Sunlight crept in-between the curtains to hit my face; it was the was the first thing I felt that morning that could rouse me out of the best feverish dream I'd ever had. Warmth from the morning light immediately took me back to dreams of a domineering, insatiable partner, taking control I was happy to give. Something about "her" was darkly charming, flooding my head and body with weird pleasure. My morning stiffness strained even harder as I woke up feeling a drooling smile on my face. My vision cleared to appreciate being in a hotel, alone, remembering suffering from another "terrible" hallucination last night. Even the clarity that shot through me that I dreamt about Maelstrom, what she could and was doing to me, didn't rise to the level of me disliking it.
I groaned happily as I felt sore, exhausted, and erect. I walked naked into the shower, reveling in rare privacy I never thought I had at Epsilon. Living in proximity to a mind-reader kept me keenly reserved in lots of ways, not to mention I wouldn't put it past my room and the facilities being bugged with audio and video. For long minutes, I just let the hot, steamy water run over my body, letting more heat remind me of last night. The memories ramped up the sensations, and before any part of me could object to how hot things were getting, something close to me from somewhere was insisting I let go to it, letting these feelings freely happen without giving them a second thought. Under the shower head, I just tipped my head back and took the suggestions to heart, feeling everything that came.
I welcomed it all, even a specific heat that I gave somewhat a thought to, marveling how hot it felt, like flame trails across my skin. I might've minded how hot it was, if it didn't directly remind me of that mindless helplessness from the flame in Maelstrom's eyes; hot hallucination by other means, something inside me joked. I was half-aware of stroking myself in the shower, but all my awareness went there as a flame trail made its way southward, aiding in the stroking. I yelped, moaned loudly, and released as hard as the night before. Before my knees gave out too much, I luckily grasped at something to keep from collapsing in the shower, and quickly made myself stand up straight before my Hier-half would rip another shower bar off the wall accidentally.
After drying off, and letting my head clear, I had to slap myself a few times. Ignoring the afterglow and satisfaction, I kept telling reminding myself how strong Hierarch hallucinations can be. Stories about what psychics like Copula, and other mind-breakers out there were capable of scared the crap out of me; I got lucky that that mine didn't go past untapped fantasies of about goth girls with fire in their eyes. "Sounds like a song I hope I never hear on the radio," I laughed. "Cause you wouldn't ever get it out of your head..."> another part of me joked, and I agreed.
Leaving my motel, I drove to the public library closest to the college town. Having been there a few times before, I knew exactly where to go, and thankfully I looked unassuming enough that no one gave me a second glance. I didn't even sense my escorts nearby or shadowing me at the library, so I found a new trashy horror novel to read in peace. It was mercifully short, though I got good, quiet laughs out of it, and silently enjoyed reading about others having it worse than me. Once I was done with it, I brought the book to the desk, asking the librarian if she had anything worth reading. With small smile, she took my novel and gave me some autobiography, which I took to a private room.
Between thick pages was a letter waiting for me, written by my cousin Mickey who was a sophomore of the college nearby, the only family I had left that dared communicate with me; me being a Hierarch actually improved his opinion of me, thinking I was some kind of superhero. The letter went on about how college life was, asking if I kicked any "bad-guy asses" lately, spoke diplomatically about the family, and added his usual words of encouragement and acceptance. On a blank sheet of paper, I wrote my reply of how proud I was of him, with how few of my family went to college, giving him sparse but honest details of stuff I was doing day-to-day, and gave him back encouragement and thanks for being someone to talk to, even in dollar store cloak-and-dagger style.
"Awwww," a heart-warming sensation nudged me inside for the sappy correspondence.
I gave the recommended book back to the librarian, called the book enlightening, as I left and hit the road back in the direction of the compound. A hospital halfway between the library and Epsilon was where Epsilon's team leader, Javier Marquez aka Radio, was recovering from a bad incursion not long ago. A former Navy Seal coupled with the Hierarch ability to intercept, decode, and decipher radio waves, Radio an invaluable leader, the glue that held the rest of the team, and its weakest part, together. "He definitely would've been invaluable for my first official mission," I thought as I found him in his room, thankfully still there instead of with doctors running tests.
"Hey man," he sounded weak, like he just woke up not too long ago.
"Hey Jav. How's it going today?"
"About the same, trying to push me being ready for physical therapy, doctors aren't having it. Same ol'. You?"
"I wish. My new gig...put me out in the field."
"....Peters-your boss allowed that?"
"Does that mean you've gotten the...hang of your job?"
"The research part, yeah. The rest...still no."
He facepalmed loudly, trying not to get upset, mimicking my feelings of the past two days. Quietly filling him in on the last day or so, a first-hand account compared to the brief briefing he'd eventually get later, I could see in his face how he wished I would sneak him out of the hospital and back to active duty. I wouldn't have, but told him I appreciate the sentiment.
"Can't believe I'm missing all the fun," he joked, the kind of humor that would land well with most.
"Hey, how fun is it to face down a threat like this Maelstrom and still be breathing?"
"Fun..." a teasing notion goaded the rest of me. Out of the small number people I trusted in life at this point, Radio was one of the top, but even I held back every last detail.
"You call it fun, I call it luck."
"Not 'lucky'...?" I quietly asked the notion within to shut up, but felt it smirk.
"It could be fun enough when you get the hang of things, especially the rest of the job. I don't even need to ask if you're keeping up with the meditation regimen, do I?
I rolled my eyes at him like a younger brother being chided by an older, responsible brother about chores.
"You do realize that no one documents me doing that of all things. So yeah, no need to ask because I'm doing it every day, after every workout, and right before bed, and your 'intuition' can't prove otherwise."
"Heh, gotta love when the newest recruit underestimates the oldest, forgetting he has sources everywhere."
"If by sources you mean snitches, that would get me to actually meditate just to give out the appropriate need for stitches...if I wasn't already meditating."
We could only be straight-faced for so long before laughing with one another, savoring a rapport both of us missed.
"But seriously, it's reportedly the top thing that helps those in our profession up our skills as needed. I put Danielle, Rita, and Jerry and Gerry through it, and they all came out better. I'll continue to herald it as a goddamned chore that eventually works, if you put in the time."
I meant to jokingly ask why he never made them meditate on having mercy for the new guy, but an annoying voice inside rung louder that thought.
"He's not wrong, you really should." a voice joined the chorus cheering me on, as if overruling me two to three.
"Mr. Marquez," a nurse's voice from behind shook me to reality. "Sorry to interrupt your visit, but we have some more tests we need to do before dinner."
"Ugh," Javier groaned, probably at the thought of more hospital food, making me groan for forgetting to bring him something worth eating.
"Well, sooner I get out of here, the better. Don't want our competitors getting too cocky."
"Or you forgetting what real food tastes like."
"Heh," he laughed as the nurse started getting ready to cart him away toward more medical stuff. I left, half-satisfied, hoping to have more time later, or some Hierarch miracle would speed up the recovery. As I made it back to my car, feeling for my keys, the absence of a wallet made me curse myself.
"All the way back," kicking myself mentally, realizing how screwed I'd be if I got pulled over by police. I hadn't noticed any sign of my escort all day, so no one to intervene on my behalf, leaving Epsilon to possibly disavow my existence if I got into unofficial trouble with the law. It was a legally-slow, frustrating drive back, dreading civilian troubles cramping my "superhero" ones.
An hour later, walking first to the diner, I thankfully found my booth unoccupied. Ducking under the table, I looked around the seating to find nothing, but noticing the floor looked mopped, I hoped the staff had found it at some point.
A tap on my shoulder got me to glance back, and I embarrassingly started to regard a waitress.
"Sorry, I think I lost something. Do you guys have a lost and...and..." my train of thought derailed, or melted actually under a burning gaze. It only lasted a few seconds, the fire was smothered by closing eyelids that practically batted themselves at me, leaving amber eyes to watch me cling to all the sensation from yesterday and after.
"Found...you." That voice from somewhere spoke to me again. The tapping finger pointed to the booth, and the urge to sit there naturally followed.
Through a warm, sedative haze, I slid back down to my side of the booth, watching Maelstrom smoothly slide to sit across me. The thoughts I could process were how she found me, how she was dressed casually, in blue jeans and a black t-shirt, and how she still looked as good as I felt. Unspoken feelings told me I should enjoy the haze, so I complied for what felt like long minutes. Deep breaths may have deepened the haze as I stared at her, smiling at me as I softly smiled back. Eventually, clarity replaced the hazy, and I was back to a shocked consciousness, startled, afraid to breathe, attention raptly on the woman keeping me in confused captivity. We just stared at each other, her obviously taking pleasure in me not being able to make sense of anything. She took a sip of the hot tea in-front of her before finally speaking.
"So how are you feeling, Byron?"
My eyes went wide at several things at once. There was a trick of the eyes where I knew her lips weren't moving, but I could see them move in my head; oddly sexy how it made me think of her lips twice as much. Somehow I'd missed drink orders being taken for both of us, with a lemonade sitting in-front of me, and hearing her speak my legal name; I shouldn't have at all been surprised in getting that kind of information about me, but I had yet to be used to being so open to her. From her pocket, she produced my brown wallet, playfully sliding it to my side of the table. Not even bothering to check the contents, I took it and put it back in my pocket.
"I don't know anymore," I thought my answer instead of spoke it, and it seemed the mental dialoging smoothly kicked off from there.
"I think you do, it's just too many feelings to name." The satisfaction in her tone put some bite in my response.
"If you knew that, why the hell would you bother asking the question?"
"Y-...look, Maelstrom," despite the passive effects from the flame, I had enough anger bubbling to the surface to keep in check. As much as I wanted to lash out or escape somehow, I didn't feel like putting innocent bystandards or me in any harm if I somehow pissed off rainbow death, even though everything about her suggested she was enjoying this. And I was honestly curious too. "I'm at an absolute loss with you right now, I think we both know that. Whatever you did to me, or you're still doing, I feel naked, like I can't hide anything from you. I don't even know how we're talking like this, even though you do, so I don't know what you have to be curious about. I just....can you at least tell me what the hell is going on?"
"I already said - curiosity."
A spark in her eyes ignited hypnotic fire again, and the compromised side of me automatically leaned forward see it again, as she helpfully leaned forward to allow me to indulge further. Strangely, instead of just her, the space of our booth retained enough clarity while all the surroundings and other people became hazy and unimportant to our minds. Sooner than I wanted, she blinked the power away and left me leaning forward, almost drooling like an idiot. I leaned back just looked at her indignantly, taking a long sip of my lemonade to quell the internal fire.
"According to Hierguild, your people have learned about me pretty recently, and know several of my powers. Your reaction to the flame tells me that you don't know about that one. Truthfully, Hierguild doesn't know about it either."
"You're...keeping information from your allies?"
"Something we might have in-common, since the rest of Epsilon doesn't know about it either."
"Okay, but why do I know about it?"
Long, black-painted nails tapped at her teacup as she considered her answer. She took another sip of the steamy brew before answering.
"I've had this power for longer than anyone knows, and the few that did know never remember. All tests, but limited. The opportunity with you was the first time I didn't have to worry about surveillance or prying eyes, and it was the first time that I found someone that liked the flame, that enjoyed being in that power. I never thought I'd find someone who snuffed out their own resistance to enjoy what I did."
"I didn't, I.....I didn't." Even with the literal surety of her in my head, I wouldn't admit to it if I didn't have to.
"You did, time and time again." The way her black lips formed a smug smile made me look away before I gave away any more obvious feelings.
"That first time, that time you tried to kill me, once I saw that fire in your eyes, I thought I was already dead and....going to hell."
She held my gaze for long seconds before snickering, quietly, physically, laughing to herself.
"Trust me Byron, if I wanted you dead...well, I guess you couldn't resist that either. Either way, going by your face, last night you died and went somewhere other than hell."
More prodding I was happy to obviously dodge. "Other people don't react the same way to it?"
"Most go through the usual confusion, then resistance, fighting the flame for as long as they can, until there's nothing left to fight, and they're just open to me, empty-headed in fighting, useful for whatever inside can be used. You're different."
"They're not obedient too?"
"Totally obedient, no will except mine or what I give them. No thought or mind is inflammable, but no one else looked in my eyes and burned away barriers to another fire already inside them, eager for mine. And as you already know, what I found in you lit a fire in me too."
"You're a fairly smart guy, Byron; you know where this is going."
"Let's say I'm not smart. At all. Where is this going, Maelstrom?"
Sighing as if amused, she just put her elbows on the table and her chin in her hands. The signature tress already lit and cycling through colors, while her eyes stayed normal amber. I stared at yet another trick she was capable of, watching the tip land on orange, the color fading on and off, teasingly alerting me to what was coming. Her sexy lips curved as she blinked slowly, showing off her long lashes and eyeshadow, before opening them back up to reveal the same amber, but with a knowing twinkle in her eyes.
"Where you want it to go. Where we both want it to go."
"Everything inside you tells me so," a low whisper joined the conversation; her voice, but in a coaxing, bedroom quality. My head turned, feeling the words teasing my ear.
I barely noticed how the voice in my head compliments the words she spoke, watching her blink, waiting for the flame, or even the beginning of a spark in her eyes.
"You know it's coming, and you're just waiting for the flame to ignite again."
"You're so warming up to the idea," the whisper gave her mental voices frame of reference; her normal voice speaking to my front, where the whisper came to my ears from behind.
I barely noticed the sexy black-painted grin grow, peering deep into the amber, half-swearing a fleck in her eyes would ignite in the next blink.
"All the ways I could keep you in that seat, staring; though doesn't measure up to how much you want to sit there, staring."
"You're burning for this idea to become reality."
I somehow noticed that her blinks were perfectly in-sync with the orange tip fading, failing at fighting the urge to want to finally see the flame again.
"You can't wait to see the flame. You don't want to wait to see the flame."
"When you see it, your reality will be the flame."
I didn't dispute the words I heard; wasn't sure I could if I tried. Seeing less and less of her eyeshadow made me realize I was blinking right along with her, and it wasn't getting any easier to keep opening them.
"Feel how hot you are now, how needy, how desperate. Like you would beg to see the flame."
"The flame shapes your reality, shapes your lips for what they need."
"...please..." A voice suspiciously sounding like mine, but meek and silently moaning, strangely echoed in our space as I blinked my heaviest blink, unable to raise them again without assistance. Fortunately a bright light from Maelstrom's eyes showed, and I couldn't help but stare again in wonder and bliss, knowing that artificial wait was over, as her voices swirled around my dizzy head.
"I just love this, and I love that you love this too. Nothing but the fire, nothing but whatever I want of you, however I want it, and nothing but your acceptance and need to give it. Like a simple belief I state becomes your religion, like how I gave you your wallet earlier, but your identity, your true identity, is back at your hotel room. And you're so grateful that I pointed this out to you, and for accompanying you to get it."
A sunset-colored haze blinded me to the world, yet I felt safe, walking, following the enrapturing figure wherever she went. I could only guess that we'd left the diner and crossed the road back to the hotel. The haze looked more familiar as it faded details, resembling the room I'd slept in. All that was clear was Maelstrom, sitting on the bed while I knelt, eyes still burning. Cool air across my body told me I was naked, but that just made me hotter, knowing she had me how she wanted me. The dumb smile across my face got even dumber as she ran those dark fingernails through my scalp, pulling me by the hair hard to kiss her. Hands acting on her behalf helped take off her clothes as I kissed wherever she guided my head. I couldn't get enough of whatever she offered me, working my mouth harder when I did something to make her moan, which gradually became gentle screaming.
Her first release hit unexpectedly to both of us, which got me to slow down and let her bask in it before slowly working her up to another. I aimed to make her scream again, to burn as hot as I did, drenched in sweat and more of her arousal by the time waves of pleasure crashed into her again. I felt her fingertips burning the way her eyes did, my head exposed to her flames yet again. Some of the waves of her orgasm flowed through us both, like we were intertwined. The waves reached my manhood, shocking me away from her crotch to look up into blazing eyes again. Under her stare, the waves just kept hitting me, the only thing stronger was the darkness enveloping me, something I was sure was thanks to whatever her smiling lips were speaking. The crashing pleasure remained on a low setting for time I couldn't comprehend, until I could feel myself laying down. Only then did I feel her ramp it up again, hitting harder and harder, forcing a release I grunted weakly, urged not to scream.
As I opened my eyes, I'm glad I hadn't screamed, finding myself back at my room at Epsilon, covered in evidence of another hot hallucination. Too weak to muster thoughts to figure out how I'd gotten back, I just breathed heavily, soaking in the pleasure. Before passing out, I managed to chuckle at a thought telling me "aren't you glad you got out?", faintly aware of a hot kiss to my forehead that left me smiling as sleep took me.