Bearer Of Bad News

From the Story Arc: Phoenyx Ascendant

Previous Story in the Arc: Season of Snow Pt 4 by John Murdock (Monday, January 23, 2006)

Next Story in the Arc: Bearer Of Bad News Pt 2 by Seraphic Flame (Friday, February 03, 2006)

(posted Friday, January 27, 2006)


There had been some interesting developments with being able to put "MD" after her name...like Thanh Ha putting Bella in charge--completely in charge--of certain patients. Her friends, mostly. And Saviour, of course, though so far as Bella was concerned, Sovie was still Primary Care there. But--Sera. And Johnny.

I so am not looking forward to the day I have to--ah no. There are some things man--or woman--was not meant to know. Besides, he's a ball of energy. If anything starts to go wrong, he'll feel it and fix it.

But Sera, now...Sera was a normal metahuman. So Bella went over her file carefully. There was one prescription. Only one. Which was going to need renewing soon, and yet Sera had said nothing.

Hmm.

Bella went back to Johnny's files. Not the "Blaze Phoenyx" files. The older ones. From--before. Because, well, she was proactive. Better to stop a problem than have to fix one later. Time for some serious research. And time to order some really fancy tests....

OK...time to call Jungle Grown Ethical Coffee and tell them I'll do the shoot. This could be expensive. Wonder if I can get them to do a joint shoot with GammaBars?




After a hard, hard day of patrolling--the new stuff, the big stuff, the PI stuff and Portal mishes--the opportunity to talk to Johnny came within a day of her getting the test results back. She got a private comm call just as she hit Talos Island

"I've got something to show you," John said, with a peculiarly sheepish tone to his voice. "Meet me at the tram?"

Since she was practically at the tram, that was a no-brainer. "Sure will, Johnny; at the Talos tram now."

He couldn't have been far, she saw him soaring over her head in the next moment as she stood on the platform in front of the station. "Whatcha got?"

Whatever it was, he was looking around as if he didn't want any eavesdroppers. "Evenin'!" he said, "Let's get somewhere a bit higher."

That suited her just fine. Rooftops--they were her playground. "Lead on," she told him, and he picked one of the highest, right above the Talos station.

"Alright, now," he said, still not landing. "You've gotta promise not to laugh. Dig?"

Peculiar. She nodded. "OK, I promise."

He looked around again, as if making sure they were alone. "Alright. I'll be right back."

She didn't have to wait long. But if she hadn't known the figure clad in light blue and white spandex was John Murdock...she would never, ever have guessed. A more effective "disguise" could not have been imagined. Not even the signature scarf over the bottom half of his face gave him away. She stared. In no way was she tempted to laugh. The startlement was too great.

"Oh....migod," she finally got out. "John Murdock in a supersuit."

John clearly wasn't as amused with his new 'look'. "Been hangin' out with some of the more 'active' members of the Peacebringer Army. Apparently," he sighed, looking like even talking about it was painful, "this goofy ass get-up is the uniform. Or at least what passes as a uniform."

She had to admit...damn, of all the people she'd seen in spandex...hmm, he was one of the easiest on the eyes. She couldn't help it, the song just burst out of her.

"There he was just a walkin down the street singin' do-wah-diddy-diddy dum diddy doom, Snappin' his fingers and shufflin' his feet, singin' do-wah-diddy-diddy dum diddy doom."

He was looking distinctly uncomfortable, and when she went into a kind of dance routine, he flushed. "He looked good! Looked good! He looked fine, looked fine! He looked good he looked fine, and I nearly lost my mind!"

"Ugh. Lemme go change out've this zoot-suit." John's eyes lit with Kheldian energy as he began to hover off of the roof.

She stopped singing and grinned. "You look good. You do. I'm serious here."

"Despite how I look, I feel like somethin' out've a B cape flick."

"I mean, damn, Johnny, you got the ummmm physique for it," she said, with a little flutter of her eyelashes.

He scoffed, waving off her faux school-girl antics. I just knew that this would happen. Must be a glutton for punishment.

"Shoot, if I wasn't seriously taken......" she grinned. "And if Flame wouldn't turn me into a charcoal briquette....so do like the Warshades have a uniform?"

He rotated in the air to face her. If there was any subject that would get John talking, it was Kheldians. "Far as I can tell, naw. While there's enough of 'em to make a presence, they're a relatively new addition to the Peacebringer Army. Sash that you see Moonfire an' Sunstorm wear is the one commonality between both factions, however." John had forgone donning a sash; he figured he looked goofy enough in a skin-tight blue and white suit. Who was going to try and make him, besides?

This was all news to her. "There some kind of team colors or something, or is it design and you pick your own colors?"

"Basic design 'ere, plus yer own color scheme. Be glad I didn't pick indigo and periwinkle."

Well...there was not going to be a better time or place... "Um, Johnny? I have something kind of serious to ask you about."

"Yeah? Can I at least change into some decent clothes, first?" He pulled at the collar of the body suit, wondering how anyone could actually breathe in one of these things, much less save people.

She grinned. "But we match! But sure, if you're uncomfortable."

John growled his displeasure at the prospect of spending another moment dressed as he was. "Fine, fine. I'll make a spectacle out've myself for a bit longer." He landed on the roof a few feet in front of Bella, his fists on his hips. He looked for all the world like the petulant child that hadn't been given exactly what he wanted. This only lasted a moment, until he saw the concern in Bella's face. "So, y'need to ask me somethin'?" His voice had sobered up; it wasn't often that Bella came to him with problems. The situation was usually reversed.

She took a deep breath and came straight to the point. "What's this Sera mentioned, about you two starting your own family, as in, her popping out a kid? Is this just pie in the sky, is this something your MD should know about?"

"Well, wouldn't quite put it that indelicately. But, y'know, it's an idea we've been toyin' with." He was caught off guard by the topic of Sera and him starting a family together, but tried not to show it too much.

Now the big question. "Is it possible? I mean, she's a "normal" metahuman but you're---well---a ball of energy."

"Don't quite know, myself. And my own situation is a little more complicated than that."

She nodded. "OK, shoot."

He sighed, looking for a way to word it properly. "I'm still human---or at least part of me is." He pulled his scarf down, trying to get as comfortable as possible. "How do I put this? Alright, let's say a piece of cake is a human bein', right?"

Again she nodded. "OK."

"A cup of coffee is a Kheldian, or in my case the pure essence of a Kheldian."

She had to smile at his analogy. "OK, you're making me hungry now."

"Dunk the cake in the coffee, and pull it out. Cake's soaked up the coffee; neither are separate from the other."

Interesting. "Gotcha."

He spread his hands, explanation finished. "That's my situation, as I've worked it out. I'm human...but more than human, too."

"OK," she said. "Sooooo, when Mommy and Daddy love each other very much......? This still holds?"

"I should think so. Hell, I hope so." John scratched his head. He'd never heard of any Peacebringers actually having children. Most of them were far too driven and oriented on their war with all things Nictus to settle down and raise a family, or so it had seemed to him.

"I know Sera assumes it does.....since I'm now in charge of her prescriptions." she paused significantly. "And there is but one....."

She raised an eyebrow. He couldn't not know that she meant The Pill.

John sat down on the roof, pulling his knees up to his chest. "Hell, you're tryin' your best 'ere to make me blush, ain't ya?" He'd never really been one to be shy about such things, especially when he was still enlisted. But with Sera...well, suffice to say that she made the world different for him.

She shrugged. "I'm just doing what your family doc would do, seeing as I am her now. Because....there is something you need to consider."

"Ne're anything simple, is there? Not for the likes of us, at least." He raked his fingers through his hair, growing more weary with each new turn in this conversation. If it wasn't one thing, it was something else. And almost never for the good. Grin and bear it. What else can you do?

Cut to the chase. There was no need to beat around the bush with Johnny; besides, the best way to deliver bad news was fast. Completely sober now, she took a deep breath. "The mutation that gave you your powers and almost killed you is hereditary. More than that.....it's dominant. It's on both pairs of the chromosome too."

John looked Bella directly in her eyes. His face was a mask; she noticed that the color had drained from it, and his eyes were cold and hard. "You're certain? There's no doubt?"

She nodded. "Which means son OR daughter, the kid will have it. All your kids will have it. No doubt at all."

"So, if Flame an' I were to have kids, any at all...they'd all of 'em have what I had?"

"Yes, they would," she said, watching his face. "If they came into their powers, if they used their powers, their powers would do to them what they did to you."

Death. Horrible, agonizing, slow death.

John shook his head, his gaze drifting past Bella. "It only took about 6 years before I..." His voice trailed off as his mind started racing through all of the ghastly possibilities that seemed to be unfolding.

"Don't panic," she said quickly. "And don't give up. There is a simple solution to this. I've been talking to Moonfire a lot--"

His attention snapped back to her at the mention of Moonfire. "Bella..." Before she had even spoken, he knew what she was going to suggest. And he knew that he'd never allow it.

She stopped, and waited.

"Y'ain't thinkin' what you're thinking. There has to be something else." There wasn't any room for compromise in his voice. A Kheldian fusion was a beautiful thing, even though it often occurred in times of great stress. But, for his child to become fused...he would need another miracle. He couldn't imagine what cost it might come to, nor putting either of them through the pain the first had involved.

She made a placating motion with her hands, sensing the echo of the old pain of the horrible days that had followed the 'death' and 'resurrection' of her friend. Of course. He knew what Sera had gone through now. None better, except, perhaps, she herself. "Johnny, your fusion was botched from the get-go. They just don't happen that---badly. Ever. Except for you, and only the Infinite knows why."

Home World...the thought of him still brought her close to tears. He had promised to bring a friend of his to create a normal fusion. But the friend had gone mad, and in the process of taking him down, Home World had been terribly injured. So badly he wanted to pass on. And perhaps that was the key; something had been ruined inside him that made even the donation of his essence into a poison pill. "Moonfire told me something I never knew before. There are thousands of Peacebringers on this planet, most of them not fused. They are just very shy of "offering" because they see it as.....well....being parasitical in a sense. So they wait for an emergency, a life-threatening situation, before stepping in."

He nodded, agreeing. "Most of 'em only try an' fuse when they're grievously injured, or when they find someone else close to dyin'."

She sighed. "If we had known this from the beginning, your fusion would have gone a lot smoother. You will have the time, with any children, for Kheld and child to get to know each other, for years. To become friends. Given that Sera's telempathy also seems gene-linked, probably even to share thoughts."

"There's somethin' else though, Bella." he said, shaking his head. "Happens with every regular fusion. Y'see, my own situation was extremely unique; unheard of in Kheldian circles."

She nodded, uncertain of what was to come.

"My Kheldian...the essence that Home World imparted to me...it was only the energy pattern, only the essence. In regular fusions, the knowledge and personality of the Kheldian in question are also joined with the host." There was an element of pain in his voice when he spoke. He felt no small amount of sadness, same as Bella, when thinking about Home World. "If my children were to fuse, they wouldn't be my children anymore. They wouldn't be the Kheldian, either. They'd be a completely new individual, drawin' on the experiences and identity of both participants."

Moonfire came to mind almost immediately. There was very little there that rang "human-true" about her, from the faintly echoing voice, to the androgynous nature of the Peacebringer. Bella winced a little. Still--

"I'm only the same, dense, lovable Johnny Murdock because of the circumstances of my fusion. Sunstorm an' Moonfire aren't just superhero names; they're individuals, new individuals borne from the personalities of the host and Kheldian that fused together."

She hesitated. "Moonfire......Moonfire tells me that isn't always true. In fact.....she tells me that when both are healthy---which is rare---it becomes two souls in one body. Like having a twin, sort of. So....the kids would still be your kids...."

She took another deep breath. "Another option....Home World is by no means the only Kheld that was willing to pass on, but leave his essence. And now that we've learned from....well....the mistakes with you....Moonfire thinks we could make it work."

The problem was....it wasn't certain. And there was no way they were going to get a second miracle.

John rested his chin on his knees, his eyes fixed on his feet. "I hear what you're sayin', Bella, but I just don't know." Everything about this felt...wrong. Hadn't they gone through enough? Didn't they deserve to have children together, to find their own happiness in the world? How much more pain could they take in? John had grown very close to Ratt and Shuma in the short time they'd been members of the same family, but...there was still that instinctual urge, that parental need to have his own biological children. With Sera.

She felt helpless now. Absolutely helpless. God, how she hated it. "Well, it's not my call. I'm only your doc. That's for you and Sera to decide." Funny, in a not ha-ha way...it was something she had thought about for herself, too. Kremlin Gremlin, the guy Zach called his "twin brother," had teased her about it. "What color does green and blue make? Teal? You be making little teal babies?" She didn't even know if it was possible for her. Most metahumans had trouble even having relationships, given the "job." The ones that did, seemed to have trouble conceiving actually. So many mutations, so many of them incompatible. Especially the ones involving rad-throwers. But--yeah, she'd thought about it. Enough that she understood.

He looked up to meet her gaze. "You're the best saw-bones---the best friend---Sera and I could ask for, Bella. I really appreciate y'going to all of this trouble, findin' all've this out."

She blushed and shrugged. "Some docs are reactive. I'm proactive. And besides, you two are my best friends."

John stood up slowly, as if all that they had talked about was weighing him down. "I need a drink," he said, ruffling his hair.

There was another option....but not a good one. Still. "Johnny.......you really want to be a father, don't you?"

"Of course I do. If Flame wants to as well, then I surely hope we get to have kids together. I just...I don't want to disadvantage 'em, y'know?"

She rubbed her temple. She knew, knew how much Sera wanted to have kids. Not just any kids. His kids. She knew it better than Sera did herself, actually. Because it had never yet occurred to Sera that they couldn't. Or shouldn't. "Oh damn, Johnny."

"Damnit. I hate it that my children might have to suffer 'cause of me." It was unbearable for him to ponder what his children would have to endure simply for being born to him and Sera. "Normal" hero families still had plenty more than the average family on their plate, but this was a cut above. A deep cut.

She sighed. "I looked into gene therapy....." She looked down. Because this was the option that really was no option at all. Not by her way of thinking.

He had an idea of where she was going with this, and didn't like it already. Still, he was lost at sea; anything he could latch onto was a boon. "But, it's something brand new. Mutations like this aren't somethin' that anyone has any experience with."

"How bad would it be if your kids were only normal?......because that's the only option gene therapy allows."

"Whaddya mean?"

She looked up, her mouth twisted in an expression of bitterness. "You'd get to be raising Mommy and Daddy's little hostage. For the rest of their lives they would be your Achilles heel. And......you'll outlive them, both of you. Probably by fifty years, minimum."

The choice that was no choice. How could these two raise unpowered children? And how would the children feel, knowing they could have had powers, if only--

She'd seen the longing on the faces of "normal" kids when she'd done PR crap for GammaBars. And those kids had ordinary parents. What would it be like to watch Mom and Dad fly off every day to save the world, and then take your lunch to school to learn to be an accountant?

"Y'know...I just don't know, Bella. I don't want to do anything, anything, that would put my children at a disadvantage. But, any which way I look, I'm stuck. Either Sera an' I have our child together, and essentially destine 'em for hero-work and a fusion..." And all of the troubles associated with both. "Or we rob 'em of any choice themselves, taking away their abilities before they're even born. I really, really need to talk with Sera long an' hard 'bout this." He wasn't prepared to give in; it wasn't his way. But things didn't look all that promising, and he didn't relish the thought of breaking all of this to Sera.

Now she wanted to cry. He looked so--crushed. "All I can do is give you information and support, Johnny. But I think it is better you knew about this before anything got....well....set in stone."

She did not want to think about what this would have done to them if she'd learned about it only after Sera was pregnant.

"Bella, you've already taken on and done more'n Sera an' I could ever ask y'to. You don't know how much that means to both of us." Which probably wasn't quite true; Bella and Sera were two of the strongest empaths anyone in the RPC knew. That, and they both were close friends to begin with.

She smiled wanly. "But Johnny.....that's what I do. It's what I am."

"Doesn't matter if it's your job, Bella. What matters is your willingness to take care of everythin' y'have. That's what we appreciate."

Finally something she could really smile about. "That's just it. That's what I am. It's like breathing, cause I love you guys." And if it had been in her power to make this right by donating a limb, she'd have done it, there and then, "OK I put more than enough on your plate. None of this has happened yet and you have time of your own to talk to Khelds, to fusions to----well, whatever." She bit her lip, reminded herself that leaking tears wasn't going to help, and went on. "I'm just.....sorry to be the bearer of bad news."

And with that, she did what she'd wanted to since this conversation started. She hugged him, putting every bit of reassurance she could into it. John forced a grin unto his face, despite the fact he felt nothing like grinning; rather like the bottom of his world had begin to crumble from under his feet.

"Ain't bad news, not yet. We'll work somethin' out, kiddo." Which was true; if Sera had taught him anything, it was that there's always hope. Still, his own words did very, very little to comfort him.

If anyone could pull a rabbit out of a hat...it was Johnny Murdock, "Well...it could have been timed a lot worse." She checked her comm; it was getting late, and she still had another place to be tonight. "You better go. I'm going to go say goodbye to Zach at the airport."

He happy for the change in subject; you can only bear talking about heartbreak so much. "Oh? Where's he off to? 'nother Washington meetin', or what?"

She made a face. "Ever and always, the Washington meetings never end. You all ought to be damn grateful to him. The crap he tells me about that didn’t get passed because he was there..." Zach Marlowe, no longer just the lobbyist for the CCCP, now the advocate for every metahuman in the US...someone had to do it. He had the charm, the looks, all the things that made him a good model, too. And ethics. And morals. And he cared. He had passion, and he made people feel that passion. He was no more a funny face and a bag of jokes than KC was.

"Hey, y'know that all of our jibes and jabs are thinly veiled compliments and platitudes, all showered down around his head." John had always joshed with Zach, and the "Green Menace" had always been quick to give as good as he got. Still, he could see Bella's point.

Oh, she knew that. Johnny might not know what Zach had been doing, but he always respected Zach, gave him credit for the brains he most certainly did have. "I wish he got a little more respect. God knows he deserves it. The latest monster was the "Mandatory Mutant Registration Act." They wanted to ID chip-implant every mutant in the US." At birth, no less. On the grounds that they "might" go bad. Like normals didn't? It was akin to criminalizing people based on skin color. "Profiling", Round Two. "Scanners on every street-corner..." Welcome, 1984 "Tracking every move..."

"Y'know, I don't see why some of these politicians keep pushin' all've these draconian bills. With all of the public opinion in the green for capes, it's like they want to commit career-suicide." John shook his head. Some folks can't help but bash their heads into walls.

She spread her hands. "Well that's the sort of thing he's keeping off our backs. And he never tells anyone. Never gets any credit. Makes me cross."

"Zach's not the sort to brag, at least not seriously. He's a good man, and humble." Which he was. All the hall marks of a good leader. Which he also was.

She frowned into the distance. Where Zach was concerned....she was as protective as...as...as Saviour. The kitten became a lioness.... "I just wish people realized," she half whispered.

The alarm on her comm sounded, warning her that she had just enough time to fly to the airport. "Well, I have to go" she said, and smiled. "You scoot along. Go do some good."

John smirked, allowing his essence to redirect itself, lifting him off of the roof. "Go get 'im, kiddo. I'll see y'round." As he was turning to go, he looked over his shoulder. "And Bella?"

She paused, just short of takeoff. "Yeah?"

He turned and poked the tip of her nose with a gloved finger. "Thanks for everything."

She wrinkled her nose at him "Get. Or I'll tell Sera you were flirting."

"Ha!" He kicked off from the roof, gliding past the edge of the building. Off to fight for another day. And to figure out how to break everything he had learned to his wife.

It was going to be a bad day to be a bad guy.