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The Preserve, Friday Late Evening
Too good to be true.

Today had been too good to be true. Jonothon should have known it from the start, should have listened to his doubts and not put so much hope in the possibility that anything so good could last.

At first, he'd thought that maybe it was something that he'd eaten, twisting at his insides. But then it had started to burn. He'd slipped away from the campfire once it started to quiet down some, and he'd made his way into the preserve.

Away from people. Someplace quiet, where he could wrap his arms around himself, grit his teeth, and focus. Try to keep a grip on it.

He ought to have known, it was always too damn good to be true.

[For them wot know who they are! This is... not going to be pretty.]


2010-07-30 11:50 pm (UTC) (Link)

Didi had kept an eye on him, so it didn't take long for her to realize he'd left the group.

Maybe it was nothing, she thought hopefully. He'd take care of himself and be back in a few minutes, good as ever.

"Sweetie?" she called, lightly. "You forgot your marshmallows..."


2010-07-30 11:56 pm (UTC) (Link)

Oh, no. No, no, no. A nightmare thought passed through Jonothon's mind, a memory and a fear all wrapped into one. This was the first time all over again, only the faces had changed, the setting shifted about some. A forest, instead of a coat room. Didi, instead of Gayle.

He knew better, this time around, than to try to kiss her.

His composure slipped a little more, and if there was any basis for the phrase, 'make your blood boil,' he was certain that he knew exactly what it felt like.

"Please," he said, his voice low but desperate, "please, Didi, don't..."


2010-07-31 12:06 am (UTC) (Link)

"Don't what?" Didi said blankly. She might have been keeping a slightly desperate hold on that blankness, as if she couldn't guess. "Whatever it is, you won't break me. Promise."

She stepped closer, and was only several yards away now.


2010-07-31 12:14 am (UTC) (Link)

Too close. Several yards away was too damn close. This power of his took away everything. Took away his career, his body, it took away Gale and it had ripped every last shred of dignity away from him when he'd flattened the dormitory in Massachusetts.

It wasn't going to take Didi, too.

But a few more steps away from her was as far as he could manage, and then his legs buckled out underneath him, and he was hitting the forest floor knees-first.

He couldn't breathe.


2010-07-31 12:20 am (UTC) (Link)

And that was about where Didi forgot she was not, in fact, immortal. Even if she'd never been immortal, she wouldn't have cared; she loved him and he was collapsing on a forest floor. She closed the gap between them in a few seconds.

"Oh no," was all she murmured, and she tried to get her arms around him, tight tight tight, as if her hands alone could keep him together. "Stay, Jonothon. Stay."


2010-07-31 12:32 am (UTC) (Link)

Raven had been still resting in her cabin, but she'd kept a thread of her power connected to Jono so she could breathe in his happiness and experience it through him. So she was keenly aware when it suddenly turned to pain and fear, and with an awful sense of dread, she realized what the reason had to be.

She teleported to him, unsurprised to find Didi by his side. She recognized the danger, however, and her desire to help Jono immediately shifted to protecting Didi. She wasn't sure if Jono's transformation could truly hurt Death, but her mortal form could assuredly be damaged or even destroyed.

"Didi, get away!" she cried. She very rarely got physical, but this case was an exception. She grabbed hold of the other girl and yanked her away from Jono, throwing them both to the ground. Her Soul-Self lifted from her body to cast a protective shield of its wings over them both.


2010-07-31 12:43 am (UTC) (Link)

Raven. Some twisted little voice in the back of his head mused that he could have kissed her for doing that. He might even have taken the time to roll his eyes at his own sick sense of humour for even thinking as much. Might have, were it not for the smoke, rising from his chest, burning holes in the bandages that he hadn't bothered yet to remove.

"It hurts," he whispered. And his whisper turned to a whimper.

His whimper turned into a scream. Psionic flame tore through him like a bomb going off, ripping through flesh and bone and anything that had the misfortune of being directly in front of him at the time.

The scream that he started with his throat and lungs finished as little more than a blinding psionic projection of pain and horror and no as flames razed the area around him.

He should have known it was too good to be true.


2010-07-31 12:59 am (UTC) (Link)

Didi had gone down kicking; she would have torn off the soul self through sheer adrenaline, if Raven hadn't been so very much in control. Instead she watched, helplessly, until the explosion died down and the soul self released her.

She didn't say anything. She was too angry for words, for a long moment. Angry at the universe, at Raven, at herself for being so fucking human she couldn't stop something like this. (It wasn't her job. It wasn't in the rules, changing things like this. Didi -- Death -- didn't care.)

But she did go straight to Jono and sit down as close to him as it seemed like she could get, and, simply, whisper:



2010-07-31 01:11 am (UTC) (Link)

Raven pushed herself up when her Soul-Self returned to her body. Without even thinking, she began to draw Jono's physical pain into herself, not a healing, not yet at least, but dampening the pain of the transformation as much as she could. Her insides burned and her chest felt like she was being split open, but what hurt the most were the emotions, the fear and despair and awful disappointment, feelings that were as much hers as his.

She crept to his side. "Jono," she whispered. "Oh, Azar, I am sorry." She reached out to touch his arm.


2010-07-31 01:19 am (UTC) (Link)

He flinched away. He didn't want... sympathy or healing or anything yet. All Jonothon wanted was to bury what was left of his face in his hands, close his eyes, and... and maybe curl up on the forest floor. He could stay there. He didn't eat, didn't breathe, he could just... Be. And wait there until the fire finally consumed the rest of him.

Just wait.

The physical pain was fading, now. It was just the flames, twisting inside of him, curling the few leaves that had survived around him. Would they let him lay down? He'd try, anyhow, and rest his face in ash.

Just this once, he was thankful that he couldn't cry.


2010-07-31 01:26 am (UTC) (Link)

"Sit up," Didi whispered, in a pained tone that was wracked with sympathy. "You're not allowed to just fade away, baby. I won't let you."

It had been so close. No, not close: There. She still felt slight abrasions from his stubble on her chin. And yet ... gone. Just gone. His problems were beyond Raven, as she had feared.


2010-07-31 01:34 am (UTC) (Link)

"We can try again," Raven said, biting at her lip to hold back the tears welling in her eyes. "I can take it all this time, I know I can." She knew those words were born of her pride, however, and that the truth was it would probably kill her. But that didn't stop her from making the offer. Her only concern at the moment was ending her friend's suffering.


2010-07-31 01:41 am (UTC) (Link)

Didi's eyes narrowed. "Don't you dare," she hissed. "You might make it even worse. Don't you dare try anything like that or -"

She stopped herself. No threats; the girl was trying to help. Barely, she got a hold of her temper, though the anger was still flashing in her expression. "I don't think it would be a good idea."

Though she was working on a bad idea of her own.


2010-07-31 01:45 am (UTC) (Link)

//Stop,// Jono managed as he curled into himself a little more. //I can't. I can't do this again.//

That voice again, hollow and weak and empty, just the notions of words drifting from his mind to theirs. Didi was talking, angry words. They were both still there.

Minutes ago, he'd been whole.

//You can't change what I am.//


2010-07-31 01:48 am (UTC) (Link)

Didi's anger stung her, and Jono's rejection as well, though she understood both. "It is part of what you are now," she said, unable to hold back her tears as she finally accepted the truth. "It is not something I can heal."

Admitting that was one of the hardest things she'd ever done, and she hated that she was crying for herself as much as for him.


2010-07-31 01:54 am (UTC) (Link)

"My sister could change it," Didi said, desperately. If she'd been thinking clearly, it never would have come to her mind -- it was so against all the codes the Endless lived and worked by. "We can do anything, we just don't. You ... we've earned it. Let's ask her."

Because that in no way would lead to a starfish-shaped or kumquat-flavored Jono, nope.

Raven got a slightly apologetic look for the sharp tone, though not nearly as much as she would have at any other time.


2010-07-31 01:58 am (UTC) (Link)

There was a faint twitch of logic and reason seeping into Jonothon's awareness. As tempting as it was... Just let an Endless fix it all...

//Delirium,// he said, simply, as if that one statement summed up everything that needed to be said.

Give him a moment more, and he was even attempting to sit up again.


2010-07-31 02:01 am (UTC) (Link)

"Is that wise?" Raven said hesitantly. She didn't know Delirium, but she knew of her power and the havoc it could create. She'd done enough damage to Jono today by herself, and she didn't want to see any more done to him.


2010-07-31 02:04 am (UTC) (Link)

"Does it matter if it's not wise, if it would work?" Give Didi a moment; she was reaching out to try to readjust what was left of Jono's bandages, if he'd let her.

She came back to her senses during the fumbling.

"No," she admitted softly, reluctantly. "It's not. She'd try, but ... no. Even if it worked that might not be the end of it. There's always a cost."


2010-07-31 02:18 am (UTC) (Link)

There wasn't much left to those bandages. What hadn't been burned away was hanging in loose tatters around him. Jono didn't seem to notice.

//No more ifs, either,// he said, eyes on the ashes around them. He hadn't brought down any buildings. Nobody had gotten hurt.

Almost nobody.

//I just want...// He didn't even know what he wanted. He had exactly what he'd started the day with. //I want... I... I'm just done.//


2010-07-31 02:24 am (UTC) (Link)

"Please, Jono, do not say that," Raven said, trying once again to touch him, to try to give him some small comfort at least. She hated that she'd given him false hope of a normal life for a few hours. "You are still alive, you are still with us. You are still Jono. It does not matter what your form is. And there must be some way to restore you, but until we find it, you are still and always will be loved."


2010-07-31 02:35 am (UTC) (Link)

Didi shot Raven a dubious glance. The girl seemed to be stealing her lines.

"She's right," she said, still fidgeting with the rags to try to give him the dignity of a bit of cover. Still-angry tears stung her eyes, but she blinked them back. "We got an afternoon together. You got to sing and kiss and eat ice cream and strawberries. It was worth it, even if it doesn't feel that way right now."

She was not nearly as confident of that bit as she was trying to sound.


2010-07-31 02:44 am (UTC) (Link)

She was right. They were right, and Jonothon knew it. It hurt. It burned at him in a way that the flames never had before, to be so close only to have it all slip through his fingers again. Mostly, he still wanted to concede defeat and lay back down.

But he'd kissed. Kissed and laughed and sang and lived, actually felt alive for an afternoon. He'd held Didi close to himself without fear. He couldn't now, but he had.

In the long run, he'd lost a few bandages, and a bit of hope. And to make up for it, he'd kissed his girlfriend.

//Maybe... we should get out of... th'forest.//


2010-07-31 02:49 am (UTC) (Link)

"Where do you wish to go?" Raven said, wiping a hand across her eyes. "I can teleport us back to your cabin...or the dorms...wherever you need to go." She wanted to somehow be of some small help, though she would understand if he and Didi wanted her away from them now.


2010-07-31 02:56 am (UTC) (Link)

"Dorms," Didi said, since she didn't think Jono was going to make a decision. "My room. I think the cabins are ... a bit too much closeness, for tonight."

And she wanted to be able to give Jono a backrub, or wash the flesh he had, or something. Wanted to just be with him where it was quiet.

She managed a tired, weak attempt at a smile. "You don't mind?"


2010-07-31 03:11 am (UTC) (Link)

//Dorms,// Jono agreed tiredly, not daring to look up.

This place was... a mess. Not all of the mess was from the fire. The dorms weren't here, which meant that they were perfect by default. Raven could set him on the moon right now, and that would also be perfect by default.



2010-07-31 03:27 am (UTC) (Link)

Raven held out a hand to Didi. She'd teleported with Jono before, and she didn't think she needed to warn Didi what it would be like. Her Soul-Self manifested and gently wrapped around them all, and a heartbeat later, the preserve was empty again, the scorched earth the only indication they'd been there.