The Ring Of Fire


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Also Featuring:

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Scene Title The Ring of Fire
Synopsis Meredith Gordon finds herself at the mercy of the Nightmare Man, while Hokuto Ichihara struggles to try and get through to her…
Date January 18, 2010

Meredith's Dreamscape

Love is a burning thing…

There is nothing but flames, nothing but heat and smoke and ash and the sounds of screaming. When Meredith's eyes open, it is to this hellish inferno and the distorted sounds of a static-laden radio that are first to assail her. Everything lacks sense, everything feels inside out and upside down, but the wallpaper peeling off of the walls, the bed burned down to orange-hot coils and the clothing peeling in ashen flakes off of Meredith's body are all too familiar; it is the Gordon Safehouse— was.

and it makes a firery ring

The radio next to Meredith's bed is warped and bubbling, the plastic faceplate showing a distorted collection of numbers, it might be midnight, it sure is dark enough outside for it to be. The sound of Johnny Cash's voice warbling over the warped speakers sounds like something out of a bad dream, except that she is painfully awake. It is only when the windows explode from the heat inside of the room that Meredith is fully awakened to this hellish reality, flames rising up in long lashing tongues form her shoulders, from her arms and hands. Everything is on fire, flames leap out the windows, oxygen fuels the hunger. Somewhere in the safehouse, people are screaming.

bound by wild desire

The ceiling cracks, embers and ashes come tumbling down from the fissure and Meredith is only able to move quick enough to just barely avoid a portion of the second floor as it comes crashing down on her head. Cinders swirl in the air, smoke flames and pyroclasmic heat whirl ashes and lung-searing heat into a cyclone over the broken metal coils of her bedsprings. Above, the bedroom of one of the safehouse's guests is visible, along with flame-wreathed bones and molten flesh sloughing off of them.

I fell in to a ring of fire…

What has she done?

I fell in to a burning ring of fire

The situation, the place, the home: everything is so familiar. Even on fire, the blonde pyro knows where everything is, knows where those screams are coming from and even who they are. This is much like her fake living room before, however this time she knows that this was not some faceless man who was destroying what she loved. This was her fault.

I went down, down, down and the flames went higher.

Meredith looks down at her hands, still glowing red from the rage that she unleashed upon all that she has built up, her redemption. It burns all around her. The music, the windows exploding don't even make the woman flinch. Blood appears on her arms, on her face, but it doesn't hurt. It only serves to add to her horror. Flames flicker again on her fingers and jump into the air and dance in front of her face and she attempts to pull them back into herself, back toward her chest.

And it burns, burns, burns…

"N-no. I—I can't…" She can't stop it, she can't control it.

…the ring of fire.

Flames on the edges turn blue, some areas of the fire on the walls has a greenish glow to them from the chemicals used affixing the paper to the walls. Outside, sirens wail in the distance, the inevitable arrival of fire-rescue teams. On the same floor as Meredith's bedroom, she can hear the sounds of shouting, of someone calling out amidst the roar of the conflagration that her terrible nightmare must have awoken in her. "Help!" The scream rings against the walls, "Help!" It's a child; screaming, terrified. "Meredith!"

The ring of fire.

Another portion of the ceiling above Meredith's bed breaks, sending an armoire from the floor above crashing down on her night stand and radio, shattering the noise-making piece of molten plastic and sending another scalding wave of heat up into the air. Only her clothing suffers for the flames, thermal wind tossing blonde locks up into the air. The door at her back is cooler to the touch than the room in front of her, even if proximity to her blazing body is causing the surface to blacken and crisp. Paint is bubbling on the door frame, blistering and popping like the skin of the person who burned to death above her bedroom.

Sirens, firetrucks, someone is coming to stop this. Deep inside Meredith, the desire for self-preservation rises up. She needs to get out of here before they find her, before they find her again. She's not going back to Company custody. Crashing, breaking and the crackle of flames only serves to add to her adrenaline rush, the flames flying up higher and higher around her.

The sound of the screaming snaps her to action, however, what can she do? She'll only hurt that kid, set her on fire even more. However, she can't just stay here. Standing here won't do anything. She'll get caught, the kid will burn up alive, she has to move. One step turns into another, and finally, she's running. The door in front of her bursts open from the heat when she gets close to it, she doesn't even need to touch the doorknob.

To the unseen child, she yells something that may not even be understandable, "Someone's comin' to help ya, ya gotta wait till they get here and ya gotta stay away from me!"

The moment Meredith exits out into the living room, everything engulfs in flames. What was once a perfectly serene setting turns into an inferno in an instant, the wallpaper ignites, furniture bursts into flames and people who were calmly and quietly sitting on the couches watching television are blasted by intense heat and flames, those closest to Meredith charring black and ashen in a moment, as if exposed to the intense heat of a blast furnace. Bones rattle and hit the floor, the couch begins to warp and melt as polyester fibers sag and liquify like plastic. The screams come not from people in danger, but people murdered by her very presence. THe fire hadn't spread to the rest of the house, improbably, it was her very presence that exacerbated the situation.

On the other side of the flames, just as this horrible revelation is hitting meredith, she can see someone with their back to the door that leads out to the stairs. A figure dressed in a long red, sleeveless dress. Blonde hair is desheveled and wild, flowing in the heat of the flames, eyes leveled on her mirror-like counterpart. It's Meredith, but her irises are glowing like iron pulled out of a forge.

"Can't we do anything without destroying everything we love?" When she speaks, embers come flying out of her mouth, an orange-hot glow burning at the back of her throat. "Wouldn't it just be easier if we just kept running? What's the point in trying to help everyone else, if we can't help ourself?" The red-clad Meredith walks forward, leaving black, sooty footprints in her wake. Stepping on the hardwood floor, the touch of her bare skin causes the wood to burst alight, flames at the tips tinged with blue.

"Is that why we try to help people so much?" One blonde brow arcs up in question, "are we projecting our need to help ourselves onto others? I can't help myself," she says mockingly, "so I'll just pretend to be fine and help everyone else! It'll be easier that way!" Golden eyes burn hotly as she approaches the molden sofa, crunching brittle heat-baked bones under bare feet. "It's too hard to tell Claire how I really feel." The biting mockery takes a different tone, "It's too hard to tell Sandra how I really want to be involved in Claire's life." Now her expression changes, one of anger, bitterness, cynicism.

"I can't do anything right."

At the appearance of the second Meredith makes the first one stop in her tracks. The image of how she imagined she looked when she thought she killed Claire, when she killed her father, how she looks when she murders people - both innocent and deserving. A fire torch of killing power stands in front of her and it bears her face.

While the woman in front of her has the benefit of her subconscious to pull upon, the poor Meredith just clutches her flaming hands to her chest and stares at herself in horror and in fear. The words that are being spoken hit her straight to her core, straight to her own basic fears. Her own worries of in saving herself, who she leaves behind.

"You're not me." Meredith narrows her eyes at the woman in front of her. "You don't know anything about what I've tried to do. This isn't my fault." She's not the one totally engulfed in flames, not now, not that she sees what this other woman can do. Now she can blame someone else, and she grasps onto it desperately. "It's yours."

"I'm not you?" She walks thorugh the sofa, melting and burning it away as if it were wax and she were nothing more than fire. Her footsteps continue to be tread ashen across the floor and through the sooty bones in the conflagration. "If I'm not you," her golden eyes burn white hot for a moment, flames leaping out from her mouth, "than I must be myself, and I must be my own entity." Tilting her head back, the red-dressed Meredith raises one hand, conjuring a coil of flames that swirls around her palm. "If you're so willing to deny who you are, maybe I'd make a better you, after all I'm the responsible one, you said so yourself." A cruel smile spreads across the doppleganger's lips, "I'm the one who will take responsibility."

Something catches Meredith's eye, movement in her periphery, frantic and pounding. Just to her right, amidst the flames, is an oval mirror hung on the wall. Unremarkable in its design, but the reflection is what truly catches the pyrokinetic's attention. The room in the reflection is not on fire, but smoke is billowing out from beneath Meredith's door. Also, she herself is not reflected in the vision, but another woman all together. Parchment pale skin, ink black hair, a blindfold covering her eyes. She has one hand up against the glass, beneath her palm is a smoldering fire-damaged card. It depicts a woman dressed in red bearing a crown seated in a chair, holding aloft a golden sword. Above her head is a roman numeral, XI and below her is a simple word in equally bold writing; Justice.

"Maybe I should be the one to take care of Claire…" Meredith's fire-eyed double states, moving closer, her flames changing colors from their rich golden-red to a brilliant sapphire blue, much like her brother's. "Maybe you're right," the apparition claims, "maybe I'm not you." The words sting, bitter and charged, "and you're not me."

Hands pressed tightly against her chest, Meredith and feel her heart beat - a strangely normal tempo against her chest given all the fire and smoke that surround her. The Other Meredith burns her eyes so that when she blinks, the image of her remains burned there against the inside of her eyelids, but it's also not easy to turn away from her. Ripping her eyes to the side, she focuses on the image she sees reflected in the mirror - Judgement. Is that what this is? Is she being judged? A part of her can't help but think she deserves it. She deserves to be judged and punished for her past. What else has she done with her life other than run away, than take the easy route, to keep herself locked away from anything that could be meaningful?

The fires that lick at her feet have taken on a brighter white flame, she feels as if her shoes and her very self is melting into the ground. Is this what she is reduced to - what her mark is on those around her - a fiery pillar of justice that burns all she touches? Reduces everything around her into ash and bones, leaving nothing else behind? That's not a thought that Meredith will take standing there like a weaker woman, like someone who rolls over and lets people keep her, jail her, hold her back.

"You certainly don't sound like me," she growls, eyes still locked on the blindfolded woman in the mirror, as if she's expecting her to move. "And if you're not me, then who the hell are you and why are you messin' up my face?"

Closing her eyes for a moment, the shadow of Meredith offers a knife-thin smile of pale white teeth, her body silhouette by the flames, eyes falling shut behind dark lashes. "I am you…" she offers in a different voice, the same tone as Meredith's own, but backed by something deeper, an unusually baritone and grumbling voice speaking the same words as an undercurrent, combined with the crackling snap and pop of flames. "I'm your guilt, your fear, your desire to run and hide and save yourself rather than facing the truth."

One foot in front of the other, and Meredith's shadow begins to stride across the floor, leaving molten footsteps behind as she walks. Her eyes open, irises glowing a hot golden-orange like hot forged steel. "I'm everything negative you've ever pushed down, kept bottled up, or tucked away." One of her hands raise slowly, leaping white flames dancing around her fingertips. "But if you don't acknowledge that I'm you…" the orange glow of flames rises inside of her mouth, and then a burst of flames erupts behind Meredith's shadow as her fire surges to a blue-white blaze like her brother Flint's, fanning out into a conflagration that sets the entire living room walls ablaze with bluish flames snapping and lapping at the orange-red of Meredith's own. "Perhaps I can become you."

Somewhere in the smoke, somewhere in the flames, and the cracking snap of the ceiling, Meredith can hear the distant noise of a baby crying and choking, coughing from the thick plumes of black smoke that billow up from the burning apartment floor, smoke that by now trails in thick black columns up to the night's sky.

There is a sound of glass cracking under stress at Meredith's side, and in that mirror at her periphery, she cannot see the silhouette of that strange pale specter any longer, only the tarot card that was left behind: Justice.

What the hell is going on?

That is an appropriate question as that's exactly what Meredith is thinking furiously. Her attention snaps back to the woman who is claiming to be her when she steps forward. For her own part, she doesn't run and hide, like she's told that she is supposed to. As the Other Meredith steps forward, Meredith quickly holds out her own hand and narrows her eyes. The flames that she was trying so hard to hold back, to keep contained burst into life. There's no way she's about to let those creepy blue flames get any closer to her than is necessary.

"The hell you will." Meredith glares daggers at her Shadow. She may not accept this woman as part of her, as anything other than a rain of destruction that is attempting to feed off of everything that she finds bad about herself. It could be any number of things and for some reason a splintered part of herself isn't the easiest explanation for the blonde. That could mean she's going crazy and she certainly wouldn't think of herself as such.

The flames dancing flicker and sputter at the sound of the baby crying. Much like in her last dream, the sound pierces right through Meredith. "…Claire…"

"Oh, is that sound bothering you?" Meredith's own voice, underlaid by something more deep, something more sinister offers her that taunt. "Does the sound of some helpless little thing suffering because of me make it hard for you to concentrate?" Slowly, the orange flames around and behind Meredith begin to die down, sinking into that same cold blue shade as the ones her shadow is shedding. "We created Claire, made her what she is. If it wasn't for that fire nearly killing her, maybe she never would have turned into what she is, maybe she would have been able to live a normal life."

Now just within arms reach, Meredith's doppleganger lifts a hand up, brushing scorching hot fingertips across her other self's cheek, the flames dance harmlessly over her skin, lighting one side of her face with a sapphire glow. "But it's not our fault, is it?" Meredith's shadow whispers soothingly to her, "We're just victims of a dangerous world aren't we?" Soothing now, crooning out these easily accepted half-truths, the shadow offers Meredith an easy way out.

"Just let yourself go…" The shadow murmurs, "run." Those fiery eyes stare into Meredith's, behind which lies in wait something akin to a crouching lion in tall grass, waiting to pounce. "Let me take all the blame for you… because none of this is your fault, is it?"

The glass beside Meredith at the mirror cracks again, the spiderwebbing shatter-marks spreading out from that card, the depiction of Justice. "Just let it all go," the shadow whispers again, "tell me it wasn't our fault."

Does it bother her? Does it bother her? The sound of Claire's wailing in the flames has haunted Meredith most of her adult life. The inability to save her own daughter from the flames that she created has shaped the way she is today, the reason she keeps running from town to town, place to place. She attempts to escape the guilt, as if such a thing were possible.

And if there's one thing that she hates being called, it's a victim. She takes charge of situations. While she may be running, it's not like she does it with her tail tucked between her legs. She makes the smart decisions, she runs when the going gets tough so the tough can keep going. The idea of being coddled, of coaxed into something, of being accused of being weak is something she will allow only so far.

Sure, she blamed Noah and the Company for Claire's death - if they hadn't have attempted to capture her, she would never have used her self defense mechanism. Claire would still be with her. She blamed Nathan for all but deserting her with a baby, she blamed Thompson for keeping her brother, her brother for not being smart enough to take care of herself. All of these things led her to leave them and everything else behind, to start anew.

"It's not my fault." Her words aren't laden with guilt, they're angry and she owns each syllable. The flames jump into her hands again and she doesn't hesitate to throw them at her Shadow. She's in control of them. She is. The flames spread outward in a circle around her, eagerly biting at the shattered window with the Tarot card - Judgement judging her. "But I ain't a victim." Whirling around, she attempts to find the source of the baby crying, the piercing that she can try to save. This time. This time. "Claire! Honey! Where are you?!"

A coy smile is feigned across the shadow's lips as Meredith goes running from the burning room, hurrying down the raging inferno of a hallway, screaming out for someone who'se crying seem to be getting further and further no matter how many steps towards the sound Meredith takes. As Meredith smashes through a burning door into one of the apartment's spare bedrooms, she explodes into a concrete cell with a large plate glass window. Seated on a cot attached to the wall by chains, a large and broad-shouldered man with shaved head and sunken eyes stares up at her, his body shadowed by the flames boiling off of Meredith's body.

"Why'd ya'll leave me behind?" Flint Gordon's voice is a weak, betrayed whine. His stare is a hollow, weakened one that belies none of the strength and ferocity her brother once had, only the child-like helplessness that she recalls.

Echoed in the mirrored glass of his Level-5 detention cell, Meredith sees not her own fiery reflection, but that of her shadow's blue-flamed self, standing with arms crossed and a smug smile on her lips, glowing irises burning bright in the muted reflection. "It's not our fault." Her voice whispers from behind the glass. "We didn't abandon him."

Then, with a pathetic tremble of his lower lip, Flint murmurs, "Keep runnin' sis…"

Further and further away, but that doesn't dissuade Meredith. As every door bursts open in front of her, as every room turns up empty, it only fuels her resolve to find Claire, to save her this time. While she may be running, she doesn't see it as being the same as running away. This time she's moving toward something. The door that opens into the containment cell of the Company doesn't exactly stop Meredith cold, but goosebumps rise on her skin to find herself back here. Staring right at the face of her brother. The weak, betrayed brother. Glaring at the window, she isn't sure who she's talking to when she tells them, "Oh, grow up." She shouldn't need to rescue him all the time, pull his ass out of the fire. "I didn't leave you, I got you out of there." That one is certainly to Flint.

Angrily, she punches at the window with her fire hot hand. She doesn't actually expect it to do anything, to break the glass or to free him, but she's frustrated now and she hates the look of some doppleganger looking smug and making fun of her. "I risked my neck to save you. I'm the one that found you after all those years, didn't I?" It's not her fault if he has a sack of sawdust in his head instead of a brain.

"Ain't nothin' your fault is it?" Flint asks with a quirk of his head to the side. "Good ole' Gordon deniability, we ain't done nothin' wrong." Behind Meredith, she can hear the whinine rattle of a shrieking baby's cry from an entirely different direction than before. "Go'n, git." Flint tips his chin up in a nod towards the doorway, reaching down to pick up a coloring book from the cot. "Don't you mind me none, it ain't your fault I'm in here or nothin' is it?" He reclines back against the concrete wall, lifting up the coloring book and a blue crayon, sribbling flames on Mickey Mouse, because everything is better on fire.

In the reflection of the glass observation window, Meredith's shadow is gone. In its place, looking like a monochromatic diver in a fish tank, the darkly dressed spectre of a blindfolded woman floats silently, her hair drifting in the watery stillness behind the mirror. Her hand comes up, pressing to the glass, affixing that tarot card again once more into place.


For just a second, nothing else matters to Meredith but what is reflected in that window. Justice. The Tarot Card, the blindfolded woman floating in the water. Flint's self-pitying is ignored for the moment. There's fire and shrieking in the background, but this image keeps on coming up and the blonde woman is getting very frustrated about the whole situation that's surrounding her. Her hand still smacked up against the glass from where she attempted to punch through it before, she places her hand right over the tarot card and furrows her brows at it.

"Christ on a cracker, I'm gettin' sick to hell of all this goddamned symbolism. Won't somebody who don't look like a cracked out version of me just cut through all the crap?" With another angry, hothanded slap, she glares at the vision of her brother. "I gotta get Claire, Flint. You just sit tight, hold your own pity party and keep drawin' your creepy pictures. I'll be back for ya." And with that, she turns, the insistent crying of Claire urges her on. She's not tired, but she feels drained already.

Turning her back on the mirror, Meredith dives back into the burning hall, somehow following the screaming of the baby's voice thorugh the halls, things begin to take a turn towards the more surreal, Everything is burning, flames rise up like curtains along the walls, the floor is cracked and buckled in places, showing golden embers on the edges and a raging, molten inferno below. When Meredith finds another door in a hallway that took nearly five minutes to run down, she knows that this surreality is only drawing her deeper and deeper in.

When finally she crashes through the burning towards the sound of Claire's infant noises, everything changes.

Tumbling through the door, all Meredith sees for a brief moment is white. Her shoulder hits the ground, it's cold, she bounces and rolls across the ice, tumbling headlong across slick concrete before smashing face first into the frigid rise of a snowbank. Her arms and legs ache, muffled noises assail her ears that sounds like honking of automobile horns. She can hear a baby crying still.

Pushing herself up on shaky arms, Meredith lets out a haggard breath, staring out at a group of people on the sidewalk. Most of them are across the empty street, and where Meredith is holding herself up in the snow on shaky arms, she can see several cars stopped. An orange glow is at her back, and everyone standing across the street in huddled groups are staring up at something.

Meredith is freezing, her clothing is burned halfway off of her body, loose black scraps of charred pajamas cling to bare skin, slicked with now freezing sweat. Her hands sizzle with the snow and ice beneath them. In the crowd across the street, there is a middle aged woman, cradling a baby in her arms, it's cry is the one she had been hearing. But it's not Claire— it's not anyone she knows.

Seeing now the orange glow flickering across the snow, and hearing the droning sound of sirens rising up in the air behind her, Meredith turns slowly, looking up over her shoulder to the second floor apartment over the Vietnamese restaurant that she just came barreling out the front door of.

Flames rise out of the windows, leap from the roof, and twisting columns of black smoke choke out the air.

The safehouse is on fire.

Her safehouse is on fire.

Claire. Claire. Claire. Each footstep she sets down in the fire and each breath she takes sounds like her daughter's name. She has to find her, she has to get back to Flint. She can do it this time. The molten walls and burning embers would stop anyone who couldn't withstand an inferno. It would turn them to ash where they stood. But Meredith pays no mind to the smoke, the fire, anything else. She's focused entirely upon those cries. Until with a tumble and a disorienting stop, she finds herself in the snow.

Shaking and unnerved, Meredith wraps her arms around herself in the freezing cold. Though her clothes are badly burned, she doesn't seem to have a burn on her. Instead, she stares dumbly at the crying baby who is not Claire and stands on shaking legs. Before she knows it, though, she's staring at her safe house going up in flames and her eyes widen in disbelief. The sirens are screaming in the background, taking up the same flight instinct as the sound of the baby crying had before. Oh God, her safehouse is on fire. Her home, her life.

With a cry of disbelief, Meredith feels the need to get back in there, to find that Other Meredith. Though it would seem crazy to those gathered about her, she knows she can't get burned, she'll make it out safe and sound unless something heavy falls on her. Dashing forward, she doesn't even cough through the black smoke as she moves for what used to be the front door. She can stop this, she can turn back the flames.

Nothing matches her surreal dreamscape as she goes charging back into the ground floor of the apartment building. The restaurant is empties, as it would be at dark-o-clock in the morning, and Meredith's bare feet acrry across the tile floor through the smoke-choked building, all the way out to the back door and the fire escape in the rear lot, which seems to be how she got down to the first floor to begin with. Nothing makes sense, nothing makes sense at all. Quickly pulling herself up the ladder, the freezing cold metal of the iron fire escape bites at the palms of her hands and the soles of her feet.

Scrambling up to the second floor window, Meredith finally feels the sharper pain in her feet only when she sees the bloody and broken glass everywhere from the window. Looking down at her legs, she can see cuts where she must have thrown herself through the window. Flames rise up out of the apartment in lapping waves, and heedless, Meredith throws herself back into the fire.

The smoke does not choke her, the flames do not burn her, but they do blind her. She can feel the floor creaking and brittle under her bare feet, feel the waves of heat coming from the raging inferno inside. In the distance, Meredith can hear the roar of NYFD truck sirens. This isn't a nightmare— not one taking place inside of her head at least— this is something far worse. This is actually happening.

This place is far worse than the nightmare that she just awoke from, the sharp glass that cut through her feet, the cold, the very feeling makes this terrible scene something that the Other Meredith couldn't even begin to inflict upon her. Her home, her safehouse, her livelihood. It's actually burning down around her. And she is the cause of it. The thought brings her to a halt when nothing else can. Still inside, she listens to the sirens and the loud roar of the fire around her and she collapses to the floor.

If she wants to stay alive, sitting in the middle of a burning building wouldn't be the best place to be, but that's all she can think of to do. The fire is not burning her, but the blood from the cuts on her feet drip onto the floor to bubble and sizzle, dissolving into the air. She feels desolate, like she wants to burn up with her home. Where else is she to go?

Then, the old Meredith, the survivor, returns and she clutches her hand into a fist. Somebody messed with her head, somebody did this to her and she is going to find out who it is and she is going to burn them alive.

The taste, of love is sweet…

Somewhere in the burning apartment, Meredith hears the warbling sound of a half-melted radio playing, the brass horn and acoustic guitar echoes thorugh the empty walls of the safehouse where snapping wood and popping glass is accompanied by the roar of flames. She needs to find a way out of here, because by the time the fire department arrives and the police show up, there's going to be questions— there's going to be problems— because the fire will likely spread to neighboring apartments, spread to other people's lives and ruin them as well.

When hearts, like ours do meet

Meredith can sit here, can suffer in her own malaise of guilt and regret, stew in the fires of vengeance, and run. Or she can stay, put out the fires, and risk getting caught and questioned by the NYPD about the blaze. This could open up whole new unwanted doors— Would the Company find her? What would they do if she was caught again? It's not a choice with a right or wrong answer, it's simply a choice.

I fell for you like a child…

As the droning wail of the sirens draw closer, Meredith can hear the ceiling above her crack from the flames, sending ashes spilling down from above, glowing with hot embers that rain like burning snowflakes over her head.

Oh,but the fire went wild…

Meredith feels herself sinking. Whether it's the distended floorboards that are buckling underneath her weight, or it's knowing that she may very well trapped here. The family that owned the restaurant her home was on top of was always nice to her, gave her free dumplings along with her orders when she would come in. They never asked her questions about the people that would stay with her. They didn't deserve this to happen to their source of income.

I fell into a burning ring of fire.

The fire is out of control and will spread, Meredith can see that now. And it's her fault. Shaking, she stands and whirls around, unable to see much through the smoke and the flames. Angrily, she feels like punching something, like putting her anger out on everything around her. "Goddammit."

I went down down down, and the flames when higher

She starts limp running for the back door again, away from the sirens, away from the fire, the warbling radio distorted and fading off into the sounds of the burning building. Her feet still are bleeding, glass still piercing the bottoms. Right inside the hallway, she pauses. Justice. Is that what this is? Justice for her past? As if she needs a gasp of air, she puts a leaning hand on the burning wood and closes her eyes. Is she even able to keep this from spreading? Finally, she takes a deep breath and calls to the fire that she believes she set in her sleep and calls it back, back, back, back toward her. It's quick, a test. Not enough to stop the fire entirely, but maybe enough to stop it from spreading before the FDNY get there.

It burns, burns, burns…

She's tired— exhausted— fatigue sets in at the corners of her eyes and at the back of her mind. Meredith's focus, however, isn't on how much her body aches, how badly her feet hurt, or whether that searing pain in her lung is from smoke or emotion. Instead, she's drawing inward the feeling of heat and flames, concentrating on that raging inferno and drawing the lashing tongues of fire back towards her like a vacuum. She bends the flames against what it naturally wants to do— expand, consume, devour, destroy.

The ring of fire…

Sweat beads on Meredith's forehead just as fast as it boils away from the heat. She can feel the flames wanting to expand back out, to curl away from her and go back to destroying everything around her. Meredith is right, she can't snuff the fire out, can't quench it by herself, it's progressed toof ar beyond that point now, burned to long and too hot. But she can contain it, as long as she remains and stays focused on the fire, stays focused on the roaring inferno she can keep it from spreading. But there's no doubt in doing that, she'd never be able to limp away to safety.

The ring of fire…

Now or never; stay or go. It's like all those years over again. But what, in the end, is more powerful.

The ring of fire.

Fight or flight?

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