Healing Flames

by Lara Wilson

Their battle was over. He was still soldier enough to know when continuing to fight was futile. Kneeling, sword driven point down into the hard ground, he leaned on the hilt, breathing hard, feeling the fire still burning at his back.

She had collapsed a few feet in front of him, her cloak spread over her like the wings of the bird for which she was named. Tendrils of smoke rose from her, acrid to his nose in this desolate place where nothing grew and everything was ancient.

Slowly she lifted her head, the hood falling back to reveal a pale face streaked with ash and blood. There was a wound at her temple from where she'd struck the rock, and her lip was swollen from his fist.

"Take us home."

She was on her knees now, hands clutched over the bleeding wound in her side, but she had the strength to shake her head.

Anger at her refusal spurred him to attack, pressing her onto her back, hands biting into her trembling shoulders. "Take us home now," he ordered.

"I...can't," she hissed, and he saw the truth in her pain-filled eyes. Not 'I won't', but 'I can't'.

She knew of no way home from whatever hell dimension she'd exiled them to.

Rising over her, Slade ripped off his hood and tossed it aside in frustration. "Why? Why did you do this to me?"

Raven looked up at him, their oldest enemy, their former ally, and flinched at the emotions pouring off him, but noting at the edge of her mind that she couldn't actually feel them. "My people created the monster you became. They are gone and I alone bear the responsibility. I had to remove you from the fight before you destroyed everything."

His hands captured her shoulders, dragging her up to face him, and he ignored the pain on her face, the way she flinched from him, as he bit out, "I'm my own man, Raven."

"Yes, and maybe you can heal now."

"Why did you stick yourself here, then?"

Helping you is my penance."

Slade snarled and dropped her, taking a dark pleasure in her cry of pain. "I don't want your help and your penance is your own."

"So be it," she breathed before consciousness fled.

*****

Raven woke warm, the pain a dull throb in her side and head. Carefully blinking open her eyes, she saw him, kneeling in front of a fire, skinning some kind of animal. Glancing down she saw a bandage around her side and a space blanket covering her. There was grass beneath her, and a stream running beside her.

He'd moved her, found them some place habitable.

Why?

"If I have to be stuck with you, I'd prefer you alive and not a rotting corpse."

She must have spoken her question aloud. "You must have carried me several miles. You could have left me there to rot."

An almost smile twisted Slade's lips and he tossed the chunks of meat into a collapsible pot of water and some tubers he'd found, then put it over the fire.

Slowly Raven sat up, hissing slightly as the pain increased.

"Can you heal yourself?"

She shook her head and held out one hand. A ball of flame hovered over it for a moment. "My empathy is...gone. This seems to be all I can do here."

"Not something you could do on Earth. When you tried to project your power towards me you hit me with flame. Luckily my costume is fireproof. Yours isn't, so I'd watch that if I were you."

That accounted for the singed edges of her cloak and sleeves, but there were no burns on her skin. The flames didn't harm her.

Mystical.

Raven remembered setting fire to the very rocks during the fight with Deathstroke, so not only mystical but very powerful.

And she knew it was a part of her heritage she'd been fighting all her life. One more unwanted gift from her father.

Brought out of her thoughts by Slade dropping to one knee beside her, she gave him a puzzled look but accepted the cup of water he held out to her. She was more skeptical of the pill. "What is it?"

"Painkiller."

"I can...handle the pain. I prefer not to medicate myself." Shrugging, he tucked the pill in a pouch on his belt, then returned to the stew as Raven sipped the surprisingly clean water. "Why are you being kind to me? I trapped you here. We are enemies. It wasn't so long ago you tried to kill me."

"I tried to kill my son who was stuck in you," he corrected.

"And our most recent battle had nothing to do with your desire to see us all dead?"

"I've never wanted you dead, Raven. If I'd wanted that, you'd be dead," he replied, confidence evidenced in his voice. "I just...wanted my children back." There the confidence seemed to waiver, and Raven wished her empathy was working so she knew what he was truly feeling. Slade Wilson was the most enigmatic man she'd ever known.

*****

Time passed. Raven healed. Slade provided. Sometimes they talked. Mostly they were silent, a state they were both more comfortable with.

While Raven meditated, Slade worked out, honing his body to an even more perfect state, and, finally, one day, after meditating didn't seem to calm her and she could feel the flames beneath the surface of her skin, she asked him to train her to control her new ability.

She saw the spark in his eye and pressed her lips firmly together before explaining further. "I just need to know I won't set myself on fire. I don't plan to use it in an offensive manner."

Since they'd seen nothing larger than the two meter long pig-like creatures he hunted, it was unlikely she would ever need to harm anything with the fire, but her fear of loss of control had finally gotten the better of her, causing her to turn to him, the experienced warrior, for training.

Surprisingly enough, the training started with more meditation, and she began to wonder if perhaps there was something in Slade that was more like her than not.

*****

Slade watched her toss the fireball and ignite the small target a hundred paces away, pleased when it didn't light anything else on fire. No sparks fell to the dry grass as she controlled the flame. Glancing over at her he saw the concentration on her face and silently approved.

Raven had proven to be a surprising student, never complaining, never denying his methods. He supposed her upbringing and the control taught her from an early age had given her a sense of acceptance in hard work, especially mental, that most people were lacking.

And training her had given him something to do besides hunt and work out...and heal. With silent chagrin he admitted that he'd done just what she'd planned, and helping her had only helped him as well

But, they were still trapped here.

As the fire burned out, Raven glanced at her hand, still somewhat amazed that there were no burns, then looked to her teacher. He was nodding in approval and she felt a moment of satisfaction, quickly brought under control, before nodding back.

"Thank you."

Slade shrugged, never one to accept gratitude easily. "You're the one who did the hard work."

Dropping the subject, Raven turned to head back to their shelter, only to find his hand on her arm, stopping her.

"We need to go home."

Her eyes widened. "There is no way home, Slade."

"Then we find one."

"But..."

He shook his head. "This isn't the life either of us was meant to lead."

"I have no way of knowing if your healing is complete."

A smile twisted his lips. "Then you'll have to trust me, as you've trusted me every day here to keep us alive."

"Trust is difficult for me."

"And letting go is difficult for me, but my anger and hatred are gone. All I needed was time. Raven, take us home."

His hand moved to cover her heart, palm flat, the fist long gone, and Raven felt something open inside her. The flames burst from her, burning neither of them, forming a door around them.

And they were gone.

End

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