All's Fair, part 6

by Chicago

Disclaimers in "part 0"


She cocked her head in response to the sound and found herself caught in a wondering pause. Sound. That was what it was called, and this is how it felt to hear it. She had forgotten, and had forgotten that she had forgotten.


Sound in ear. Heard sound. She leaned her head to the other shoulder, taking a child's delight in the action. Ears for hearing, a head to move - these had been hers before.


It wasn't really wind - wind, that's what that was called! - but not what she was hearing now. She scrunched her face in concentration, then was distracted by the feel of her brows drawing down.


It was a voice! Why was there a voice? It wasn't her voice.


Now she frowned. Ice? A niggling in her mind said that it was a word and it should mean something to her.


That had a demanding quality to it. Was someone addressing - her name! She had a name once, a way of being called. Ice. She rolled the idea in her head. A name. Names belonged to people, like the women who shivered and wept on the edges of her consciousness. Was she then -?


Abruptly, her vision - she had vision! - was confronted by a figure. Red - her eyes dazzled at the sensation of red. She knew it was called red, this sensation in her sight.


Now there were hands gripping - she could feel the touch! Hands touching her arms, squeezing around her muscles. A man's hands - which reminded her how she had been a woman.


Not just a woman, a hero. And suddenly she remembered that what she had been doing was what heroes did, and this man - hero as well? She regarded him curiously.

He had stopped yelling. "Ice?"

She struggled with the long unused tongue in her mouth. "I... am... Ice?"

The fingers on her arms tightened, and she winced. Pain. She knew pain before, too.

"Do you know me?" he asked, his pale skin matching his white eyes as they stared at her with something like desperation.

She contemplated for a moment, and around her she could hear a summoning call she'd ignored. "Deadman, Deadman, Deadman..." A smile blossomed on her face.

"Hello, Boston." Easier to move the tongue once the knack was remembered.

Relief flooded the ghost's features even as consternation flooded hers.

"I am dead?"

Deadman's fingers loosened their hold, and she almost protested. It had been so long...

"Long dead," he confirmed. "And long committed to the light." He reached to brush at her hair, the same white as his skin, she noted distantly.

"Yes," she said. "I am dead. Was dead. Am dead?"

"Still dead," he stated, "although pretty busy for all that."

She smiled again at a sudden flash of insight. "Rogue magic."

"There is magic abroad. Magic you are battling, although I cannot understand how or why."

She frowned, dredging through recent memory. There had been something - an angry screaming through what had been a long silence and a summoning to stretch herself, to awaken. "Ice protects," she murmured, "as earth demands."


She looked up, startled. She had been fading, she realized. Job done, time to return...

"Rama summoned me to you. God knows what she wants me to do, but I don't think whatever you're up to is done."

She became aware of the crying women again. They shouldn't be here, she thought. Not so high on the mountain they hadn't climbed. "They're scared."

"Who's scared?"

"The women. The ones - the -" She hesitated, understanding striking her before the word returned to memory - "the sacrifices."

"Sacrifices! Rama, now what have you got me into?"

Ice frowned. "They shouldn't die because of me."

"Because of you?"

"Because I stopped-" She froze suddenly, memory slamming into her and dropping her to her knees. "NO!" she cried, suddenly sobbing. She had had such power, had given up - "I betrayed them," she choked out. "Beatriz..."

"Ice-" Deadman began comfortingly.

"No! Don't call me that. My name is Tora!" Her tone was fierce as the moments before her death played out in her mind, relived, she knew with certainty, to return her to true death.

"Tora," Deadman repeated softly. "You redeemed yourself. Your heart remained true. That's why you're back now."

She doubled over, pressing her forehead to the ground. "Yes," she murmured. "My punishment. Live it again." She felt her tears freezing as they struck the ground. "Ineffective defiance that just brings the end closer."

"You're a hero," the ghost contradicted. "Heroes save the world."

Yes, she realized. That was right. She remembered leading the charge against the Overmaster and straightened. She didn't have much time, but heroes would not let needed information die with them. She reached out to Boston Brand, grasping his hand. "I-" She felt a warning tingling through her body. Not enough time for words. Instead she concentrated, focused all she knew about the magical impasse her intervention had created, the threat of world destroying magic if the stalemate was broken.

The tingling warning turned to fiery pain as she fought dissolution to deliver her message. Her ears barely heard over the crackle of life-ending energy as Deadman said, "I understand." But that was the key. If he understood she could -

"Tora, go," Deadman directed gently, giving her leave to return to the light that had taken her up so many years before. She released herself from her flaming body with only one conscious thought remaining to her: "Tell Bea I love her."

And then even that faded.

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