A/N: Wow, it's been a while, hasn't it? A present for you then. Enjoy.
Brandon tried very hard not to shiver as he sat grimly in the front seat of Daniel's station wagon on the way to the clinic. Etcetera had been placed in the rear-most seat of the car, Madeline had quickly climbed in next to her to watch over her, and Mark and another guy Brandon did not know sat in the middle, leaving only the shotgun position for Brandon. It was all too awkward for him; he could only assume that everyone in the car besides him was Jellicle, and therefore very threatening to a Pollicle-in-hiding. But now that Mark seemed to know about that ...
Brandon tried to take his mind off of that. All he could think about just then was Etcetera...
Daniel's cell phone rang, and he answered it on speaker-phone: "Daniel Black."
"It's Mitchell. Susan and I are ready here. Where are you?"
"Just around the corner."
"Good. Bring her to the back entrance." A pause, then: "Can you tell me how her heart-rate is?"
Madeline, overhearing the speaker-phone, reached under the blankets, put two fingers to Etcetera's neck to feel her pulse, and announced so that Mitchell could hear her: "Very slow!"
As Daniel negotiated the parking lot and finally pulled into what looked to Brandon like a dead-end alleyway, he said into the phone: "We're here. Open the door."
Brandon's eyes widened significantly as what looked like a solid wall opened up, revealing a door painted to look like the rest of the alley. A man in a lab coat (Brandon might have been surprised to know that Mitchell, or more privately, Alonzo, was a doctor) stood in this doorway, motioning hurriedly for those in the car to bring in the patient quickly. Daniel stopped the car and jumped out to assist Mark in carrying the still-unconscious Jellicle (cocooned in blankets) into the hospital room. In this way, the whole party of cats paraded into the clinic. Brandon tried to follow, but the door was closed in front of him by the one he did not know.
"Hey, I have to get in there!" he protested to this curiously white-blond guy.
The person eyed him oddly. "You have no business here, Pollicle," he said coldly.
Brandon almost gasped at the mention of his true form, but managed to swallow it. This then, must be Greg, the other one that Mark had said knew about his caninity. Breathing heavily, he ordered softly: "You can't tell anyone about this. Anyone! Or I'll – "
"Don't you dare threaten me," Greg cut him off, leaning cooly against the door, still blocking off Brandon's entrance. "You have no idea who you're messing with."
"What's her heart rate?"
"Get her an IV, and keep the oxygen mask on."
Madeline, Mark, and Danny could only stand back as Mitchell examined instruments, gave orders, and Susan answered them (Jennyanydots hadn't been a nurse in her youth for nothing). All three held their breath for several minutes, fearing what the diagnosis could be for Etcetera.
Finally, Mitchell straightened up from examining the size of Etcetera's pupils, and addressed the onlookers. "She's alive, but completely unresponsive," he announced.
"Hey, we knew that!" Mark retorted. "Is she going to be okay!"
"I wasn't done yet," Mitchell went on. "Her body is mostly undamaged, though there has been some oxygen-deprivation to her brain. She's stable for the moment. What happened? Did she hit her head again?"
Danny turned to Mark and Madeline with his arms folded. "Well?" he inquired, as eager to hear this story as the doctor was.
Mark took a deep breath, then said, "We're not sure, but we have an idea of what happened. You remember the stories about Pollicles, right?"
"But they're all gone," Susan protested.
Madeline frowned and said, "Well, they're not all gone..."
"I have no idea who I'm messing with!" Brandon retorted. "I think I have every idea who I'm messing with, you wimpy cat!" His predator instincts kicked in, and his fingers itched to unbutton his shirt and rip his medallion off. He suddenly forgot that he was several inches shorter and several years younger than the Jellicle in front of him; his one goal was to get to and protect Sarah! He wasn't about to let a cat get in his way!
"Au contraire," Greg responded, steel in his voice, and an eerie smile creeping onto his face. "If you knew what I was capable of, you'd be whimpering away, crying for your bitch of a mother with your tail between your legs." The smile vanished. "You have no right to be interfering here. You're the one who's caused all this trouble. Leave while you still can."
Brandon wavered. Sarah – no, Etcetera was still his girlfriend, and he thought the world for her! They'd revealed their innermost selves to each other! They had something together! He had every right to be with her at her side!
He wavered no longer. "My mother," Brandon spat out slowly, rage growing within him, "Is human. Etcetera is my girlfriend. I ... I love her! And you're not going to keep me out of there!" This time, he did grope at his collar to remove his medallion.
But before he could get a decent grip on the cord, a word fell softly from the other man's mouth: "Stop." Somehow, the word meant more than the simple sound required to utter it, and suddenly Brandon could no longer move his hands: his limbs, arms and legs, were locked tightly in place by some force he could neither see nor struggle against. "What have you got there?" the Jellicle muttered, coming closer to Brandon, and leaning over to examine the gold Brandon held in his hand. He reached out to touch it, but suddenly recoiled before he was within a foot of it. "So you can spell charms..." he muttered under his breath.
Brandon breathed heavily; maybe this Jellicle was capable of more than he appeared to be. There was little he could do now. Still, he couldn't give up hope. "Please," he uttered, gasping for breath, "Let me in there. I have to ... see Etcetera."
The blond Jellicle straightened up and addressed him more calmly: "You may not see Etcetera. But take my word for it, she will be well taken care of. I would advise you to leave now. Even if I let you through the door, you would not be welcome here."
"But ..." Brandon still tried.
"Go!" the man said more forcefully this time, and with that, even though the Jellicle didn't move, what felt like paws unlocked Brandon's limbs, spun him around, and gave him a gentle push in the opposite direction.
With the utmost reluctance, Brandon walked toward the bus stop, feeling the bitter defeat felt only by a dog who has been scratched by a cat.
"Wait," Mitchell said slowly after Madeline had told the story of their earlier trip to Brandon's house. "So there have been Pollicles in this city for years? And we never realized it!"
"Well, at least one," Madeline offered reluctantly.
"Oh no..." Danny moaned, head in his hands. "Time to start up the phone tree again..."
"Wait, can we take care of Sar – Etcetera first!" Mark interrupted, gesturing frantically to the still unconscious form of his sister.
Just then, the outside door opened, revealing Greg in the doorway. "Brandon is gone. Is Etcetera okay?" he asked, reiterating Mark's sentiments.
Mitchell, recalled to his patient, said, "Yes, she's going to be all right. I think. She's not in any immediate danger anyway. But I need to know what caused this." He addressed the last remark to Mark and Madeline.
Madeline looked down to the floor, but muttered, "Well, we went to see Solomon, to ask about Pollicles, and ... well, you know Sarah's been hanging out with Brandon a lot lately, and – "
But Mark cut her off: "Solomon told us that Pollicles may have the power to incapacitate Jellicles just from their proximity. They may even be able to kill us without even really doing anything."
Susan gasped sharply. Mitchell breathed in deeply, trying to keep his professional calm, and finally said, "In that case, this may be more a job for Greg than for me." He looked to Greg and gestured to Etcetera's figure on the hospital bed.
Greg, maintaining the utmost calm, walked over to Etcetera and laid his hand on her shoulder, closing his eyes as he did so. He grimaced, but finally muttered, "There's something ... like patches of shadow on her skin ... " He opened his eyes and addressed the others assembled. "I can't be sure. We should get Kyle and Katrina," he suggested.
Daniel already had his cell phone out. "Then we'll get Kyle and Katrina."
"Should I get this one?"
"No, it's no good. I've read it already."
"Okay, how about this one?"
"I've read that one, too."
"But is it any good?"
"How should I know?"
While Mark, Madeline, and the crew were in Mitchell's clinic, Hannah and Willa had innocently gone to the library, and were in the process of looking for books. Or at least, Hannah was.
"If you read it, you should know what it was like," Hannah said at Willa indignantly (for even Jemima could get annoyed when she wanted to).
"I wasn't really paying attention," Willa yawned absently (for Victoria had always felt she didn't need to keep up with books).
"Fine, I'm getting it then," Hannah said triumphantly as she pulled the book from the shelf. "Now to – "
But just then, the library phone could be heard ringing. The two girls, curious to know who it could be (for who would want to call the library on a Friday afternoon?), crept up to the front desk to listen in on the Storkes as they answered the phone. All they heard was a twin chorus of, "We'll be right there." Kyle and Katrina then walked out from behind the front desk and made a bee-line for the front door.
Katrina called over her shoulder on her way out, "Watch the books while we're gone."
Willa, looking around, muttered, "Was she talking to us?"
The reply came back, "Well, since we're the only two in here, I think I can safely say that yes, we now have book-watching duty. Fun times."