A/N: Okay. This is from the brain of a bored writer who's Muses are back on holiday. Anyway, this is a short one-shot thingy which I find are so fun to write, really. Features a few prominent (at least in my books) authors here on fanfiction.net: Clez, Sethoz and Ash De Brie. Myself, too. *grins* Most descriptions I found in their bios or sites, but as for Ash...sorry, but I couldn't find any thing that says how you look like!
NOT MY TIME
Tom Sawyer was dying.
At least, he thought he was.
The League — sans Gray and Allan — had been called back into action. It'd been two years after Mongolia, the League coming under the wing of England's Special Branch's Mycroft Holmes.
Last Tom remembered was that they were chasing the baddie through London's docks, near were Gray used to live before his timely demise. The chase had brought back memories for the Secret Service agent, the fight in Gray's library most vivid and the one that brought a small smile to Tom's boyish face.
He had been running through the bottom floor of one of the many warehouses, in the darkness, Skinner somewhere around. He knew he had gripped his Winchester tightly; he had been tense, ready for action.
A flurry of bats had pasted by the grimy window, and the warehouse was dark, save for the moonlight. Nemo and men were covering the perimeter of the warehouse, which had seen more than its fair share of storms and sea spray from the surf, crashing against the pier.
All was silent, so much so that Tom could hear his own breath and heartbeat rattling his eardrums. It was freaking him out, the silence, the darkness, but he kept calm.
And then it came. He didn't even have time to turn back.
The sound of a gun being fired, the searing heat and pain in his back....then he found that he was looking at the floor, his cheek pressed against the cement, a wetness spreading over his back.
"Sawyer!" There was the pattering of bare feet against the cement and Tom felt the presence of Skinner as the invisible man yelled for help. Bad move, he thought, and was rewarded with a hail of bullets that succeeded in forcing Skinner to take cover. In the line of fire.
I'm dying... Tom thought. He was going numb all over; he felt weary. Weary of life, weary of being what he was. He thought about the late Huck Finn, and also Allan. Gray popped into his head, smirk and all. Damn you, Gray, the American thought, Damn you to hell.
A series of bullets made holes in the floor near him. Tom was thankful that whoever was firing had lousy aim. Unlucky for him, though, was the fact that he had been shot. More than likely in the heart or lungs, as blood came bubbling out of Tom's mouth, spreading on the floor.
There was a loud roar and the sound of metal being torn from wood as Hyde made his entrance. Tom could only feel numb, slipping away into darkness...
* * *
"Ah. There he is."
Tom heard that line as he floated back to consciousness. Soon he was aware enough to realize he was lying on his belly on something soft, like a thick quilt fresh out of the press. He liked it.
"Took him long enough."
Another voice, he thought. Two people. It sounded like a woman talking, and he opened his eyes slowly. Yes, he was lying on something extremely soft. It looked like clouds, all fluffy and white. He let himself just stay there for a bit, before finally pushing himself up slowly, expecting the pain and hurt involved with getting shot in the back. He stood up, trying to make sure he didn't lose his balance. In fact, everything seemed to be working properly. He saw three beautiful women standing about two meters in front of him. All three were beauties in every sense of the word.
"And so he wakes," said one of them, the one who held a harp. She studied her instrument before looking at him and playing a tune he remembered from his childhood. "Finally."
"Hey, Tom. Welcome to this place." The one who said that had purple hair with blue highlights. He blinked.
"And, where exactly is this place?" he asked warily. He didn't know if he could trust these three.
The last one had burgundy locks, with bright green eyes. On closer inspection, there were flecks of blue in them. "Sawyer, this is the place between Heaven and Hell. At least, what you think it should look like, innit, Sethoz?"
The second one nodded, the one with the very funny and very wild hair. "Yeah. I know, I know. You have questions."
"Problem is, Tom," the first one with the harp spoke up, "We don't have the answers. Unless, that is, if you want to know the basic stuff. Like how to cook or something."
"I do," Tom said. All three were dressed in various styles of togas. "Who are you?"
"Ohh. We forgot to introduce ourselves," the green-eyed one said. "I'm Clez, the one with the weird hair is Sethoz, and harp-girl over there is Ash. We're waiting for another one to join us."
"And what are you? Where is this?"
"Us?" Sethoz grinned. "We are the people in charge of this place. We don't get to see much people around here much, so when we got word you were comin' in, we tried to get this place tidied up as possible. Although I don't think we did a very good job."
Ash began to sing, her lively voice and golden wisps of hair floating around her like some cloud.
This place of ours, so sad yet sweet,
The place between eternal life and death,
No one comes anymore
Save a few
We, the sisters three, are caretakers of this land,
Higher than mortals down below
Yet lower than the gods above.
The boss believes in us
To deliver those who ought to live
Or those ought to die
Ash, Clez and Sethoz,
Caretakers of this forgotten realm
Yet not by blood or bond
We are joined by grim Death,
Or sometimes by eternal Life
They visit, yes
But not oft enough
Muses or gods?
We do not know
Actually, we don't care
All we do care about
Is to do our jobs
Sad or happy they are
Tom stood enraptured by Ash's wonderful voice. The woman grinned at him and threw her harp carelessly over her shoulder, where it disappeared into the cloud cover.
"Lousy song," she shrugged, "I was bored. I do better, you know. I really do. At least, usually. When Clez isn't chasing me around with a rubber chicken." Ash cast a meaningful glare at Clez, who shrugged.
"It gets boring around here, and you know it," she told Ash. "Which is why I made you write that song in the first place."
Ash gave a snort, and Sethoz joined in the verbal joust as Tom watched on in interest. He only knew two people who could keep on going like that: Skinner and Mina. The thought brought a small smile to his face.
The three — what were they? They weren't gods, that was for sure. Neither were they normal humans, nor mortals. Maybe they were Muses. Tom knew a fair bit about the nine muses — Nemo's library offered a variety of topics — but there were only three of them here. And the Muses were also in charge of all the arts and such. Ash's song, short as it was, had said that this place, wherever it was, was the place between Heaven and Hell.
I died, Tom suddenly remembered everything. The gun shot, Skinner's shout of help, the bullets. Blood spreading in front of him as his lung filled up with the crimson liquid. I died, and here I am. Do I go to Heaven or Hell? Where's Huck?
" 'cuse me," Tom interrupted as politely as he could. All three women glanced at him, as if remembering he was there. "Any chance to find out where a friend of mine went?"
"Think so," Sethoz said. She snapped her fingers and a thick book fell out of the air. "A name would help."
"Huck Finn," Tom told them. Sethoz wet the tip of her finger and the three began to flip through the pages of the big tome.
"Found it!" Clez declared after a minute or so. "I found it first. You two owe me two songs."
"Later, later," Sethoz and Ash waved the comment aside.
"Huckleberry Finn his real name?" Ash asked, looked up. Tom nodded. "He got to Mount Olympus, he did. He's probably feasting with the boss right now."
"The 'boss'?" Tom raised a brow, interested.
"I thought you read a bit," Sethoz said. "Please tell me you know who the big boss of Olympus is." Tom shook his head.
"Zeus, Sawyer, Zeus!" Clez exclaimed. All three appeared appalled by the fact that Tom didn't know his Greek mythology too well. "As in, the god of the sky, ruler of Olympus? He's the boss around here. Most of the time, anyway."
The other two nodded. Then there was a flash behind Tom, and the sound of someone tumbling out of the middle of what sounded like a great storm. A few curses in Greek as Tom turned and saw a dark mass he caught sight of the face it belonged to.
"Bloody portal," the new arrival muttered, dusting her robes. "As if the rough ride is not enough; I just have to fall out of the portal every time!"
"Hello, Raven," Clez greeted. The other two chimed their greetings.
"Aye," Raven looked up. "Hey, Tom. You finally got here. What took you so long to die?"
Tom's eyes widened. It confirmed his theory; he had died. And now he was waiting for the verdict of his eternal resting place. He prayed it wasn't hell. "You tell me."
Raven shrugged. "Well, it varies, the amount o' time a person takes to die. We still have a record that's as yet unbroken, though; thirty-six hours, the poor man."
"Yes, Raven," Ash said, "You don't need to tell him the whole story. Although you do have to explain to him why he's here and what part you play."
"Thanks for reminding me, Ash," Raven looked past Tom. "Well, Sawyer" — her dark gaze fixed on hi face — "this is place where we decide whether you go to the realm of the Underworld or the place where the gods live. These three wackos here, Ash, Clez and Sethoz, they take care of this place. Now, look here, Sawyer; for most mortals down below, we already have their names down in our big books. Zeus has all the people who won't suffer eternal damnation in his book, while Hades has the names of those who are going to arrive in his place. Which, by the way, is where I stay."
"She works for Thanatos, god of Death," Clez told him.
"I do the running around for him," Raven nodded. "Anyway, special cases come here, which is rare. I think those three told you how quiet it is around here, didn't they? Ash probably sung that song for you, too."
"They did," Tom nodded, glancing over his shoulder.
"They always do that," Raven said. "Well, anyway, my boss has been in contact with his boss, and his boss has been in contact with the main man, Zeus."
Tom tensed. His heart pounded; this would be where he would find out where he
went. Eternal damnation or life, he didn't know.
"You're not supposed to be dead," Raven said. "We had a slight...uh, miscommunication, you could say. That's why you ended up here instead of the other Tom Sawyer."
"There's another Tom Sawyer?" Tom asked.
" 'course there is," Raven said, giving him a look which said 'don't-think-you're-the-only-one-around'. "His is a adopted last name. Ripped it off you, if I'm not wrong."
"So, I get to go back to the living world?" Tom was elated. He wasn't going to die after all. He would gladly go back, even to the elderly Aunt Polly's nagging.
"Yes, you do," Sethoz said from behind him. "But you have to cross the river first."
"What river?" Tom turned around and regarded the three.
"That river." Raven was pointing at the mass of swirling clouds a bit behind the three women. "That's the river to the world of the living. Cross it, and you'll be right back where you died. Or where you were supposedly dead, anyway."
"Go on, shoo!" Sethoz said. "Go back. Maybe we'll see you sometime soon."
"I hope not," Raven made a noise. "It would mean I'd have to go down to see the boss again, and fall out of this portal one more time." They started to bicker again. Tom knew it as friendly bickering and not anything serious. It brought back memories of him, Huck and Joe Harper, back in their childhoods.
Tom was already walking towards the clouds, tinted a beautiful light blue. As he neared the 'shore', he found it more and more difficult to walk. The four had stopped their fight and watched him solemnly as he progressed ever closer to the river which would bring him home.
He was so near the shore when he fell. Pain seared through his body like a wave crashing against a beach, unrelenting and without mercy....Tom fell to his knees, one hand on the clouds to keep him steady.
Suddenly, strong hands lifted him up from either side, pulling him up to stand once more. He looked at the faces of those who helped him, half-expecting to see two of the four women behind him. What he saw were two people dear to him.
"C'mon, Tommy Sawyer," Huck Finn grunted as he wrapped one of Tom's arm's around his strong shoulders. "We're gonna get you home."
"Back you go, boy," the thick English accent of the man on his other side made Tom whip his head around as Huck laughed and shouted an "Oy! Watch that hair of yours! That's my face!"
"Allan..." Tom whispered. Allan had done the same as Huck, supporting Tom and helping him get closer to the river. "Huck...both of you. You died."
"Well, the people up there are nice enough to let us come help you out, Tommy," Huck said. "And also since we knew you'd need the help."
"And, since you came so close to joining us, we thought we'd pay you a visit one more time," Allan said. Tom tried to smile, touched. His vision was blurred by unshed tears, which he swallowed down.
"Can you stand on your own?" Allan asked him. Tom nodded and tried, but pain shot through his long legs and he buckled. Huck and Allan held him up. "He can't," Huck told Allan. "Okay, Tom, we're gonna bring you to the very edge, okay?"
"We can't cross," Allan said, working with Huck and Tom to bring the latter closer to the cloud-water's edge. "Our names were decided a long time ago." Tom understood, but he told them how it was without them. Soon, with careful teamwork, they reached the edge. Tom tried and succeeded in standing on his own. His two friends stepped back and watched him as he waded into the water. He stopped, then turned.
"Don't worry, Sawyer," Huck grinned, his chestnut locks still as unruly as Tom's own blond ones. "We'll be waiting for you when it's your time."
"Everything that lives has to die, lad," Allan said, his eyes full of fatherly pride. "It's not your turn. Not yet. So, listen to me, and go back and live."
"When you get back," Huck said, "Say hello to Becky for me, alright?" Tom nodded weakly.
"Take care of Mina," Allan added. "Make sure that Skinner doesn't have another go at her." This time, Tom really smiled. The bum incident at the cave was still fresh in his mind.
"And, Tom?" Huck said. "Don't feel guilty. We didn't die because you didn't do something. We died 'cause our time was up." Beside him, Allan nodded sagely.
"Death is price we pay for living, boy," Allan said. "What matters now is what you do with time you have left."
"Take care of yourself. Me and Allan here aren't going to be able to take care of you," Huck added.
"I will," Tom whispered. He nodded, and turned to hide the tears that were falling. True, he was guilty about the deaths of two dear friends to him.
"Take care of all of 'em, Tom," Allan said. "Watch yourself."
"Now, go," Huck said. "I'm runnin' out of things to say to you."
Tom gave a small laugh. He turned, one last time, at his friends.
"Make sure that that Skinner doesn't get killed by Mina."
Those were the last two things Tom heard as the top of his head disappeared under the cloud-water.
* * *
"He's alive! He's alive!" Skinner shouted, unnecessarily. "He's not dead!"
"We can see that," Jekyll told him as Tom woke up. He was lying on his back, and the wetness on his shirt was still there. He was breathing, albeit shallowly. "Tom, careful. Nemo, get a stretcher."
"What did I tell you? What did I tell you?" Skinner was telling Mina, proudly. "Our Sawyer is too stubborn to die!"
Mina looked down at the American quietly. "You left this world. I could feel it. But then you came back to us."
As Jekyll fussed about him, opening up his shirt and checking the wound, Tom smiled weakly.
"Everything thing that lives has to die, Mina. It wasn't my time. Not yet."
Mina smiled back at him.
A/N: *ducks under table to avoid the flames* I pray, Ash, that I did justice to you in that little pathetic excuse of a song. I tired, right? Which is always good. Now, Clez, Sethoz and Ash: don't kill me if I didn't capture your personalities, try as I might. That's the main problem with me, I think. So, the usual, yeah? Reviews, flame or praise. You decide. Oh, and if you noticed, this story combines facets of both Greek Mythology and Christianity, in the sense that for the Christians, we (yes, I am one) believe that we'd go to heaven when we die, with God and his angels. As for the Greek part, I did some research. The god of Death isn't Hades, although he rules the Underworld. It's Thanatos who's that one in charge. As for the books, I'm ashamed to say that I'm not sure whether it originated from Christianity or something I made up.
(Ohh, and credit to Sethoz for the idea (read "Snow Fields", and understand you will). And thanks to her, Ash De Brie and Clez for — hopefully — not killing me for casting them as characters. It's meant as a tribute, really!)