Author: Jacqui, wily_one24.
Prompt: #022: Fever
Word Count: 1,233.
Spoilers: Everything screened in the US.
The wax of the crayon bled blue over the white of the paper as her fingers scritched it back and forth. It wasn't a picture, not really, blurry smudges of color as she did what she was supposed to. Be Still. Be Good. Don't Interrupt Daddy. He gave her crayons, sometimes, when he wanted her to be seen and not heard.
She let the words of the men drift, lose all shape and meaning as they talked next to her at the table, letting only the cadence of their voices slide through her brain, a background noise, the familiar lilt of her daddy and the softer, edgier tones of the man with the glasses. He smiled a lot, but it made her tummy squirm a little, he frightened her in ways she didn't understand.
The crayon in her hand dropped listlessly to the table. When her daddy addressed her directly, she listened. Even her foot stopped thumping against the chair leg.
"I want you to try something for me, okay? Can you do it for me?"
She was nodding before he'd even finished, head bouncing on her neck, chin bumping eagerly against her chest. Yes, yes she could do anything he asked. She could be good.
"I want you to try not to use your sparks for one whole week, can you do that?"
Her head slowed, paused, and she spared a glance at the interested look in the eyes behind the glasses.
"Elle." Her daddy brought her attention back to him. "I mean it, for one whole week. No sparks, okay? Not even by yourself. Not one."
Her eyes went wide, but she began to nod slowly. She could do it, she could, for her daddy, she could anything.
"Bob." The man with the glasses rumbled in a low voice, it made her teeth clamp down on the edge of her tongue. "She's too young."
But her daddy smiled at her and ruffled her hair and that made her chest grow big and she knew she could do it.
"Not my Elle."
Her chest was tight and she breathed slowly, teeth clenched.
Her arms were wrapped around her calves, knees brought in close to her body and her fingers dug desperately into her skin.
She could feel it, a heat rising, an itch of fingers dancing underneath her muscles. Her legs and arms twitched and she closed her eyes, breathing in again. Behind her eyelids, she saw little fingers of blue shoot out, zig zagging, zap zap zap. Inside her skin, her blood boiled, rattled, drove her crazy.
Still, she kept it inside.
In the little window of her door, sometimes when she looked, she saw her daddy's face.
She whimpered, gasping for air as she sat up.
She hadn't meant to fall asleep, she hadn't meant to. When she fell asleep, she broke her promise, she couldn't hold it inside. The sparks came whether she wanted them to or not.
Her eyes shot to the window in her door, there were no faces there, and her hand quickly turned the pillow over, smoothing the cotton down again. The smouldering black hole would be obvious if anyone flipped it over, but she was beyond caring. She had to do this one thing.
One whole week.
Her stomach rolled on itself, gnawed at her, and she whimpered again. Her diet had been restricted to dry foods, toast and crackers. She hadn't seen water since the day before. Heat and electricity poured through her skin and bones like lava, ready to pop, sizzle, zap and any moisture was a perfect conductor.
She didn't sweat like normal people, beads of water on their skin, she shimmered and sweltered and her skin got clammy and sticky, red and flushed. They'd learned.
She began to suck her thumb.
She couldn't think properly.
Her brain kept blinking in and out and sometimes things happened she couldn't remember. People came and were gone before she knew it, or they were in her room without entering it, or crackers on a plate were suddenly on the floor. She didn't care. She keened, unable to stop the noise, her whole body shrunken in on itself as she rocked back and forth.
Worst of all, she knew she'd failed.
If her daddy walked in the door just then, she would ask him to stop, would have to tell him she couldn't do it, not even for him. She would beg him to forgive her, not to be angry, not to get that sad look on his face that meant she didn't do her job properly. She wanted to be a good girl.
But she couldn't.
It hurt, it hurt all over. And when she closed her eyes for a second, her head getting too heavy to hold up, her entire system would jolt, crack, burn her until she screamed.
She would cry if she could.
When the door opened, she almost didn't trust her eyes, open just a slit, when they watched the man pushed in. She'd never seen him before and knew instantly he wasn't supposed to be there. He barely spared her a glance before turning back to the locked door and banging his fists on it.
"Bishop! What's your game? What the hell is this? A girl?"
Her limbs unfolded as she tried to sit up, tried to understand.
"What are you trying to do?" The man continued to beat his fists on the window, she could have told him that was useless. "I'll kill you, Bishop, I will!"
Elle's head jerked sideways.
"Daddy?" She whispered, the word coming out broken and cracked and burning her throat. "You want to hurt my daddy?"
There was a split second when the man stopped, turned around and looked at her with wide eyes, his mouth forming one word as his eyebrows knitted together in obvious confusion.
But she didn't, couldn't, was not able to stop it after that.
"You. Can't. Hurt. My. Daddy."
It burned, boiled up, rushed up and out of her, bright blue explosions that rocked her as they streamed out of her hands, She felt it like a river, a gushing of unstoppable heat. It flowed on and on and with every second she could feel her body begin to relax. Her bones stopped aching, her back held straight, a blissful coolness spread throughout her.
Elle's head fell back, her neck giving out as she looked up at the ceiling, a million little cells coming together and shooting out of her hands, and she couldn't stop the long, low moan of relief.
The man screamed until he stopped and by that time, she was able to lower her arms and bring the sparks back under control.
She fell back, limp against the mattress, and then her daddy came in and picked her up. She tried to apologize to him, tried to make him see it wasn't her fault, but he told her everything was alright. He smiled, he told her she'd done very well, and he allowed her to have lots and lots of icecream that melted against her overheated throat.
By the time she'd been taken back to her room, she had a new pillow and the man's body was gone.
Elle's lesson had been learned well.
Other people's cries hurt a lot less than her own.