The Flame

“You’re trying too hard. Relax.”
Calloused hands ran circles over his back, kneading tight muscles and bleeding away days of tension. And yet he still couldn’t relax; couldn’t draw inside his mind enough to free the mental barrier surrounding the tiniest of flames. Around him, dancing in the recesses of his psyche was a sense of awareness. Of something once so familiar that was now virtually lost.
“I can’t… I can’t do this.”
“Yes you can. You’ve done it once, you can do it again.”
The hands shifted from his back, sliding up over his shoulder muscles to meet at the nape of his neck; thumbs stroking his neck bones. Ordinarily he’d find the sensation annoying and would have flinched away from the intimacy, but he was rooted to the spot. Numb, virtually defenseless, his thoughts pulling away from the sensations of touch and warmth and strength, he drifted to the flame and its seemingly impenetrable barrier.
“I can see it.”
“There’s no way in.” His disappointment almost extinguished the flame.
“Yes there is. Look for a crack, a flaw.”
Everything was flawed. Nothing was perfect. He circled the barrier from all angles and none. Looking at it… and then from within it, confused by the sensation of sitting within the flame and peering outwards, to catch a glimpse of his soul looking back. Cracks rippled over the surface. Dreams wove themselves together like a story with too many plots, as was the way with dreams. Black and white and color. Confusion.
The thumbs rubbing small lazy circles over one point on his neck suddenly felt cold and hard, distracting, as the cracks lifted and splintered and the tiny flame grew beyond the barrier. His hand grew heavy; a pool of warmth growing to eat away at his flesh, building a pyre of bone and blood and emotion like a nest of kindling.
“You’re doing it.”
There should have been excitement. Had been the last time. But they had learned the lesson of over-exuberance when the flame lived and died in less time than a blink of an eye.
The barrier was gone. The dreams shattered and bled away, leaving the tiny flame burning painlessly on the palm of his upturned hand. And Daniel acknowledged the moment with the smallest of sighs.
A puff of wind displaced the air near his ear as Jack’s hand snaked over his shoulder and one finger slid effortlessly through the flame, slamming Daniel with a sudden rush of familial emotions: Love, friendship, longing and loss. There was a connection there he hadn’t felt before, and the memory of a conversation he couldn’t recall having. Of Oma reminding him that when paths meet, only those with whom he has loved and endured a loss with will be remembered. He remembered Jack.
Daniel smiled and let the flame die.
“It’s still there,” Jack said close to his ear, of those special abilities that were supposed to be lost; a gift not given to mere mortals, who had once dipped in the pool of ascension and tasted its unnatural delights.
Silence fell between them and Daniel let weariness carry him backwards into Jack’s waiting arms. “Still there.”

 The End



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