Tea for Three

From the Story Arc: Red Lion, White Phoenyx

Previous Story in the Arc: Ghosts from the Past by Seraphic Flame (Tuesday, June 13, 2006)

Next Story in the Arc: Wings (Duplicate Post) by Seraphic Flame (Thursday, December 07, 2006)

(posted Monday, June 26, 2006)

Sera knew the moment John was released by the Portal techs, knew when he crossed the tunnel into Skyway, knew the exact moment he left the tram station in Atlas Park and felt his nearing presence as he raced to their building. Too impatient for elevators or stairs, she knew he was going to make for the balcony, and excused herself to fling open the old-fashioned french doors just in time for him to shoot through in Mefnanim form, like a shining comet. With a boom, he reverted to his human form, and paused only long enough for a quick kiss and a mental caress before facing their visitor, who had stood up at his entrance.

The two men simply stood there looking at each other for several long moments. Sera could sense John tensing, a chorus of emotions flashing both through him and the man claiming to be his friend.

Sera sensed his tension, his uncertainty, the fear he tried--without success--to keep from her.

John brushed his cape behind him, removing his leather gloves as he took stilted steps towards Chris. Inches apart, he studied the other man's face for a instant before speaking. "So...I see that you're still dressin' to impress."

"You don't clean up so bad yourself, chump." Both men lurched forward as if to strike each other---

"JOHN!" Sera started forward--intending to interpose herself. "John--no---"

But in the time it took her to draw her next breath she felt what he was going to do...and began to laugh. Both men roughly embraced each other, slapping each other on the back and talking simultaneously. Sera had only seen John smile so broadly on a few occasions, and his grin was reflected by their visitor. This continued for several minutes until they were both red in their cheeks and breathing a little hard.

John was the first to speak again, throwing an arm around Chris' shoulder as he turned to face Sera. "Love, I'd like y'to meet a good friend've mine. Well, he ain't so good, but that doesn't matter." Chris retaliated with a quick jab to John's ribs. "Let's get something to drink, and head on in to the garden."





"So, wait---" Chris paused, taking a sip of his mug of herbal tea---a staple of a visit to the Murdock residence, it seemed. "You guys have five kids?"

Sera laughed. "Two adopted. I am not THAT prolific." Then she blushed.

He shook his head, looking from John to Sera. "I have no clue how you guys managed it, but more joy to you. Came from a big family myself, and I can attest to my mother's sainthood for putting up with the rest of us." He shook his head in amazement. "Five...well, when will I get to meet everyone? I need to make sure that they're actually human. No offense to you, ma'am," he inclined his head towards Sera, "But seeing the stock that Johnny here is, I need to make sure they don't have gills."

John chuckled, waving a hand dismissively at Chris. "They're all good kids, Ratt and Shuma too. In fact, Shuma lives right across the hall." He reached into his vest pocket, pulling out the CCCP-issue PDA. "She's on patrol right now, but I'm sure her an' the rest of 'em would love to meetcha."

"DADDY!"

A white ball of energy zapped across the room and coalesced into Astra just before hitting John. "Daddy! I got a Void Hunter! All by myself!"

John gestured for Astra to sit with the three of them, glancing to Chris. "Speaking of the little devils, I'd like you to meet our daughter, Astra." Chris set down his tea mug, standing to greet the young Peacebringer.

"Pleasure to meet you, ma'am." He nodded, extending his hand.

Astra stepped back a pace and blushed, looking at the newcomer---who she hadn't noticed before she came barreling in---through her lashes, shyly. "Sorry I came in like that, sir. I'm not usually so rude."

"Quite alright, miss. I've had to endure worse. My name's Chris, by the by." He settled back down, taking his tea in hand.

John chose the moment of silence to chime in. "You said y'got a Void all on yer own, kiddo? That's great," he sounded fairly surprised, with no small amount of pride in his voice as well. "Where's your brother, though? We asked y'all to try an' stick together as much as possible."

She beamed. Literally. She was so happy at her achievement that she glowed with Kheldian energy. "Aedan was up ahead of me and I found this guy lurking. You know those caves. He never saw me and he never laid a beam on me!"

Her father nodded his approval, raising his glass. "Good, very good in fact. Still, your mother an' I want you an' your brothers to be careful out there. Really. Anyways, come sit with us, dear. Me and Chris here are friends from...well, from way back. We're just catchin' up on some things." John took a swig from his drink, leaning back against the tree behind him and Sera.

Astra settled in between her mother and father, watching the newcomer with avid curiosity.

"Chris and your father were soldiers together, love," Sera said, squeezing her husband's free hand. "Of course, I have no idea how they met--not yet anyway." It seemed a safe enough place to go for now, with Astra there. Save the dark places for when it was only the three of them.

"First met your old man when we were being carted out to our test site for admittance to Delta." A small grin spread over Chris' lips. "40 mile land navigation course. All of us that had made it that far were pretty much career-types, and thought we were hard. After passing---hell, after surviving---that trek, only a few of us made muster. Your dad was the only one from the truck we rode in together, aside from myself, to pass."

"Y'know, I still can remember exactly how much that damned rucksack weighted," John leaned in conspiratorially, half-whispering to Sera and Astra. "Too damned heavy."

Astra made a face. "OK. This is all guy bonding stuff. Can I be excused to read a book?"

"Of course. Off with ya, kiddo. Patrols startin' one rotation earlier tomorrow, so get some sleep." John and Sera both hugged Astra before she went off to her and Aedan's adjoining rooms.

"I think we can probably expect Aedan any--" Sera began, when a young voice from the entry bellowed. "I'm home! What's t'eat?"

"Aedan, there wasn't anything edible when you left this morning." A slightly deeper voice replied before either Sera or John could respond. "Unless Aunt Thea has--"

The two young men stopped in the entry, taking in the unexpected third party in "Sera's garden." JJ recovered first, straightening, and becoming formal. "Excuse me, Father, we had no idea there were visitors." The eldest of the Murdock siblings stood back and waited for an introduction.

"Chris, this is Aedan, Astra's twin, and this is John Michael. We call him JJ." Sera couldn't help it, despite their troubles, every time she looked at or even thought of her children, it made her radiate a quiet happiness. Even when they were neck-deep in mischief.

Not that JJ ever really got into much trouble. He was the most earnest person she knew. He had been that way--well, most of his life. Aedan, however, more than made up for him.

"Boys, Chris is a very old friend of your father's. And there is food again, so you will not wither away to wraiths."

At the mention of food, both young men excused themselves and vanished back into the kitchen.

"Astra is in a book, the boys are ransacking the cupboard and we will have peace for a bit." Sera gazed at both men. "John..."

She didn't have to say it. Through the bond, he felt it. That it was time to go to that dark place, and give his old friend the first test by telling him the truth about the ambush...and how that ambush had brought simple Sgt. John Murdock from a South American jungle to become hero John Murdock, CCCP, metahuman, Kheldian fusion.