The plague is spreading.

Marcus Brown stared at the butterfly perched on his finger, watching as it opened and closed its wings, snap snap snap like a schoolbook. Not that his youth had many books. But that was worlds and names ago, and he put it behind him to contemplate the problem at hand.

The plague was spreading. If he needed proof, all he had to do was look at the butterfly.

He brushed its delicate antennae with one callused finger. Snap, snap, snap went its wings. Then his hand closed around it, crumpling it like a first-draft love letter. He squeezed as hard as he could, with the strength that could hold a firehose steady in a Chicago windstorm, and then opened his hand to look at the mess.

For a moment, there was nothing, just a smear of orange and black around crushed bug guts. Then a leg twitched. Another. And four more, and the twisted wings unfurled themselves. Snap, snap, snap.

“Does it have a name?” Donna asked, casual in her Chicago PD sweats and one of his old t-shirts.

“Nah, it’s just a butterfly. It’s not sentient or anything.” He shrugged, returning the butterfly to its screen-topped jar.

“And yet.”

“And yet, yeah.” He scowled ferociously at the jar and its contents.

“You’ll fix it,” she said serenely, turning back to her report on the shootings over the weekend. Normally gang violence wasn’t assigned to the Joint Interagency Task Force on Esoteric Crimes (“We gotta do something about the acronym,” Donna had smirked, showing off her promotion papers) but of course when the victims don’t die like decent folk ought to… probably not linked to activities of Omni Enterprises, although this officer observed Omni personnel near the incident scene… he read over her shoulder. He guessed that was accurate, although he could think of two or three immortals in Angus’ employ, besides the man himself and the man’s extremely problematic ex-wife.

Not that Sarah was Marcus’ problem. Not that any of it was, or should have been. He was just an observer, and his responsibilities were limited to making sure that fires in District 5 were extinguished.

Except.

Except the Goblin Queen was back, somewhere in the Crimea. Except that the fox insisted that stagnation would drag this world to ruin as surely as if his defenses fell and let the Enemy in. Except Donna was here, and he was sure he hadn’t brought so much as an echo of her to this time and place.

Except Anna kept looking at him out of Holly’s eyes, trusting the man who was no longer her father to do the right thing.

Hind’s blood, mistletoe. Of course, there were no hinds left, he’d made damn sure of that. And plain mistletoe wouldn’t work, it had to grow on Yggdrasil. Maybe the answer wasn’t to cure immortality. But he’d never anticipated it would spread like this. He tapped the butterfly’s jar idly.

“Natalie called,” Donna said later, waking him out of his uncomfortable reverie. Coffee steamed in the thick white mug in her hands. “Said she found it. Whatever that means? She’ll be over in fifteen minutes.”

“Don’t ask, don’t tell,” he grinned up at her, kissing her fingertips and stealing a sip of hot black coffee.

“Oy! Get your own!” She made no move to reclaim the cup, just kissed the top of his head on her way back to the table. He rubbed at the spot absently, wondering if he was balding already.

Natalie, nervous, gave him a paper bag at the door and left without coming in. He didn’t think she knew she was scrubbing her hand against her skirt. She was alternately apologetic and arrogant, and he wondered if he’d ever been that young and full of himself. He must have been. She was, after all, the next him.

The little dagger that he hadn’t made was exactly as he remembered it, utilitarian hilt and stained blade. He stared at it for a long time, then unscrewed the lid of the jar.

“Sorry about the furniture, hon,” he said as the butterfly landed. Donna looked up in time to watch the ruin of their kitchen table as he brought the knife down between the creature’s delicate wings.

It fluttered for a moment, magnificent in its struggle, then wilted and lay still. He left it all night, but it was just as dead when he turned on the kitchen light in the morning as when he had impaled it.

___________

Trying something a little different this week- I miss playing in this universe, and the speakeasy prompt was such a good fit for Mariposa.

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