Chapter 6: Acceptance
He ran from the darkness that grew rapidly behind him. His feet stuck in the boggy ground, as if the very earth were fighting against him. He screamed for help, desperately calling out for assistance. Where was everybody?
He could see them now, his parents, his former friends, they all stood by and watched as he fled for his life, his soul, even. He begged them for aid, but they only stared blankly in return. How could they be so cruel? How could they stand back and watch him suffer, emotionlessly? But then he remembered--it was his fault. He had taken their freedom, left them with nothing but their sight. He had done this.
He slowed, then stopped. The evil and darkness rushed forward to overtake him....
He ran, his bare feet hitting the rough pavement. Each step was a stab of pain, but he couldn't stop, he had to keep running. It was a continuation of the nightmare, only this time it was different; this time he wasn't aimlessly running away--he had a destination. In his blind panic, he ran to the only one he could think of.
"Cree!" he yelled as he slammed against her window. He could vaguely make out her sleeping form as she jolted awake.
She approached the window where he was precariously perched. She stared at him in shock. "Are you crazy? What are you doing here?" she demanded through the glass.
"Let me in!" he shouted.
"Why should I let a raving maniac into my room?"
"Please," he begged, desperate tears streaming down his face.
She hesitated. Then opened the window.
He collapsed inside and landed in a heap on the floor. He didn't remember what happened afterwards, only that it was warm and he was safe.
He woke slowly from fuzzy, half-remembered dreams. It was warm. It was nice. It was...strange. He opened his eyes. Where was he? He slowly began to remember as he looked around his dim surroundings. He was in her room. In her bed. And just as he realized that, he saw her sitting at a desk in the corner, poring over a textbook beside a small lamp. She glanced over in his direction and seemed surprised to see him sitting up.
He stared at her, suddenly embarrassed. The terror he had felt just hours earlier was only a faint memory now and he realized he must have seemed like a lunatic, screaming at her window. He should leave, he decided.
He stammered an apology and bolted for the door. He heard her call, "Wait!" just as his foot made impact with the floor. He was caught off-guard by the jolt of pain and immediately lost his footing, crashing to the ground. So much for a quick getaway. He pushed himself off the floor and looked at his feet. They were wrapped in bandages, and slightly oozing blood.
"I just patched you up, don't go tearing out of here like that!" She was wearing an exasperated smile. "Here--let me help you up. You can sleep in my bed. I'm not gonna get much sleep tonight after that scare you gave me earlier anyways." She held out her hand.
He ignored it and instead pulled his knees to his chest and huddled on the floor. Why did he always act like such a fool around her? He could feel tears of shame in his eyes, which only furthered his exasperation with himself.
"Why are you being so nice to me?"
She was silent, and he didn't dare look up at her.
"Why don't you hate me? I hate myself...."
She watched him for a second as he sat hunched on the floor, then sighed. Slowly she kneeled down beside him. "Oh, Chad," she murmured, her voice full of pity. Then she slapped him hard across his face. The sound of it rang in the stillness of the room.
He stared in shock, immobile.
She smiled. "Chad, you are so stupid," she said sweetly. She stood, then returned to her desk.
He sat there and clutched his cheek in stunned silence. Then he crawled sheepishly back into her bed and fell into a deep sleep.
He woke just before dawn to find her lying beside him. He didn't feel awkward, self-conscious, or uncomfortable. He just watched as she took slow, deep, regular breaths. He moved closer until he could feel her gentle breath on his face.
He put his arms around her and felt whole. Not sad and broken, as he had felt for months. He realized she was all he wanted, all he needed....
He reluctantly opened his eyes to see her peering at him as she stood beside the bed.
"Finally. I was just about to check for a pulse."
Now fully awake, but still disoriented, he turned to stare at the empty side of the bed where Cree had just been sleeping. Was it just a dream? It couldn't have been, it had seemed so real, he could still remember how she felt in his arms--soft, and so warm....
"Where...?" he began, but didn't know how to finish.
"Come on, we'd better get going."
"To the Moonbase. It's time."
He sat purposelessly staring out the small port window as they traveled through space to the moon. He clutched his katana, wishing it would give him strength. He felt sick to his stomach--maybe it was just jitters. At any rate, it would soon be over.
Cree was suiting up on the other side of the transport. He avoided looking at her. He had always imagined going through this alone. To have her here with him felt somehow wrong. And she was so calm, it almost made him feel more nervous in comparison.
"Father said you've taken out about 75% of the Operatives. So when we attack, there won't be many to come to their aid when they call for backup."
Chad nodded, but continued to avoid eye contact.
"Since detaching Moonbase and setting it on a collision course with the Sun didn't work last time, we're just going to do the obvious thing and blow--"
"What? Am I going too fast for you?"
"No, it's just that.... Why are you here?"
She stared at him with a quizzical expression. "I've been training for this for a long time."
"Yeah, but I mean--you seem so...well adjusted. I'm--I'm angry. I was thrown aside like old trash after all I did for them, and now this is...this is revenge. But you're not like me, you're--why aren't you angry?"
"Of course I'm angry," she replied simply. "But we knew what we were getting into when we signed up. Thirteen--that's the cut off age, no exceptions." She frowned pensively.
He studied her. "Then why are you here now?"
She didn't answer for a long moment. She then looked up at him with her striking eyes. Her mask of certainty had slipped away and she seemed...lost.
Chad watched her as she pondered this. It dawned on him that he didn't care what her answer was. All that mattered was that he was here with her now. He didn't care about the Global KND Organization, he didn't want to destroy the Moonbase, he didn't need revenge...as long as he could be near her.
He inched towards her. "Cree...there's something I want to tell you."
She gazed at him, questioningly.
"I...I know I always act like such a jerk around you. I wanted to say I'm sorry..."
Her expression softened. "You don't have to--"
"...and the reason.... You see, I thought.... I was wrong, and...stupid, but..."
He moved still closer to her. Her smile faded as she peered at him in wonder. He bent towards her--her lips.
"I..." he continued, barely a whisper, "I lo--"
A shocking chill similar to being plunged into a tub of ice water halted the scene. They both froze: feelings, expressions completely changed.
"The time to destroy the Kids Next Door has arrived, my apprentices," Father's voice echoed in their heads. "Ready yourselves for battle."
Chad felt suddenly ill, dizzy. He turned away from Cree and leaned his weight on the console, shutting his eyes tight. He had made a deal, there was no backing out now, it was too late.
He could hear Cree as she walked over to the pod's controls to ready the craft for landing.
This would soon be over. He would do this, he would destroy the Moonbase, and then he would be free. Then, maybe....
"Free? Oh no, my child, you will never be free. Destroying Moonbase is only one small part of my plan. You must do my bidding as long as you're useful to me."
"What? That wasn't the deal!" Chad shouted aloud.
Cree looked up at him, startled; she obviously hadn't heard the last part of the conversation.
He met her eyes, desperate, trapped, but didn't know what to say.
Once inside the Moonbase, they split up to plant explosives at strategic points of the base, neutralizing any operatives they met along the way. Chad continued doggedly down the familiar dark hallways of the Moonbase, thinking frantically, even as he set and wired the bombs. He was trapped. Would he have to do this for the rest of his life? How could he escape? When would it be over?
He stared at the katana at his side and slowly unsheathed it. If he died, then it would be over. He tested the sharpness of the blade against his thumb. He could slit his own throat....
He shivered. He couldn't. As much as he may want to be free of Father, he couldn't deny that he still wanted to live. There had to be another way.
...when they're all dead. Maybe once he'd wiped every last member of the Global KND Organization from existence--
Something small and hard hit him from behind. Whirling around, he swung his blade just in time to slice through the next projectile. A gumball. Figures. But it was his attacker that caught his attention. He'd recognize that bald head anywhere. Once again, something in his mind shattered. The world drained of sound and color, and he stopped thinking. His muscles tensed for action.
"Give up, traitor, we don't have to do this the hard way," said Numbuh One, with typical seriousness.
Chad scoffed. "Traitor? I thought that was my line!" And with that, he charged straight at his enemy, destroying the gumball rifle with one swing of his katana. One more swing and he'd take off Cue-ball's head--
Clang! Something ricocheted off of the blade, distracting him just long enough to give Numbuh One a chance to jump to safety. Chad looked around to see Numbuh Five training a carrot cannon on him. Her fierce glare was almost laughable. From the corner of his eye he caught sight of something being fired at him, and he quickly slashed at it. Two halves of a teddy bear fell to the ground. He heard a squeak of dismay, then Numbuh Three stepped into the light, holding a teddy bear launcher. Sensing movement behind him, he turned just in time to block the bulk of a mustard splatter, but left himself open to a laser attack from the side. He staggered a few steps sideways, but wasn't seriously injured--it had probably been set to "ouch." Numbuhs Two and Four came forward, their faces already shining with victory.
But it wasn't over. He wasn't going to go down without taking a few of them with him. His eyes gleamed, cold and cruel.
Numbuh One, now unarmed, approached him. He looked at Chad gravely from over his shades. "Come on, Chad," he stated in a quiet voice, "you know you can't win."
Chad glared at him--this child--he had no idea what he was going through. How could he understand the betrayal of being rejected by his teammates? He was so naive, trusting in his team...and yet the way they gathered around Nigel so protectively--they would do anything for him...it...disgusted him. He himself had been the best, "legendary", even, but never did he have a team this loyal. Why? He tightened his grip on his sword and clenched his jaw, readying to strike--
A shadow, barely noticed, dropped into their midst.
"No--stop." It was Cree.
"No one can stop me. If this is how it's gonna end, I'm going down fighting!" He turned his back on her and focused his attention on his enemies, his former friends, who prepared themselves for battle.
She put her arms around him, wrapping him in a tight, warm embrace. "Chad...let it go...."
"What are you doing? Stop it." But already his will to fight was ebbing.
"Its over...let it go," she whispered.
He briefly struggled against her, but soon his muscles went slack and his katana fell to the ground. He slumped to the floor, suddenly exhausted. It was warm again, he thought hazily, as he felt her heart beating against him.
Numbuh 86 gloated as usual as they were being strapped into the decommissioning module. He had stood by many times to witness this process, and had always been irritated by the sound of her voice as she taunted the teenagers. But now his reaction was closer to terror. This process that he had been avoiding for so long--he was finally going to face it. His heart, which had been a dead, frozen lump in his chest just moments ago, now pounded painfully against his ribcage. He turned his head to look at the one source of solace in the entire room. She was watching him, with concern in her eyes. But he could tell that the concern was not at all for herself. How could she be so brave?
"It'll be okay," she whispered. She smiled at him, which he tried to return, but couldn't.
She extended her hand to take his, which he reached out to gratefully before the operative strapping them in rudely separated them. Cree gave the boy a glare with her beautiful, terrifying eyes, and he hesitated, looking to Numbuh 86 for instructions. She frowned and shook her head, but Numbuh One stepped in.
"Let them," he said quietly.
While there was a flash of resentment at this obvious act of pity, Chad nonetheless felt thankful. He reached out for Cree's hand and held it tight, as Numbuh 86 shrugged and rolled her eyes.
"Okay, teenagers, let's get this over with," she jeered. The machine activated.
He could feel his most treasured memories being pulled from him. Being a KND operative meant everything to him, it was the only thing he had ever felt he could call his own. Everything else--violin lessons, honor society, football--had been pushed upon him, he never had a choice. And now it felt like he was falling into dark depths leaving his only happy experiences far behind. Everything that was precious to him--gone.
Everything but one. It glowed, warm and bright, within his own heart. He turned away from his old memories to see where he was heading. She was there. And he realized that he wasn't falling, he was moving forward. She held out her hand to him, smiling, fearless. He grasped it, holding it tight....
Sometimes, you have to let go and grow up....
They walked together in the sun, holding hands. It was one of those perfect days when it wasn't too hot, and the sky was a brilliant shade of blue. Everybody wanted to be out to enjoy the weather. But they ignored the crowds, strolling, not going anywhere in particular. The destination didn't matter as long as they were together.
They got ice cream cones in the park. The second they stepped away from the ice cream truck, a bald kid in shades smashed into Chad, and soft serve splattered to the floor.
"Come on, team, they're getting away!" shouted the child as the truck suddenly sped off. A small group of children charged out of nowhere in pursuit, shouting various battle cries.
Chad looked at the sorry remains of his ice cream. "Kids," he shrugged, glancing at Cree.
She shielded her cone protectively. "Don't look at me, this one's mine."
Cree laughed. "Big baby," she murmured, holding out her ice cream to him. He smiled and gently pushed it aside, bending forward instead to meet her lips.
author's note: it's done! hahahahahahahahahaha....!! ok, so it might not be significant for any of you, but this is the first fanfic i've ever finished. ever.
i know it's riddled with plot holes and unresolved issues, and things go unexplained. that's the hard part about it being told from Chad's point of view, because he's an idiot, and he doesn't understand what's going on most of the time. i'm almost tempted to do a version of this fic from Cree's POV, but it's more difficult for me to get into her head. (clearly i identify more with the idiot.) maybe a sequel would suffice. there are all those unresolved issues to deal with. i'll have to think about it....
also, more pics, (copy and paste to view):