Shou Tucker can't quite shake the ghosts of his past, try though he might. Language warning.
The little girl shivered in her sleep, shaking despite the fever in her skin. Thirty-nine, that was what the thermometer said. Thirty-nine degrees Celsius. Almost one hundred four degrees Fahrenheit. Three hundred twelve point one five degrees Kelvin. Sometimes Shou hated the alchemist in him; ever calculating, ever thinking, never bothering to /feel/. What was the lethal temperature? he thought to himself. Forty-two? Forty-three? He couldn't remember.
He couldn't do this alone. He couldn't. Nina'd never been this sick. Never this sick. Never been this hot or shook this violently, or had eyes that were clouded and unfocused and unseeing for over a day now. God, he couldn't do it, he couldn't do it, he needed Eve...
Water. She needs water. Shou got up, stumbling for the door. Starve a cold, feed a fever, right? Yes, feed the fever, feed it so it wouldn't devour his child alive.
It seemed it took him hours to reach the kitchen. God, this house was big - too big - what sane man would live in a house this size with just his daughter and a dog for company? His hands shook as he reached for the glasses he kept in the cupboard above the sink, and the one he extracted was nearly dropped on the tiled counter. "Damn it..." he breathed through clenched teeth, "/Damn/ it..." He couldn't lose her. Couldn't lose her, he loved her too much, couldn't lose her like he lost Eve...
You never lost me, Shou.
The glass crashed and shattered in the sink. His throat worked but he couldn't speak; even breathing was impossible. Eviene Lake stood in the doorway, clawlike hand on jutting hip and a predatory smile on her face.
You didn't lose me, she repeated, although her lips may or may not have moved. You killed me.
"I didn't..." he whispered, "I didn't..." She killed herself, she wouldn't eat, why wouldn't she eat?
You did, she said, anger contorting her pretty face. I was your grand experiment, wasn't I, Shou? You bastard. Help you with your experiment indeed... you said you'd make everything better. She tossed her head like an angry horse, blond mane shining. And I believed you, lying little piece of filth. I wanted to believe that once - just /once - you'd actually make good on your promises./ Her nostrils flared and she pawed the ground with one foot, like a bull about to charge. My own damned fault for believing you, I suppose.
Shou couldn't breathe. There was a pounding in his ears, and he was shaking, sweating. Sick? Was he getting sick, too? Surely this was just some mad hallucination of a feverish brain...
Eviene shrugged and sighed. But could you blame me? I'd grown tired of your broken promises, Shou. I'd grown tired of listening to them and I'd grown tired of listening to /you/. Can't you remember?
He did remember, much as he wished he could not: nights of arguing that led to shouting that led to things being thrown and broken, while Nina clutched her doll and cried. "You - were going to leave..." he choked, "I couldn't... I..."
Damn right I was going to leave, she snapped, like the jaws of a wolf around some poor lamb's heel. I was going to leave and take Nina and we'd both be much happier without you. That's where I fooled myself, Shou. I fooled myself into thinking I needed you.
"No..." Shou tried to say. "You - you never cared for... never loved..."
Eviene laughed, a cruel eagle screech. Is that what you tell yourself at night, Shou? To justify what you did to me? To her, when you took her mother away? That was a mistake, Shou. You never come between a mother and her child. She waved her hand at him dismissively, fingers like jeweled talons that flashed in the bright light. But I'm not bitter, she said. Honestly, I'm better off now that I don't have /you poisoning my existence. But I promise you.../ She moved closer, slithering, sinuous movements, and her smile became sharp and pointed. ...I promise you that if you do anything to hurt her, Shou... She was inches away now, and he couldn't breathe, couldn't think, was frozen with fear - and when she leaned in close she wasn't cold, but hot like blood and fever and hate.
"...I will destroy you."
- Story title from "Throwing Stones" by Paula Cole, an ode to mutual domestic hatred if ever there was one.
- Eviene was one of the names given to the Lady of the Lake in Authurian myth. She also went by Nina.
- I actually had to do scientific research for this one. Go me.