Note: My first and probably last Mortal Kombat fic, written because I was inspired by the Scorpion and Mileena "I Hate Teddies" level from the challenge tower in MK9. Timeline wise, probably takes place between MK3 and MK4, but all in all I have no idea because Mortal Kombat canon confuses the hell out of me. (And yes I know, Scorpion doesn't have his swords during that time, but he's a major bamf with his MK9 render so I included them here.)
Enjoy, and reviews are love!
Passing Fancy ch.1
Shao Kahn stroked his chin and hummed thoughtfully to himself.
His throne had become his thinking chair for the time being and he sat in a deep, meditative stupor, his fingers drumming against his knee. Across from him, Shang Tsung stood attentively, trying not to squirm.
"I have an issue," the emperor finally said.
Shang Tsung managed a smile. "Yes?"
He had every right to be fearful. With plans to invade Earthrealm in the near future, the emperor was under a fair amount of stress and it had become a common occurrence for him to relieve tension by decapitating a sentry or two. Shang Tsung spared a surreptitious glance at the window, preparing to dive out of it if he had to.
"As you probably know," Shao Kahn continued, "between gathering Outworld's forces and negotiating with the Shokan, I'm a little pressed for time."
"And do you know what I like during such stressful times?"
Shang Tsung swallowed. "What, my lord?"
"Food," he said bluntly. "And lots of it. Now ask me what my problem is."
Somewhat reassured that he had nothing to do with this, Shang Tsung straightened and put on a concerned expression. "What is the problem?"
Shao Kahn's eyes narrowed. "This."
He reached behind his chair and tossed something at the sorcerer's feet. Shang Tsung grimaced as blood splattered his new robes and the disembowelled body of Shao Kahn's favourite chef rolled over his feet.
Toeing the corpse away from him, he looked questioningly at the emperor as the man released a long-suffering sigh and rubbed his temples.
"The problem, sorcerer, is Mileena."
Shit, Shang Tsung thought grimly. So this did involve him, after all.
"Forgive me for my impudence, but I thought her homicidal tendencies were something you preferred?"
"Yes, of course," Shao Kahn said in exasperation. "But not when it involves my personal chefs. She's gotten more out of control than ever. She attacks without provocation and is moody all the time. It's getting difficult to organize talks with the Shokan when my daughter keeps decapitating their couriers."
Shang Tsung stroked his beard. "I can see why that might be a problem."
"Fix her," Shao Kahn ordered. "A little self-restraint won't hurt. And do something about those damn mood swings of hers." He grudgingly rubbed a telltale bite mark on his left hand.
"Yes, my lord," Shang Tsung said with caution. "But as you know, her mind is still juvenile and her Tarkata physiology makes it difficult to—"
"I don't care. Figure something out."
Shao Kahn glanced at his wall calendar. "I have a meeting with Scorpion in three days. It's important that I get him to ally with us, so Mileena cannot jeopardize this. Consider that your deadline."
Shang Tsung bowed. "As you wish."
Mileena scowled around at her surroundings, aiming a powerful glare in Shang Tsung's direction as he prepped his surgery tools next to her. She was secured to an operating table, arms and legs bound by thick chains, and the corpse dangling overhead kept dripping blood onto her forehead. Oh, how she hated the goddamn Flesh Pits.
"When this is over," she hissed, "I'm going to rip out your tongue and eat it."
"I'm sure you will," Shang Tsung said dismissively.
"Why are you doing this?" she demanded, struggling against her bonds again.
"Your father is fed up with your bad behaviour. As for me..." the sorcerer picked up a rusty, medieval-looking tool and waved his hand at it. The blade began glowing an unholy green. "I'm going to go poking around your pituitary gland."
"But why?" she said, growing fearful as he began lowering the blade to her head. "What are you going to do?"
"Don't worry," he said, his voice growing distant as he waved his glowing hand over her face. "It's just a procedure to help hasten your pass from the horrors of childhood into the wonderful world of young adulthood."
"What the hell are you blathering about, sorcerer?"
"I'm going to remove a piece of your brain and hope for the best. Now shut up."
She was out before she had the chance to reply.
When she came to, it felt as though she'd spent the last twenty-four hours ramming her head repeatedly into the wall. A tentative move of her arms found her bonds undone, and after falling off the surgical table and vomiting a few times, Mileena managed to climb to her feet and stood, swaying.
Funny, she thought to herself. Besides a particularly vicious urge to murder Shang Tsung, she didn't feel all that different.
Shaking her head and moaning at the pain it caused, she gripped her temple and staggered out of the Flesh Pits.
Disoriented and blinded by the mother of all migraines, she felt her way through the hallways, somehow stumbling upon her father's throne room.
"Ah, there she is," the bastard sorcerer said, his voice ramming into her skull like a sledgehammer. "How are you feeling, Mileena?"
She gurgled something incomprehensible and staggered towards him, arms outstretched to wring his wormy little neck. Fortunately for him, her stomach chose to turn on her again and sent a projectile stream of vomit splattering onto his shoes.
Shang Tsung recoiled in disgust and Shao Kahn nodded thoughtfully to himself. "Seems like an improvement so far. For a moment there it seemed like she wanted to throttle you."
"Yes," Shang Tsung muttered, staring at his ruined shoes. "What a wonderful turn of events."
Shao Kahn stroked his chin. "My meeting with Scorpion will be a good test to see if your treatment has worked." He turned to his daughter. "Why don't you go rest, Mileena? I will summon you in two days' time."
Annoyed but somewhat vindicated by throwing up on Shang Tsung, Mileena nodded slightly in assent. She spat once more at the sorcerer's feet before hobbling off to her room.
Two days later.
The servants fell over each other trying to escape the second floor when Mileena finally emerged from her room. The pain of her recovery had driven her more insane than usual and several of the maids had lost their heads when they'd tried delivering her food.
She was feeling considerably better now, though, and decided to go have a bath to scrub the post-surgery blood from her hair.
There was no tenderness in her scalp when she washed it, not even when she'd poured soap onto it. Hesitant to believe the damage had healed so fast, she went to check in the mirror, only to have it shatter in her face.
Growling in irritation, she replaced her veil and found a different mirror. To her surprise, her scalp and forehead were completely unmarred, giving no hint of recent brain surgery.
She had to hand it to him, Mileena admitted grudgingly. The sorcerer knew his stuff.
"But still," she huffed while getting dressed. "I don't feel any different...maybe I should tell father he planted traitorous thoughts in my head...ha ha, the lynching would be glorious."
She was still giggling to herself and imagining Shang Tsung's grisly execution when she skipped down the stairs and strolled into her father's throne room.
The meeting was already underway. The regular Outworld grunts trying to curry her father's favour were in attendance, along with Kitana and Shang Tsung. She squinted when she noticed one more person standing in the middle of the room, his back turned to her.
He looked vaguely familiar, as if she'd seen him in passing some time before.
Curious, she stepped further into the room, cocking her head at him.
Besides the impressive armour and the two swords strapped to his back, there was something else in his demeanour that set him apart from the rest. His stance was confident, almost defiant where everyone else stood cowering before her father, and his arms were tense by his sides as if he was just waiting for an opportunity to ram someone's nose into their brain.
Mileena took another step closer, transfixed.
She felt strange and tingly. There was an unfamiliar sensation in her chest, almost as though her heart was doing somersaults. It worsened the more she stared at him, but at the same time she found herself powerless to look away.
Before she could figure out what the hell was wrong with her, one of the guards entered the room to deliver a message. It was then he finally turned around.
The room seemed to dim around him in that moment, her breath catching in her throat at the dazzling, slow-motion turn of his head. The candlelight gleamed over his armour, highlighting every dip and curve of his powerful arms, illuminating those glowing hell spawn eyes as they looked in her direction. An effervescent rain of pure life force flew off his muscular frame, catching the light and making him look absolutely godly.
At second glance, she would've realized it was only raining outside and he'd just come inside, but it was far too late for rational thinking.
She stared, enraptured by this specimen of utter perfection standing across the room. When their eyes finally met, Mileena felt her stomach drop and knees go weak.
Scorpion sort of just glared at her before turning his attention to the sentry behind him.
The debriefing may have lasted five seconds or five hours, she had no idea. All Mileena could think and register in those whirlwind minutes were three words:
Must. Have. Him.
Him. Must. Have.
Have. Him. Must.
Perhaps possessing normal mental faculties would have made clear that what she was experiencing was a vicious onslaught of hormonal infatuation, but the Tarkata in her destroyed the possibility of such sophistic interpretations.
The sentry left and Scorpion turned back to face her father. She was suddenly overcome with the desire to touch him, unsure whether it was out of wanting to eat or kill or maim him. It didn't really matter, though, because she completely lost herself to the urge and started sprinting across the room.
It was so sudden that neither Kitana, Shao Kahn, Shang Tsung nor Scorpion saw it coming. It was only when she lunged onto him from behind and ensnared him with her arms and legs did he manage to react, and as well as any other man confronted with the sensation of a half-naked woman jumping onto his back.
He put her through a table.
Namely, Shao Kahn's dining table, flipping her over his head and slamming her back-first through the wood. The table snapped clean in half, filling the room with the din of shattering dinnerware and splintering wood as she was buried by yards of table cloth and food.
Kitana stared in shock. Shao Kahn, looking slightly annoyed, glared over at Shang Tsung.
The sorcerer bit the inside of his mouth. "I'm working on it, emperor."
After the visitors had departed and Mileena had dressed the wounds she'd sustained from being thrown through the table, she lay in bed thinking.
It was probably a good thing, she concluded, that they'd blamed her assault on Scorpion on yet another one of her fits. At least that way it gave her time to figure out just what had come over her.
It was perplexing beyond belief, especially since she now realized she'd seen him several times before. He was known as Scorpion, a warrior of the extinct Shirai Ryu clan. And from what she'd gathered, he'd escaped the Netherrealm as a wraith and was now allying himself with her father.
That was as far as she could get in her thinking before that weird flippy sensation in her chest came back and she melted into a puddle of goo. Oddly enough, she was starting to find that she liked it.
Closing her eyes, she took a deep breath and released it in a slow, dreamy sigh.
She'd gotten a heady dose of his smell in that too-short moment where she'd clung to him and it had left her punch drunk ever since. He smelled like a village freshly burned to the ground, with notes of choking ash and heated stone—an appropriate combination considering how intensely warm he'd felt against her.
Another sigh escaped her and she wrapped her arms around herself.
She didn't want to eat him; that much she'd figured out. She didn't really feel like killing or maiming him, either. As far as she could tell, this was just an uncontrollable desire to see and be near him, and the thought of doing both was making her incredibly giddy.
"Huh, so much for thinking about it," she snorted, rolling out of bed and stretching her limbs.
When it boiled down to it, the simple and straightforward method suited Mileena best.
She decided she was going to stalk him.
Scorpion left Shao Kahn's palace in a meditative mood.
Save for the unexpected assault from the emperor's crazed daughter near the end, the meeting had gone smoothly enough.
Shao Kahn had offered him a spot in his army, a request he would've denied if his answer didn't entail him getting booted back into the Netherrealm.
But the offer was tempting enough, he contemplated, trudging through the woods. So long as he served the emperor, he'd be able to stay on Earth.
And since nobody was crazy enough to ask Scorpion what he did in his downtime, he was pretty much left alone after his business with Shao Kahn to think over his decision. Between the time he spent being in hell, training, and recuperating, he reserved the little free time he had for intensive brooding, usually somewhere far away and isolated.
This time he came upon the razed remains of a temple. The dismal state of it and bleak atmosphere made it a prime spot for thinking about his next move. Just as he was about to settle down, he remembered that there was a small, pesky problem that needed taking care of, first.
Annoyed, he paused by one of the temple's remaining support structures and waited.
Several meters away, Mileena stealthily crept after him. The rain had softened the earth underfoot, rendering her steps soundless as she followed him out into the woods. She watched him fixedly, taken with his purposeful strides and the way he simply burned through the foliage that stood in his way.
She was half-afraid her pounding heart would give her away, but he continued through his path in the forest until he came upon a decimated temple. She tip-toed behind one of the burned out posts a few yards away, leaning her back against it.
When she felt it was safe to look, she turned slightly and peeked around the edge.
There was nobody there.
She cursed, about to double back when she heard the air implode behind her. Gasping, she tried to jump out of range, only to freeze in place when a shadow fell over her and the point of Scorpion's sword dug into her throat.
Looking up at him, she shrugged her shoulders and managed a cheeky laugh. "You caught me."
The look on his face would've made any lesser warrior wet their pants.
"What do you want?"
His voice was throaty, grating and rough. It thrilled her to the core.
Mileena took a moment to assess the situation, somewhat overwhelmed by having him so close to her. Using the extremely limited amount of leeway her position granted her, she arranged herself into something more relaxed and inviting.
"I didn't get a chance to introduce myself back there," she said coyly. "I'm Mileena."
He didn't lower the sword.
"I know who you are."
Her heart leapt in her chest. "You...you do?"
He glared. "You attacked me."
"Oh, that!" she broke into a maniacal fit of giggles. "I wasn't attacking you..."
She looked up at him through her lashes and raised a finger, suggestively running it down the length of the blade. "I was just saying hello."
To her surprise, he dropped the sword, only to replace it with his hand when his fingers closed around her throat.
In hindsight, being hoisted two feet off the ground and having a flaming hand pointed at her face probably meant it was time to cut her losses and move on. But that was hindsight and right now she was too busy ogling that ridiculously amazing physique from her vantage point.
"I'll spare you this time, if only to honour my allegiance with Shao Kahn," Scorpion warned, completely oblivious. "Follow me again and I'll send you to the Netherrealm."
"Will you be there, too?" Mileena croaked.
He dropped her unceremoniously to the ground and left without deigning her with a response.
Mileena returned home confused and frustrated. Normally it didn't take much more than a suggestive look and a sultry voice to have men falling at her feet, but for the first time, her advances had been rejected.
But then again, those men were two-bit losers spawned in Outworld. This would take more than just her usual efforts. She realized she needed to present him with some sort of token to win his affection.
Tarkatans presented each other with the heads of their enemies to find mates, but Scorpion had originally been human and Earthrealm customs were completely alien to her. In the end, there was only one person she knew who could possibly have answers.
"You want to do what?" Shang Tsung said blankly.
Mileena glared at him. "I want to learn about Earthrealm courtship rituals."
The sorcerer regarded her silently for a few seconds. Previously, he'd assumed his experimental surgery had failed considering the way she'd assaulted Scorpion, but the strangeness of her sudden request was making him reconsider.
He tapped his chin. "Have you felt any...different since the procedure?"
Mileena hesitated, quite sure she didn't want to divulge such personal feelings to a creepy old man like Shang Tsung.
"No," she snapped instead. "Just answer me."
"Hn," Shang Tsung muttered. He made a mental note to keep her under observation and directed her to the trove of Earthrealm materials in the palace's storage room. Centuries of tournaments had allowed the sorcerer to amass a sizable collection of human artefacts, originally intended for research experiments. Most of the items proved useless, however, and now lay dusty and forgotten.
Mileena squinted in the haze of dust and cobwebs when she opened the storage room door, finding the contents strewn around in disarray. She decided to start her search at the left side and work her way across the room, and she spent the next several hours combing through mundane items like books, shaving cream, toothbrushes, clothing, and gaming devices. By the end, she'd lost all patience and vented her frustration by kicking over a bookcase.
The furniture fell to the floor with a satisfying crash, spilling its contents everywhere. Huffing, Mileena turned to leave the room, only to stop midway when she stepped on something.
Feeling it crack underfoot, she knelt and picked up the object.
It was a shattered picture frame, containing a photograph of a little girl receiving some sort of toy from an adult outside the picture. The toy looked kind of like an animal, with two arms, two legs and buttons for eyes. Mileena growled in annoyance, about to toss the frame aside when something in the photo caught her attention.
Rather than the peculiar brown object in the little girl's hands, it was the child's expression of pure joy that held her gaze. She didn't have to think twice to realize the kid's happiness was coming from receiving that weird thing.
Suddenly feeling hopeful, she strode out of the room and back to the Flesh Pits.
Shang Tsung looked up from where he was dissecting a half-dead prisoner, blinking when Mileena thrust the picture under his nose.
"What is this thing she's holding?" she demanded.
The sorcerer pursed his lips, wondering what kind of damage he'd done to Mileena's already damaged brain.
"In Earthrealm, it's called a teddy bear."
"What does it do?"
"It doesn't do anything."
"Then why is she so happy?"
"Humans exchange these as gifts," Shang Tsung replied with superiority. "The trade of these tokens create alliances."
Mileena cocked her head at him. "Are they used for courtships?"
"But of course," he said, having no idea what he was talking about. "Much like Tarkatan traditions."
The sorcerer was slightly taken aback by the elated spark that lit up Mileena's eyes, but before he could ask, she'd already disappeared up the stairs.
When she reached her bedroom, Mileena smashed the remainder of the frame and carefully drew the photo from its confines.
In the light, she was pleased to see that the teddy bear was shown in crisp detail, giving her an idea of its texture and material. The stitching around its body revealed that it was made out of cloth and the way it contorted under the girl's grip meant it was stuffed with something soft.
Like the taxidermy bodies in father's trophy room, she concluded with glee.
The construction looked simple enough. All she needed now were the materials.
With that, she left the picture and stormed the tailor's quarters, ransacking his supplies and killing random passersby that got in her way.
Five minutes later, she burst back into her room and shut the door. Then she dumped the materials onto her bedspread and grinned down at the meter of brown flannel, thread, scissors, and buttons.
Ha. How hard could this be?
Three weeks later.
"Would you happen to know why your sister hasn't been taking dinner for the last three weeks?"
Kitana lowered her knife and fork, meeting her father's questioning gaze. It was no secret that she made it a point to avoid her psychotic sister at all costs, but saying so in front of her father probably wasn't the best idea.
"I do not," Kitana replied, feigning confusion. "Is she unwell?"
Shao Kahn opened his mouth to reply, only to have his voice drowned out by a high-pitched scream of rage from the second floor. The scream was followed by the sounds of breaking furniture and muffled shrieks from the servants.
"She seems healthy enough," he continued after the noise faded. "But she's been spending an unusually long time in her room. I will consult Shang Tsung on the matter, but in the mean time, I want you to check up on her."
Kitana nearly spat out her food but managed to contain herself. Swallowing hard, she murmured "yes, father" before finishing her meal.
By the time she was done and made her way to the second floor, the furious screaming had faded and the hallway was silent. Just to be safe, she'd brought along her weapons as she cautiously approached her sister's bedroom door.
She stood outside it for several minutes, listening for any sounds from within. When no noise was forthcoming, she took a breath to steel herself and raised her hand to knock.
The door opened almost instantly, revealing a suspicious-looking Mileena peering up at her through the crack.
"What do you want?" she snapped.
Kitana dropped her arm and stood her ground, making it a point to show that she wasn't intimidated. At the same time, she tried glancing into the room to see what her sister had been up to, only to have Mileena step outside and close the door behind her.
"So nosy," she scolded mockingly, waving a finger in front of her face. "Nosy girls lose their noses."
"Father sent me to check on you," Kitana said, already tired of dealing with her crazy sister. "He asks why you haven't been eating."
Mileena snorted. "I've been busy."
"That's none of your business, princess."
Kitana resisted rolling her eyes and glanced down instead, only to still at the sight of Mileena's hands; her fingers were bloody and wrapped in strips of cloth.
"What happened there?" Kitana questioned as Mileena tried to hide her hands behind her back.
"You ask too many questions," she snarled. "Go away."
Giving up, Kitana stepped away from the door and started down the hall. "Fine. But be ready to come down tomorrow. Father is meeting with the Shokan prince and wants you in attendance."
Kitana blinked and slowed to a stop, glancing over her shoulder.
Mileena's eyes were wide and—hopeful?
"Who else will be there?"
"I'm not certain," Kitana said. "Perhaps Baraka to represent the Tarkatans and Scorpion from the Netherrealm."
Kitana was taken aback when Mileena visibly reacted with a jerk upon hearing the two names. Before she could ask, her sister had seized her wrist and was dragging her into her room.
"What are you doing?" Kitana demanded, reaching for her fan. "Let go of me or—"
"Shut up!" Mileena hissed in a whisper, pulling her inside and slamming the door. "There's something I need to ask you."
That statement alone, along with the realization that she was seeing Mileena's room for the first time was enough to make her fall silent. Curious, she glanced around the quarters as the other girl cleared her bed for space and gathered what looked like sewing materials into a bag.
The room was devoid of personal touches, marred by dents and tears wherever she looked. The only thing remaining on the wall was the shattered remains of a mirror. Save for a wardrobe and bed, the room was empty.
Bewildered, Kitana took a seat on the edge of the bed, sliding farther away when Mileena threw herself on top of the mattress and pinned her with a hawkish look.
"Tell me everything you know about him."
Kitana raised an eyebrow. "Who?"
To her surprise, Mileena's sharp gaze took on an unfocused, dreamy look and she clasped her hands over her heart.
"The wraith from the Netherrealm."
Kitana stared at her, confounded. The fact that they were having the closest thing they'd ever had to a civilized conversation, along with Mileena's lovesick expression, made her wonder what the hell Shang Tsung had done to her brain.
"You mean Scorpion?" she asked. "Why?"
Mileena didn't answer and didn't have to. The way she curled into herself and sighed yearningly was answer enough.
Kitana's jaw dropped.
"You fancy Scorpion?" she said incredulously. "Are you mad?"
The latter question seemed entirely unnecessary. Mileena was too far gone to take notice, her huge mouth stretching into a wan smile beneath the veil.
"We're destined to be together," she declared, clutching a shredded pillow to her chest. "I'll have him soon enough."
"But why him?" Kitana said, aghast.
Mileena sneered. "Are you blind? Didn't you see how brutally he put me through the table? He's magnificent."
Kitana was at a loss for words as her sister continued a senseless string of accolades for the ninja. Despite their less than loving relationship, she couldn't help but feel a twinge of concern over how far Mileena was taking this obsession. Part of her felt compelled to steer the naive girl away from the path she was taking, because it didn't take a genius to realize that her feelings would forever remain unrequited.
Plus a heartbroken Mileena was not a prospect she ever wanted to entertain.
Kitana returned her attention to the other girl, trying to figure out how she'd go about dissuading her—hopefully without being attacked.
"And he has this incredible smell," Mileena prattled on. "He smells like...like..."
"A crematorium?" Kitana said flatly.
"Mileena," she started, choosing her words carefully. "Scorpion isn't the right person for you."
Mileena turned slit eyes in her direction, a dangerous look furrowing her brow. "Why not?"
"Because he's...well, dead."
"So? He walks and talks, doesn't he?"
"It's the principle of the matter. He's a spectre from the Netherrealm. A wraith. He's incapable of returning your affections."
"Hmph. Says you."
Kitana rubbed her forehead and tried a different approach.
"You ask me what I know, so I will tell you. He was once a married man."
Mileena gasped sharply and sat up. "He was?"
Kitana held her breath, about to congratulate herself on what looked like a breakthrough, only to deflate when Mileena broke into hyena-like cackles of glee.
"That means his wife is dead! How fantastic!"
Kitana looked at her helplessly, trying to think of other reasons to convince her, but Mileena was suddenly clambering off the bed and reaching for the bag she'd stuffed in the wardrobe. There was no stopping her now; the look in her eyes meant she was on a volatile streak of manic energy. Anyone who got in her way was asking for disembowelment.
She watched, apprehensive, as Mileena dug through the bag's contents and gingerly withdrew a strange object.
"After I give him this," Mileena said triumphantly, "he's all mine."
"What is it?" Kitana wondered, cocking her head at the strange looking object. It looked like a small brown animal.
"Ha. Foolish sister. This is called a teddy bear. In Earthrealm, humans exchange it in courtship." She looked it over in elation. "It's almost finished!"
Kitana was astounded. "You mean you made this?"
Mileena didn't answer, too busy with cutting away a few stray threads that hung from the bear's limbs. Kitana caught sight of her bandaged fingers again and suddenly understood.
Amazing as it was to see that Shang Tsung's surgery had been a success, it was even more so to see her normally destructive sister create something with her own two hands. And with so much care and dedication...
Kitana lowered her eyes, disconcerted by the sudden well of pity rising inside of her. The emotion was fleeting, though, because Mileena flopped down onto her back and clutched the bear to her chest.
"I will give him this fluffy creature and he will take me as his bride." She turned the bear around so it was facing her and moved its arms about, her voice singsong. "Then we'll slay all those who stand in our way! Isn't that right, teddy bear?"
The Edenian princess watched resignedly, the verve slipping out of her. This could not end well.
Mileena embraced the bear once more and sighed, blissfully closing her eyes.
"Mmm, the things I'm going to do to him..."
Kitana could only stare at her, suddenly sorry for Scorpion and frightened by the thought of what X-rated fantasies were going through her sister's mind.
Somewhere on a remote cliff thirty miles away, Scorpion was jarred from his meditation by the unsettling sensation of a shiver running down his spine.