A Heart-Shattering Battle
A week after I had the compound to myself and spent two glorious nights with Stephen, my friends had returned from Australia; they had taken a couple of days off from the stress load of work to recuperate from the exhausting mission. Most of it was spent with them sleeping, reading or – like Steve had been doing – participating in rigorous exercise.
I had gone on two more dates with Stephen in that timespan, first to dinner and the second to a comedy show, the relationship between us continuing to grow. Today it would develop into something stronger.
Around 5 in the morning, we were called down for some much needed training; I got to spar with Steve for the first time in a couple of months. He always managed to push me to my limit, even past that point but I never complained. Training with him only increased my strength; strength that I would need if I were to survive a huge battle should it ever come up.
In all my years of being a fire-starter, I hadn’t met someone who was my match but I needed to be prepared in case I happened upon that someone. Turns out that person would be that match in a gruesome battle this afternoon.
While I trained with Steve, he managed to send me tumbling to my ass a few times, striking in moves I didn’t see coming, unable to counter-attack against them. I landed for the fifth time on my back; groaning as I got back up, sweat dripping from my forehead. Hell, sweat dripping from everywhere.
“Again! Try to watch my hands instead of my body. People could try to sneak in punches before you realize what’s happening. Don’t hold back Sophie. Try to attack with everything you’ve got,” Steve stated, getting back into a defensive position, hands in front of his face prompting me to do the same. We circled each other, Steve striking out first. I dodged the punch, still circling, grunting as I kicked at his chest. He caught my foot, pushing me backwards. I stumbled back a little, regaining my balance.
“Remember, watch-,” he stated, caught off guard by my quick jab to his stomach, followed by a low kick hooking under his ankle, his body hitting the ground with a thud. He grunted, dazed by the strike, getting back up.
“Watch your hands. I know,” I told him, defending my body in preparation for his next move. It never came as Sam sprinted in the training room begging us to turn on the news. I grabbed my water bottle and towel, wiping the sweat from my face, the TV coming to life.
“In breaking news, there appears to be some sort of being terrorizing downtown Manhattan, fire enveloping the streets. Folks are fleeing from the attack to avoid being burned alive,” the reporter explained, showing a live coverage of a man, shooting firewalls from his fingers, directing them at innocent civilians who were running out of his path.
“Well guess we’re done training for the day. Time to go to work. Sophie, you’ll come with Bucky, Natasha, Wanda, Sam and me downtown. You’re great with fire. Maybe you can help us take him down with as few casualties as possible,” Steve commanded. We exited the training room to suit up, packing in on the jet, flying towards our intended battlefield.
“Who is our assailant? Where did he come from? Why he’s doing this?” Steve questioned, hooking his shield to his back and securing his helmet to his head.
“His name is Lane Jamison. He’s from Earth, Michigan to be exact, but it looks like he’s infected by some sort of fire virus-,” Natasha began explaining.
“Fire demon and he’s probably possessed instead of infected. I’ve seen my fair share of guys like him before you recruited me for this this team and they can be brutal,” I interjected, looking over the clips we received on our computer we usually brought in case of researching the threats we got called out for.
“Do you have any idea why he would attack innocent people?” Steve questioned, his attention directed to me.
“From what I remember, these fire demons only care about chaos and destruction. They burn down anything they choose, even if it means-,”
“Killing people who get in their way. Alright, any clues on how to stop this thing?” Natasha interrupted, running her hand through her short red hair.
“Distract it long enough for me to expel it from the host. A word of caution, try not to get too close to him. It won’t hesitate to burn you if it has the chance. If you have no other choice, don’t let it touch you with its hands. That’s where most of the power comes from,” I explained.
“Expel? Like an exorcism? You’re planning on exorcising it? Shouldn’t we have called in your boyfriend to help with this?” Bucky asked, his brows furrowing in confusion.
“No, not exactly. As for Stephen, he’s not needed for this specialty. So, no we don’t need to alert him,”
We landed and got off, forming a circle to listen to last minute details.
“Distraction is the plan. Remember, Sophie said not to get too close. If there’s no other option and you have to get close, don’t let it touch you with its hands. Everyone be careful and-,”
“Stephen? What you doing here?” I interrupted Cap, glancing behind him when an approaching figure had begun to walk over to us; it turned out it was my love Stephen Strange.
“I’m here to help. I got word about an inter-dimensional threat. Some kind of fire parasite, so I’ve come to offer my services,” he responded. That was odd. Why would he be given word about a parasite when that wasn’t what was creating the problem.
“It’s not a parasite. It’s a demon. I really don’t think…Nat, can you pull up his file again?” I explained, the feeling of dread washing over me. She did as I asked and I read through everything we had on Lane.
“He disappeared for a few months, came back angrier and more violent. Where did he disappear to?” I stated, talking to myself, until I felt a cool touch on my shoulder. Turning, I found Stephen looking at me, a concerned expression covering his features.
“He disappeared into a different dimension. Whatever is possessing him came from a different world,” he told me. This may have been true, but it still didn’t ease the discomfort I felt. Something didn’t sit quite right in this current situation.
“Well we’re glad to have an extra hand. Sophie, are you going to be okay with him being here? Sophie, are you all right?” Steve said, waving a hand in front of my face to tear my gaze away from Stephen.
“Yeah, I’m fine. It’ll just be like old times. Remember, distractions only. Stephen…I love you. We should go. Things will be getting worse. Oh…one more thing. Beware, there’s a chance he could be able to spawn more demons to help achieve his goal. Please, be careful,” I answered, sharing a kiss with my beloved before walking down to deal with the threat at hand.
“Soph, are you sure you’re okay? You might have fooled Rogers but I can tell something’s amiss. You don’t think it’s a coincidence at my being here?” Stephen questioned, a note of concern lacing in his voice.
“No, I don’t I meant what I said. Be careful. I fear something more is at play here,”
He nodded, flying off to cause the first distraction and I took my place nearby on a hill, concentrating on pushing the demon out of Lane. Yells from being pushed back resounded from my teammates, flames erupting where they had been previously standing.
“Everyone okay?” I asked, worried for their safety.
“We’re fine. Keep pushing. Hey Soph, you’ve got incoming. I’m sending back up,” Cap informed me.
“Not too close,” I warned, my focus on the man levitating over to me.
“Another fire-starter. How keen. Tell me, do you think they care about you at all or are they using you as their very own puppet?” Lane stated his voice distorted from the other being inside his body.
“I’m no one’s puppet. You’re the one using an innocent as a play toy for destruction. All I’m doing is stopping you from fulfilling your purpose,” I responded; sweat beginning to form on my brow. Still trying to expel the intruder from him, heat swarmed around my body, tiny flames spread out in a controlled circle.
“Foolish girl. Do you really think we possessed this man forcefully? He wanted us. Destruction isn’t the only thing we’re after. The Sorcerer Supreme would be a delightful host to inhabit,” the voices continued. We? There’s more than one? I thought, eyeing Bucky and Sam lingering behind Lane.
“You’re the ones who caused the inter-dimensional travel? A delusion to lure him here?” I asked, mild panic at the thought that Stephen could be in danger. I flared my power stronger and harder, the man narrowing his eyes at my push on him. The next instant he turned and launched an attack on Bucky. He was too close, a fire sword materializing arcing down in a way to slice him in half. The demon would have succeeded if I hadn’t moved in front, catching it with my arm, a searing pain slicing down it. The awkward angle it came down didn’t cut through bone but the burn caused me to grunt in pain, the healing coursing its way to the surface.
Fire against fire worked slower, however, the wound sealing in minutes rather than seconds. I formed a ball of flames throwing it at my target, forcing Lane back a few paces. He smirked, spawning more demons and flying off to find his intended victim, my Stephen, my Strange.
“I told you not to get too close,” I lectured Bucky and Sam, blasting one spawn with a column of fire, destroying it in a second.
“Sorry. We’ve got these. Go find Strange,” Bucky commented, landing a punch on the corporeal figure. I nodded, flying down to the streets.
“Cap, do you have a location on Strange?” I asked in the communication devices we shared. He grunted, my guess he happened to fighting off other spawns.
“No. I think he’s farther down the street. Why?” he responded, breathing hard.
“The main demon wants him as a host. If you locate him, let me know. I’m coming down there to help,”
Please, let me find him before it’s too late, I thought as I flew to the streets desperate to stop the demon from possessing him.
“Sophie, he’s here with…ugh!” Wanda’s voice called out over the communication device. From the sound she made, it had me in distress, the thought that I was too late to save him crossing my mind. No, no, no. Don’t let me be too late, I thought, my breath constricting in my chest.
“They’re by the pier!” Natasha shouted as I flew by her. I made my descent, finding both Stephen and Wanda using their magic to fight off more spawns.
“Stephen, you need to get out of here! You’re the real target, lured here by false inter-dimensional travel,” I informed him, lighting up an enemy from the side.
“That was your concern earlier. You said something more was at play,” he stated, sending his opponent through a portal that led elsewhere.
“It just confirmed my fear. They want to inhabit you. Please, you need…” I began, cut off by an explosion from behind. I landed on the burned arm, hissing in pain, pushing myself up, cradling it in my right hand.
“Sorcerer Supreme! You’re ours!” Lane – the demons – shouted, creating bonds around Stephen’s hands and feet, preventing him from moving. I threw up a barrier, blocking them from getting access to him. The voices only laughed, destroying it with one blast. They were about to surround Stephen with a column of possession fire but I refused to lose him.
“Stephen!” I screamed, launching my body in front of him, taking the full force of the flaming wall against my back. I screamed the sound reverberating throughout downtown as a blinding pain shot through me, the flames enveloping me as I broke Stephen’s bindings and pushed him back with a wave of heat.
Concentrating while fully engulfed, the fire not able to destroy me because of my own power and healing, the absorption I had always been grateful for; I outstretched my arms and pushed hard, the flames snuffing out. Refusing to pass out from the excruciating pain, I turned and slammed my hands down to the pavement, the full potential of my power at work, sending a vibrating fire wave towards Lane; the voices screamed as they died out, vanishing completely, the man falling to his knees. I swayed on my feet, the pain taking effect on my body but still I fought against fainting.
“NO! You bitch! You took away my power. I could have had the Sorcerer Supreme. Now you’ll pay for taking them away from me!” Lane yelled, rushing me. He didn’t get far, Wanda pulling him to her with her telekinesis landing a punch to his jaw. Natasha came running up and with a low swipe of her leg, knocked him to his back. She dragged him up, slamming him into a car, cuffing his hands. I dropped to my knees, my vision getting blurry, hearing a muffled voice call out my name.
“Sophie! Oh my god! It’s your back. Sophie! Sophie, can you hear me? Oh god, someone help me. She’s going to pass out. Sophie,” Stephen’s voice stated, panic in his tone at my current state.
“Nat, get her on the jet! Now! We need to get her back to the compound. Get some medics there,” Cap’s voice stated next. I fell backwards, warm hands enveloping my torso, Stephen’s eyes filled with tears and panic.
“I…love…you…Stephen,” I managed to say, my hand coming up to caress his cheek, my will to stay conscious flickering out. My world went black.
“Sophie! Please wake up! I need you. Don’t leave me,” I called out, tears rolling down my cheeks as I held Sophie’s limp body in my arms. Reaching down with shaky hands I checked her pulse. Receiving one, I knew she was still alive despite her shallow breathing. Steve tried to remove her from me but I wouldn’t let him, afraid that any movement would cause my worst fear to happen.
“Strange, give her to me. We have to get her to the compound. She’s hurt really bad. She’s not dead. You know that, but if we don’t get her to our medics, she could die. You can come with us. Please, let me take her,” he told me. I took a deep breath trying to regain my composure and released my hold on her. He picked her up, running to the jet. I followed, flying back with them, not wanting to leave her side.
Ten minutes later, we landed, Steve rushing off with Sophie to the medical bay and laying her on her stomach so the medics could assess the damage she took.
“She’s healing but very slowly. It’s a good thing she’s adaptable to any sort of fire but this is extensive. We’ll need to help her through the process. Strange, she’ll be all right. Go sit outside,” the head medic told me.
“No, I want to stay. I won’t be in the way but I need to stay with her. She shouldn’t be alone,” I argued, the medic sighing with defeat.
“Fine. You can hold her hand, but don’t do anything else,” he commented, getting back to work. They cut off the singed costume she had on, the burned flesh reaching down to her lower back. Some of it had cleared up, leaving minor scars in various places, but the rest had turned from a blackened area to a more reddish tint. I watched as they took a few soaked rags to wash off any dirt or debris left in the skin and cleaned out the area with alcohol, followed by pulling off the burned skin with medical tweezers. This process took a few hours with them wrapping her body in medicated gauze.
“We need to move her to a bed. You’re welcome to stay with her tonight, but you should know given how extensive these burns are, she might be out for a few days,” the main medic told me. I nodded releasing Sophie’s hand so they could lay her down on a hospital bed. I pulled up a chair, ordered my cloak to detach from my shoulders, taking her hand in mine again. Leaning forward, I placed a gentle kiss on her forehead, more tears escaping down my face.
“Please come back to me sweetheart. I love you. I need you baby. Please…come back,” I whispered, before leaning back in my chair, waiting for her to wake up. I must have dozed off because the next thing I knew, I felt a tap on my shoulder and immediately went defensive only to come face-to-face with Natasha.
“Relax, it’s only me. Let me sit with her a while. Go get something to eat. I’ll let you know if she wakes up,” She told me, pulling up another seat.
“No. I should be…”
“Go, Stephen. I don’t think she’s going to wake up any time soon. You need to eat something,” Natasha said, cutting me off. Sighing, I left the room to fix a sandwich in the kitchen.
“How’s Sophie doing? Any progress?” Steve asked me, a bottle of water in his hands, a worried expression on his face. I shook my head, swallowing a bite of the ham and cheese sandwich I made.
“I shouldn’t have been there. She’s hurt because of me, because I was lured there. She had a bad feeling and I…”
“Don’t do that. Don’t blame yourself. No one knew what that demon had planned. Sophie might have had her suspicions but nothing was confirmed until we got there. She’s going to okay,” he told me, crossing his arms over his chest. I ran my hand through my hair and shoved the sandwich away from me, my appetite gone replaced with worry.
“I hope so. I don’t know what I’d do if I lost her. Sophie’s an important part of life now and I couldn’t bear it if…”
“You love her. Deeply it seems. Tell me something. Do you see a future with her?” he stated. Sophie and I had already confessed our love to each other and the more time I spent with her I could feel myself falling deeper in love with her.
“Yes, I do. That much is true but I’m not going to rush into anything major with her right now. Some day I’d like her to move in with me if that’s something that everyone would be okay with,” I answered honestly.
“Good. We’d be okay with her leaving us if that’s what she wants. My guess is that she wouldn’t oppose to it but only when you’re both ready to fully commit to it,” he commented. I nodded, getting up to return to Sophie, Natasha and I watching over her for the next two days, taking turns relieving each other until the day she woke up.
“Stephen, wake up. I think she’s coming out of it,” I heard a familiar voice say. Groaning, I cracked open my eyes a little, noticing two people sitting near me: I registered them both as Natasha and Stephen. He bolted up when saw that I was awake, running his hand through my hair and kissing me.
“Welcome back. How are you feeling?” he asked, sitting back and holding my hand.
“Like I’ve been in an inferno. How long have I been out?” I croaked out.
“Two days. You took a really bad hit. I was afraid…” he replied, his eyes welling up with tears. I squeezed his hand, smiling.
“Hey, it’s all right. I’m right here, Stephen. I’m not going anywhere. I love you too much,”
He returned my smile, kissing me again, the tears slipping down his cheeks.
“I’d hate to interrupt but your doctor is here to check your burns,” Nat informed us. We broke the kiss, Stephen holding my hand for comfort as the doctor unwound the gauze from my body.
“This looks much better. I understand you pull on your ability with fire to heal but coupled with the medicated gauze the burns are almost gone. You’ll have a few scars but nothing too bad. I’d advise you to stay in bed a couple more days just to make sure no complications arise,” he told me. I nodded and asked for a cup of water to quench my thirst. More strips of gauze were wrapped around me before they left me alone with Nat and Stephen.
“I’ll let the others know you’re awake. They’ll be happy to see you,” Natasha stated, leaving the room. I noticed Stephen had gone silent, prompting me to give another squeeze of his hand.
“What’s wrong? You’re not usually this quiet,”
“The demon, it lured me to the battle. I should’ve never taken the call. If I hadn’t you-,”
“Stephen, sweetheart. We didn’t know if wanted you until it approached me while I was working on pushing it from Lane. I know I told you I had a horrible feeling but even I couldn’t be sure until everything was confirmed. It’s not your fault. It’s no one’s fault. I’d protect you again if I had the option, no question about it,”
“No buts. I love you. That’s what really matters. Don’t fret about it,” I told him. He nodded and kissed my cheek, getting up when Steve, Sam, and Bucky walked in the room. We talked for a while ending the day with Stephen staying the night in my room for another three days until the doctor released me into the wild where I could move around again. The next time I’d see Stephen, I would encounter his stubborn side, leading me to care for him in return.