When you play with fire...

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Chapter 9

I have always thought of myself as… Not invincible, but as though every possible threat to my life could be kept away with fire. Even the strongest of my Peacemakers would have no chance once I summoned my flames. They were always what I considered to be the biggest danger in my life.

It was almost three years after Lisa left, that the universe took it upon itself to remind me that no matter how much like a god I feel. I am an Elemental, and we have our own ticking clock, counting down to our last breath. As do all that live on this earth.

I was attending a training session with some of my younger recruits. These ones were of a timider nature. So, I was showing off to try and toughen them up. There is no room for weakness in the Peacemakers ranks.

It started as a low stinging sensation that I attributed to my new boots, by the time the session was over. It was like someone had stuck my foot in a lava pit. I made it back to my room and locked the door before I allowed myself to look.

I could never have been prepared for what I saw when I took off my boot. Glowing cracks, bright orange like my fire power. Growing up towards my ankle.

I was terrified, because it was painful and appeared to be spreading. What did this mean? Why was my power behaving in this manner?

I convinced myself at the time that it was nothing and that it would go away. Over the next few weeks, it proved me wrong. Not only did it continue to spread up my leg. The pain was quickly becoming more intense. The orange was difficult to hide.

I could not let my Peacemakers know I was vulnerable. If any word got out my position and my life may be in jeopardy.

One night, curled up on my bed gritting my teeth against wave after wave of sharp pain. I relented. I knew that there was one person, and one person only. Who would understand, who would help me.

Daniel and I had not spoken since the day I hurt him. This was an emergency, I was in pain. I had no choice. If anyone could figure out what was happening, you could bet the Elements it would be Daniel Stone.

Tracking him down was easy enough, the way he causes Earthquakes. I’ve never really lost him. I just have more important targets to send my men after. Besides, I was afraid.

I had a plan brewing in the near future, that I was aware would likely sever any existing alliance between myself and Daniel. It was unavoidable, but I still felt a small amount of regret.

Before I rained fire again. I needed to see him, because afterwards there was no way he would even look at me unless he was trying to kill me.

It was a stormy night when I found where he was staying. Rain, how I hate it. When it rains, I feel almost powerless. If my hands become wet, I lose a lot of my offensive abilities. Left alone with the most basic of moves available.

That night, I allowed myself to be soaked. So that water dripped from my clothes. I knew that Daniel wouldn’t find me as threatening if I were unable to use most of my power. It would give me a chance at surviving this.

I knock on the wooden hotel door, and hoped that he would help me, if ever I needed him to put aside our past and help me. It was now.

“Please, tell me that you aren’t here to kill me” the door remained shut, but I heard him as clear as day. The ground beneath me opened and I scrambled to avoid the great hole that had formed.

“No! Danny stop! I-I’m here alone, my men don’t even know that I left!” in hindsight telling Daniel that I was without defence wasn’t smart. Yet, I believe I am alive today because I was telling the truth.

Out of the hole came my old friend. I should have known he would be hiding where I couldn’t find him. Under the ground. He looked older than when last I saw him, but it had been over ten years. So I don’t know why I thought things would be the same.

The very first bits of gray were starting to take root in Daniel’s hair, but his eyes were as green as they had always been. I was relieved to see no anger in them, although if I were him. I would have been furious.

“Never thought I’d see the day, when the leader of the Peacemakers would be on my doorstep… You better come inside” he looked me up and down, analysing what had changed I suppose as I had just done to him.

I wondered if he noticed that I kept my weight off one leg. Just as I noticed the limp he had as he opened the door. The limp, that was no doubt my fault. My fire had melted those tendons, my hands had blackened his skin.

He closed the door behind me as I made my way into the basic hotel room and shed my coat. The Peacemakers signature black robe wasn’t something I would wear to see an old friend. So I had simple black pants and a red shirt on. Red is my favourite colour.

“Eric… Why have you come here? I don’t suppose you’ve given up on your quest” he seated himself on the dirty green lounge. Fixing me with an intense stare. Trying to figure out my motive.

“No, I’ve not given up, and I would have gone elsewhere if there was anywhere else I could go” I joined him on the lounge, and being this close after so long was one of the most unusual experiences of my life.

“I came because something is wrong, something I cannot let my Peacemakers discover” I knew Daniel wouldn’t understand why I had to keep it a secret. I wondered if perhaps this wasn’t the right thing to do. It was too late for doubts. I was already here.

Daniel shook his head, and I saw a look that I recognized. The one that meant I had stuffed up big time and I should expect a lecture.

“I always told you, one day you would find trouble that you won’t be able to get out… of” I pulled my trouser leg up before he had finished speaking. Revealing my pale skin and the pulsing orange cracks that were almost at my knee by this point.

“This… I don’t know what it is but it’s becoming worse. I… Something is wrong” I took a deep breath to steady myself. I am Eric Fairless. I am not afraid. I am Eric Fairless. I will not show weakness in front of Daniel.

Daniel bent down and looked for a long time in silence, and the longer the silence grew. The more worried I became. Because, if Daniel couldn’t help. Then no one could.

“Give me your hand” it was not a request, it was a command. Nor had Daniel’s eyes left me leg. He put out one of his rough hands, and I was not sure what to do.

“You’ve never been able to stand contact with my heat for long” even wet, I still had a high body temperature. Daniel had always shied away from touching me when we were children.

“I want to connect you to the earth through me, so that I can feel you better” Daniel had always had the ability to sense through the earth. People’s locations, and in my case my fire power within me.

“This is me, showing you that although I will never forgive what you did. I’m not heartless” I put my hand in his and even though it must have been painful. He grasped it tightly and shut his eyes.

His face tensed with what I could imagine was discomfort, and we stayed like that. Him with one hand on my leg and the other holding my hand. Me, sweating with nerves. I didn’t know what he was looking for, or what he would find.

His face relaxed as I watched and his grip tightened so that it was almost painful. When he opened his eyes, I knew that something very bad was happening. Because while there was still green in them. It was mixed in with a familiar shade of orange.

“Daniel…” I tried to pull my hand out of his but he wouldn’t let me break the connection. Strength born from decades of lifting the earth held me in place beside him.

“I feel it Eric, it will escape, whether you want it to or not. It’s done being pushed away” I didn’t dare pull any harder in case I broke something. Nor would I resort to using my fire on Daniel again… I was stuck there.

“I… It’s so strong Eric…” I could feel my power drifting from my body to his. Except he wasn’t built to control fire, much more demanding and unpredictable than earth. It had him, ensnared within its unbearable heat.

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have come here. I’m sorry Daniel! I didn’t mean for this!” I was at a loss, all I knew was that I had to break the connection. Or who knows what might happen to Daniel.

Before I could decide on how I was going to act I noticed something. The orange in one of Daniel’s eyes was retreating. The look he gave me was half fear and half unbelievable pain. I felt him gathering power, and then he created an explosion.

Maybe It was me, my power in him that caused it. Either way, it was strong enough to separate us. Breaking whatever link had been connecting Daniel to my power.

“D-Daniel!” smoke, falling bits of wall from the now blown apart hotel room. Coughing, I sat up from where I had landed. Daniel wasn’t making any sounds. I stumbled on my knees in the dark. Trying to find him in the rubble.

“How is it that trouble always finds you?” he was okay. Standing behind me. Eyes back to normal, shaking slightly from the experience of… Whatever that was. Alive, and unharmed. That was what mattered.

“I’ve never seen anything like that before, and I’ve seen many strange things” he went to help me get up but I flinched away from his hand. I didn’t want to touch him. What if it happened again? We might not get away unscathed.

“I would have stayed away, if I knew what would happen” I stood on my own. As painful as it was. I am a very independent man. I don’t like to lean on others. Literally or otherwise.

“No. If you hadn’t come. I wouldn’t know what I know now” at least it wouldn’t all be for nothing. Daniel had found something. I hoped it wasn’t anything bad. Although after what just transpired, I couldn’t imagine it being good.

“Its… power that you have squashed or pushed away. Unavoidable with your power level. It’s angry, wild. Now that there is so much it’s strong enough to leak out and spread” my own power was hurting me. My power, rebelling against me.

“If it continues at this rate… I don’t know how long you have. Power takes energy as you well know. So, if it spreads everywhere. You won’t have enough energy to sustain yourself and that power. Not for long” I knew it. In my heart the moment I saw the cracks. I knew the truth.

“It’s going to kill me” I wasn’t ready for death yet. I had so much I had to do. Truth be told, I always thought I’d die in battle. Not from being overtaken by my own power. Not wilting with exhaustion… What would I tell my men?

“There has to be a way to stop it, I’ll find a way! I can’t let it take me” I sounded desperate and I knew it. Surely, a cure was hidden in the Elemental world somewhere. It had to be.

“Don’t push yourself too hard. You can’t afford it now and I don’t…” Daniel seemed to be struggling to come up with words. We weren’t really friends anymore, and that was my fault. Still, I wondered if this was hard for him as well.

“I don’t want to have to bury my one friend… I may not recognize the person you are on the outside anymore but I know you are still a good man” after all these years. All the Elementals I killed. He still insisted on seeing the good in me.

“I’ll do what I want!” defensiveness wouldn’t hide my true feelings from Daniel. He has a way of knowing exactly how you feel no matter how you try to hide it. It was my instant reaction to this odd conversation… I didn’t want him to be seeing good in me. I nearly killed him, he should hate me!

“I know Eric just… Be careful” I had to go before my Peacemakers wondered where I was. I looked at my old friend, and felt such a tangle of emotions that I didn’t know how to end what could be our last encounter.

I settled on giving him some advice. I couldn’t not carry out my plan, but I could try and soften the blow. For the sake of our past friendship.

“Your nephew is very strong… He must get it from you” I stood to leave as steadily as I could. No amount of pain would make me show weakness. It’s just not my style. Daniel looked at me, and I could tell he was trying to figure me out.

“What are you doing Eric?” I paused by what used to be the door. Daniel would have to move again because of me. Pondering, how best to answer his question without giving anything else away.

“I made you a promise a long time ago. Before we were truly friends” it was actually why we became friends. If I hadn’t made that promise, Daniel would never have trusted me.

“If life has taught me anything since we parted, it’s that promises are made to be broken” I left him with that. I knew he wouldn’t put it together in time to stop me. This was a crucial part of my plan. Even if we used to be all each other really had in the world. I wasn’t letting him get in my way.

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