Wed, 5 Jul 2000
Rose Colored Glasses [Hawskmoor/Engineer, R]

Standard disclaimers apply. Characters belong to DC/Wildstorm and are used without permission for entertainment purposes only.

See Author's Note at the end for comments. Rated R for language and mild sexuals situations. Feedback is appreciated at

Rose Colored Glasses

DuAnn Cowart


The dream started out as it always did. He was five years old again, a little boy in Superman pajamas enraptured by the sound of his mother's voice as she recited the familiar words of his favorite bedtime story. He curled underneath soft blankets and yawned as her gentle voice and the late hour lulled him to sleep.

In his mind she finished the story, closing the book to lay it on his night stand beside the red model plane his father was painstakingly helping him build. Long blonde hair obscured her face as she leaned over to tuck him into bed, kissing him lightly on the cheek.

"Sweet dreams, Jackie," she murmured, switching off the lamp beside the bed so that the room was dark save for slits of city streetlight streaming in through drawn window blinds.

"G'night, Mama," his childish voice answered sleepily, and he clutched his stuffed toy dog to his chest, snuggling deeper into the warm covers.

In the dream, his mother stood by his bed a moment while he settled, brushing locks of curly black hair off his forehead with soft, gentle fingers. When he was still, she turned to walk away, cherry red skirt swirling around her knees. She then stood silhouetted in the doorway, watching him sleep, expression hidden by shadows.

He couldn't see his mother's face. He'd relived this night a thousand times in his dreams, but he never saw her face.

The man Jack Hawksmoor mumbled uneasily in his sleep as he relived the night his childhood ended. Pink tinged hazy memories crystallized into sharp focus as the peace of the dream was shattered when cold strong hands wrenched him out of bed, clasping his mouth shut to silence his screams as a child-sized gas mask descended over his face, foul-smelling vapors sending him spinning into a blind stupor.

The dream shifted then, as it always did, to the alien ship. His sleeping mind was deafened by the pulse of his heart pounding in his thin chest, blinded by the scorching scarlet lights of the ship. He struggled to escape, thin chest rising and falling in terror as he panted for air, struggling helplessly against vivid red restraints that bound him tightly to the cold carbuncle table.

Dark shadows fell across his pale form, and he recoiled in utter terror, shuddering with disgust as bilious crimson alien hands trailed over his innocent skin, examining him with a detached curiosity he could sense even through his fear. With their fingers and their machines they cataloged his young body, probing, burning, mapping out their plans for his future on the as yet unmarked surface of his skin.

They left him alone for a moment, and he had almost convinced himself that this was just a dream within a dream when they returned with razor sharp instruments designed for no human hand. He gagged as slick fingers hooked his mouth open and snaked a tube down his throat, carelessly scraping his insides. Inhuman shapes attached shining hooks and wires to his shivering body, impassively watching as the small boy fought helplessly against tight red leather restraints.

The boy's bright blue eyes opened wide as he stared up at the disjointed creature looming above him and for an instant revulsion overrode his fear, crawling along his skin as red-tinged blackness claimed him again. The last thing he felt before losing consciousness was the sharp pressure of their first incision piercing his skin, and he squeezed his eyes tightly shut, certain he would never awaken. Then their work began in earnest, and the sounds of his screams would fill the next fifteen years of his life.

The man woke up abruptly, garnet eyes glowing like embers against an ashen face as right light became blue and the tortured child of his dreams reluctantly gave way to the battle tested leader of the Authority. Careful not to wake his bedmate, Jack Hawksmoor sat up and looked around the room, desperately trying to banish the memories of the repeated abductions that had branded his soul every bit as much as their experiments had altered his body. He swallowed tightly, mouth tasting of bile and death.

He was alive. It was a dream. He was a grown man, safe and secure in his bed, and no matter what the faint voice told him, he was not going to die.

Warm blue otherdimensional light streamed into the room, casting flickering shadows on his scarred chest, bathing the room in iridescent aquamarine light. Burrowing back into the covers, Hawksmoor turned uneasily, strangely muscled forearm snaking out to draw the woman beside him closer. She sleepily complied, instinctively nestling against him, molding herself to his warm body. He buried his face in the curve of her neck, savoring the warm clean smell of her, the sheer physicality of her presence beside him.

"Jack?" Angela Spica murmured drowsily, arching her neck at his touch. A slender arm stretched over her head to run a hand through his sweat-slickened hair. "Where were you? I got cold for a minute there."

"You're always cold," he mumbled into her hair, taking her in his arms. Her cool bare skin was like water, like a balm, like shelter from the storm and he wanted to bury himself in it, in her, forever.

"Good thing I have you around to keep me warm, then, isn't it?" She wriggled her body sinuously against his. Eyes still closed tightly against the iridescent light, she ran a light hand down his chest, smiling as his unusual physiology stirred at her touch.

He made a small sound in the back of his throat. "I was wrong," he whispered hoarsely, pressing his lips against her cool skin, allowing the soft feel of her flesh to chase away the nightmare images of his past. "You're the warmest woman I've ever met."

Angie smiled at that, flipping on her side to face him. "Flattery will get you everywhere, Mr. Hawksmoor," she teased, tilting her face up to his to kiss him fiercely. "Now are you all talk, or are you going to do something abou-"

She broke off, profoundly disturbed by the what she saw on his expression. The lines on his face, deep for a man still young, were more pronounced than usual and there were lingering traces of unmistakable fear in his red rimmed eyes.

"Jack?" She trailed worried fingertips across his cheek, over his lips, across closed eyelids. "What happened? What's wrong?"

He lifted his face to her touch. "I'm fine, Angie." He attempted a tight smile, but it didn't reach his eyes. "Nothing's wrong. Go back to sleep."

"Bullshit," she noted archly, pressing her cheek against his flat stomach, listening to the erratic beat of his heart pounding so low in his chest. She whispered, voice so soft and quiet that it was barely audible. "You had another dream, didn't you?"

He stiffened, and tense muscles flinched. "Yeah," he answered bleakly, staring out at the undulating blue light outside the shiftship they now called home. "I did."

"You know you can tell me about it," she pulled closer to him, but in sharp contrast to their earlier connection this time there was nothing sexual in the movement, no intended eroticism in her touch. She simply held him, assuring him of her presence and anchoring him to reality by the sheer feel of her body pressed tightly against his. "You can tell me anything."

He swallowed, words catching in his throat, and one square hand cradled the back of her head gently. "I . . . know. And I will one day, I promise, just. . . not tonight."

She sat up, dark hair spilling over her shoulders and onto his chest. "Jack-" she began, then halted herself with some effort. "All right," her lips thinned, but she attempted a forced smile. "We decided when we started this thing that we wouldn't ask for more than we could give. I'll respect that."

Red eyes met green in the quiet of the night, and the silence between them grew thick with unspoken words.

He was the first to look away. "I think it's gone a bit beyond that now, don't you?" The words were casual, but there was uncertainty in his gravelly voice, a stark vulnerability and depth of feeling that he rarely let show. They were both quiet a moment, silent echoes of words left unsaid still lingering in the air.

"Yeah," she whispered, eyes glinting in the otherworldly light. She blinked, then quickly laid her head on his chest again so that he couldn't see her face. "I really do."

He wrapped a protective arm around her shoulders, resting his chin on the top of her head. "Good," he said mildly, hiding his relief at her reaction. Thinking back later, he would wonder what if that was what made him say the next words. "So if there's something you want to say to me, say it."

She released a breath she hadn't realized she was holding in check. There was an undercurrent of sharpness in her laughter. "I don't think you really want to hear what I have to say right now."

"When has that ever stopped you before?" he asked wryly, a bit of his usual humor seeping back into his dry tone.

He felt rather than saw her answering smile. She ran tickling fingers down his side. "Smartass, I was just going to say that I've tried to be a little more considerate since you stopped being my teammate and started being my lover."

"I'm still your teammate." Large hands stroked her hair, and he allowed himself a small smile. "And your lover. And I seem to recall you telling me lots of things I didn't want to hear since we've been both."

"Fashion advice doesn't count," she scrambled laughingly away from his grasp, contorting her body to skillfully elude his ensuing swipe. There was release in the levity, and both seized on it, lapsing back into the playfulness with which they were far more comfortable.

"I'll have you know I have *great* taste in clothing," he snorted haughtily. He shifted to sit up in the bed and lean back against the wall, crossing his arms behind his head. Eyes resting on her bright form, he made a gallic shrug and continued in exquisite French. "Paris gives me hell when she hears I've been dressing down."

She arched an eyebrow and responded in the same language, musical language trailing perfectly off her lips. "So I have her to thank for your sartorial sense, do I?"

"Perfect grammar, awful accent," he laughed, and she playfully stuck out her tongue at him, eyes twinkling brightly. "And as for Paris- yeah, she's to blame," he grinned, reverting to English. "Among others."

"I owe her one, then," she fixed him with a sultry half-lidded gaze, then stretched luxuriously, allowing rumpled sheets to fall to her waist as she moved up to face him. Dark hair spilled over her shoulders as she sat bare breasted in the pale blue light, studying him with such a tender expression that he thought for a moment he'd lapsed back into another spectrum of dreams, the ones that had haunted him since the first time he'd seen her.

"You know what that pose does for me," he choked in a strangled tone, one hand raised to lightly stroke her left breast, cupping it in his rough palm. "I'd give you the damn moon if you'd just sit with me like this forever," he murmured reverently, running his thumb over her nipple and staring entranced as the pink circle of flesh tightened under his fingers.

"Been there, done that," a proud smile played on her lips as she arched her back, moaning in pleasure at his touch. She took his free hand, bringing it up to her tilted cheek. "I don't want the moon, though," she breathed, eyes still fixed on his, mirroring the desire she saw there. "I want you to trust me."

"I do," he groaned, hand dropping to lightly rest at the curve of her hip, eyes drinking in the sight of her. Powerful legs curled underneath him and he lifted her into his lap. She looped her arms around his neck and ground her lower body expertly against his, the liquid motion igniting them both. His whisky soaked voice was husky and deep with feeling as he bent his neck and pressed his forehead into the valley between her breasts, feeling her heart pound rapidly underneath the smooth skin. "God help me, I do."

She closed her eyes, rocked by the intensity of the connection between them. It took great effort to remember what she'd intended to say. "Then talk to me, Jack," she finally implored, bending down to cup his face in her hands. Flushed faces only inches apart, she stared into his eyes, pleading "Please. Tell me why you still wake up in the night. Tell me what's wrong."

Spell broken, he tensed, but not with desire. He pulled away from her abruptly. "What do you want me to say?" He sounded stunned, almost betrayed. "Trust me, Angie, you don't want to know."

"What makes you think that?" she sighed, angry with herself for causing him pain but compelled to continue, certain that there was more behind his night terrors than he let on.

He stiffened, spine suddenly ramrod straight, then grabbed her upper arms, strong fingers leaving white indentations in her already pale skin. "Because you're not a monster," he answered flatly, eyes glowing red in the night. "Because when you look out there," he twisted away from her and motioned sharply at the Carrier's round window. "You don't see the dark shadows behind those clouds. All you see is wonder."

"And that's a bad thing?" she rubbed her arms, wincing at the anger and naked pain on his face. She pulled a sheet over her breasts, suddenly achingly aware of the tension between them.

He covered his face with his hands, then looked away. "I don't know," he grated. "I can't answer that." Arms crossed his arms over his chest awkwardly, and in hoarse, strained voice he confessed, "I don't- I barely remember a time without monsters."

Silence reigned as she bit her lip, struggling for words where none could possibly suffice. "There are no monsters here, Jack. There's just you and me."

He was quiet, craggy features absolutely expressionless in the cool blue light. "You really believe that, don't you." It was not a question.

"Of course," she murmured, bare shoulders rising and falling in a small shrug as her orderly mind tried to catalogue his words, find meaning in them. "Don't you?"

She truly meant it. "Come here," he whispered, and she did, leaning into his embrace, wrapping her arms tightly around him. "I don't know if I can explain," he ventured hesitantly, unsure of what to say.

"All I ask is that you try," she responded earnestly, hands skimming over his scarred back, tracing the hard bulges of powerful muscles underneath hot skin. "I'm not trying to be a pushy bitch, Jack, I'm really not, but when I see you hurting like this. . ." She looked away, suddenly uncharacteristically shy. "I just want to help, that's all."

He paused, again running his hand over her silky hair as he struggled to describe shadows to someone never touched by the dark. "I don't know if you'll understand," he finally exhaled. "You've changed so much over the last year, but sometimes I wonder if you really see all the death underneath the glitter yet. I wonder if this is real for you."

"This is as real as it gets, Jack," she corrected him hotly, twisting in his arms to rest the undersides of her forearms on his chest. "Jenny's death proved that. The Authority, you, doing what we can to change the world- you'd damn well better believe it's real to me." She laughed darkly, and an edge of grim certainty crept into her tone. "I don't like what sometimes have to do to make it happen sometimes, but I recognize the necessity of it."

He was quiet a long moment before releasing her to roll on his back, staring intently at the ceiling. "Necessity," he finally choked, spitting out the word as if it stung. "Expediency. We've justified so many things for those reasons. Doesn't there ever come a time when the price just isn't worth it?"

She propped herself up on one elbow to face him, shoving bulky pillows out of the way. "Are you talking about this new direction the team's taking?" She jabbed an incredulous finger at his doorway. "Why don't you go ask some of those refugees out there if they think it's worth it? I know we've had to get our hands dirty to do it, but we're doing the right thing by helping them. I know we are."

His throat rumbled in a low bark of laughter, and he massaged his temple slowly. "My hands have been dirty for a long time. That's only part of it." At her quizzical look, he sighed. "Death, Angie. I know we're only doing what we have to do, but I'm so damn tired of killing, so damn tired of death. It doesn't mean anything anymore. Shouldn't the end of a life *mean* something?" He looked away, but not before she saw his face cloud with a familiar despondency.

Bright eyes widened with epiphany as pieces of the puzzle suddenly joined with unerring certainty "That's what you dream about, isn't it?" She spoke slowly, stunned at the shocking realization. "Death. You dream about death."

He nodded unsteadily, running a trembling hand through receding black hair. "They come back at night." Haunted eyes stared blankly at the floor as images from his tortured childhood flashed through his mind, and his chest rose and fell rapidly as impassioned words spilled forth. "And they bring death with them. In my dreams sometimes I'm living it all over again. Every time, every single fucking time they took me and changed me I thought I was going to die." His voice was hoarse, almost guttural . "I don't know what's worse, fearing it or not."

"But you didn't die." Her voice was husky, immensely shaken by this single glimpse of what he'd endured. She bit her lip and for a moment he saw how deeply his pain had cut to her very core. "Thank God, you survived despite what they did."

Her words fell like blows. "You don't understand," he growled, muscled body taut as a wire. In an anguished voice he cried out "Don't you see? They didn't change me! They *made* me."

Her eyes flashed in anger, and she pounded on the hard mattress with the flat of her palm. "Fuck that!" Her nostrils flared disdainfully, and she made a contemptuous gesture. "They didn't *make* you, Jack. You made *yourself*. I'll be damned if I'll believe that creatures that could do something like that to a child could *make* a man as good as you, and I'll be damned if I'll let you believe it either."

Shoulders slumped, he raised his head, eyes glittering like polished garnets under hooded brows. "Angie- Let me finish. This isn't about the dreams. I won't lie to you and say that they aren't hell; they are." He drew in a deep, shuddering breath, then looked up, eyes focusing on a point just above her right shoulder. "But I've come to terms with it as best I can. The dreams themselves aren't what tear me up anymore."

"What is it, then? Jack, if it's not the dreams, then what's got you so upset?" she blurted, frustrated at his obliqueness and her own inability to understand.

He studied her a long moment, weighing the wisdom of what he'd done by opening this door to his soul. "I wasn't always like this," he began cautiously, hesitant to reveal too much even to her. "Even after they finished with me, made me into this, even after I moved away from people and starting living with the cities I still remembered how awful and how afraid I was, and I couldn't bring myself to kill. I still had nightmares, but before I joined Stormwatch, I couldn't make myself kill even to protect the cities."

"Oh." After a moment's thought, she gently parroted the same words he'd told her a year, an eternity ago, words that had gotten her through many sleepless crises of conscience. "Jack, remember what you told me when I was so confused and scared at first? You said that sometimes we have to kick and scream and fight in order to make a better world."

She looked uncertain for a moment, as if wrestling with a demon long thought banished, then nodded curtly as she made her decision. "We're the Authority. That's what we do. You especially have had to adapt to circumstances, but you've lived through utterly hellish experiences and survived with your soul intact. Nothing anybody can do can change that."

"She did," the words sprang unbidden from his lips, surprising them both. He felt the anger return, fists clenching unconsciously at the remembered feel of a slender neck snapping so easily underneath his clumsy hands, red hair and red leather and red, red blood.

Angie's chin lifted sharply. "Who did? Jenny?" Green eyes narrowed thoughtfully, comprehension dawning. "I know your life was pretty different before you hooked up with her and Shen-"

He shook his head, fists still clenched tightly. "No, not Jenny," he growled, turning away bitterly. Red eyes squeezed tightly shut. "Jenny didn't do this to me. Jenny knew me before, and she respected how Shen and I felt even if she didn't always agree with us. No, Jenny didn't change me."

She ground her teeth, jaw muscles clenched. Biting back impatience, she forced herself to calmly ask "Who are you talking about? If not Jenny, who, and what in the hell does anybody else have to do with changing who you are?"

It was too much for him to bear. He squeezed his eyes shut, desperately searching for words. How did one explain Rose Tattoo to one who'd never known her? How could he possibly describe the woman who reeked of sex and death, the very embodiment of the Spirit of Murder? How could he explain what she'd done to him?

How could he tell her that it was necessity that had caused him to step out of the shadows and reach out from behind to end her existence with in one efficient motion, one single act that had changed his life forever? How could he prove that his fingers had burned when he touched her, how his skin had crawled with a thick energy that seeped into him, tainting his soul with a callous disregard for the life that had been so precious to him?

It hadn't mattered that he'd only killed her to save his friends. All that mattered was that the Spirit of Murder was dead, and he'd killed her, and that single death had tainted his soul. All composure vanished, and he felt a red rage swell deep within him.

"Murder changed me, Angie. Murder made me who I am today," he snarled, hollow words ringing loudly in his sparse room. He sat up and placed his feet squarely on the floor, resting his head in his hands.

Angela Spica was unaccustomed to this feeling of total and utter helplessness. Not a gentle woman by nature, hers was a world of science, of order, and she embraced it with the passion that pushed her beyond the boundaries set for her life. Just over a year ago she'd traded a laboratory for a multiverse and a normal life for a calling that she'd once only dreamed of. Since then she'd fought back aliens and monsters, human dictators and inhuman invaders but somehow none of that had prepared her for the incredible anger she felt at watching her lover castigate himself for something she did not understand.

"And just who *are* you, Jack?" she demanded, atom-sized liquid machinery oozing out of her pores in unconscious response to her distress, coating her in a protective layer of nanite armor. "God of the cities? Leader of the Authority? My lover? Stubborn dumbass who can't understand how damn special he is?" She leapt out of the bed and paced around the room furiously, gesturing wildly with her hands. "You're all of these and more, but you're no fucking murderer."

"I-" he began, but she pivoted to face him, corded hair swinging wildly around her shoulders underneath the elaborate headdress that completed her transformation from Angela to the Engineer.

She stopped about a foot from the bed, silvered finger pointing straight at his chest. "Shut up and listen to me! I see what you're doing here. You're tying yourself up in a neat double-bind, and it's starting to piss me off!" She took a deep breath, then continued angrily, "You do what you have to do because you're a hero, but you won't let yourself believe that you're a hero because you do what you do. It's neat little trap, and I won't let you get away with it!" She glared at him furiously, blue energy glinting off of her mirrored skin, surrounding her in a glowing nimbus of light.

He gazed at her for several long moments. Pale and luminous in the otherworldly light, she returned his frank gaze, lovely face alight with such radiant concern and trust for him that it burned through the lingering miasma of his fear, replacing the darkness with an unfamiliar light. His throat constricted, and he found himself moving towards her.

He stood up and took a few strides, then froze in place, seized by an uncontrollable force as crimson tendrils of fear suddenly blossomed from deep inside him, swirling out from the rotten corner where some part of the essence of murder had taken dormant residence within him two years ago. He'd never heard Rose speak, but her words echoed in his mind, dark and sepulchral as soil from a grave, soft and sweet as a mother's kiss.

Don't do it, a throaty voice he'd never heard taunted.

She won't understand.

She'll hate you.

You'll be alone.

She'll leave.

They always do.

". . . ack? What's wron. . " Angie's worried voice cut through the seductive tones like static, ". . .not funny. . .. .ammit, you're fucking scaring m-"

He couldn't hear her, gripped in the thrall of the lingering whispers of the Spirit of Murder. His dreams, now illuminated in the red glow of Rose's touch, had always carried with them the stench of death, but Rose. . .

". . . ou're having some kind of seizure . . .ammit, Jack, you bastard, come back to m. . ."

.. . . had simply taken the ample seeds of pain and fertilized them with her own essence, twisting his terror into apathy and numbing him to the point where brutality in pursuit of a higher goal was the norm. It. . .

". . .about to try something, Jack, stay wit. . ."

.. . . would be so easy to take just that next step and embrace the kill, revel in it as Rose had. It would mean no more dreams of fear, no more sleepless nights wondering about the morality of the decisions he'd made, the lives affected by his actions. It . . .

". . . open a Door to New York, see if that wil. . ."

.. . . would also be the last thing on earth the man Jack Hawksmoor would ever do. Angie was right- like the rest of them, he'd had to grow and change in order to work for the greater good, and that had meant using more force than he'd ever previously imagined possible.

He'd used Rose's taint to that end, he knew, allowed it to numb him so that he could do what had to be done. What the Authority did was good, and necessary, even if unpleasant. Even so, he was not now, nor would he ever be, the kind of psychotic monster who could cast away his humanity at the bequest of a dead woman, no matter how insidious or powerful she was, no matter how much she wanted him to see the world through her eyes.

". . .old on, Jack, almost read. . ."

Rose spoke again, soft as silk, jagged as razor blades, a third voice curling through his mind more urgently than before, purring an earthy, suggestive counterpart to Angie's agitated concern and his own deep introspection

Leave your team.

Come with me.

You'll never know such pleasure.

I'll show you so much pain.

Face contorting in a grimace, he braced his feet and turned himself inward. Directing all of his energies on the ephemeral monster inside, he focused all the rage and frustration, all the horror and revulsion and anger endured in a lifetime of violation and pain into one single, shining word of pure defiance.

NEVER, he cried, and the red mist dissipated to ashes in the heat of his fury.

Whether against Rose, or against the aliens who'd tortured him, or against his own inner fears, he'd never know, but at that moment Jack Hawksmoor chose life over death, expunging the taint in his soul. He wouldn't give into it this easily. He might have to kill in order to save the world, but he would never give himself over to murder. He had too much to fight for, too much to live for. The Authority, his cities, Angie-

His eyes snapped open to strong metal hands on his shoulders pushing him towards a crackling square of golden energy. "Wait!" he yelled in a rusty voice, twisting away from her with legs almost too weak to stand. Ignoring Angie's stunned expression, he stepped away from the undulating energy portal and rasped, "Carrier! Close Door! Now!"

The shiftship obediently complied, folding the glittering square of light in on itself until there was nothing left between them but crisp blue light.

Angie leapt to his side, helping him move unsteadily to the edge of the bed. She sat down beside him, frantic questions bubbled off her lips. "What the hell just happened there, Jack? Are we under attack? I tried everything I could think of, but you wouldn't respond! I was going to sent you to New York, see if the City could connect to you and jolt you out of whatever had you. Are you all right? You scared the shit out of me!"

He didn't answer, searching inside himself for a darkness that was no longer there. After a long moment he looked up at her, seeing his own reflection in her mirrored skin, and exhaled, body slumping in release. "I had a bad dream,"he whispered, a broad smile playing on his lips. "Can I tell you about it?"

"You'd damn well better," she scowled, alarmed by the events of the night, still unconvinced of his well being but willing to stand by him while he recovered from whatever force had seized him. She consciously pulled the liquid machinery back into her skin, baring herself to him completely. "I'm listening, and I'm here as long as you need me." She paus, warning "But I'm a scientist, not a poet, Jack. Shoot straight with me this time."

"I will," he murmured, taking her hand in his, drawing strength from her cool touch. And he did.

They lay back in the bed and, emboldened by her presence, he told her about his dreams, about Rose, about the death that had haunted him. She listened, increasingly amazed at the hidden depths of the man beside her, what he'd endured and become in spite of it, and then quietly told him of her own doubts and fears, letting his strength rescue her as much as she had him. Arms wrapped around each other, they talked long into the night, sharing their hopes, their fears, their concerns about dangers of the Authority's new path and the sacrifices that had to be made for it.

Words eventually failed, and they were silent, absorbing the revelations of the night. After a while she moved atop him, hands playing over his body, meeting his eyes in a silent invitation that showed him the depths of her acceptance and need in a way that mere words could not. His body reacted to her touch and he nodded soundlessly, circling her waist with his hands, raising his hands to her breasts. She shifted, and he groaned as he entered her, their bodies joining together and moving in a timeless rhythm towards a blinding crescendo of release, a blazing affirmation of life over death that left them both gasping for breath.

When it was over, she turned to face him, limbs intertwined in tangled sheets. "I'm here," she whispered, lips brushing his ear. "And I'm so glad you told me."

He touched her cheek lightly and met her gaze, acknowledging in himself both the strength to do what he had to do and the purity to not be destroyed by it. He was who he was, and he would bear his scars, but for now there were no monsters left to haunt him, no demons to prevent him from becoming all that he could. There was only him, and her, and the quiet of the night. "So am I," he closed his eyes, mind and body utterly at rest. "I'm not fooling myself into thinking it's over, but at least now you know."

"You should have told me a long time ago." Yawning, she curled next to him, one arm splayed over his chest as she shared his warmth, linking his body to hers. "Think you'll be all right?"

He opened his eyes sleepily and stroked her rumpled dark hair, taking her in his arms. "Yes," he murmured. "I do," then closed his eyes and fell into a deep, dreamless sleep underneath the clean blue light of the stars.

When morning came, she was still beside him, and there was no hint of red in the otherdimensional sky.

Stormwatch and Authority readers have long noted the abrupt change in Jack's personality from the former book to the latter. I very much wish I could take credit for this explanation as to why Jack changed so abruptly from a man who so despised killing and death to his current blood and guts incarnation, but I cannot.

Someone else originated the idea that Jack, by killing the Spirit of Murder, was himself tainted by it. Perhaps I saw it on a messageboard or during a discussion- I simply don't remember or I would give credit where it's due.