it's for herself as well. She doesn't have the luxury of hesitating and the Stele touches down on skin where he told her to, not as smooth as last time because she doesn't have an outline to follow and there's a lot more pressure this time around but she reminds herself to press down hard and that's an easy task since it helps keep her steady.

He can't think about anything but breathing, but the noises she makes and the pang of fear in her voice brushes at the outside of his perception. It was for this exact reason that he did not want to stay in her room, this close. The stele's tip drags through the blood, turning it black around the white-blue of the Mark she's drawing. Smoke curls, smelling like burned skin and metal, and the pain of it doesn't even come close to touching the agony already ripping through him. She finishes, that last sweep, a vertical line through the zigzagging first stroke and his face relaxes. His shivers come slower and with an abrupt gasp, he's finally able to draw in a long, much needed breath. Everything tingles, receiving long deprived oxygen. Over time, the steady ooze of crimson on his chest slows.

The smoke and the smell, Lenore had always hated them when witnessing this process before but now there was some assurance from them that she's doing it right. Her body heaves with leftover emotion still trying to get free but she manages to keep her hand still enough to finish the mark. She can see and hear the shift in him already, he's healing, and that is what propels her to down the tip of the Stele to skin nearby where she had just completed the mark to make another one. She would cover his entire body with them until her hand went numb if it meant he was going to be okay.

Without the pain there to distract him, without the effort to breathe to focus on, it comes rushing back. What he'd seen and heard, and felt. The dogs and the stench of the Forsaken. Bianca's defiance and Salome's terror. Perhaps it was the purpose for these twisted dreams to remind him of the exact events of that day. He tightens his hand around the stele, puts his other palm over his face. He can smell the blood, feel it on his brow. He'll have to shower anyway, so what was just one more stain? "I'm sorry," voice comes low, even, not completely devoid of ache but improved from what he'd woken with.

With all of her focus on what she's doing and the final stroke of the Stele through the zigzagging mark she made identical to the first she doesn't notice the tightening of his hand beneath hers. When he presses his palm to his forehead that catches her attention but it's a short distraction before she begins on a third iratzes. There's a shudder in the motion when he speaks and it threatens to send her walls crashing down. "Don't do that, Cris. Don't apologize. Just heal, that's all you have to do for me right now, okay? I need you to be alright. I need you." She had been trying so hard to stay strong and while she wasn't full out bawling like she had been previously the tears streaking down her cheeks lit up under the glow of the Stele.

The blood in his mouth is thick, salty and difficult to swallow. Every time he does, he clears his throat, scraping his teeth along his tongue to get rid of the flavor. The second iratze sinks into his skin and he can feel the last dents in his ribs fill themselves in. His body stiffens through the awkward feeling, like snakes in his clothes, and he exhales a long, low breath. Pulling his hand from his face, he swipes it along the gash in his chest, now an angry red line of scabs and smeared crimson. He had not once looked at the wreckage and even now he tried not to, his gaze instead on her face and the moisture from her eyes, the way they shone too brightly in the glow of the stele. His own gaze is fever bright, pupils wide, too aware of where he is and what is going on. When he feels the third iratze sink into his skin, he turns his hand in hers, directing the glowing tip away from his body. "You can stop..."

Every sound he makes she stops just long enough to toss a look up at him, to make sure he's as alright as he's going to be in this situation, then she continues working on the Rune. It's when he turns their hands, tells her she can stop, that she releases the stele and his hand and sinks back to thump onto the floor like a lost ragdoll. Her torso is curled in on itself, legs bent oddly, and her hands are draped in her lap. She stares back at him, at eye level since he's laying down, and it's when she catches that look from him that she loses it again. Both hands lift, covered in blood but she doesn't care, to press against her face to muffle her outburst. "I thought... you were going... to die!" The words coming out between deep heaving breaths and mingling with tears.

The stele's glow winks out on an expression tight with pain that has nothing to do with the physical state of his body. To Shadowhunters, blood and pain and wounds came with the territory. Early on, most of those sensitivities were layered over with strength and determination, with focus. They were used to seeing themselves and their comrades in various states of distress. But she wasn't a Shadowhunter. She was not used to this. Even he, having not been in a battle in weeks, was more shaken by his own memories than the wounds he'd sustained. He opens his hand to let the stele go and he turns on the bed. His body is slow to accept the idea of moving, and he swallows a grunt, effort only showing itself in tight exhales as he feels his way upright. "Come here..." Reaching for her in the dark. She was not that far away, but he did not have the benefit of Night-Vision this time.

The clatter of the Stele isn't enough to draw her attention but those two simple words, that beckoning call from him, that would have caused her to cross any sort of distance between them to seek him out. Her face is smudged with blood and tears when she lifts her head to look at him and long legs are drawing up underneath her so she can take his hand and move closer to him. Rolling to her knees to crawl towards him, her free hand reaching up to touch fingertips to his cheek. "I'm sorry." For being emotional mostly even if she doesn't explain. "I don't know what happened. I was sleeping and... I think you were too... and the next thing I know, there was so much blood." A deep shuddering inhale and it quivers just as badly on the exhale.

It was better for the both of them that they were still in the dark, though now outside the window, the coming dawn seems to be a little bit closer. Her soft touch after so much pain makes his throat hurt and he sighs, tilting his cheek to her hand. "I know." Sitting up, though the room still doesn't feel solid. There is nothing to anchor him. The darkness seems endless, like he'll disappear into it and open his eyes on a fresh level of Hell that he's yet to see. He grips her hand with fingers wet with blood, cold with sweat and unsteady. "I was. I dreamt... They surprised us. An axe." That did not make much sense, but he's apprehensive about going any deeper than that. She'd seen his body, he was certain she could figure out just who had been hit by that weapon. Forearms to knees, he hangs his head in the space between them, his hair matted, sticking to his brow. "I am...better. Now. Not alright. That will take some time."

Her hand wraps tighter around his and the touch to his cheek is still soft and present. After all of that there was very little chance of her letting go of him anytime soon under her own free will. He's explaining what happened in his dream and it's when he mentions the axe that it clicks, as unbelievable as it might be, and she exhales sharply like she just got the wind knocked out of her. "Oh, Cris..." He bows his head and she nudges her nose to the top of it. "That's what happens when you dream? That's... why you try to not sleep around me." She's aware that she's covered in blood, that he is too, but for now she wants to ignore it despite the overpowering scent of it all over and focus on him. "What else can I do for you, Cris? Anything you need. Do you want me to run the shower for you?" Unsure if telling him to lay back down would be offensive since that was the cause of all this.

Smiling in the dark. It never took her long to piece anything together. Her intelligence, the way he could tell her so much with two words, was one of the things that he loved--loved? Loved...about her. "Yes. If I do nothing, if I let the day run its course, that is what happens. That is what happened, that day." She asks her questions, he can hear the desperation in her voice to find some way to comfort him. He brings her hand to his bloody mouth and presses his lips to her knuckles, covering them with his other palm. "Don't move. Stay with me, like this..." Swallows after his request, the lump that formed in his throat at her caress to his cheek now the size of a boulder. Putting her fingers against his lowered brow, her hand locked between his, he exhales. Long, shaky. Several moments of silence pass, then he sniffs. He does not bother to disguise it as an inhale this time.

Lenore is no where close to smiling, her features heavy with emotion when he comes clean about it all. "And you re-live it... again and again." It's hard to not dwell on that but she nods. "Of course, Cris. If that's what you want I'm not going anywhere." Allowing him to shift her hand where he wants while the other continues to stroke his cheek. It's at the sniffle that she leans forward to press her lips against his hairline. "I'm not going anywhere." Assuring him again, whispering the words against his skin. "I don't know how to make the dreams stop, Cris, but I won't leave you to mend from them on your own. You don't have to do it alone."

Silently wishing she would stop talking, would just sit with him in silence because the more she speaks, the more her words sink into him and the more he wants to believe them. It wasn't exactly his desire to do all of it on his own, but that was the card he'd drawn when he'd burned the only bridge he had. It was a position that he was willing to deal with if only because he'd gone at it so hard. He has no choice but to let her words comfort him like a warm blanket and his brow under her hand wrinkles with tension. He grips her fingers tightly in his like it would somehow stop what was coming. He did not cry often. And even when he did, it did not last long. But over the past few days, the need to do something about everything he held within his own mind became something he couldn't ignore. Leaning harder into his knees, one hand cracks open from hers to hold his own head, palm there to catch the tears from his eyes before they got anywhere else.

He's silent and she doesn't know what he's thinking, if he's still okay. His hand tightens on hers and she's unsure what's coming, if anything, but it's at the release when he tries brushing away his own tears that she realizes what's happening. She straightens on her knees in front of him and wraps her arms around him in an offer of comfort. This is what he has done for her before when she cried and she felt it helped so she would do the same for him. If he allows it she tries to guide his head to his shoulder, to the crook where it met her neck to bury himself there and get lost. There's not an ounce of hesitation from her in all of this, no surprise or horror that he's crying. As she had just said, he doesn't have to handle it alone and she's staying true to her words with her actions.

He was never more than a very pliable collection of muscle and bone under her hands, but this time, he fights to remain where he is. Stiff and unyielding. Part of him still wants to believe he's not doing this; not in front of her, not at all. His head aches from restrained tears, but at least they're not falling anymore. Relenting, he puts his brow to her shoulder, where she'd tried to get him to rest earlier. One last sniff, one last swallow, and a noise low in his throat, a marriage of a moan and an exasperated sigh. Here within her arms, it doesn't feel like anything can touch him. That he was not covered in blood, that he had not almost lost his life because of his own subconscious or whatever it was in this town that had its fingers in him, that he really was worth the aid and the comfort and the affection she was giving him. His palm slides down the outside of her shoulder. "Thank you." His voice had not cracked like that in years.

Him fighting her is a little more than surprising but she doesn't force him. Much. A small amount of pressure knowing that if he would give in and relax somewhat it could help ease him even more after the hellish morning they've had. He gives in, not to crying and letting it out but at least he settles against her shoulder and with a gentle turn of her head she can brush her lips against the cusp of his ear. One hand wraps fingers into hair at the nape of his neck and the other drags nails in a soft path up and down his spine to ward off some of the tension there. "You're welcome, Cris. You know you would do the same for me if the tables were turned. It's... what we do."

Making another noise low in his throat, though this one is borne purely from the pleasure of surrender and the feeling of fingernails on his back. Never before had he been so quickly snapped out of an emotionally sensitive rut. The fine hairs on his neck and arms rise and he wipes his eyes against her shoulder. "That does not stop me feeling grateful though, yes...?"

For the first time since she opened her eyes to all of this the weight of her expression lightens at the sound he makes, something about it allowing her to breathe just a little easier. Still, it only makes her tighten her hold on him a little more and the motion of her hand doesn't stop. "No, I will not stop you from feeling grateful because I feel the same way every time you comfort me, too. I'm glad I could be here for you. I mean that."

No doubt her fingertips pass over collections of scars between his shoulder blades and on them, fanning out from his spine. In sets of three and four, thin and long, easily followed by her fingers. Others stand out alone, the flesh raised, like he had been cut by a blade or whipped. Errant, old puncture marks dot him, groups of two, few and far between. He's silent for a long moment, weighing what he wanted to say. Was he truly grateful she was here? Could he have done without her help? "So am I..." No, he decided, he couldn't.



[ Thank you, Lenore V.! ]
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Re: Sublimation: Heat of the Moment

Post by Crispin » Mon Dec 10, 2018 4:37 am

"He still hasn't woken up yet?"

"You want I should bite him, see if that gets him up?"

"Faith. Ew."

"Whaaat? He
might taste good."

"He's Nephilim. They all taste like God's piss."

"Oh how would you know, Zane?"

"CRIS?!"

He came awake all of a sudden, as if life had decided to reach its hand directly into his heart and squeeze it. His body arced up into a pair of arms and they wrapped around him, pressing grit and shrapnel further into his skin, bruising already damaged bone, reopening wounds that had just stopped bleeding.

"Salome… Salome stop." He gripped at her back, feeling slices in her clothes and the gunky film of blood on her skin.

"I will not stop, I thought you were dead, we thought you were dead."

Cris scoffed and willed his eyes to open.

It was dark, but the yellow streetlights visible through broad holes in the white stone walls cast errant splotches of illumination all over the floor; spilled paint. He saw rubble. Dust, dirt, streaks of black blood. The wasted bodies of Forsaken was the other smell he could not get out of his nose. Limbs bent at odd angles, greasy hair and weapons strewn amongst the clutter.

Two Downworlders stared down at him over Salome's shoulder. Zane, his green hair, natural, worn in a mohawk he'd let grow out. There was a broad slash in the Warlock's mesh shirt, leaving his almost too tightly corded muscles on display and dust streaked, maroon leather pants. Leaning against him with her elbow, bone white fingers playing with an angel hair thin golden curl, was a vampire. Faith. She was spotless. She tilted her head and sneered.

Salome captured his face between her hands and forced him to look at her. "Cris… Are you sure you're alright? You went down so fast."

Repulsed, he shook his head out of her grasp. "Thanks for that. …Where is she?"

The silence that fell was graveyard dead and cold. He felt Salome stiffen near him and when he looked up, both Faith and Zane had averted their gazes to one another's shoes. An iceberg dropped into his stomach.

"Did Lazarus find her?"

"Cris, listen to me…" Salome was not used to sounding this kind. He could hear it in the scrape of her voice and was certain that it had nothing to do with the acrid smoke from their Warlock fire still lingering in the air.

"Where is she?"

His head spun. He looked between the three silhouettes towering over him. Their features were in shadow, but he could not bear the weight of their combined…sympathy. That's what it was, what he felt. Sympathy.

They did not think he could handle what it was they needed to tell him.

But they were wrong. He could handle it. He could handle it and he would prove them wrong.

"If you'll not let me go, help me up. I will find her myself." He rolled away from Salome's restricting hands and immediately regretted it. What of the room he could see began to waver, a long stretch of desert beneath an unrelenting, high noon sun. Pressing his elbow against the cool stone floor, he willed his stomach to stop bucking. He could not even remember what it was that hit him, but he could feel blood and grit crusted on his face.

"Not so fast. Just sit for a goddamned minute, will you?"

"Salome," Zane warned.

"I've done nothing by lie here, prostrate apparently, according to you all," Cris bit out. Hot sweat pearled on his brow, his temples. Bruised muscle and bone ground against each other as he further coaxed his body to obey him. Wildly, all of a sudden, he reached down his right leg and found the cool slide of his stele make it into his hand. Salome looked away from him as she handed it over.

All was silent save for the crackle of adamas as he dragged it over his skin. The white-blue glow of the stele's tip burned his eyes, straight through to his brain and scattered in starbursts of pain that rattled the solidity of his skull.

With the last stroke of the iratze, a euphoric, painless warmth crept into him. "Where is she?" repeated, this time with more strength now that the tightness in his voice was better applied. He pushed his hand through his hair, wincing not at the pain, but the length of the gash cutting his temple and back across his scalp. Flesh rapidly sewed itself back together beneath his fingertips but the mere thought that he'd lain for several minutes with such a wound leaking nearly all of his life's blood in a halo out on the floor was discomfiting.

"Cris, please…"

"What, Salome? Please what? What is it that you expect of me?" He did not understand how she, out of the small group they had brought, could be sitting here with him. Worrying about a few scrapes, bumps and bruises when Bianca…

Unless…

She grimaced and put her brow in her bloody hand.

"She's right, Nephilim," Faith's drawl soothed the tension mounting in the air but did nothing to thaw the ice in his blood. "Take a minute. You just about had your head knocked off your shoulders. From what I hear, even that is deadly to your kind." She bared her teeth, clacking a barbell against the tip of one elongated fang.

He managed to get one boot solidly beneath him and tested his own weight against the strength he had left in his leg. If they would not tell him, he would find out on his own. They must know that. Why, then, would any of them have the desire to protect him? What had he done to deserve this kidd glove handling?

A hand broke into his vision and he stiffened, looking up. Zane, with his eyes averted still, but his mouth set into a grim line of determination, was the owner. He slid his hand into Zane's and allowed himself to be pulled to his feet. He gripped the other man's arm tightly to keep his balance and he saw, over the Warlock's shoulder, what it was that they were all trying to protect him from.

Lazarus crouched, half in and half out of a broad pool of tawny light. Forearms on his knees, his head, dark with only an inch of hair growth, bowed. At his feet, a white sheet spread out like a picnic blanket, terribly pristine and blinding amongst the wreckage. A pair of small, dirty bare feet jutted from its lowest border.

All the air abruptly left his lungs in a great rush. Zane clasped his hand tightly. "Whatever you do, Cris, don't look."

He glanced at the Warlock, dumbfounded and horrified. Zane had never addressed by anything other than Nephilim.

Gulping with a dry throat, he headed toward Lazarus and who they all knew was under that sheet.

Who they all knew they were too late to save.
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Re: Sublimation: Heat of the Moment

Post by Crispin » Sun Jan 13, 2019 6:10 pm

Abruptly, the abandoned mill was filled with screams.

Salome's unintelligible hysterics mingled with Zane's barks of rebuke. He heard his name shrieked from a broken voice, but he did not turn.

Though he wanted to, he found.

He wanted so badly to take his eyes from the white sheet, the pair of feet poking from beneath it. Dirty, bruises in the shapes of veins, blue against white skin. Her red nail polish was chipped. One small toe was still captured in the circle of a silver ring.

Lazarus looked up at him, and his thick, block shaped face was tense. For a vampire, he had retained a surprising amount of the skin tone he had had in life. Dusky and golden brown, only the unnatural, steady sheen of his obsidian eyes and his absent pulse marked him for what he was.

It was that gaze that Lazarus fixed on him. Stone flat lips pressed into a line and the vampire rose to his feet. He felt a hand on his shoulder, cold and hard, sausage fat fingers squeezing tight in a gesture of sympathy. It was true that everyone in this room knew Bianca. They cared for her, they stood up for her and they had all come to rescue her. But it was his mission, at his insistence that the search party had even been gathered at all.

And it was small. Not completely ineffective. But late. Too late.

Lazarus left him alone and joined the other Downworlders behind him. Cris put a hand to his mouth, the sudden urge to be sick drying his tongue, making it stick to his teeth. But he took a shaking breath and, closing his eyes, knelt down beside the body.

"CRIS, DON'T!"

"Salome, let him go. If he wants to do this, that's on him. It's his mental faculties on the line here, not yours."

"ISN'T IT ENOUGH THAT NO ONE ELSE DIED!?"

Salome's voice was a clash of cymbals between his ears, drowning out the wild hope that when he drew back that blindingly white sheet, Bianca would open her eyes. Smile, laugh, convince him that this was all just a terrible joke to see how badly she could scare him.

Twice he reached for the sheet and drew his hand back, gritting his teeth, turning his face away.

What was he afraid of? According to everyone, it was just a corpse. Not even worth looking at. And he had seen many of those.

If you were not strong enough to get through the war you waged for her, echoed a shrill voice of condescension into his ear, then you have no choice but to look. Don't prove to her even further that you were too weak to see the consequences.

He did not want to.

By the Angel, he did not want to.

He tried not to, but his hand moved without his permission. His eyes opened. Lips pulled back from his teeth, breath coming in quick bursts. He put his hand against Bianca's outline and the stiff solidity of her inanimation made his grip shake.

"Let go of me! CRIS, PLEASE!!"

Somebody stop me. Angel's mercy, somebody stop me. I do not want to see this.

He pulled the sheet from her body at an angle and revulsion hit him like a solid blow in the chest.

She was mercifully clothed, though the charcoal grey shirt, one of his, he realized, that she had modified, laid in strips. Chunks were missing, the sleeves were frayed. The insides of both elbows were bruised black, several injection sites scabbed over with a chunky mixture of blood and pus. Three fingers of her right hand were purple, unnaturally shaped. Broken. As was one of her legs, bent inward at an awkward angle.

But he could not look away from her face. More of the same bruises splayed like seaweed along her bare throat. They climbed her jaw and cheek, ran down her collarbone. Features naturally, beautifully harsh looked now like they had been crafted by scalpel, pale skin pulled too tight over the network of fragile bone. The side that faced him, her left side, had been left alone. Stained only with blood and dirt, through which he could see the faintest trace of tear tracks.

But the right side…

Burns caked her face from her nose to the back of her head and down her throat. Blisters and sores and broken, charred skin; shining with a cruel mixture of fluid and blood. Her hair and right ear were gone, her eye fused and missing its fan of sweeping lashes.

Devoid of life, of vitality, of strength; of everything he knew to be true about her, she was near unrecognizable. Frail, like a marionette cut free of its strings and broken.

He ducked his head, chin to his collarbones and squeezed his eyes shut. He could look no longer. But he reached for her. He drew her weightless body into his lap where she fit perfectly, as she always did. He supported her back with his arm, feeling more locks of hair fall away from her ruined scalp to lay across his skin.

He put his hand on her face, slick, sticking to his palm as he caressed her burns. He pressed his mouth to her face, imprinting the memory of her against his lips. He smelled soot and blood, smoke and ash, lightning.

And still the faintest trace of jasmine.

That scent stuck in his nose, would not let him go.

He clutched her to him, praying now that she would never wake up to this horror, to this pain.

To his inability to get her back alive.

He curled around her, protecting her now in death from the eyes of their friends. From the eyes of anyone.

And he did not move.
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Re: Sublimation: Heat of the Moment

Post by Crispin » Sun Jan 13, 2019 6:28 pm

Moments felt like minutes. Minutes, hours. Hours…

They left him alone. His head hurt too much to understand anything they were murmuring about. Salome paced and Faith followed after her. Lazarus leaned up against the wall near a window missing its glass, his thick arms folded. Zane watched him.

A hand touched his shoulder and the room swam back into focus. Dawn's first touches dusted the eastern horizon, the sky an otherwise paling blue. He could pick out details now that he could not earlier: the deathly pallor of her skin against his Marks, her black bruises, her charred burns that made her skull look like a piece of branded meat.

Lazarus stood before him and soon knelt down to take up nearly all of his peripheral vision.

"We should go," he said, but the words only hardened Cris's resolve to stay where he was.

Faith wrung her hands. "Guys, the sun's awfully…"

"Faith," Zane warned.

"What? If he wants to sit here and cry that should be his prerogative. But I'm not willing to die for that."

"Then go," Cris rasped. The silence that fell was impenetrable. The moment frozen in time, the weight of two simple words spoken by a mouth that had not opened in hours was crushing.

Abruptly, Faith scoffed. "Fine." Zane swore in the wake created by the vampire's coattails.

"Cris…" Once more Salome's hand curved around his shoulder, her fingers warm, but trembling. "They're right. We have to get out of here, we can't stay here with… We can't leave her like this, Cris."

He did not move. The texture of Bianca's ripped skin on his palm would forever follow him.

"Cris, come on… Zane--"

Another pair of hands on him. Fingers strong, cold. They smelled like iron and lightning, of blood and magic. They slid into the crook of his elbow and began guiding his arms apart. He wanted to fight it. By the Angel, he wanted to fight it, but all he could manage were weak pleas, quiet protests.

His hand broke away from Bianca's face, flecks of dead flesh scabbing his palm.

"No. No, no, no…"

Salome's hand slid down his shoulder, finding his other elbow. With her guidance and Zane's strength holding him back, Bianca's lifeless body slid down from his lap, a battered doll, into Lazarus' strong arms.

"Lazarus, take her home."

The vampire rose. Bianca's head fell back, exposing the long, white line of her neck. What was left of her hair dripped toward the ground, curls breaking free of her scalp to litter the concrete below.

Her arm slid free of Lazarus' grasp and swayed. Her sleeve fell over her hand.

He did not know when he started to shake, when drawing breath became a chore because every inhale he took rushed so quickly out of him again.

He heard his name, whispered to him against his ear. Arms wrapped strongly around him, rocking him as he sobbed, pulled further into Salome's embrace.

He found her arm with his hand and held on. Tears spilled hot like fire from his eyes.

"Shh, Cris… Cris, it's okay. It's okay, it's okay. Shh… Shh, shh, shh. It's okay…"

His cries echoed in gutted, empty warehouse.
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Re: Sublimation: Heat of the Moment

Post by Crispin » Sun Jan 13, 2019 6:31 pm

I am unsure which extreme I prefer.

Awakening to the home I'd known for seven years as if nothing was wrong in the world, allowed twenty precious minutes to spend with her in any way that I want. Until all Hell decides to break loose.

Or…opening my eyes to find myself already holding her battered corpse, knowing that while I could not reach her in time, that her last moments were no doubt spent cursing me, that her suffering has already long come to an end.







I cannot decide.

I lose her in each scenario.

I have already lost her.



There is nothing left for me to feel, nothing left for me to learn. Except to never, ever, let it happen again.

And if I do not invite it, it won't.

I've never before had the desire to live a mundane life.





Violence, fighting, is not worth it.

Not for a Nephilim who's lost his faith…
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Re: Sublimation: Heat of the Moment

Post by Crispin » Sun Jan 13, 2019 7:39 pm

Days later…



Gulping with a dry throat, he headed toward Lazarus and who they all knew was under that sheet.

Abruptly, the abandoned mill was filled with screams.

Salome's unintelligible hysterics mingled with Zane's barks of rebuke. He heard his name shrieked from a broken voice, but he did not turn.

He wanted so badly to take his eyes from the white sheet, the pair of feet poking from beneath it. Dirty, bruises in the shapes of veins, blue against white skin.

Lazarus left him alone and joined the other Downworlders behind him. Cris put a hand to his mouth, the sudden urge to be sick drying his tongue, making it stick to his teeth. But he took a shaking breath and, closing his eyes, knelt down beside the body.

"CRIS, DON'T! … ISN'T IT ENOUGH THAT NO ONE ELSE DIED!?"

Twice he reached for the sheet and drew his hand back, gritting his teeth, turning his face away.

What was he afraid of? According to everyone, it was just a corpse. Not even worth looking at. And he had seen many of those.

He did not want to.

By the Angel, he did not want to.

He tried not to, but his hand moved without his permission. His eyes opened. Lips pulled back from his teeth, breath coming in quick bursts. He put his hand against the body's outline and the stiff solidity of her inanimation made his grip shake.

Somebody stop me. Angel's mercy, somebody stop me. I do not want to see this.

He pulled the sheet from her body at an angle and revulsion hit him like a solid blow in the chest.

She was mercifully clothed, though the charcoal grey shirt, one of his, he realized, that she had modified, laid in strips. Chunks were missing, the sleeves were frayed. The insides of both elbows were bruised black, several injection sites scabbed over with a chunky mixture of blood and pus. Three fingers of her right hand were purple, unnaturally shaped. Broken. As was one of her legs, bent inward at an awkward angle.

But her face…

Her dead lips, full and white, said nothing. The sweeping fan of the lashes of her left eye, her dark brow. Black hair covering only half her head, the other skinless and left to rot in the open air.

An abrupt cry of shock and pain echoed to the ceiling, burning his throat afterward. He put his hands on her face, his palm sliding through blood, pus and crisp black flakes of ruined muscle and flesh.

This wasn't right…

"No. No, no, no…"

How had this happened? How had this changed?

"No, no, wake up. Wake up, please!!"

His eyes swam, dripping tears on her ruined features. They wetly followed the lines of exposed muscle and bone, collecting in the hollow of her fused eye socket. He leaned over her, fingertips dimpling her neck, her head. Lost in her hair.

"Lenore, please. Wake up! PLEASE, GET UP!! LENORE! GET UP!!"

Hands on his shoulders pulled him back, his grip shattering. Lenore's body fell back to the concrete, her head turned. Chin on her shoulder, full lips that he had kissed only moments before she'd fallen asleep against his chest parted by the abrupt divorce of contact.

He fell back against Salome, breaths grating their way from his throat. Words unintelligible shouts.

Pain seared in his head. Salome's hand was cold on his face, but he did not want it. Her voice gentle, cooing to him as Lazarus scooped Lenore's corpse into his meaty arms.

It was not real.

None of this was real.

It was a dream. Just a dream. A sick dream, of things…of things that had already happened. Things that had nothing to do with her except that she knew of them.

He had to open his eyes. He had to wake up. He had to…

Breath rushed into his lungs so quickly he choked, coughing until the blood pounded in his head. Behind his eyes and in his ears. His skin erupted with goosebumps, cold sweat slick on his palms and on his back.

Lenore's weight on his chest, warm and small and murmuring in her sleep pried at his fraying mind. He lifted his head, peering down at her. The witchlight's white-blue glow caught in her black hair, moonlight on lake water at midnight, disturbed with each anxious gasp that came from his mouth.

His hand skidded from hers, against her ribs and what he felt there put the boulder back in his throat.

Grimacing, he leaned his head back against the damp pillow, moisture forced from his closed eyes running back across his temples, into his hair.

Each breath shuddered, two for each deliciously quiet, but present, beat of her living heart.
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Re: Sublimation: Heat of the Moment

Post by Crispin » Sun Jan 13, 2019 7:44 pm

Epilogue

Can you hear my call?
Are you coming to get me now?
I've been waiting for you to come rescue me
I need you to hold all of the sadness
I cannot live with inside of me

Sia -- I'm in Here


The last dregs of adrenaline burned out of his system minutes ago, leaving him exhausted but with a restless energy that had become too hard to ignore. Exhaling, he curled his fingers into any, every, part of Lenore's body he could reach. The warmth of her spine, the slope of her arm, the fine network of bones making up her fragile wrist. And he slid out from beneath her weight.

In the half dark, the room swam, and he put his hand against his head. He went off memory to find the desk, and the drawer that held all of his things. Tucked away in the folds of his gear was a single, bent cigarette and the silver lighter that he'd had on him the night he'd come to town. With both in hand, he stepped into the bathroom and shut the door.

Afraid of his own reflection, he did not turn on the light and bypassed the mirror. Fingertips worked the creaky lock of the window and soon a pre-winter breeze rushed into the room, splashing over his body, icing the sweat on his arms.

He sat down hard on the toilet seat and put the cigarette between his lips. He protected the little orange flame from the window with a trembling, cupped hand and took in the first, greedy inhale.

Metal clacked on marble tile when the lighter fell from his grasp and he put his face in his cold palms, the cigarette smoldering in his mouth. Smoke stung his eyes. Or was that a fresh wave of tears he could not stop?

His fingers slid back into his hair, staying there. Clasping his skull like he could feel the fissures between the plates of bone trying to split open.

His brain ached. His body felt like one giant, worried bruise.

If that was how these dreams were going to progress…

"I will never, ever…sleep again. I swear it. I swear it…"
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