The last thread of humanity broke and he collapsed into the explosion of power. It swallowed him. Consumed him. Composed him. The ice under his skin sank straight down into his bones until every piece of his insides was stone-steady and water-smooth. The fire on his hands and arms forgot to be small, forgot to be bright, and rushed, blue-black in all directions, holding him in the center.
His eyes were shut, and he could not open them. He was dragging in a breath, and his chest was full, satisfied, but just kept pulling and pulling, unable to find the end of his capacity. The fire was crackling in his ears, and building in his arms, and he was broken on the swell of it, drunk on the swell of it, lost and unwilling to be found.
He was not smiling. His lips were twisted up at both corners, and his mouth was open, trying to finish that breath, trying to laugh it back out, but he was not smiling. That was too tame for this thing he had become.
And he burned.
And he choked on it.
He was lying on the floor when he opened his eyes. His mouth tasted like ash and his chest was too tight. The heat was still dense in the air around him. The skin of his hands and arms were too dry. He spread his fingers, and felt the spaces between them pull, as if he might crack them if he pushed too far.
He didn’t move, and prayed, moment by moment, that this wild unconsciousness would last a moment longer.
Then he heard the footsteps echo across the room, and he was not alone. His thought slowly filtered back through him, marking the way booted heels clapped against stone, and trying to track the time that had slipped by. He remembered where he had been that morning, and where he ought to be now, and hated all sense of duty in an instant because it twisted his stomach.
He wanted to be lost again and he looked down at his palm, and hated it too, before he could stop himself.
“Leonathan,” his brother said carefully.
Leonathan didn’t take his eyes off his fingers, rolling them slowly through the air, as if he might feel something there. And he hated his hands, hated the fire they could conjure. And he loved them, loved the heat, and the energy, and the press, as he had always loved them.
Because this was what he was.
“Are you all right?” his brother asked. He eased a step closer, and Leonathan still stared at his hands with the dim gray wash of the ceiling behind them.
This was what he was. And this was what had destroyed her.
And he wished he could uncouple those thoughts.
His brother stopped with his toes inches from Leonathan’s shoulder. He peered down at Leonathan, his expression slack, and more sad than Leonathan could bear because of it. He shut his eyes tight.
His brother shifted, and settled onto the floor. His warm hand wrapped around Leonathan’s shoulder, and squeezed.
“It will be all right,” he whispered.
Leonathan took a breath that felt like it might break his ribs, and he forced himself to believe the unyielding calm in his brother’s tone.