Monday, February 9, 2015

Rainbow Paint

In the musty, dimly lit basement of a very, very old church, the dust is not as old as it should be. There was movement there, mere months ago- an extravagant battle where there should have been nothing. The candle flames flickered, the only indication of Niccolò's entrance.

"I know you're here," he said plainly. "We've always been too sentimental, haven't we?"

War rose up from a crack in the floor, shifting into a mirror image of his copy. "You were sentimental. And dramatic. It bled through. I just want to see the world burn."

"Oh, come now, we lived in the same head for some time. You can't fool yourself that easily. You are quite possibly the most sentimental name I've ever stolen."

War sighed. It was uncharacteristic of him to sigh. It was uncharacteristic of him to have a conversation. But he was only going to kill his copy anyway. Perhaps it was time to cut to the chase. "What are you going to do about it?"

"Plenty. I came prepared this time."

"Now you're the liar." War smirked. "All that preparation- that room that Adra built, the plan you laid out for Zafira- you knew it would end this way. Just you and me, in the dark. In this church, too, of all places. You knew it all along, and you have nothing planned, because you know you can't beat me. All that talk about coordinating with other names- I can't believe she bought it."

Niccolò could only shrug in his defense. "I hoped it wouldn't end this way. In either case, the others don't matter to me anyway."


A flicker of a smile played at Niccolò's lips, and in a flash of bright rainbow, paint exploded outward from the center of the room, covering everything in sight. "You caught me. The truth is, I did prepare. Just a little."

War looked about him with an expression caught between disgust and amusement. "You think you can kill me with-" And suddenly he realized what had happened. "...Paint."

Niccolò grinned, reciting the MageBay description from memory. "Grenaidbow- An average-looking grenade that will explode with rainbow paint that will give anyone within a hundred-foot radius a multi-colored makeover and also bind their powers until every dot of paint has been scrubbed off."

"I hate you."

"I know."

"You bought a rainbow paint bomb from the internet."


"You are an idiot."


"You've killed us both with a rainbow paint bomb!!"

"Not exactly. No magic- and that means absolutely no magic- for an extended period of time- we know what that will do do us, don't we? But we won't die just yet."

War gritted his teeth. "No, but we'll die slowly, in an ancient church basement painted with rainbows! This is..."

"Not dramatic, or sentimental," Niccolò sounded properly amused with himself.

"But this is suicide!" War was in a proper rage. He couldn't even turn this into a knife fight- he could already feel a fever raging inside of him, and he knew any minute they would both be out.

"You say that like you're surprised. I've attempted before, haven't I? I've succeeded, even- you remember that. Well, you succeeded, actually, and I don't remember it. Either way..." Hundreds of diseases surged through his veins. He could name every one- he'd created most of them- but none of that knowledge would save him now. It was perfect.

"But that was when... You don't care about that anymore..." War swatted angrily at the black spots dancing before his eyes. "You know something." He growled. "What?!"

"If our senses were still in order... We should hear her breathing right about now..."

"You mean-"

"Aretha. Again. Hearts... Are no problem-" He coughed violently, noting the amount of blood he'd lost. He didn't need to finish his sentence, so he saved his breath. That was the advantage of talking to himself, he supposed.

As if on cue, War coughed up the same blood, at the same time. To an outsider, they would look like one man glaring angrily at his own reflection. "She'll never know... Which one of us to save."

"She'll know." The affection shining in Niccolò's eyes was completely absent from War's- the only difference between them- and they both collapsed in exactly the same instant.


Aretha sighed, squeezing her eyes closed, as she waited for the minutes to pass. Sometimes she hated just waiting, while the seconds rushed past, never to be retrieved again. But only sometimes. And right then, Niccolò needed her desperately. She was just happy that, for once, both of them actually wanted to live. And, she supposed, happy to be alive herself.

The second hand reached its mark on her watch- exactly ten minutes had passed since she came in- and she raced for the stairs. She was meant to go slowly, but that was if all went according to plan, and she honestly couldn't recall a time when every detail had gone exactly according to plan. At least not at that moment. And she was more than a little terrified to see what had become of War and Niccolò.

On one hand, Aretha was incredibly relieved that for the first time in her immediate memory, it looked like everything had gone according to plan. On the other, she was beginning to wonder how well this plan had been thought out. She was strong, but Niccolò was dead weight, and his coat alone weighed about half as much as he did- maybe more- and, to top that off, he was totally covered in wet rainbow paint. Both of him were. She struggled to find some way to carry him without trailing paint on the ground, and without dropping him, because wet paint was slippery. She could feel the fever practically radiating off of him, and knew that almost all of the diseases that were killing him now were contagious. She'd have to work faster.

Once she finally reached the top of the stairs, she realized she was carrying the limp body of a man who looked like he'd taken a bath in rainbows straight into a historical and very open to the public church. And now the paint was on her, too, so there was no chance she could get herself out with magic. So she did the only logical thing- she hid him in a broom closet, and hurried back down for the second Niccolò. Once all three of them were successfully hidden- assuming no staff members decided they needed to open the door- Aretha pulled out her phone. To try and move all three of them any significant distance without magic would not end well, no matter how she spun it, but she had a few favors to call in.

Her call was answered immediately. "Yeah, it's me," she spoke quietly into the phone, "I'm back." She grinned. "The nightmare never ends." She paused, listening. "Well, I know that- I was there. And we'll talk about it later, but right now-" she looked at the two colorful murderers piled unconscious on top of each other. "I'm in a bit of an awkward situation. That's perfect, thanks so much! I'll see you." She hung up, and really hoped her team wouldn't teleport straight into the closet.


Aretha had asked to be brought somewhere wet and discreet. She was not expecting a small, tropical island in the middle of nowhere. She was hoping for someplace with a hose. But she didn't have enough time to be picky, so she hadn't complained. She was no doctor, but she knew she was quickly developing a fever, and a few strange rashes had already appeared in various places on her skin. Having to carry both Niccolòs everywhere wasn't helping.

The first order of business was figuring out which of them to help first. She fully intended to save them both, of course, but if she brought War back first he would just kill the rest anyway. And they looked exactly alike. She narrowed her eyes, thinking. There was no way she could hope to see inside their heads, so it would have to be heartbeats. She remembered him telling her that every person's heartbeat is different- like a fingerprint- and she'd made note of how his changed when different names took over, even when his appearance stayed the same, but she wished she'd paid more attention to his.

She knelt beside the Niccolò closest to her and carefully placed two fingers on his neck, feeling for his pulse. Her eyes closed and she listened intently, imagining that it felt familiar, but she might have been fooling herself. She couldn't tell. And then suddenly she felt herself running to the nearest bush to vomit. She groaned, and coughed a bit, feeling properly awful, and decided she would never complain about stomach bugs again. At least they weren't any kind of plague or epidemic, and she didn't lose blood over those. Her head was pounding. She sank to her knees, closing her eyes against the black spots that flooded her vision, and tried to push through the sudden exhaustion that overtook her.

She took deep breaths and cleared her mind. In and out... In and out... She coughed, but ignored the pain in her lungs, and just kept breathing until she felt less like she'd pass out and more like she was about to fall asleep. Then she opened her eyes and felt for her own pulse, hoping that that might jog her memory a bit. It didn't. Slowly, she stood, and set herself down again next to the second Niccolò. She carefully counted the beats in her head, concentrating hard just to stop herself from falling asleep, and realized with a start that his pulse sounded like... Her second hand raced to her neck to confirm it, because it was crazy, and then she was sure- his heartbeat matched hers exactly. She was too tired to be any more than a little shocked, but she didn't think she'd get any surer sign that this was her Niccolò. More black spots invaded her line of sight and she blinked furiously against them, pulling him as quickly as she could towards the water. She dragged him as far under as she could without drowning him, and rubbed the paint on his face off with the inside of her jacket. For a few moments she stood there in the water, waiting, but then she felt a sharp pain in her lungs again. She saw blood flashing red in the water, and her world went black before she could feel herself slip under.


"Aretha?" Niccolò called out, his voice wavering slightly. He knew she must have brought him here- he knew it- but he couldn't see her. And if she was in the water... His senses were coming back, but slowly. He needed them now. On command, his vision sharpened, and he could make out some of what looked like rainbow hair poking out of the waves in the distance. He teleported himself just next to her- swimming would have taken valuable time- and teleported them both back to the shore again.

She was hot, and barely breathing, and ill in a thousand different ways, and he didn't know whether he should heal the diseases or clear her lungs of water first. He wasn't even sure he could clear her lungs of water. But he could make her cough, and he could make her breathe, so that was what he did. He almost wished he had stolen her name, so he could force her heart to beat. But he'd brought her back before. He could do it again.

He closed his eyes, his mind slipping into hers, and softly called out to her again. She didn't respond, but he could see her, slowly sinking into the black abyss that had grown all too familiar. He followed her down as far as he could and reached for her, praying that he wouldn't be too late.

A/N: This is a story from January of 2014, when there were two copies of Alastair running around, one of which was controlled by the name War. This was around the same time Mevolent attacked Blogland from an alternate universe, Mara was days from her wedding with Harry, and Adra recently came back from a war on Gaia. 
If anyone remembers whether there is a last section of this story that I wrote out but haven't included here, please let me know! I feel like there's something missing. 

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