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Contradictions

Contradictions

By Maestro

 

Rating: PG, mention of off-screen violence. I imagine you could interpret this as slash, but hell, I can interpret *anything* as slash...

Summary: A little insight into a character's mind.

Comments: Yes please -- both criticisms and praise are always appreciated.

Author's note: As always, a big thank you to both Shark and Chiller, my strange yet somehow wonderful betas, without whom I would still be writing dirty limericks on the backs of chocolate bar wrappers. All comments are shared with them. Well, roughly -- I get the biggest piece, kay?

Disclaimer: I don't own them. But if anyone knows where I could buy them, much obliged.

 

*****

 

A candle.

 

If you stared at the flame long enough, you would see that it is not whole, but separate. Two parts. The inside, near the wick, is darker. It doesn't glow, and yet you find that it still shines. It burns the fiercest, gives out the most heat. The heart of the flame.

The outside you know better. It is the glow, the part of the flame that you recognise. The yellow, golden part. And yet this part is always changing. It gives out no heat, only beauty. The illusion of the flame.

This candle is all that keeps the shadows at bay. One solitary flame, burning away at the wax beneath it. How long until it falters? Until the light goes out and the shadows advance? The wax drips softly, leaving a translucent trail behind it. The candle is bright. And yet it will not last.

He stares at it, at the flame. Fire has always fascinated him. The way it promises both safety and danger at the same time. Pain and light combined in a single body -- this flame.

 

"Murdock?"

 

The voice is soft, yet persistent. And worried. Always worried.

The voices he hears now are always concerned for his safety. And yet they also bring danger. Contradictions contained in his situation, little flames walking around his life without even knowing what they are. But he sees. And he is afraid.

For every child knows that when the flames go out, when the light leaves, that the monsters come. If he turned his head just a fraction he would see them gathering in the corners of the room. Waiting. They never leave. And if the light were extinguished, they would advance. Slowly at first, menacingly, but bringing the memories of death and destruction, of blood, of war. And they would suffocate him.

He needs the light.

 

"Are you alright? Can you hear me?"

 

Hear him? He hears them all the time. Strange that this...fire, should promise light and darkness at the same time. It will protect him, and yet he knows it has not always done so. It brings the memories of flames flickering against a night sky. The smell of charred meat in the air.

Screams. On the edge of hearing, on the border between light and dark, night and day. On the line where the opposites meet. Where the candle lies. Where he exists.

Because it's not even living any more. He doesn't *live*, doesn't enjoy life. He cannot do what he wants, or experience his world the way he needs to. He only exists.

 

A hand on his arm. Gentle.

He remembers when hands were not always so gentle.

Sounds in a familiar language. He can make out the words, but the meaning eludes him. It always has. Maybe it always will. They tell him things he doesn't want to know. They bring back memories he had hoped he'd lost when his mind collapsed in on itself. When he had retreated, to fight no more.

But he won't think of this anymore. He concentrates on the flame, sends it his memories, his pain. Maybe it would be better this way. To remain here. In the light.

But he feels the warmth on his arm, and he knows. He made a promise. To stay. Not to retreat again.

Waking up, the first thing he had seen after he lost his mind had been a face. *The* face. The friend he has to protect, has to stay with. And he understands why he has to return.

For every wise man knows that we are here for a purpose. But the wisest know that we make our own purposes. And he has made his.

 

"Hannibal? I think Murdock's spacing out on us again."

 

Fear. He had sworn that he would keep this one safe. As a penance, maybe? Because he hadn't saved everyone. Hadn't even come close. And no matter how much he tells himself that he is only one man, or that he did all he could, or that the gold lies at the end of the rainbow, he will never forgive himself.

 

"Murdock? Murdock, snap out of it."

 

Ah, this one. He remembers this one. The one who kept him safe and alive, the one he has to live up to. Like...a father, and yet not. Because he knows fathers. They disappear, abandon you. This one wouldn't. At least, he hopes he wouldn't.

This one kept him alive. When the wind threatened his flame he protected it, sheltered it from the storm. This one is important.

 

"Did ya check with the doc before you scammed him outta there? He could be going through stuff, we don't know. Fool never tells us."

 

More opposites. How can it be that he is happiest when he is insulted? Fool. One word to sum up an entire relationship. Insults to express affection. This one is strong. The strongest of them all, and yet the weakest. The one who needs him the least, and yet needs him the most.

On the inside, he is laughing so hard he cries. His life has become one great opposite. He stays crazy to stay sane. Stays in public to stay hidden. That is who he is. Who they are. One great contradiction. The innocent criminals.

 

"Murdock, c'mon! Please. We have to go."

 

And this is the contradiction that hurts the most. How can he, the one who should save them all, need to be saved? It scares him that he needs someone, could ever need anyone as much as he needs this one. The irony hits him with physical force, and he is pushed backwards. Away from the flame.

 

"Murdock. It's okay."

 

Falling into the darkness he opens his mouth to scream. But the contradictions are there, waiting for him. Falling through the air, he cannot find enough oxygen to call for help. Hands clutch at him, the fire rages, the rain falls. The voices rise, increasing in volume until he cannot hear any more, and yet he must hear. They tell him he failed, he will fail, has always failed. The shadows advance. And all is dark.

 

"I promise everything's okay."

 

Fire is not the only source of light. You may find it anywhere. In a friend, in a lover. In a promise.

 

Murdock blinked a couple of times. He looked up into three worried faces. Grinned.

"Hey muchachos? What can I do you for?"

They look at each other, and back at him.

"You drifted off there for a moment, captain. Are you feeling okay?"

"Sure Hannibal, I'm just a little tired, I guess. Doc Richter's got me on these meditation exercises, they're pretty intense. I'll be fine."

 

They nod and leave. He relaxes. Sometimes it is as if he wears a mask, to keep in all the pain and worry. For his family. His friend is a conman, but Murdock knows he has pulled off the greatest con of all. To be "okay".

 

"Murdock, you *are* okay, right? Everything alright at the VA?" Damn. Face returned and he didn't even notice. He replaces his mask.

"Sure, everything's fine." Face nods, apparently satisfied. Murdock gets up from the table to accompany him to the van. He looks down at the candle, nearly burnt out now.

 

Candles burn out. And fire is quenched. You need to find a greater source of light in this world to keep the shadows at bay. To escape the contradictions that no one else seems to see.

 

Face smiled, and put a hand on his shoulder.

 

He blew out the candle, and the sun came out.

 

~Fin~


Contradictions by Maestro

 

 


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