Bring Him Home

From the Story Arc: Hope is the Thing With Feathers

Previous Story in the Arc: Here With Me by Victoria Victrix (Monday, January 12, 2009)

(posted Monday, January 12, 2009)

Vickie had followed Bella onto the roof, wrapped in the cloak of a borrowed stealth device. Her motives were as muddled as her emotions, but mostly—mostly she needed, desperately needed, to tell someone the secret she had been harboring for three weeks. She needed someone to share it, someone who would feel as she felt, who would try and comfort her—trying was enough right now, it truly was. She hadn’t wanted to burden Bella with this too, but who else could she turn to? Where else could she go? They were all the oldest friends in RPC, they had weathered changes and tragedies that would have turned other people, who didn’t have what they shared, crazy. Or would have driven them to run, like so many had run, far from this city, abandoning responsibility and spandex together until their names became nothing more than some roadblock that kept another fresh-faced kid from getting the name he really wanted and forced him into some baroque spelling.

But when she heard Bella singing out her sorrow, she knew that she could not lay yet another burden on her old friend. And yet—how ironic was the sung plea to Whatever might be listening!

Bring him home—

Stifling a sob, she stumbled back down the staircase and back into HQ. With a muffled curse she flung the stealth-generator against the wall, where it shattered. Like Bella’s life. Like John’s.

Like hers.

Were they all cursed, this circle of friends, to have love and then lose it? What sadistic hand was writing this saga? First Bella, losing Zach. Then John.

Now her.

She should have guessed something bigger than normal was up by how attentive Red had been during their little “honeymoon.” Oh, she knew something was going on—Red had been doing a lot of Portal work lately, and it had been serious stuff, she could tell by the way he acted when he came home. It was, she suspected, the real cause of that fight they’d had the day he turned around and asked her and her folks to meet him at City Hall to get married. He’d slipped up one day and dropped the name of Tina MacIntyre as the person who was facilitating this, and she should have guessed that something odd was going on, because Tina was an odd little duck, with a very peculiar position at Portal Corps and it seemed, a finger in every pie out there. But she hadn’t thought anything of it.

Not until the week of honeymoon was over—and Red went out to do another one of those special jobs—and didn’t come back. That was just before the explosion at Portal Corps and the Murdock clan—well, she actually hadn’t worried, because he was only a day or so overdue and that happened now and then. And getting Sera and the kids back was so much more urgent. If anything, she was grateful it hadn’t been him caught in that tragedy; one less loved one to worry about.

But then one day turned into three, and three into a week—and she went to Portal Corps to demand the coordinates of the world he’d been sent to, only to be told there was no record of him being there.

If Johnny hadn’t already been tearing the place a new one in his frantic search for his family, she’d have been holding knives to throats. But he was, and she didn’t. Instead, she spent every waking second that she wasn’t tracking down the Murdocks—or trying to—tracing leads and coming up against nothing. Nothing at AoC. Ranc out of communication too. Portal Corps hacked into and a gig of secret files uncovered that gave her nothing. Magical traces dead-ending at Portal Corps, at the base of Portal Two, Building C.

This was the man she loved more than life, and not even that could power the magic enough to find him. And there was no mystical connection between them as there was between Johnny and Sera; nothing more to follow.

And every day that passed, every sleepless night, she had to look, act…normal. He hadn’t wanted her to talk about this. There must have been a reason.

Finally she remembered that tiny little hint, and went back to Portal Corps a week ago. She’d cornered Tina MacIntyre in her office, and something in her eyes must have scared the crap out of the woman, because, although she never raised her voice or uttered a threat, MacIntyre had spilled the beans.

Red and some others—MacIntyre wouldn’t say who—were doing under-the-table Portal hops. MacIntyre was putting them through, off the books. Her orders were to destroy the coordinates and all records as soon as the hop was made. This had been going on for months, and since they always came back—

Except this time, they hadn’t.

Vickie walked out into King’s Row, face tightly under control. But the thugs that accosted her, thinking that, dressed as she was in her civvies she was an easy target, found themselves waking up in the Zig with every bone in their bodies broken and half-healed again, and a dim memory of a walking rock pounding the hell out of them.

Red—Red—where are you?

She trudged up the twenty flights of stairs instead of flying to the balcony or taking the elevator. She unlocked the door of an achingly empty apartment, to find Grey sitting glumly next to the combination comm-set and telephone. Her familiar shook his head at her look.

Red—

She sat down beside the phone and stared at it. She wanted to cry. She wanted to scream. She wanted someone to hold her and tell her—tell her lies, tell her that he’d be coming home, tell her—

In a way, they were both cops, and she was the daughter of cops, the wife of one. She knew the danger. She knew the risks. So did he. It was the tacit agreement between the two of them that neither would ever ask the other to stop. No matter what.

< Hey, sweetie. > Grey shoved his furry body between her face and the phone. < I’m here. It’ll be okay. Right? He’ll be back. They can’t take him down. Besides, I need someone here to trip when he gets up at night looking for a beer. >

She grabbed Grey and buried her face in his fur, and sobbed, only vaguely aware of his soothing voice in her mind. < That’s right. Let it out. I’m here. >

Zach. Johnny. And now Red. Shattered hearts and shattered dreams. All she could think of was the refrain of Bella’s song.

Bring him home,
Bring him home,
Bring him home—