It was – no – she was beautiful.
There was no feminine manner to the way the flames writhed through the room or specific curve to their overall form which might suggest a woman’s waist. Still, there was something about the warmth and sunset hue that had him captured. She. Yes, Nikola was certain.
“Not so close, Icarus…” James glanced up from the control panel of the weather machine.
The temperature in the enclosure, deep underground in the London Sanctuary vaults, was holding steady. Decades after its discovery, they had managed to bring the Fire Elemental safely into their keep. Of course, Nikola and James were still bickering over ownership rights to the weather machine that contained it. Nikola’s blueprints, James’s money, Nikola’s objection, James’s insistence… it was all more like a display to attract Helen’s attention than anything else. She usually rolled those deep eyes of hers and left them to it at the expense of her wine.
The four that were left were all staring down their first century. James would be first to turn one hundred in May. A few years later Helen, then John would follow. Nikola was baby of the group, eight years Helen’s junior – not that such things mattered. All of them had stopped counting long ago.
Most of the team scurrying about the floor were busy trying to take readings from the Elemental, but the vampire just stood there – staring. There was no barrier to keep the fierce blaze contained. Its fortress was invisible, a mixture of significant air pressure in the room and the strong magnetic field encircling it.
Nikola was of course, standing far too close. His usually pale cheeks had flushed pink from the heat as he watched its chaotic dance. The only thing he could compare it to was the surface of the sun.
“You cannot just keep her here…” he whispered, reaching out to touch her. There was a flare of heat around his fingers, almost as if the fiery tendrils of light were trying to draw him to her. To his surprise, it didn’t hurt.
James frowned at the display. He stepped forward, reached out and grabbed Nikola by the scruff of his jacket, dragging the vampire to a safer distance.
“It’s a dangerous creature, Nikola,” James reminded him, only letting him go when he felt confident the little rascal wouldn’t go straight back to misbehaving. Honestly, he’d spent a great portion of his years keeping Tesla out of harm’s way. Damn his infernal curiosity.
“I’m a dangerous creature…” Nikola replied casually, inching forward toward the flames again.
“Yes – and Helen still has a cage for you back in her Sanctuary.”
Nikola just grinned, a few sharper than normal teeth glinting under his lip. “She’s shot me, staked me, pushed me off buildings, drugged me and even once, I believe, run me through with an exquisite dagger from the British Museum’s private collection. Helen’s having way too much fun with me wandering free to bother locking me up from a cell I’ll inevitably escape from.”
“That’s not what she said over dinner last night.”
That’s right… Nikola’s jaw instinctively tightened. Most of the time he could pretend that his object of adoration was not sleeping with James. It was the off hand comments that dug in the most, proof that he didn’t stand a chance in her heart. He stared deeper into the fire, fixated on it.
The flames of the Fire Elemental flared out suddenly, startling the workers who ducked and scurried in fright. Nikola stood perfectly still as the glowing spiral arms swept over his face – warm but not burning. They left him entirely unscathed save for a flutter in his heart.
“She,” Nikola insisted again, “doesn’t like being cooped up here.”
James sighed heavily. Only Nikola had the skill to make that noise of utter defeat slip from his lips. He’d been going on like this ever since it had arrived.
“And what would you have us do, Nikola?” James asked slowly. “Leave it out there, unguarded for the Cabal or some curious scientist to pick apart? Or find a way to destroy it, perhaps, for the safety of the human populace…”
Well… thought Nikola. It wouldn’t be the first time the Sanctuary had destroyed a beautiful creature for the safety of humanity. “Neither,” Nikola replied, once again stepping too close to the flames. She reminded him of an hourglass – only filled with fire instead of sand. “We should let her go.”
“Let it – Nikola… We’ve discussed this. If we release the elemental hundreds, if not thousands will die as it feeds. From what we were able to recover from the temple wall of the original tomb, they are very deadly abnormals – if you could even call it that.” It was more like a thing… A quirk of nature.
“I think we should trust her instead,” Nikola whispered back, his eyes wide at the wonder and beauty of her. “She won’t hurt us. Keeping her like this – it hurts her.”
James folded his arms, making sure he kept a good few feet from the circle of heat radiating from the elemental. He didn’t know how Nikola could stand so close and keep his hair perfectly slicked down.
“Nikola, Helen will have my head if I listen to your foolish notions. This isn’t some little science project of yours.”
By ‘science project’ Nikola assumed that James was referring to the revolution Nikola had started – a brand new age of technology that would cover every land. He was taking over the world, quietly. Nikola turned and winked at James just as a few alarms on the weather machine started to sound. Its dials and gauges were going nuts.
“What the devil…” James rushed over to the main control panel. It was having some sort of seizure. There was some kind of powerful electric charge in the – “Nikola!” James bellowed. “What have you done to my machine?”
Nikola folded his arms across his chest innocently. “My machine…” he whispered defiantly, as the magnetic field vanished from the room.
The heat rose at once; the wind the pressure change created rushing against Nikola’s face. Ah, freedom. At the centre of the room, the Fire Elemental grew – stretching and twisting – unfurling and spreading. When it was finished, it looked like a flower burning in the air. It was magnificent.
Nikola had questions, questions like, ‘What makes you burn?’ He would never force the answers from the creature though. The mysteries of the universe had to be coaxed. She was a puzzle that couldn’t be solved if you kept her locked up in a box.
James watched in horror, expecting at any moment for the creature to envelope the room in flames and kill everyone. Only it didn’t. The bloody vampire was right, for once, and now he’d never hear the end of it. Indeed, the only person that the flames engulfed – was Nikola.
The vampire saw the wall of fire rushing for him but he did not move. Nikola closed his eyes as the flames touched his face, rippling over his skin and through his hair, thoroughly ruffling it. Nikola smiled as thoughts, emotions and whispers rushed through him. She was telepathic, she must be. He saw a perfect crystal lake, somewhere in the mountains long before humanity was born. Then a city rising out from the ancient hills. Places rushed by as time was flipped like the pages of a book.
“She’s immortal…” Nikola whispered, the flames drawing back from him, resuming their calm form. She had made no attempt to escape or harm anyone. “And she’s looking for Sanctuary.”
Slowly, Nikola opened his eyes, turning to James. He was unscathed save the messy state of his hair.
“Where are your manners, James? I thought you were a Victorian gentleman…”
James just lofted his eyebrow as the vampire resumed his enamoured gaze with the Fire Elemental. This was going to cost him a very expensive contribution to Helen’s wine cellar… She’d left him with only one rule; don’t let the vampire into the enclosure.
written for sanctuary_bingo and tardis-mafia on the prompt, ‘Fire Elemental’