Living. Breathing. Burning. Dying.
Living. Breathing. Burning. Dying.
Living. Breathing. Burning. Dying.
Please don’t burn my home.

Living. Breathing. Burning. Dying.
The phoenix screamed, or maybe it was her.
Living. Breathing. Burning. Dying.
Please don’t burn my home.
Living. Breathing. Burning. Dying.
Living. Breathing. Burning. Dying.
Everything was red and orange and gold and crimson. Yellows, bright and hot as the sun-
Living. Breathing. Burning. Dying.
Living. Breathing. Burning. Dying.
No. Don’t use me up.
Living. Breathing. Burning. Dying.
Living. Breathing. Burning. Dying.
You’re safe, you’re safe, you’re safe!
Living. Breathing. Burning. Dying.
Living. Breathing. Burning. Dying.
How long has it been this time?
Living. Breathing. Burning. Dying.
She had the sensation of falling, of the phoenix’s claws digging into her back, and everything was still for a moment.
There was sand beneath her face.
She coughed, and tried to sit up. Sand. Definitely sand.
A breeze blew and she was glad of the chill.
She was less glad of the strange whistling sound as it touched the open chest and ran across the surface of her heart.
The phoenix hunkered in her arms, curled up against her chest, soft and warm and-
It was crying.
Sanity check?
You’re still crazy.
Ok. Good.
She lifted a sooty hand to the phoenix’s head, gently smoothing the feathers of flame back. Definitely tears. Tears of pure molten gold dripped from its eyes, and landed with soft paaffs in the sand as the desert sand turned to glass.
‘What’s wrong?’ she mumbled, her throat dry.
And where the fuck are we?
There was a soft hissing sound and the sand beneath her rose up. ‘Drink’ the sand asked as it formed into the shape of a person. It held its hand above her mouth, and the palm made of sand shifted, opened, and water began to pour. She opened her mouth and gratefully guzzled the water until it ran dry. ‘The fire, the phoenix-’ the sand asked her. ‘Is it over?’
She stared at the sandy fae. ‘I- I don’t know- Where- Where-’
‘Beyond the black stump,’ the sand said, ‘out where you can do little harm. You’re in the Lost’s territory.’
‘Oh…good,’ she said, ‘something good for once.’
‘Is it over?’ the sand asked. ‘Can we-’
The phoenix stirred in her arms, and she felt its fear.
‘No,’ she said hurriedly, ‘I don’t think so, GTFO, GTFO, now!’
The sand sucked back into the desert as quickly as it had appeared.
She felt her skin growing hot, and she struggled to sit up. ‘No,’ she said, pushing on the phoenix slightly. ‘No, please- No one is hurting you, no one is-’
She saw blue flame.
The phoenix raised its head and bared its chest. There was a cut in its chest, bleeding blue flame. Everything grew hotter, and she felt her skin threatening to melt.
Blue.
Oh, gods, are you-
She touched a hand to its head. ‘Is it the other one? Are you protecting the other one?’
She had the after image of a blue egg. It was enough.
Everything got hotter still, and she felt her fine hairs catching fire.
‘No,’ she said, ‘I’ll- I’ll give you what you need, but you’re wasting me-’
It screamed, and more golden tears fell to the sand.
She pressed a hand to the hole in her chest and touched the mirror. She held an image of rope in her mind, and the mirror obliged, giving her a thin strand of silver, like snake chain, which she pulled on, slowly unravelling her heart. She pulled enough free to let her arm go slack, and then let it pool in her hand.
That’s my heart. That’s my me. That’s everything I am.
She pressed the pooling mirror to the phoenix’s chest.
Take it, just don’t let it die.
Everything became fire again, but this time, it didn’t burn.
It covered them both, and she let herself lie on her back, staring at the stars as they turned to day and turned to stars again.
Is that- Is that really how long this is taking?
The phoenix pulled away at last.
She sat up, less tired than she had been the last time.
Please don’t have been another nine days.
‘Is it over?’
She looked around, and saw the sand talking again. ‘I- I think so,’ she said.
‘Then allow me.’
The ground moved beneath her, forming into a hard surface, a litter of sorts, which ran her across towards the sun.
The desert was dry and bright and-
-suddenly air conditioned.
The phoenix shrieked in surprise, but she held it, and cooed at it, trying to calm herself as much as the bird.
Why is the desert air-conditioned? Why is the-
She looked around the white room-
The Lost, stupid.
Don’t call me stupid…
‘Stef?’
‘Dad!’ the word came from her so easily as Ryan wrapped a blanket around her shoulders.
He held her, careful to avoid the phoenix, and she let herself breathe easily for a moment, before she pulled her hand away, noticing that she had smeared mirror over his sleeve.
‘I’m- I’m gonna need your jacket,’ she said. ‘And- And that shouldn’t have been the first thing I said. And how long has it been. And are all the humans dead. And-’
‘Three days,’ he said. ‘And everyone is still safe.’
He pulled off his jacket and wrapped it around her naked, burnt shoulders. ‘Home?’ she asked. ‘Is home ok?’
He gave her a small smile. ‘Well, you do like causing property damage.’ She opened her mouth to protest, but he shushed her. ‘A couple of floors were burnt, nothing we couldn’t repair, nothing we couldn’t replace, and no one was hurt.’
She looked around. ‘And-’
He gave her a small nod. ‘He’s right there,’ he said, looking towards the door.
‘Hey, newbie.’
She felt the edges of the egg begin to form under the phoenix. ‘Can we put little red somewhere?’
Ryan nodded, and lifted her and the phoenix from the floor.
The Lost building was surprisingly Agency-ish, at least what she could see of it – plain walls, comforting, recycled-air smell. Safe. Normal.
She was safe. The phoenix was safe. Home was safe. Ryan was safe. Curt was safe.
She took in a deep breath, feeling the odd feeling of her lungs having far too much room to move. Mirror. Mirror gone. So much of it gone.
So much of her gone.
I’m still here, right?
Yeah, Spyder, you are?
I don’t feel like I’m-
Ryan gently put her down. ‘Can I take it?’ he asked.
She forced herself to blink and look down. The crown of the egg had begun to form, still see-through and barely tangible, but there. ‘Yeah, okies,’ she said, and lifted tired arms towards them.
Ryan took the egg and placed it on a small pedestal.
‘No tank,’ she whispered. I’m too tired to hurt more. ‘Just- Burn cream. Morphine. Something.’
She tilted sideways, her head touching the cool wall beside her.
She didn’t fight as sleep came.