Author's Note: Hooray! The sequel's finally up! Sorry it took so long. I highly recommend that you read my first OTH fanfic, "Captured", otherwise this thing will make absolutely no sense, thanks to the many OCs that I introduced in the first one. If you have read "Captured," then carry on!
Disclaimer: I am not making any profit off of this, and I don't own Over the Hedge or any of the characters in it. They are property of DreamWorks, Michael Fry and T Lewis. My thanks goes to them for making such an awesome film.
This story is rated T for heavy violence, angst, nightmare scenarios (including character death), and for ... a five-letter word beginning with "S". Read at own risk!
The sunrise cast blood-red streaks across the horizon as the Verminator's van careened down the roadway.
The car tilted and whirled erratically, almost turning over. Finally the porcupine kids leaped onto the steering wheel and struggled to bring the crazy van back under control.
"We can drive," Bucky reassured the rest of the Hedgies, "it's just like Auto Homicide 3!"
Vincent the bear tore the top of the van off with a savage roar and dove in after the Hedgies.
"You're dead, RJ!" he snarled to the raccoon as he landed in front of them. "And your friends are next!"
"Leave them alone, Vincent!" RJ shouted, slashing at the bear with his boomerang. Vincent dodged it and broke the driver-side window, laughing.
"You think you can beat me, RJ?" the bear said evilly, grinning. "You can't beat me. I'll be everywhere. I'll be everything. There won't be a place you can't escape from me. I'll be hunting you down. And I will kill you. Just like this."
With a satisfied roar, Vincent swiped at the porcupine kids. They flew off the steering wheel and out the open window, screaming.
"Bucky! Spike! Quillo!" RJ shouted, diving for the window. Vincent immediately jumped in front of it, still grinning evilly. The huge bear picked up Stella, Ozzie and Heather and threw them out the top of the van, where they disappeared into the sky.
"Ozzie! Heather! Stella!" cried RJ, but Vincent didn't stop. He slashed at Lou and Penny and they fell to the floor in a shower of red, out of RJ's view.
"LEAVE MY FAMILY ALONE!" came a shout, and RJ whirled around to see Verne, standing on the dashboard. The turtle had grabbed RJ's boomerang and now brandished it like a weapon at Vincent.
"Verne —" started RJ in alarm, but there was suddenly a popping noise and Verne dropped the boomerang, his hands going to his neck. A needle was poking out of the turtle's flesh. Verne stumbled woozily and fell too.
RJ jumped onto the dashboard and looked out. The van hurtled forward toward — toward — no ... it couldn't be ...
The Verminator's van plummeted through a pile of fiery, twisted wreckage, knocking against pieces of burnt wood and splashing through puddles of leaking chemicals. RJ saw the wheels roll over a fallen sign: "The Guyson-Travis Animal Testing Laboratory."
And as the van careened through the smoke, RJ saw a figure in the distance. A very familiar, sinister-looking figure. The human came into better view and RJ saw, with a jolt, Dr. Vexon. The evil scientist was holding a gun and laughing wickedly as the van approached him.
"NO!" RJ shouted hopelessly. He whirled around to see Vincent watching him and smirking. He looked down at the raccoon and smiled, "One left to go, RJ..."
And he held up a small, trembling, squeaking squirrel.
"HAMMY!" shouted RJ. "LET HIM GO, VINCENT!"
RJ reached into his bag desperately and came out with a golf ball. He drew back his fist and hurled it at Vincent, where it knocked the bear in the head. With a howl, Vincent fell back and let go of Hammy. The squirrel fell, and RJ leaped under Hammy and caught him in his arms.
"How touching," sneered Dr. Vexon from ahead of them. RJ spun around again, and saw the doctor pointing his gun at the pair of them.
Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion: the needle blasted out of the gun, trailing smoke, and sailed through the air toward the van. Vincent was looking back down at RJ, glaring murderously. Vexon was laughing, watching the needle make its way toward RJ. RJ was turning away, preparing for the pain.
And Hammy leaped in front of RJ.
The needle entered Hammy's stomach.
"NO!" RJ shouted again. The squirrel collapsed in RJ's arms, his eyes closed, amid Vincent and Vexon's triumphant laughter. "Hammy, wake up!"
The squirrel was motionless.
"Hammy, please, wake up! Wake up! Wake up..."
"...Wake up, RJ. Wake up. Wake up!"
RJ yelled in alarm and awoke with a jerk. Breathing hard, he looked around. The van was gone. So was Vincent. And Vexon. And the lab. He was back home. In the log. With his family.
"Another nightmare?" said Hammy sympathetically from beside him — the squirrel had woken him up; all of the other Hedgies had already left the log.
"Y-y-yeah," said RJ shakily as he stood up, his legs trembling. "This one was — was — really bad."
"Awww," said the squirrel, his bottom lip poking out. He zipped forward and gave RJ a hug. "Don't worry, RJ. You're home now. If anyone tries to mess with you they'll have to go through us first!"
"Y-y-yeah. Thanks," said RJ, still shaking as he remembered the dream. "But that's what worries me."
Slowly RJ's heart rate returned to normal. His breathing slowed, and Hammy broke the hug. RJ gave the squirrel a little scratch on his head. "Thanks, Hamsquad."
"No problem," said Hammy. Suddenly he perked up. "Know what would make you feel better, RJ? A nice morning swim! C'mon c'mon c'mon, the pond water's really warm today. Whaddya say? Please please please?"
"Sure, Hammy," RJ smiled. "Just let me have some breakfast first."
He turned around and dug through the pile in the log, finally surfacing with some "Delicious Donuts". He held them out to Hammy. "Want one?"
"Oh, sure!" said Hammy, picking out a chocolate old-fashioned. He crammed the entire thing into his mouth and swallowed. He stood there for a moment, smacking his lips, then suddenly his eyes widened and he shot into the air. "YAHOOOOOOOO!" he shouted, spiraling through the grass.
RJ smacked himself in the head. "I keep forgetting about the sugar intake thing," he muttered.
George the hedgehog curled himself into a spiky little ball and leaped off a tree branch into the pond, creating a huge splash.
Laughing, the other Hedgies in the pond splashed each other and swam around in circles. "Me next! Me next!" said Marissa, and she jumped out of the water and scurried up the tree. "BONZAI!"
Some distance away, RJ's ear twitched as he listened to the sound of another splash and more laughter. He smiled, but it didn't last long, as his thoughts were still focused on the disturbing dream he had had.
"I don't know what's wrong with me, Hammy," RJ said as he and the squirrel walked together. "It's been almost a month since the whole Vexon thing happened, and even longer since Vincent was sent away. But I keep having dreams about them. They keep coming back. And they're ... well, they're not happy," he finished lamely. He didn't exactly want to go into the details.
The squirrel put a sympathetic paw on RJ's shoulder. "RJ, Vexon is in jail. And Vincent is in — is in —" he stopped suddenly, thinking hard. "Ooh, it's right on the tip of my tongue — what is it what is it — wait — what was that place called again?"
"The Rocky Mountains," sighed RJ. "But that's not far enough. No place on Earth would be far enough away for Vincent." As he spoke, he remembered the bear in his dream: I'll be everywhere. I'll be everything. There won't be a place you can't escape from me. I will hunt you down. And I will kill you...
"RJ, I bet he's forgotten all about it by now," said Hammy, trying to calm him.
RJ snorted. "Sure, Hammy."
The squirrel fell silent, and RJ felt a twinge of guilt for snapping at him. "Hammy, I'm sorry. But I just don't know what to do. The nightmares keep coming back no matter what I try. I've stayed up all night, I've drunk energy drinks so I can't fall asleep ... I've done everything, and I still keep having them … I can't escape them."
The splashing sounds grew louder, and as RJ parted a pair of bushes he saw that they had arrived at the pond. He turned to Hammy and said quietly, "Listen, Hamsquad, don't tell the others, ok? I just ... I really don't want them to worry."
"Sure, RJ," Hammy agreed, "mum's the word."
RJ smiled. "Thanks, buddy."
"Hey, Uncle RJ!" said Bucky the porcupine, bouncing up to meet the pair. "We've just been taking turns dive-bombing into the pond. You wanna go next?"
"Sure, Bucky," RJ grinned, and let the kid lead him to the "diving tree". Quickly RJ scampered up the trunk and onto the branch that hung over the pool. "Well, here goes nothing," he said. "CANNONBALL!"
A few hours later, RJ surfaced from the pond from the last time, his fur soaking wet. A nice long swim had done him good — he laughed and joked with the others as he dried his fur off with a few leaves, his mind quite far from any nightmares about Vincent or Vexon.
"Whatcha doing, Verne?" asked RJ, noticing the turtle examining the leaves carefully before he dried himself.
"Huh? Oh, nothing," Verne muttered. "I just don't want a replay of the time I accidentally dried off with some poison ivy."
"That was years ago, Verne," sighed Stella, running a hand through the bushy fur on her head. "You still haven't gotten over that?"
"Hey, I was itching for a week!" argued Verne. "And in some very sensitive places, I might add!"
"That was probably a little more than we needed to know," said Rob from the back of the group as he pulled a shirt on. Their human friend had arrived late in the day but had made up for it by creating a huge splash that emptied half the pond, which the porcupine kids were still giggling about. "Oh please, Rob, one more time?" asked Quillo, making Bambi eyes at the boy.
"Well you know, if he does it any more he just might empty out the entire pond, there," said Lou to his kids.
"Come on, boys," Penny added, "let's go find something to eat. Remember, this one has to be a healthy meal, now."
Groans of "not fair" and "boring" and "we already had one this week" came from the kids, but they didn't resist as their parents shuffled them off. "There's some TV dinners over in the mini-bar, Penny," called RJ, pointing.
"Thanks there, RJ," said Lou. "Come on, kids, clean your plates and you can have some soda for dessert."
"But no caffeine," added Penny seriously.
RJ finished drying off and called, "I'm gonna get some lunch too. Anyone coming?"
"I will!" said Hammy, zipping up to join the raccoon. "I need my cookies!"
RJ rolled his eyes. "Why am I not surprised?"
Soon the sounds of the others faded as the two of them slowly strolled back to the log. RJ closed his eyes and enjoyed the smell of the fresh summer's day, the feeling of the cool breeze on his nose. Summer was always his favorite time of year.
"RJ," Hammy said nervously from beside him, "can — can I ask you something?"
"Sure, Hamsquad," said RJ, putting a paw on the squirrel's shoulder, "what's up?"
"Well, before you met us you said you were always — well — a family of one. But — why is that?"
RJ froze, his ears flat against his head. "Why do you want to know?" he asked, forcing himself to keep his voice steady.
"I —" Hammy faltered upon seeing the expression on RJ's face. "I — it's nothing, never mind, forget it."
RJ's expression softened. There was no way Hammy could have known, he told himself. "I'm sorry, Hammy. It's just that I prefer not to think about that stuff, that's all."
"Why?" Hammy asked timidly.
"Because what I'd really prefer," said RJ, as he began walking again, "is to forget about it entirely. Now, where are those cookies of yours?"